Many of us dream of moving to the big, romantic European capitals; of soaking up the cosmopolitan lifestyle and buzz of these cultural hubs. At least until we realise the prohibitively extortionate day-to-day cost of actually living there. With rents in Paris, London and Rome soaring way above what most of us can afford, it’s time to look beyond the stereotypical and hyper popular Western European havens to their more affordable, and often none-the-less charming Eastern-European counterparts.
This list ranks the ten European cities with the lowest cost of living from 10 right through to the number one cheapest city in Europe. Our ranking is based on the Consumer Price Index, from the Cost of Living Index released by Numbeo for 2014. The CPI here ranks cities’ costs (including goods, services and transport but excluding rent, which has its own index in the Cost of Living assessment) relative to the current costs in New York City. Therefore, if a country’s Cost Of Living Index is of 60, then the cost of living in that city is 40% lower than in NYC. The Index takes a number of factors into account: the price of rented accommodation in the city, the estimated amount spent on groceries and restaurants, the price of consumer goods, and local purchasing power.
Are you hoping to take a trip around Europe any time soon but you want to save some money? Or are you a tired Londoner or Parisian sick of paying unreasonably high prices for your morning coffee or your metro pass? Maybe it’s time to set up camp in one of the cities on our list, where rent is low, beer is cheap, and you still get all the advantages of living in a buzzing cultural city centre.
10. Warsaw, Poland – 58.61
The Polish capital is one of the cheapest in Europe. The prices of groceries and eating out are low, and drinking and smoking are especially cheap, with a bottle of local beer setting you back around a dollar, and a packet of cigarettes just $4.50. An apartment in the city center will cost you $488. It’s a university city, with over 270 000 students. This guarantees a dynamic entertainment scene and nightlife: there are plenty of cultural institutions around to enjoy, as well as festivals, bars and great nightclubs. Unfortunately however, unemployment in Poland is high at 13.3%, meaning that over two million locals are currently out of work.
9. Prague, Czech Republic – 58.48
Prague, the historical capital of Bohemia, retains much of its artsy charm. With over ten major museums and a variety of theaters, galleries, cinemas, and historical sites any culture lover would thrive in the city. The rent for a one bedroom apartment in the city averages $617 a month but living further out of the city cost a more manageable $440 a month. Every day life in the city is cheap: public transport prices are manageable, the cost of groceries is low, and a meal at a basic restaurant will set you back just $5. With a mid-range bottle of wine and a packet of cigarettes going for under $5 and local beer costing just 75c, Prague is also the perfect place to have a good time.
8. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina – 52.28
Cheap rents in Sarajevo are a strong incentive to relocate, with rent for a single bedroom in the city averaging just $320 a month. Outside of the city centre, this drops even further, to $185 a month. Sarajevo is nestled in the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia and is surrounded by the scenic Dinaric Alps. It is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economic, political, social and cultural center. The city has a booming tourist industry and service sector, having become a popular travel destination in Eastern Europe. Groceries and restaurants are budget-friendly and transport costs next to nothing ($35 for a monthly pass) while alcohol is typically cheap, too. However, a 15% unemployment rate is one of the city’s concerns.
7. Bucharest, Romania – 52.12
Bucharest is currently experiencing an economic and cultural boom, but the price of living in the capital remains low. Bucharest has been the capital of Romania since 1862 and is the country’s media, culture and arts centre. It is the 6th largest city in Europe according to population size after Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid and Rome. Much cheaper than any of these other large cities though, rents in Bucharest’s city centre average $440 a month. Utilities and groceries are reasonable, and eating out is cheap ($6 for a meal in a basic restaurant), and a public transport pass for a month costs a tiny $15. The unemployment rate in Romania is low at 7.3% and average monthly disposable salaries (after tax) average over $400.
6. Tirana, Albania – 51.91
With rents in the city averaging $380 a month, you don’t have to be rich to live at the heart of Tirana. Monthly transport passes cost just $14, groceries are cheap, and a meal in a basic restaurant will set you back just $7. Even a three course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant costs just $30. With a population of 421, 286, Tirana is a relatively small European capital. It retains an enjoyable proximity to nature, largely surrounded by hills, with the Dajti Mountain to the east of the city, and a slight valley opening on the north-west that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. This proximity to nature is important to the inhabitants of Tirana: 4 artificial lakes can be enjoyed throughout the city.
5. Minsk, Belarus – 51.83
Built around the Svislach River, in the region of the rolling Minsk hills, the Belarussian capital is home to over 2 million people. Newly independent since the fall of Communism, Belarus has come a long way since 1990, with Minsk at its head. Living in the city today is cheap: rent averages $380 for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre, utilities are reasonable, public transport costs just $13.50 a month and a packet of cigarettes costs a mere $2.71. Rich in theatres, museums, cinemas and libraries, there tends to be a lot going on in Minsk. However, be sure to layer up, because temperatures can get low: 18°C in the summer, and below freezing in the winter (the average temperature for January is -4.5°C).
4. Sofia, Bulgaria – 51.59
Renting a place at the heart of Sofia costs a manageable average of $380 a month. The Bulgarian capital, located in the Sofian valley and scenically surrounded by mountains, is home to 1, 241, 369 people. Groceries are cheap, and a transport pass costs just $35 a month. A medium range bottle of wine costs just $5 – which almost seems expensive compared with the price of a bottle of local beer which will set you back under a dollar. Salaries average $603 a month but unemployment is currently high at 13%. Whilst winters tend to be cold and snowy, summers are sunny and warm.
3. Kiev, Ukraine – 49.51
Considering Ukraine’s current state of unrest, Kiev is easily the least desirable place to go in Europe at the moment. Unsurprisingly, it’s currently the third cheapest European city to live in. Renting a flat in the city costs $570 a month in the centre, or $330 if you choose to live further out. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence in 1991, the country has transformed to democratic government and a market economy with Kiev at its heart. It is a key educational, industrial, scientific and cultural hub of Eastern Europe, home to a wide range of high-tech industries, universities and world-famous historical landmarks. Groceries, utilities and eating out are cheap making the city a comfortable place to live and work. Salaries may seem low, averaging $478 a month (after tax), but purchasing power is high.
2. Skopje, Macedonia – 49.11
Going out for a basic meal in Skopje costs $4, 50 and renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre averages$325 a month. Rooms even go for $225 a month outside of the centre. It is Macedonia’s political, cultural, economic, and academic centre. The ancient city is surrounded by scenic mountains and hills perfect for weekend getaways. It has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC, and remains of Neolithic settlements have been found within some of its oldest buildings. There is a dynamic nightlife in Skopje, with a variety of bars and clubs scattered around the city. However, the city’s biggest nighttime industry is casino gambling.
1. Chisinau, Moldova – 41.65
The most affordable European city to live in is Moldova’s capital, Chisinau. While the other cities on this list are certainly cheap in comparison to the average NYC costs, Chisinau is on another level of affordability. Renting a single bedroom apartment in the city centre averages just $265 a month, and living further out costs an average of an incredible $165 a month. A monthly transport pass costs just $6 and you can have a three-course meal for two in a mid range restaurant for just $22. The city is home to 800,600 residents and offers 33 universities. Three national museums and a National Opera and Ballet theatre guarantee a variety of cultural events, attracting shows and exhibitions all year round. Fancy a year studying somewhere else? This one’s a good bet, and will cost you a full 81% less than that year abroad in Paris.