Personal Finance

Top 5 European Cities for Millenials

Young EU nationals (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) have the chance to choose where they live, since they're able to work nearly anywhere in the EU (plus the aforementioned countries) without a work permit. To help young people see which cities may be most suitable, either at home or abroad, we've compared two dozen of the top European cities based on factors related to employment, cost of living, entertainment and health & safety.

Top 5 European Cities for Millenials

1. Zurich

According to publicly available data, Zurich is the best city for millenials hoping to start their careers and enjoy a great quality of life. While the cost of living is quite high in Zurich, average wages were the highest of the cities in our study making Zurich relatively affordable compared to, say, London. Plus the country benefits from a strong economy (Switzerland had the highest GDP per capita). Very few young adults work part time when they'd rather find full-time employment, and there is a low risk of poverty and social exclusion amongst young people. Finally, the lowest levels of pollution and the lowest overall level of crime make Zurich a great place to live.

CategoryRank
Employment Prospects4
Cost of Living & Affordability11
Entertainment5
Health & Safety2

2. Prague

The second best city in our data study for millenials is Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic struck a nice balance for affordability, with solid wages and a relatively low cost of living making it easier for young people to live comfortably. The Czech Republic also posted the lowest youth and overall unemployment rates and solid GDP growth (4th), suggesting that residents may have an easier time finding good jobs than in other cities. Additionally, the Czech Republic ranked 1st for the lowest risk of poverty or social exclusion amongst 16 to 29 year olds, a possible indicator of wellbeing for young adults. While it's not the sunniest city, Prague has a relatively high number of cafes (3rd) and bars (4th), which are ever popular for young people.

CategoryRank
Employment Prospects7
Cost of Living & Affordability1
Entertainment12
Health & Safety5

3. Geneva

The third spot in our ranking of millenial-friendly cities went to another Swiss city—Geneva. One of the smallest cities in our study, Geneva stood out for high wages and a safe, healthy environment (similar to Zurich). We estimate that residents of Geneva spend around 37% of their after tax salary on rent, which is significantly less than the average of 59% of wages spent on rent across our study. Given the compact nature of the city, residents are never far from a park, cinema or place to eat or drink.

CategoryRank
Employment Prospects5
Cost of Living & Affordability14
Entertainment7
Health & Safety2

4. Berlin

For those whose priority is the prospect of good employment Berlin is hard to beat, ranking second in this category to Amsterdam. For example, there is low unemployment, especially for young adults (6.6%), and a high degree of wage equality between men and women (#3 in the study). Berlin also performed admirably when it comes to how the cost of living compares to wages, ranking 5th for rent affordability and 3rd for cost of a night out affordability. On the other hand, Berlin offers fewer parks per square kilometre and an average environment in terms of pollution, safety and sunshine.

CategoryRank
Employment Prospects2
Cost of Living & Affordability3
Entertainment14
Health & Safety13

5. Vienna

According to the data, Vienna is the safest and healthiest city in our study, with consistently solid performance in terms of pollution (3rd), crime (3rd), peace (1st) and the risk of young adult poverty or social exclusion (ranking 3rd best with 21.4% at risk). Vienna also scored well in terms of affordability, suggesting that young people at the beginning of their careers won't struggle as much financially in Vienna as they might in other cities. However those who prioritise out-of-work activities may not find Vienna as suitable, with slightly below average access to restaurants, bars, cafes, cinemas and parks.

CategoryRank
Employment Prospects10
Cost of Living & Affordability4
Entertainment18
Health & Safety1

Summary of City Rankings

In order to quantify the appeal of a city to young people, our analysis included four groups of data: employment, cost of living, entertainment and health & safety. We then ranked our 24 European cities according to these factors.

