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4 European University Towns to Retire to for as little as $20,160 a year—International Living Australia

April 4, 2019 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email

A new report from the editors at identifies four top university towns in Europe worth considering for an extended stay or full-time escape. 

The towns are culturally vibrant, attractive not only to students, but to retirees as well. They typically boast affordable housing, lots to do and a lively multi-generational mix.


Bologna, Italy

In recent years, Bologna, the lively historic capital of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, has welcomed a record number of visitors and has become firmly fixed on the map as an expat destination. It boasts the oldest university in the world, top-class culinary tradition and a vibrant, liberal-minded character.

“Bologna enthralled me from the moment I walked under some of its 40 kilometres of porticoes,” says IL contributor, Debra Kolkka. “These covered verandahs—some have huge wooden pillars and ceilings, others are more elaborate, with arched ceilings and decorated pillars—came about centuries ago, when students began to flock to Bologna’s university.

“My tour guide pointed out the oldest café in the city, the best place to buy prosciutto and took me to the anatomy room in the university, where a couple of centuries ago it became fashionable for residents to watch the dissection of bodies. The anatomy room is made from wood, with a marble-topped table in the center that was used for dissections. There are wooden sculptures around the room, including the first plastic surgeon holding a nose and a model of a man with his skin removed.”

The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy stands out for its quality of life and beautiful cities. It is one of the wealthiest regions in the country and offers a great lifestyle, excellent transportation connections and a rich array of cultural pursuits. All without a hefty price tag. A couple can live well here on a monthly budget of $1,680 per month—$20,160 a year.

Bordeaux, France

Located just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, in a picturesque part of France, Bordeaux is well known for its high standard of living, beautiful surroundings and friendly locals.

As a university town, Bordeaux has a lot to offer and residents are accustomed to greeting foreigners into their hometown.

The University of Bordeaux is composed of several institutions. The most notable are the College of Science and Technology and the Institute of Vine and Wine Science, both offering prolific exchange programs.

A significant contingent of foreign students and expats has built a strong multinational community here. Bordeaux is quite lively, with a highly attractive nightlife and cultural scene. The liveliest areas can be found around the city centre and the riverbank.

On a budget of $2,445 a month, or $29,340 a year, a couple can enjoy a sophisticated retirement this ancient city.

Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra is Portugal’s version of Oxford. The Mondego River runs through this bustling city—once the capital of Portugal—in the Beira Litoral province in the centre of the country.

Students clad in black cloaks are a regular sight on the steep cobbled lanes running up to the grand University of Coimbra, which dominates the riverfront city. Originally established in Lisbon in 1290, it eventually moved in 1537 to its present location, perched high above the city on the site of a former palace. The oldest university in Portugal, it is also one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world.

The University of Coimbra’s Joanine Library is an 18th-century Baroque delight. The three-story structure’s external walls, almost two metres thick, contribute to a constant room temperature of about 21 C and help protect the volumes of books that reside there. Also contributing to the effort is a colony of miniature bats living inside the walls. They emerge at night, dining on potential book-destroying insects.

Afterwards, explore the nearby Machado de Castro Museum. Housed in the former Bishop’s Palace built in the Middle Ages, the museum sits atop the ancient forum of Aeminium, Coimbra’s Roman name. Art above, ruins below, make for a remarkable experience.

Here, a couple could live well on a budget of $3,100 a month, or $37,200 a year.

Granada, Spain

With the thousand-year-old historic Alhambra still looking over and guarding the city, Granada, Spain, has for centuries been a crossroads of culture and a center for study, exchange, and appreciation of different peoples.

Granada is a mid-sized university town, an hour from the Costa del Sol, so the young people make it vibrant, with learning by day and tapas and flamenco dancing at night.

The nearly 500-year-old University of Granada plays a major role in the city’s atmosphere. The university has one of the biggest international student exchange programs in Europe, continuing Granada’s legacy of taking the best of many cultures and creating something, new, improved and wholly Granadan.

The university has a main campus, but also has buildings around town. There is a spirit here of learning and exploration of both the greater world and about one’s self, so a common conversation is about what classes people, young and old, are taking, whether Spanish language, art history, cooking or even flamenco dancing.

Taking a cue from the city’s emphasis on cultural fusion, the expat community is a thorough mix of peoples from all over who regularly gather with each other and locals, united in a common goal of intermixing cultures rather than standing apart. There are constant meetups, from hiking to biking, to Spanish language development over wine and tapas.

On a budget of $3,500 a month—$42,000 a year—a couple could enjoy tennis regularly and take numerous day trips around the countryside.

The full report on 7 Best University Towns for Retirement can be found here: 7 Best University Towns For Retirement 

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