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Our recent flight to Toronto was bittersweet and as Europe disappeared behind us, a feeling of melancholy won out over the rush of excitement we normally feel when stepping into our next major phase of travel. We reminisced about the amazing fourteen weeks we spent in Europe this spring and summer, where we discovered new treasures, re-visited old favorites, reveled in the comfort, beauty and style of European life. It had been awhile since we had been in Europe and we found ourselves wondering – if we were to ever stop traveling, which European city could we see ourselves actually living in? There are so many great cities in Italy, Germany and Spain, we loved spending time in Prague, Oslo and Amsterdam, had a wonderful time in Innsbruck and so many other places, but putting down roots is another prospect entirely. We may have narrowed it down to the following cities in Europe we think we could live in.

Lady in Lisbon, Portugal

London

A wise man once said, “If you tire of London, you tire of life,” and even after three years of life in London before becoming nomads, we never got tired of exploring the city’s neighborhoods. Creative Shoreditch, glamorous Chelsea, the punks of Camden and up-and-coming areas like Dalston, Deptford and Stoke Newington. London is easily the greenest city we have lived in, with massive open spaces in Hyde Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond. London is also a foodie paradise – Borough Market and enough eateries to keep us chowing down all year round. We loved cycling along the Thames or through unknown neighborhoods, finding cute independent shops, pubs and street art.

London Camden High StreetThe accommodation options are endless, too, ranging from cheap hostels to five-star hotels, free couchsurfing options to affordable hotels in London. At times, you could easily feel as if you are in the center of the pop culture universe  – art exhibitions at London’s free museums, blockbuster movie premieres on Leicester Square and the concerts…never in our lives have we been to so many shows as the time we spent in London.

Despite the city’s fascinating cultural diversity, international cuisine and constant stream of new things to discover, there is a major drawback to London life  – a serious vitamin D deficiency. The gloomy winters and frequent rain keep us from laying down permanent roots here for now, but we would definitely spend a summer in London again soon.

London market coffee house

Barcelona

We spent less than a week here, but Barcelona is easy to love – from the fabulous Gaudi buildings to the hip hop dancers on Las Ramblas, the city and its people ooze a kind of creativity that we immediately connected with – passionate, yet practical, anti-establishment but success-driven. In Barcelona, we walked the beach and discovered the former Olympic area, devoured fresh gelato, undertook the task of infinite tapas tasting, discovered retro bars and modern art galleries and never once did we get bored.

Barcelona gaudi park guellWe also both feel very comfortable speaking Spanish and would be excited to learn to converse in Catalan. Whether or not Barcelona could be forever remains to be seen, but we would most certainly attempt an extended stay.

Barcelona beach at sunset

Paris

We love Paris! Before you get to any oh-so-typical eye-rolling, we couldn’t believe it either. After our first few hours in the French capital, however, we were both hooked, and after several subsequent trips over from London to Paris on the Eurostar express train, there just isn’t much about Paris not to love. We pick up a baguette  for under a buck, some gruyere or brie or camembert, a good, cheap bottle of Merlot or Beaujolais and head to Parc de la Villette or Jardin du Luxembourg or along the river Seine for a picnic.

Paris sweetsWe munch  on macaroons, eclairs, croissants as we explore the streets of Le Marais or the Latin Quarter and sneak up to Montmartre, the artists quarter, in the morning before the tourists arrive. We could spend countless afternoons strolling through the extravagant cemeteries like the Pere Lachaise and evenings watching French couples dance tango on the shore of the Seine as the sun sets. For all the flowery fine art, there is just as much angst-inspired contemporary urban work, and there are as many hang-out spots for intellectuals and artists as punks and fashion icons.

Paris Je t'aimeHowever, our French is fairly basic (but we could learn), and Paris can be expensive, so while the dream exists to spend a glorious life in the City of Lights, it might be more logical to consider a month, maybe two, housesitting in a French apartment, eating, drinking and exploring Paris.

Lisbon

It was a risky last-minute, on-the-fly decision to spend nearly the entire month of June in Lisbon. The decision turned out to be the best we’ve made in a long time. Neither of us had ever been to Lisbon, we knew almost nothing about it and when we arrived, it took us a few days to fall for the city.

View over LisbonOnce we got out and explored, however, we discovered narrow city streets filled with tiled houses, countless neighborhood pastelerias (bakeries), seven hills with unbeatable views of the ocean and the Tagus river, nearby golden beaches and the Ponte de 25 April bridge, which looks like an exact replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We found the trendy area of Bairro Alto teeming with creative concept bars and countless Indian restaurants. There are galleries, markets, sun and sand, and a cosmopolitan composition rivaled only by London.

Lisboa street art graffiti lisbonBest of all, Lisbon is easily the most affordable capital city in Europe – food, drink, transportation and accommodation are fairly priced and manageable. The people are laid-back, friendly, and we picked up enough Portuguese to get by. Of all the cities in all of Europe, we could not be happier to have discovered Lisbon, and the city is now our top choice to live in Europe.

