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Find out if you should retire in Spain, Italy, or Portugal. Get to know the cost of living, health, safety, and entertainment options.

Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Maryam Siddiqui

There are undoubtedly many people who dream of retiring in Europe. Between Spain, Italy, or Portugal, living your retirement in sunny places is totally possible.

If you’re looking for culture, good food, and entertainment, then you can find everything on the old continent. Your expenses will also probably be much lower than you expect if you are planning to retire in one of the European countries.

In this article, we’ll explore three popular options for low-cost living in Western European countries with great quality of life. Check it out!

Spain, Italy, or Portugal: How to choose?

In these places, you can easily find a house on rent for less than €700 per month, and you can purchase a property for less than €130,000, that’s right! You can also have a full meal for just €10 and buy a bag of fresh produce grown locally for less than €6.

All of these countries have fabulous beaches, incredible rural areas, and cities with a rich history and stunning architecture.

Retire in Spain Italy or Portugal

As you know, Europe has a strong focus on health care, and all three countries have world-class healthcare standards.

Healthcare facilities are almost free in these countries (as long as you’re legal), and you don’t have to worry much about counting pennies to get a good healthcare facility.

Now let’s get into the details of each country, one by one, so that it becomes easy to decide which country is more suitable for you to retire from.

We will divide our analysis into four perspectives, which are: Cost of living, healthcare, security, and entertainment options.

Living retired in Portugal

First off, our very own favorite, Portugal. Between Spain, Italy, or Portugal, the small southern European country surprises anyone with its enormous quality of life. So much so that it is one of the main destinations to spend your retirement in Europe.

Retire in Portugal Algarve

Cost of living in Portugal

Everything is affordable in Portugal, including accommodation and groceries.

If you are a couple, you can live comfortably in Portugal for around €2,000 a month, especially if you plan to live outside Lisbon, Porto, or Algarve. Check out the table below for some cost of living estimates:

A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)€658
Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)€2,324
1-bedroom apartment in the city center€927
3-bedroom apartment in the city center€1,675

Data is from Numbeo (as of January 2024).

If you want to rent a property in Portugal, a two-bedroom apartment would hardly cost more than €900 a month in the cheapest cities in the country.

Your grocery bills won’t exceed €300 a month if you are a couple. The food here is so good and also quite cheap, and you can have a full meal for under €10.

Overall, the Cost of living in Portugal is extremely cheap as compared to other European countries.

Check out our Complete Guide to Live in Portugal and explore what it’s like to live here as an expat.

Health Care System in Portugal

SNS (National Health System) is responsible for providing basic health care services to people and expats living in Portugal. Starting from June 2022, public healthcare is now free for all legal residents. 

The quality of the healthcare service is simply excellent! Most people do a complete checkup of their health twice a year, and the way this service is performed, even in public hospitals, is simply remarkable.

According to the World Index of Healthcare Innovation (WIHI), the quality of Portugal’s healthcare system ranked third best. In another research, Portugal ranks higher than Italy and is close to Spain.

Security in Portugal

Security is undoubtedly a concern where Portugal stands out! According to the Global Peace Index, Portugal ranks as the seventh-safest country in the world. You can find peace and serenity almost everywhere. 

The security system in Portugal is really fantastic. Crime rates are very low compared to other European countries, and security standards are high.

Most non-violent crimes are considered so serious that they’re reported on TV. People here can count on one hand how many times they’ve seen a police vehicle on the streets.

Obviously, there are some cases of pickpocketing and even car thefts, but the ratios are very low compared to the rest of Europe, and most cases happen in the Lisbon area. Serious crimes and offenses are very rare, and you can be assured that you are safe in this country.

Entertainment Options in Portugal

Portugal has the oldest cities in Europe and, therefore, its history is simply fantastic. As it was considered the number one country in the age of discovery, this country is a must for anyone looking for culture and history.

Also, you can find any kind of attractions here, such as bars, nightclubs, markets, casinos, beaches, restaurants, parks, and much more than a person can expect. The best part – they don’t cost an arm and a leg!

Lisbon and Porto are obviously highlighted, as they offer more attractions to the public in terms of entertainment.

But wherever you go, no matter the size of the city, you will find a nice place to eat, a beautiful park to have a picnic, a church (without a doubt), and a historian’s place.

Living retired in Italy

Italy is one of the most famous countries in the world. When it comes to living out of retirement, the nation with everything is at the top of the consideration list. See the advantages and disadvantages of choosing Italy to live in retirement.

Retire in Italy Florence

Cost of living in Italy

Considering the prices and cost of living, Italy is also an affordable country in Western Europe, although more expensive than Portugal. Take a look at what it cost to live in Italy:

A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)€855
Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)€2,987
1-bedroom apartment in the city center€790
3-bedroom apartment in the city center€1,431

Data is from Numbeo (as of January 2024).

You can easily find a luxury house with 3 bedrooms to live in, paying a rent of around €1,500, and the cost decreases as you go to less popular areas.

Of course, if you look for rentals in a tourist area, like Rome, the rental price will be a little higher.

Food, besides being a reason in itself for choosing Italy to live in, can also be quite affordable. You can eat very well for less than €15 for a meal if you avoid the tourist area.

If you want to travel around the country, then there are plenty of public transportation options.

In Italy, most public transport, such as bus and tram tickets, costs around €1.50. If you buy a pass, this amount may be even lower, as you will pay per month.

Overall, you can live a luxurious life in many cities of Italy, spending the same amount you would need to survive in London or Paris.

Health Care System in Italy

The health care system in Italy is known as SSN (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale), which is a regionally based national health service.

