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Leaving the UK: The five best alternative European cities to start a new life

Now that the United Kingdom has officially been out of the European Union for well over two years, many people, particularly the younger generation, have been seriously considering their position on this tiny sceptred isle, and have started to look further afield as the once abundant amount of opportunities dries up in front of our very eyes. 

Added to this is the fact that the cost of living crisis has also made many people think that if they are going to spend their hard earnt money, and what little of it they have, they want to spend it, and their time, somewhere better. However, it’s not just economic factors that are making people debate their future in the UK. Weather is also starting to play more of a decisive role, as there is nothing more soul-destroying than being skint and freezing. 

The landmass of Europa that we were once so closely connected to, now seems like some distant utopia that offers more promise than Britain in its current state. Of course, European countries and the EU are not without their many foibles, but for many Britons, it’s a case of more bang for your buck and a change of lifestyle. 

In terms of lifestyle, Europe just does it better. Whether it be the weather, food, housing, or work standards, many pull factors make the move to Europe seem like an increasingly mouth-watering prospect as the cost of living crisis continues to rumble on in Britain with no real end in sight, with a communal malaise starting to become more apparent with each passing day.

Duly, we’ve compiled a short list of five European cities that would make for great alternatives to the UK, as we’ve already seen a mass of Britons ditch the humdrum essence of contemporary Blighty for something a little different across the sea. 

The five best European alternatives to the UK:

Athens, Greece

The capital of Greece, Athens is a must-visit, even for those not wanting to leave the United Kingdom indefinitely. The home of European culture, with the Acropolis looking over the city centre, Athens is a city of many nooks and crannies, where you never know what you’re going to find. So much more than just the tourist-oriented Monastiraki, it’s a multi-faceted metropolis with a seemingly endless amount of things to do.

Rent is cheap, and so are fresh groceries, if you follow the locals and go to a ‘laiki’ or market for your food. Whilst, like any capital city, the centre can be very pricey, if you’re living there, it’s not a place you’re likely to frequent too often, as there are many different neighbourhoods bustling with life that give you the cultural experience without breaking the bank. 

Added to the excitement is the fact that there are beaches nearby, and you can get a ferry with ease to one of the thousands of picturesque islands. Athens is the heart of Greece and the Mediterranean, and its location can be utilised to maximise your happiness.

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Porto, Portugal

Porto has been Europe’s best-kept secret for a while now. Whilst a few years ago we’d see many of our arty types flocking to Berlin in a bid for cheap rent, tenant rights, and what is ostensibly a city oozing with culture, people have now been ditching the freezing and somewhat bleak climate of central Europe for a city that is equally as heavily endowed with art and culture, and that’s on the beach.

An even bigger pull factor is that miraculously, Porto is one of the cheapest cities in Western Europe. The Douro River is the epicentre of the city and it acts as your reference point as you stroll the winding cobbled streets, taking in the historic buildings, and the many sensory delights on offer. 

Porto’s a city not in a rush, and if you’re looking to escape the high-octane nightmare of the urban UK, this might just be the place for you. Added to this, is the fact that the locals are unbelievably friendly, making the isolation of contemporary Britain seem like a distant nightmare.

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Rotterdam, The Netherlands

For well over 30 years the capital city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam has been the hottest place to visit in the home of the tulip. This is for obvious reasons; the canals, the bikes, the coffee shops, and the nightlife, as well as the fact that as a whole, Amsterdam is a city unlike any other. However, a lot of us over the past few years have concluded that Amsterdam is a little bit overrated and it’s very expensive.

Because The Netherlands is such a great place that does a lot of things right, people didn’t want to leave altogether, so many have moved to the country’s second city, Rotterdam. A vibrant and modern city, that boasts both much for tourists and residents, for those of you wanting a better way of life than the UK but are adverse to hot weather, this might be the place for you as its mild temperatures are very similar, and there are some similarities to the way the Dutch do things.

Situated at the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas channel, there’s a lot to do in Rotterdam, including a multitude of museums, wonderous contemporary architecture as well as bars, clubs, and music venues, and you’ll never be bored. Plus, it’s just over an hour’s drive to Amsterdam, so it’s a win-win situation.

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Antwerp, Belgium

This one has been going under the radar for quite some time. As a Briton, you maybe wouldn’t think of Belgium as a place to relocate to, principally because of the weather, yet, Belgium actually has a very affable climate because of its situation on the North Sea. Mild in winter and cool in summer, Belgium is another place that is shaping up to be one of the best alternatives to the UK for Britons who don’t necessarily want scorching summers.

A global city, Antwerp is the most populous city in Belgium, and duly, it has a lot on offer. The rent is cheap, the infrastructure is great, there are many job opportunities due to multinationals having bases there, and in terms of culture, you’ve got everything from museums to great live music venues in abundance.

There is one thing that might put us Britons off though, the tax. The city has the highest taxes in Europe, but it isn’t for nothing. You get a host of quality services and social programmes in exchange, making a stark departure from what we get from our local and national governments.

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Barcelona, Spain

We couldn’t have a list of the best European alternatives to the UK without including the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona. A city brimming with culture from Gaudi’s unmistakable La Sagrada Familia to modern architecture, it’s another city that is comprised of many backstreets where you could end up anywhere. With food, football, music, and a great skateboarding scene on offer, there’s something for everyone in Barcelona, making it a stellar replacement for the UK.

Notably, although it is one of the most expensive cities in Spain, it’s very affordable in comparison to other major European cities, allowing us to get even more for our money. Added to this metropolitan delight is the fact that it is situated on the Mediterranean sea, meaning you can go for a lunchtime dip with ease, which makes a stark difference from the brown hues of the North or Irish seas. As of June 2022, Barcelona is 45% cheaper to live in than London, and in many ways, is a lot more satisfying. 

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