RankCityCountryEmploymentCost of LivingEntertainmentHealth & Safety
1ZurichSwitzerland41152
2PragueCzech Republic71125
3GenevaSwitzerland51472
4BerlinGermany231413
5ViennaAustria104181
6AmsterdamNetherlands119611
7StockholmSweden910137
8CopenhagenDenmark616156
9OsloNorway312209
10DublinIreland823216
11LisbonPortugal1620114
12BrusselsBelgium1271022
13AthensGreece246318
14ZagrebCroatia181248
15BarcelonaSpain1917412
16BudapestHungary1372114
17WarsawPoland1442215
18ParisFrance1718121
19MadridSpain2015169
20IstanbulTurkey1591724
21MilanItaly2121817
22LondonUnited Kingdom1124923
23BelgradeSerbia23132320
24RomeItaly22221918

Employment

To get an idea of job prospects in each city, we analysed a range of economic factors. Our analysis incorporated data on youth unemployment, GDP growth, GDP per capita, wage inequality (that is, the extent to which women and men are paid the same for similar work), actual wages and the percentage of 20 to 29 year olds who are in involuntary part-time work (that is, the percentage of young people who are working part-time but would rather be in full-time employment). While these metrics don't guarantee any individual's job prospects in a given city, we think they broadly represent each city's job market.

chart showing the unemployment rate in EU countries
The Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate
RankCityYouth Unemploy. RankUnemploy. RankInvoluntary Part-Time RankGDP Growth RankGDP per Cap. RankWage Inequality RankWage Rank
1Amsterdam3456675
2Berlin23313839
3Oslo75914213
4Zurich48221141
5Geneva48221142
6Copenhagen89412464
7Prague1114151115
8Dublin1011121348
9Stockholm12121411516
10Vienna6106871411
11London9611171077
12Brussels13138189910
13Budapest52135171822
14Warsaw117103181518
15Istanbul151872201523
16Lisbon14141610141220
17Paris16151716112112
18Zagreb1716159191719
19Barcelona1920197132016
20Madrid1920197132017
21Milan20172119121913
22Rome20172119121914
23Belgrade18191815211224
24Athens21212020161021

Cost of Living and Affordability

Given the burden of student loans, a lack of savings and lower salaries for those in their first jobs, millennials are often price conscious. Therefore it is important to factor in the comparative cost of each city. We simplified this process by focusing on the cost of housing and entertainment (i.e., restaurants, drinks and cinema tickets) using data obtained by Numbeo from actual city residents. Istanbul came out cheapest in terms of the cost of both rent and entertainment. Not surprisingly, the data showed that residents in Geneva, London and Zurich pay the most to live.

chart showing the cost of a beer, meal and cinema ticket by EU city
A night out costs 4X as much in Zurich as in Istanbul

However, it's important to consider both actual costs in a city as well as the affordability of each city—that is, how affordable rent and other living expenses are given typical wages. We found that while Geneva and Zurich are amongst the most expensive cities, they also appear to be the most affordable for those with a job due to higher wages. London, on the other hand, is just as expensive but residents earn lower average wages, making it less affordable. Prague and Zagreb tied for offering the best combination of a low cost of living and wages substantial enough for young people to comfortably pay for their living expenses, on average.

RankCityCost of Rent RankCost of Night Out RankRent Affordability RankNight Out Affordability Rank
1 (tie)Prague76115
1 (tie)Zagreb451010
3Berlin111153
4Vienna91267
5Warsaw641212
6Athens39716
7 (tie)Brussels81739
7 (tie)Budapest531514
9Istanbul111821
10Stockholm161396
11Zurich212311
12Oslo182244
13Belgrade222223
14Geneva232422
15Madrid12101615
16Copenhagen192188
17Barcelona1381917
18Paris17161313
19Amsterdam20181411
20Lisbon1072424
21Milan15151718
22Rome14142020
23Dublin22192119
24London24202322

Since millenials spend such a large proportion of their paychecks on entertainment, primarily eating and drinking out, affordability of restaurants and cafes is a key consideration.

Health & Safety

Young people are often conscious of protecting their mental and physical health, as well as with the relative safety of where they live. While it can be difficult to compare cities across these qualities, we focused on data sets that broadly capture an area's safety and health. For example, we incorporated data related to pollution, the risk of young adult poverty or social exclusion (a metric for mental health), life expectancy, crime/safety and hours of sunshine each year, as well as the Global Peace Index. Despite less sunshine, Vienna, Geneva and Zurich performed particularly well in the category overall.

