If you've ever traveled to Europe, it might have seemed a tad expensive. But if you live among locals and know where to look, you could retire there and have that European lifestyle you long for on less than $35,000 a year. International Living, a site that provides information for retirees looking to move overseas, has identified seven communities where the weather is good and a relaxed Old World lifestyle is surprisingly affordable.
All of these places are in the EU Schengen Area - Americans can stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within an 180-day period. To stay longer than 90 days, you must apply for a residency permit from that country.
Here are seven beautiful places where you can retire to Europe, and enjoy a high quality of life in good weather on less than $35,000 a year.
If you're willing to live like a local, much of this region of southeastern France has low real estate prices and great quality of life.
If you love the outdoors, Provence offers some of the best year-round weather in France, so it's an ideal retirement location for those seeking long days of sunshine and blue skies. France's second largest city, Marseille, pictured here, is Provence's capital, but many tend to gravitate to the smaller towns.
Provence sits on the Mediterranean, and you'll recognize it for its rolling vineyards and lavender fields.
Another town in Provence, Avignon, pictured here, sits on the Rhone River; the city was the seat of the Catholic popes from 1309 to 1377, and the Pope's palace is still there.
Popular towns near the coastline in Provence tend to have inflated prices compared to small inland towns. For example, rent for a small, furnished one-bedroom apartment in Aix-en-Provence runs about $920 per month, while the same amount will get you a large, 2- or 3-bedroom, fully-furnished house with a garden in the hilly green heart of the Var department, about 50 miles further inland.
Arles is closer the coast than Avignon, and also sits on the Rhone River, and right next to the Camargue, a national park that features wetlands and a marine area. Pictured is the Cafe Van Gogh at Place du Forum in Arles, the same cafe that Vincent van Gogh painted in 1888 and is now a landmark tourist attraction.
Find the right spot in Provence, and a couple can live well on about $2,695 a month including rent - that's $32,340 a year.
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Seville is a mecca for those who love gracious living and southern Spanish style. It sits on the Guadalquivir River, the largest navigable river in Spain, and about 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The population is about 700,000.
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Winters in Seville are relatively mild, with average highs in the 60s F. and lows in the 40s F. July and August can soar well over 100 F., which is why Sevillanos spend the hot afternoons in their cool homes with thick stone walls and shady central patios.
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Seville is famous for its Moorish architecture, bull fighting, flamenco dancing, and lively culinary scene.
Seville reflects centuries of musical tradition, with symphonies, operas and performances as well as a famous music festival, the Bienal de Flamenco. Above, a store sells artisan acoustic guitars in downtown Seville.
In the right neighborhood, a couple can live well in Seville on $2,319 a month including rent, or $27,828 a year.
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Nazare, a fairly small town of about 15,000, sits on Portugal's coast between Lisbon and Porto. The climate is temperate, with highs reaching toward 85 F. in summer, dipping to around 50 F. in January. It might not suit those who are looking for year-round sun, but even in November rainfall averages only 3.5 inches.
A couple can rent a large apartment close to the beach and live well on $1,845 a month, or $22,140 a year, including rent, in Nazare.
Nazare is delightful to explore on foot, but it also has reliable bus and taxi service. The town has local markets, supermarkets, more than 100 restaurants and cafes, and other amenities. There's already an established expat presence here. Above, people play a popular traditional game in the street.
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The town's market is within easy walking distance from center, where locals and visitors alike can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and bakery items like fried pumpkin cake.
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Sorrento, Italy, is a sun-splashed energetic place that sits on a cliff facing the Bay of Naples. It has stunning views of Vesuvius looming over Naples as well as the rocky island of Capri. The climate is pleasant with hot, dry summers and mild, moist winters.
Sorrento is divided into three parts - the old town, the waterfront marinas below the cliffs, and the newer town beyond the ancient city walls.
Despite the summer crowds it draws, Sorrento isn't merely a beach resort; it enjoys a vibrant year-round life. There is a "cultural university" that offers a range of adult cultural classes and volunteer opportunities, along with the University of Mediterranean Cuisine. Above, a market sells fresh pasta and produce.
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Sorrento has theater, cinemas and museums, and the train to Naples and its big city amenities takes just an hour.
Renting a one-bedroom apartment, a couple can live well in Sorrento for $2,817 a month - which comes to $33,804 a year.
Lagos, in Portugal's southern Algarve region on the Atlantic, is a town of about 22,000 with a mild climate, with average temperatures ranging from 52 F. in winter to 75 F. in the summer. It has beaches and a walled old town.
Lagos is a very walkable town, much of it is flat, but there are also buses and taxis and you can catch a train to other regions of the Algarve or to Lisbon and beyond. Pictured here is the church in the main square.
Despite the tourist-oriented nature of Lagos, particularly during the peak season of July and August, prices are surprisingly reasonable. Including rent, a couple can live well in Lagos on $2,080 a month including rent, or $24,960 a year.
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Because of its tourist-based economy, in Lagos you can enjoy golfing, tennis, horseback riding, and hiking, and the ocean offers great conditions for kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, kite surfing, and windsurfing.
This city sits on the Via Emilia, what was once an ancient Roman road. It's about 80 miles north of Florence and just outside Bologna. Modena is well-connected and well-heeled, and one of the most underrated cities in Italy. Outside town, vineyards cover the hillsides, producing grapes for sparkling wines.
Modena's historic center packs a cultural punch with its monuments, museums, art, and entertainment. The university draws young people from around Italy to study law, medicine, and mechanical engineering. Pictured here are stalls of an antique market in the main square.
Besides its wines, Modena is known for its balsamic vinegar.
The lifestyle here is relaxed, like most places in Italy, but with a touch of class and culture. In the right spot in Modena a couple can live well for as little as $1,617 a month including rent, or $19,404 a year.
Modena is well maintained and well-endowed with parks and culture, thanks in part to Ferrari and other local industrialists whose philanthropy keeps Modena green and clean.
The Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena has exhibits on the life and work of the car designer in his childhood home, plus iconic models in a futuristic building.
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Granada, in Spain's southern Andalusia region, sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is surrounded by gently rolling foothills, mountain streams, and open meadows filled with olive and fruit trees.
Granada's famous landmark is the Alhambra palace, a Moorish fort and Unesco heritage site dating back well over a thousand years.
Granada is a mid-sized town (235,000 people) that is very walkable, with a good city transit system.
Winters can have a chill, but snow rarely lasts in town for more than a day. The hot summers remain dry, perfect to enjoy an iced summer wine in a shady cafe. Pictured here is the Plaza de la Romanilla.
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Grenada is a big commercial hub of the region, and its many mercadillos (markets) sell clothes, artisan goods, books, antiques, pottery and other goods.
Granada is a hiker's paradise. Venture out to find villages situated in valleys that have been occupied for 5,000 years. Pictured is Albayzin district of Granada, Spain, seen from a window in the Alhambra palace.
A couple can live in Granada for about $2,476 a month including rent - that's $29,712 a year.