Two retirees out walking in Spain, Europe

This independent research was undertaken by Moving to Spain and is reproduced here with permission.

Retirement is no longer slippers and a pipe. Our golden years are the time to get the reward for years of hard work. And increasingly, retirees are choosing to move abroad for adventure, cost-of-living, and to explore a different lifestyle. Europe has long been a favorite retirement destination, so we took a deep dive into the best country in Europe to retire in 2023.

So how do you choose between moving to Spain, France, Ireland, Greece, and other European favorites? To make your decision easy, we’ve looked at multiple factors, including the cost of living, visas, weather, and more, to help you choose your European retirement destination.

The Best European Countries for Retirement

We’ve looked at a variety of factors to crown one country as the best in Europe for retirement. We’ve looked at population, life expectancy, cost of living, house prices, visas, safety, beaches, and healthcare to reveal Europe’s top destinations.

The best European retirement countries ranked 1 - Portugal, 2= - Spain, 2= - Italy. A couple is hugging with a profile of Europe in the background.

1 > Portugal – 7.83 retirement score (Best country in Europe to Retire)

Based on our index, the best retirement country in Europe is Portugal, with a retirement score of 7.83 out of 10. Portugal is a safe country, with a high percentage of its population aged 65 and above. It offers plenty of sunshine, good-quality beaches, as well as a reasonably low cost of living. One of the many things Portugal is famous for is its wine and port. Add spectacular golf courses and wonderful scenery, and it is the complete package. Of the European capitals, Lisbon is a firm favorite but retirees love the more diverse parts of Portugal too.

=2 > Spain – 7.31 retirement score

Two countries share second place with a retirement score of 7.31 out of 10. Let’s look at Spain first. Retiring in Spain has long been a favorite with British and American retirees. Spain is a consistent scorer across all of our categories. The life expectancy in Spain is the second highest in Europe, behind Switzerland, helped by excellent and affordable healthcare. And for keen beach-goers, Spain is the country with more Blue Flag sites than any other country in the world. The Spanish retirement visa is well-established and easy to qualify for. Spain is one of seven countries in Europe to offer this.

=2 > Italy – 7.31 retirement score

Sharing second place with Spain is Italy, with a score of 7.31 out of 10. Not only do Italians have one of the highest life expectancies in Europe, but it’s also proven to be a popular choice for retirees, with a higher percentage of people aged 65 and above than any other country in Europe. Retirees love Italy for the easy pace of life; La Dolce Vita is a reality for many. Food, culture, and natural beauty surround you. Iconic Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan hold their own with orther European cities and the quiet rural parts of Italy impress many Expats.

Cost Of Retiring in Europe

We looked at the average cost of living and the cost of apartment rentals (in Euros, Pounds, and US Dollars) to compare this key factor. Moving to a low cost of living country can stretch your pension and investments, giving you a Golden Years upgrade.


Healthcare and private health insurance only get more important as the years go by. Having access to quality medical care at reasonable prices is a key factor for all retirees. The best country in Europe to retire will be able to take care of all your healthcare needs without breaking the bank.

Retirement Visas

Without a European Union passport, you’ll probably need a visa to live in Europe. While there are other options available, we looked at countries with a specific retirement visa without hurdles like language ability. Many reitement visas are also called passive income visas, a well know example being the Portuagl D7 passive income visa.

European Countries With The Highest Percentage Population Aged 65+

Countries with a high percentage of retirement-age population tend to provide great services to this community. Politicians and businesses listen when there is a significant voice to be heard. To find out which country had the most retirees, we looked at the percentage of the population aged 65 and above for each European country. On average, 19.28% of the population in European countries are aged 65 and above. Although Spain’s percentage of 19.9% is slightly higher than Europe’s average, it doesn’t make the top 10.

1 > Italy – 23.7% of its population aged 65 and above

With the highest percentage of its population aged 65 and above, Italy takes the top spot. Almost 24% of Italy’s population is aged 65 and above; however, the retirement age in Italy is 67. Italy also has one of the highest life expectancies in Europe, at 82.8 years of age.

2 > Finland – 22.9% of its population aged 65 and above

Second place goes to Finland, with almost 23% of its population aged 65 and above. Finland’s life expectancy also sits in the top half of the European countries, with a life expectancy of 81.93 years of age. The retirement age in Finland is currently 64. However, there are plans for this to rise by 2030, depending on the country’s life expectancy.