Citizens and residents get universal coverage with public health care almost free of cost. Therefore, by paying a very small amount (from €15 to €20) you’ll be able to have a full medical analysis whenever needed.

Also, healthcare can be totally free of charge for children up to 6 years old, citizens over 65, and people with low incomes.

The treatments provided by public health care facilities include tests, medications, surgeries during hospitalization, and much more.

You should keep in mind that the quality of public health services in Italy can vary widely depending on the regions you choose.

Security in Italy

Italy has a low crime rate. Although violent crimes do happen there, they are very unusual. Most minor crimes, such as pickpockets activities, can be seen, mainly in tourist areas.

Italian residents are quite safe because they have strict rules for criminals, and the punishments are very severe.

Italy ranks 34th out of 163 countries in the world analyzed by the Global Peace Index.

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Entertainment Options in Italy

Italy offers all types of entertainment to its residents. If you love sports, Italy is the place for you.

Here you will find plenty of museums, theatres, orchestras, open-air cinemas, beaches, water activities, amusement parks, and much more to spend quality time with your friends and family at a very reasonable price.

If you just want to relax, you can go to one of the many parks and read a good book from the shade of a tree. Also, if you like history and want to find a place to admire the achievements of your ancestors, Italy is the right place for you.

Don’t forget that Italy is the country where these famous people were born:

  • Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321)
  • Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
  • Galileo (1564 – 1642)
  • Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741)
  • Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945)
  • Luciano Pavarotti (1935 – 2007)
  • Andrea Bocelli (1958)
  • Valentino Rossi (1979)

Living retired in Spain

Lastly, Spain is also one of the top choices for retirees in Europe. The rich culture, climate, and infrastructure do not disappoint either tourists or residents. 

Retire in Spain Malaga

Cost of living in Spain

Spain is another cheap country to live in Western Europe, especially if you choose a region like Galicia to live in. See the average spending in Spain:

A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)€686
Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)€2,419
1-bedroom apartment in the city center€936
3-bedroom apartment in the city center€1,514

Data is from Numbeo (as of January 2024).

If you are a couple and you are not living in a rental apartment, then the cost of living in Spain would hardly exceed €1,800 to €2,000 per month. You can easily get a satisfying meal for €20 to €30, which normally includes a beer or a drink.

If you are a couple, then your grocery bills would hardly exceed €100 per week. If you want to live on rent, then you can find a one-bedroom apartment for less than €500, if you look well enough. It’s also possible to buy your own home for less than €200,000.

Obviously, if you look for properties in tourist areas like Madrid and Barcelona, the price of m² will be more expensive, easily reaching €5,000 per m².

In general, you can have a luxury lifestyle in Spain for as low as €2,500 per month.

Health Care System in Spain

Spain offers public and private healthcare systems, and both are excellent!

This country has the highest life expectancy in the European Union, rated as the healthiest country in the world in 2019.

Spain ranks first in the Bloomberg Index of Healthiest Countries in 2020, which ranks 169 countries according to factors that contribute to the overall health of the community.

In a survey published by “The Lancet”, Spain is in eighth place in the ranking that classifies the health systems of 195 countries worldwide, having a network of high-quality hospitals and health centers with cutting-edge technology for care.

Public health in Spain is divided into two forms of assistance: Primary Care and Specialized Care. The first offers some basic services to the population, and the second concerns specialized centers and hospitals.

The public health system of Spain also provides free health care services to retirees, including those that are from other European countries.

Security in Spain

According to the Global Peace Index, Spain ranks 32nd among the safest countries in the world; therefore, this country is considered a safe place.

Although there is not much violence among Spanish citizens, unfortunately, this country still suffers from terrorism.

In addition, like in other European countries, there are some areas in Spain where the separatist movement can be seen, more specifically in the Catalan and Basque regions.

According to the crime rate ranking of Numbeo, Malaga and Valencia are among the safest cities in Spain.

Since Spain is a developed country and one of the most popular places for tourism, it’s always necessary to be attentive to your belongings since pickpockets are quite common, especially in Madrid and Barcelona.

Entertainment options in Spain

Without a doubt, you can do almost anything you want in terms of fun, as this country offers a lot for all ages.

For example, the nightlife in Spain is rich and exciting. Don’t forget about Ibiza!

Bars remain open in Spain all day, and they usually close at three or four in the morning.

The cities have a lot of historic buildings, museums, galleries, and landmarks. So stopping to admire the historic buildings and Gothic architecture distributed in many Spanish cities is a must!

Let’s remember that Antoni Gaudí is Spanish, as he is a renowned architect and the face of Catalan modernism.

Here you will find some of the beauties you can find in Spain:

  • The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, Granada
  • Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and Gaudi Sites
  • The Great Mosque of Cordoba (Mezquita)
  • The Prado and Paseo del Artes, Madrid
  • Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
  • Seville Cathedral and Alcazar

And the list goes on and on…

If you are planning to live here with your family after retirement,  you won’t get bored for a single day.

Spain, Italy, or Portugal Final Ranking

Still in doubt between Spain, Italy, or Portugal to live in retirement? Check out our ranking below to clarify your ideas.

Comparison retire in Spain, Italy, or Portugal

So what is your final choice?

Have you already decided which European country you’re going to take advantage of during your retirement? Whether you’ve chosen Spain, Italy, or Portugal, we’re sure you’ll make good use of your retirement years.

If you plan to retire in Portugal or Spain, Viv Europe can support you for the entire relocation process, from Visa assistance to housing. Book a consultation now, and let’s start working on your dream to make it come true!

Talk to other expats through our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats, and ask them their thoughts on relocating to Spain, Italy, or Portugal. Clear your doubts and pick your own favorite place. See you soon!



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