chart showing the average annual hours of sunshine by city
Young adults suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may prefer a sunnier city
RankCityPollution RankPeace RankYoung Adult Poverty or Social Exclusion RankLife Expectancy RankSafety RankSunshine Rank
1Vienna313638
2 (tie)Geneva6622512
2 (tie)Zurich1622121
4Lisbon112121181
5Prague94116616
6Copenhagen431813214
7Stockholm271171713
8Zagreb813717411
9 (tie)Madrid1514161133
9 (tie)Oslo581551415
11Amsterdam712109917
12Barcelona2114161164
13Berlin1298151219
14Budapest13101320119
15Warsaw1415418720
16Dublin1051482123
17Milan20161741510
18 (tie)Athens16202010202
18 (tie)Rome2216174245
20Belgrade18171919106
21Paris2319532318
22Brussels19116142222
23London17189121824
24Istanbul24212121197

Entertainment

How a young person spends their time outside of work can have a significant bearing on their happiness. To gauge how friendly a city is towards millenials in this regard, we included data on the proportion of population aged 20 to 34 years old, the number of parks per square kilometre, the number of cinemas per square kilometre and a ranking of restaurants, bars and cafes. For this we ranked cities on the absolute number of restaurants, bars and cafes, the number per square kilometre and also the number per 10,000 residents. Considering the number of venues per square kilometre gives an indication of how far a person might need to travel to reach a park, cinema, restaurant, cafe or bar on average.

chart showing the number of bars and cafes by city
Access to bars and cafes can be an attraction for young people
RankCityProportion of Young People RankParks per Sq Km RankCinemas per Sq Km RankRestaurants, Cafes and Bars Rank
1Paris14121
2Dublin2379
3Athens106110
4Barcelona20282
5Zurich67316
6Amsterdam510126
7Geneva114613
8Milan22543
9London713177
10Brussels981117
11Lisbon241255
12Prague189154
13Stockholm8111415
14Berlin13161012
15Copenhagen1152019
16Madrid211798
17Istanbul3211618
18Vienna12141914
19Rome23181311
20Oslo4222423
21Budapest17201820
22Warsaw15192221
23Belgrade19242122
24Zagreb16232324

Regardless of where you decide to move, be sure to invest in contents insurance in the city of your choice. It is designed for renters and can help protect your belongings in the event of calamities like fire, flood and theft. Don't be one of the millenials who doesn't get contents insurance until it's too late (e.g., after you experience a loss). To learn more about contents insurance in the UK, read our article, Contents Insurance: What you Need to Know.

Likewise, be sure you're covered by a suitable car insurance plan if you get behind the wheel, including if you're driving a friend's car. Those in the UK can read about good options in our article, Cheap Car Insurance. Or, for motorcycle riders, in our article on Cheap Motorcycle Insurance. Millenials moving to other countries are sure to find suitable options as well from local resources.

Finally, when you inevitably travel between your host country and home, be sure your travels are covered by a good travel insurance policy.

Methodology and Limitations

In order to quantify how millenial-friendly a city is, we gathered publicly-available data from sources including the World Bank, Eurostat and the World Health Organization. We ranked each city across a number of metrics for each category (i.e., Employment, Cost of Living/Affordability, Entertainment and Health & Safety).

Employment data included unemployment rates (youth and overall), GDP growth, GDP per capita, wage inequality and average wages.

Cost of Living data included average rents for a one bedroom flat in the city center as well as costs of common entertainment expenses such as beer, inexpensive meals and cinema tickets (our proxy for the "cost of a night out"). We ranked cities according to two metrics: absolute costs and the affordability of these costs given local wages. For example, rent affordability was calculated as the ratio of the average monthly net salary in a city to the average monthly cost of a 1 bedroom rental in the city centre. Cost of a night out affordability was calculated as the ratio of the average monthly net salary less a 1 bedroom rental cost to the cost of a night out (i.e., an inexpensive meal, one imported beer and a cinema ticket).

Entertainment data included the proportion of young people in a city (i.e., 20 to 34 year olds) as a measure of how "young" a city is, the number of parks and cinemas per square kilometre (to indicate how far one might be from these leisure locations) and a rank for restaurants, cafes and bars that reflected the absolute number of each in a city as well as the number per square kilometre and the number per 10,000 residents.

Health & Safety data included the number of hours of sun per year, the amount of pollution in the air, life expectancy (as a measure of the health of a population), the Global Peace Index, the Numbeo crime index (which captures how safe people feel in a city) and a measure of the percent of young people at risk of poverty or social exclusion (as another measure of wellbeing).