3 > Portugal – 22.6% of its population aged 65 and above

Spain’s neighbor, Portugal, completes our top three with 22.6% of its population aged 65 and above. Like Finland, the retirement age in Portugal will rise along with the life expectancy, which is currently 81.07. The retirement age in Portugal is 66 years and seven months, which is one of the highest in Europe.

The Countries with the Most Blue Flag Beaches in Europe

Blue Flag is an award given to beaches, marinas, and tourism boats based on several criteria, including cleanliness and safety. It shows that a country has lots of coastal areas that retirees love and that it takes care of them. We’ve revealed the countries with the most Blue Flag sites in Europe.

1 > Spain – 731 Blue Flag sites

Spain takes the top spot with a total of 731 Blue Flag sites. Spain’s total is made up of 629 beaches, 97 marinas, and five boats. The region of Spain with the most Blue Flag beaches is Valencia, with 153, followed by Andalucia and Galicia, with 148 and 125, respectively. Catalonia is fourth with 120.

2 > Greece – 641 Blue Flag sites

Second place goes to Greece, with a total of 641 Blue Flag sites. Greece has 617 beaches, 18 marinas, and 6 boats – one more than Spain. Halkidiki, Rhodes, and Crete are the areas of Greece with the most Blue Flag sites.

3 > Italy – 542 Blue Flag sites

Number three is Italy, with a total of 542 Blue Flag sites. Italy doesn’t have any tourism boats awarded with a Blue Flag. Regardless, Italy is home to 458 beaches and 84 marinas that have been awarded a Blue Flag. The Italian region of Liguria is home to the most Blue Flag beaches, with over 30.

The Sunniest Countries in Europe

Retiree interviews consistently cite sunshine and the outdoors as giving huge satisfaction. Spending retirement in the sun is the dream for many. That’s why we’ve looked at which European countries get the most sunshine each year. Spain had the fourth-highest number of sunshine hours per year, with 2,555 on average, but which three countries beat Spain’s total?

1 > Malta – 2,993 average sunshine hours per year

Malta takes the top spot with an average of almost 3,000 sunshine hours per year. Located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Sicily, Malta is known as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Of course, it’s an incredibly hot country, with average summer temperatures reaching 30°C. However, it’s culture and rich history are also part of the attraction that seduces many tourists each year.

2 > Greece – 2,665 average sunshine hours per year

Second place goes to Greece, averaging an incredible 2,665 sunshine hours each year. Greece continues to prove what a great country it is for retirement. In Greece’s capital city, Athens, the average temperature during July and August is just under 30°C, meaning that temperatures could be more than 35°C at the hottest point in the day.

3 > Portugal – 2,628 average sunshine hours per year

Completing our top three is Portugal, with an average of 2,628 sunshine hours per year. Unfortunately for Spain’s next-door neighbors, Portugal’s average summer temperatures aren’t quite as high as first and second place in our list. Average summer temperatures in Lisbon and Porto are just over 23°C and 21°C, respectively.

Where Does Spain Rank As A European Retirement Destination?

A total of 37 European countries made our initial list, and in seven out of our nine factors, Spain ranked in the top half of countries. In five factors, Spain ranked in the top 10, showing why we ranked it the second-best country to spend your retirement. It is also clear from these factors why moving to Spain from the USA is so popular.

Not only can Spain offer you some of the best weather that Europe has to offer, but it also has some of the safest and cleanest beaches in the world. Spain also has the second-highest life expectancy in Europe. Spain’s cost of living is slightly below the average on our list. However, there are countries that have a cheaper cost of living.

That’s Our Best Country In Europe To Retire Index

Social media, video calls, and cheap air travel have all made retiring abroad easier for people worldwide. Europe remains many retirees’ first choice for many reasons. We’ve used these key factors to pick the best country in Europe to retire to – we hope you enjoy exploring them.


  • We used Economics and Peace Global Peace Index for safety data.
  • We used Numbeo for the cost of living scores and the price per square meter to buy an apartment. For apartment prices, we took an average of the cost per square meter for the city center and outside the city center.
  • We used The World Bank for the life expectancy at birth and the percentage of the population aged 65 and above.
  • We used Prosperity to find the 2022 healthcare quality scores.
  • We used Blue Flag to find the number of Blue Flag sites in each European country.
  • We used World Data to find the average sunshine hours per year.
  • Finally, we used Where Can I Live to find the countries that offer retirement visas.
  • We put this data into a weighted table, normalizing each factor with a score out of 10. We then took an average of these scores to get an overall score out of 10.

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