Lisbon tramWhat European city could you see yourself living in? Let us know in the comments!

Tags : barcelonalisbonLondonparis

28 Comments

  1. I loved Lisbon as well when I was there in 2008. As far as cities that I can see myself settling down in Europe I would have to say that Barcelona is at the top of my list as well. It just seems like that they “get it there, you know? Honorable mention would be Prague, Dublin, & The Dalmatian Islands of Croatia.

    1. Hey Scott, exactly – in Barcelona they do just ‘get’ it. We’ll have to make it back to Europe soon to check out more of Croatia – we ran out of time this time, but it’s a must next time!

  2. Absolutely loved Barcelona too! It combines our two favorite things: big cities and beautiful beaches. It doesn’t hurt that we got engaged on top of Montjuic, so Barcelona will always be a special place for us 🙂

    1. Definitely know what you mean, and in Europe, that small village near the big city probably has great public transportation links to get you there and back as well!

    1. London would be perfect if it had great weather all year around! But hearing our friends in London complain about yet another lousy summer reassures us that leaving was the right decision. It still is an amazing city & we’ll always return. Italy would definitely be on our list too, we just haven’t found the right town there yet.

  3. Aside from rent, we found Paris surprisingly affordable to live in. Food, alcohol and the metro are pretty reasonably priced for such a large city and we also found the cost of clothes and things to be good (if you know where to shop).

    1. Andrea, we agree – we never found Paris terribly overpriced. It’s like in London – rent is very expensive, but other than that things are just not that expensive. We always found good deals and groceries, wine, transport, etc are much less than in North America. You just have to get off the ‘tourist path’ and find the areas where the Parisians shop & dine 🙂

  4. I’m dying to get to Barcelona! Granted I have spent very little time in Europe but I love love loved Glasgow and would love to spend some time living there for a bit. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I loved Athens! Odd I know, as I’ve read endless descriptions of it as a dirty and charmless city, but I could easily spend a summer there.

    1. We liked Glasgow a lot, too!! Just wish the weather was warmer & less rain. Interesting that you loved Athens – you really only read negative things about it… now we want to check it out ourselves!

  5. I love Paris but honestly I think I find it a little too scary sometimes to live in – but it’s one of those places that really is just how it’s portrayed in the movies!

    Love London even more and could definitely live there (maybe sometime in the next 18 months…?), and could also most definitely shack up in Berlin.

    1. We agree – Paris really is just like you see it in movies. We love ‘Amelie’ and how Montmartre is portrayed – we will probably end up in Paris at some point for a while 🙂 We have been reading so many awesome things about Berlin lately that we were thinking about including it, but we both haven’t been there in years and we just think the city’s changed a lot since our last visit. We’d definitely live there for a few months though!

  6. I think if I wouldn’t live in BERLIN, I would love to live in Paris. But IMO Berlin is the best European city to live in right now. It is as romantic as Paris (you just need to know where to go), it is as creative as London, it is as passionate as Barcelona… AND it’s cheaper to live here than in any other European capital. Period. 🙂

    1. Yvonne, you are very lucky to be living in Berlin! I just love the vibe of the city, it is affordable, there is always so much going on, and like you say – just as creative as London! We will definitely stop in Berlin for a longer period of time at some point.

    1. Thanks Nicole! London is just the perfect place to discover Europe from – Paris in 2 hours by train, a short flight to Berlin, and a fantastic (cheap) transport hub. And there are always so many things to do in London! 🙂

  7. I truly, with my whole heart love Glasgow. And Edinburgh is nice as well. But Glasgow.. oh my. What a cultural, outgoing, perfect place for a student.

    Still, I’m always smiling when I get to Oslo. That’s in oldtown Oslo on the Eastside, for sure. Oslo in summertime, when all the rich people are heading south.. Brilliant.

    1. The three cities you mentioned are some of our favorite European cities as well!! We have a soft spot for Scotland, and really like both Edinburgh and Glasgow… if Scotland just had a little bit better weather! I am not sure if we’d put Oslo on a list of cities we could live in but it sure is a great city to visit, especially in the summer.

  8. Aw, how romantic! We’d definitely live there for a few months though! It still is an amazing city & we’ll always return. We will definitely stop in Berlin for a longer period of time at some point.

  9. Thanks Nicole! Brilliant. Odd I know, as I’ve read endless descriptions of it as a dirty and charmless city, but I could easily spend a summer there. Interesting that you loved Athens – you really only read negative things about it… now we want to check it out ourselves!

  10. Hey Scott, exactly – in Barcelona they do just ‘get’ it. I’m actually thinking a small village somewhere outside a large city might be best for me. It’s like in London – rent is very expensive, but other than that things are just not that expensive. Probably I’d live in London for as long as I can but I like some sunshine too.

  11. Try Bordeaux! It had to be one of the most relaxed, friendliest and gay friendly places we’ve ever been to (after London & Paris of course). Beautiful buildings and really nice people.

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