Sources

Employment

  • Word Bank: Youth unemployment rates by country, unemployment rates by country, GDP growth, GDP per capita, Wage inequality
  • Eurostat: Involuntary part-time employment as percentage of the total part-time employment for young people by country
  • Numbeo: Wages by city

Cost of Living

  • Numbeo: Cost of rent for a one-bedroom in the city centre, an imported beer, an inexpensive meal, wages and a cinema ticket, all by city

Health & Safety

  • World Health Organization: Life expectancy
  • Vision of Humanity: Global Peace Index
  • Eurostat: People at risk of poverty or social exclusion aged 16 to 29
  • Numbeo: Pollution, safety/crime index by city
  • Current Results and Weather Online: Hours of sunshine per year by city

Entertainment

  • Eurostat: Proportion of population aged 25 to 34 years
  • Google Maps: Number of cinemas per city
  • Trip Advisor: Number of parks, restaurants, cafes and bars per city
  • Wikipedia: Land area of each city

Data

Here is a selection of data we used in our study.

CityYouth Unemployment (Aged 15 to 24)Wage InequalityWages (Average, After Tax)Crime IndexPercentage of Population Aged 20 to 34
Amsterdam15%0.65€ 2,52233.728%
Athens75%0.63€ 75049.624%
Barcelona68%0.50€ 1,32845.819%
Belgrade55%0.58€ 38637.019%
Berlin12%0.72€ 2,14141.023%
Brussels18%0.64€ 2,10751.324%
Budapest30%0.52€ 73837.021%
Copenhagen14%0.68€ 2,82621.635%
Dublin27%0.70€ 2,18450.632%
Geneva11%0.70€ 4,61526.524%
Istanbul16%0.56€ 42948.830%
Lisbon52%0.58€ 86933.513%
London26%0.65€ 2,30347.825%
Madrid68%0.50€ 1,31841.418%
Milan80%0.51€ 1,51045.016%
Oslo20%0.74€ 3,04144.028%
Paris55%0.49€ 1,93653.022%
Prague7%0.61€ 1,37427.619%
Rome80%0.51€ 1,38254.315%
Stockholm39%0.74€ 2,34947.625%
Vienna16%0.57€ 2,00422.623%
Warsaw25%0.56€ 95433.522%
Zagreb46%0.53€ 87026.021%
Zurich11%0.70€ 5,20719.026%
CityCost of a BeerCost of Cinema TicketCost of an Inexpensive MealCost of Night OutNumber of Bars, Cafes and Restaurants per Square Kilometre
Amsterdam€ 2.6€ 13.6€ 15.0€ 31.221.0
Athens€ 2.1€ 9.1€ 10.0€ 21.268.7
Barcelona€ 1.5€ 9.1€ 10.0€ 20.6100.0
Belgrade€ 1.3€ 4.8€ 4.2€ 10.34.6
Berlin€ 1.4€ 12.5€ 10.0€ 23.99.1
Brussels€ 2.5€ 12.4€ 15.0€ 29.922.8
Budapest€ 1.2€ 6.5€ 5.4€ 13.16.1
Copenhagen€ 2.5€ 15.2€ 16.1€ 33.814.5
Dublin€ 2.8€ 13.6€ 15.0€ 31.425.1
Geneva€ 6.2€ 20.0€ 21.1€ 47.338.4
Istanbul€ 2.3€ 4.7€ 3.3€ 10.38.7
Lisbon€ 1.9€ 8.0€ 7.5€ 17.448.1
London€ 2.8€ 16.2€ 13.9€ 32.914.5
Madrid€ 1.6€ 10.2€ 10.0€ 21.818.9
Milan€ 1.9€ 10.2€ 15.0€ 27.142.0
Oslo€ 3.9€ 15.7€ 17.4€ 37.13.0
Paris€ 2.6€ 12.5€ 13.0€ 28.1168.9
Prague€ 1.4€ 8.0€ 4.7€ 14.020.9
Rome€ 1.6€ 9.1€ 15.0€ 25.68.9
Stockholm€ 2.0€ 14.1€ 9.5€ 25.616.7
Vienna€ 2.0€ 11.4€ 11.0€ 24.310.7
Warsaw€ 1.3€ 7.7€ 4.6€ 13.66.0
Zagreb€ 1.6€ 5.4€ 6.7€ 13.71.4
Zurich€ 2.7€ 18.0€ 21.1€ 41.822.9

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