Which European city is the best for Digital Nomads?

Our comparison guide to Europe's best cities for remote work

May 28, 2024
man working from homeman working from home

Remote work is on the rise, in part thanks to the increase in the number of jobs that can be done online, and in large part thanks to the Covid pandemic. According to Zippia, 26% of US employees now work remotely, four times the pre-pandemic figure. Remote working allows people to live where they want, and more and more are taking advantage to fulfill dreams, and live in a new city for a few months- or even longer!

To provide accommodation for this growing workforce of digital nomads, Ukio has recently expanded to Paris, making it five of Europe’s most popular cities in which we provide top quality accommodation. The others are Lisbon, Berlin, Barcelona, and Madrid. For many, deciding where to relocate to can be a tough decision, as every option offers so much. Fortunately we have employees in each city, who have helped us create this city comparison guide to help you find the best city to suit your needs. We’ll compare the key things, such as cost of living, remote working options, and what you can do in your free time.


The first thing to mention is visas- traditionally one of the main obstacles to moving abroad. There is no problem if you come from another EU country, but most people need a visa to stay for more than three months. Many governments have responded to the growing remote work community by introducing a digital nomad visa, which allows you to reside in a country without changing jobs. France do not yet have one. In Gemany they have a freelance visa, which is similar, but takes longer to apply for. So, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Madrid take an early lead in our contest.

Which city is the most affordable?

Reducing it to pure numbers, Paris comes in at the most expensive, at 21st on the list of most expensive cities in Europe. Berlin is next at 42nd, then Barcelona at 130th, Madrid 143rd, and Lisbon has the lowest cost of living at 151st out of the 245 cities in the study. This doesn’t quite tell the whole story. In Berlin for example, monthly rental prices were really low, then skyrocketed, then were brought back down by rental controls, and tenants are currently pushing to return them to where they were ten years ago. In Spain, there used to be less of a difference between the two cities but prices in Barcelona have risen recently, while Madrid’s have stayed lower. At the moment, the lowest average apartment rental is Madrid, and the highest is Paris.

In terms of food and drink, the cities follow the same pattern, with Lisbon the cheapest, and Paris the most expensive. Most of our readers move to these cities from the US or the UK though, so they usually find basic costs lower than back home. Luxuries though, can be as expensive, or more so. So, Madrid and Lisbon take the prize for cost of living.

madrid aerial view

Working life

Let’s get down to business shall we? Digital nomads might be moving to experience a new culture, but it’s important to keep one’s professional life going strong. Others may be moving from smaller towns, specifically to find a better place to work from. All five of our contestants are renowned for being great places to remote work, so there isn’t much to separate them here.

One important consideration is reliability of internet conncections. As you would expect from the major cities of western Europe, these are strong across the board. In Berlin you don’t always get great internet outside of the city center, so best not to stray too far. The city compensates by having the best transport system, despite the stiff competition on offer.

All the cities have a thriving digital nomad community. Berlin and Barcelona in particular are known for co-working spaces and creative communities, and Barcelona has the best cafes to work in.

barcelona aerial view

Not working life

What to do when not working is the deciding factor for many, and it really depends on what you’re into, as every city has so much to enjoy.

The weather is obviously lovely in Spain and Portugal, but we’re giving the prize to Lisbon. The Atlantic breeze just keeps it a little cooler in summer compared with its Spanish neighbors, something that many expats appreciate.

For art and culture it’s a really tough decision. In Madrid you have the Prado, among many other museums and galleries. Berlin takes the prize for history, and also boasts a fantastic opera scene. Paris comes out on top though, its combination of art, history, and architecture are the envy of the world, and people flock from all over to visit.

For sports, Barcelona is the city that really does have everything: beaches for watersports, mountains for snowsports, the weather to be outside whenever you want, and F.C. Barça if you’d rather just sit and watch.

With food it’s too close to call. Spain’s tapas scene is just the start of a fantastic world of meat and seafood dishes that will keep you happy throughout your stay. Lisbon has some great local delicacies, and their seafood is known all over the world. German food may not have the best reputation, but like in the UK this deficiency has resulted in fantastic international cuisines. The Thai food in Berlin for example, is the best you can get outside of Thailand. And of course, France has the most famous culinary scene of all.

In terms of just sitting round and enjoying a drink with friends, it’s impossible to choose, as this lifestyle is so engrained into the culture of each city. If you’re looking to go a bit harder, and push on into the early hours, you can’t beat Berlin’s world-famous clubbing scene.

berlin city view

Which city is the most expat friendly?

An important thing for new arrivals. All our cities have thriving expat communities, making them all easy places to relocate to. Safety, language, and social security, are other important things to consider. So let’s have a look.

How safe are the cities?

Our residents of each city all said the same thing- their city is safe, but you should watch out for pickpockets in the touristy areas. There are also some areas to avoid at night, although these are rarely central.

What languages will I need?

If you want to learn a language, you’re in luck. Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French are all really useful languages, and spoken in multiple countries. In Barcelona you get no points for speaking Spanish as their first language is Catalan, which is sadly not too useful once you leave. Given that Spanish is generally the most useful language to learn, we’ll give this one to Madrid.

You can get by in English in all five cities, as they are all major tourist destinations. The French don’t really like speaking it though, and despite the level being decent in Berlin, they are also pretty reluctant. Lisbon wins this one, as they have a good level, and are normally really happy to communicate in English.

Which city has the best social security?

In terms of workplace and welfare benefits, a Glassdoor report has France and Spain joining Denmark to make up Europe’s top three. Unemployment benefits are particularly good in France, where they also have the most days of paid leave. Spain have the most public holidays, with 14 over the year.

eiffel tower

France’s healthcare system was voted the best in Europe by St Mark’s hospital, and 14th best in the world. Life expectancy in the country is 82. Germany was not far behind in this respect. For maternity leave, France, Spain, and Germany all pay 100% salary. Paris then, is the best of our cities for social security.

The verdict

lisbon street car

Lisbon came out on top in more of our categories than any other city, which is no surprise really. It is a beautiful city, with a great lifestyle and fantastic work opportunities. As a result it is often described as the creative hub of Europe, and the number 1 spot for digital nomads. Each city has its strengths though, so here is our final breakdown:


Barcelona is brilliantly located, and comes out on top for professional opportunities, and variation of things to do outside of work.


A beautiful ciy with a fantastic lifestyle and art scene. The best for language learning, and one of the most affordable.


Has everything, great weather, reasonable prices, and plenty of work opportunities. A really friendly city for expats.


Combines history with a buzzing creative scene, and the best nightlife of all. Great public transport, and of course the most efficient.


The center of Western Europe. Paris combines an incredible art and cultural scene with the best social security of our cities.

Decision time

Now you know the advantages of each city, only you will know the perfect one for you. Once you know your decision you can find your new apartment, and we wish you the best of luck with your next adventure!

man flying with mask and computer