Finding your dream home: Europe’s best kept secrets

By : Nick Marr

If you’re looking for the perfect place to live in Europe, the chances are that you’ve already considered all the big cities and popular holiday destinations – and noticed how expensive they are! Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a lesser known city or a small town that still has lots to offer but is a little off the beaten track? A place where you could afford a good sized space, an attractive home with good views and access to all the things that really matter to you? This article looks at some of Europe’s hidden gems – areas that most home buyers don’t yet know about where you could be lucky enough to find what you’re looking for.

Skopje, Macedonia

A beautiful city which has done a good job of maintaining its architectural traditions as it has expanded, Skopje is home to around half a million people. It’s situated on the northern bank of the Vardar river, overlooked by a magnificent Medieval fortress. The climate is fairly dry, with long, hot summers. There’s lots to see and do, and it’s at the centre of a great transport network, providing access to places like Istanbul, Prague and Hamburg. Property prices are very reasonable, especially on the city’s scenic outskirts, and although local public transport still leaves something to be desired, taxis are cheap.

Pori, Finland

At first glance a quiet little town on the west coast of Finland, Pori has more going on than meets the eye, with a vibrant nightlife and an excellent variety of restaurants. Work isn’t hard to find and in your downtime you can enjoy hiking around beautiful lakes in the nearby forest or relaxing on Yyteri beach. Property prices are similar to those you’ll find in cities in the north of England or southern Scotland, with most people living in apartments in the town centre but some attractive traditional row houses and beautiful detached homes as you move further out.

Padova, Italy

Once the home of Galileo, this beautiful little Medieval town offers a great standard of living for an impressively low cost, with property prices considerably below the regional average. It’s just half an hour away from Venice by train but has numerous waterways and bridges of its own, as well as city walls. A thriving local market means you can always buy fresh food at good prices and the town has great bars, restaurants and cafés where its people socialise. The climate is balmy and there are flowers growing everywhere – what’s not to love?

Piraeus, Greece

Overlooking the blue waters of the Saronic Gulf, Piraeus is the largest port in Greece. Though still a small town, it receives a lot of visitors, so there’s always a lot going on. This is where Evangelos Marinakis’ ferries sail to and from the islands. It’s home to fascinating ancient ruins and a thriving cultural scene, including a large outdoor theatre, an annual film festival and a vibrant club scene. Property prices are significantly lower than the UK average and it’s not hard to find an attractive apartment with sea views.

Umea, Sweden

If you’re drawn to the romance of northern climes, this former European City of Culture is a gem worth checking out. It’s a great choice for those who enjoy the outdoor life – you can go dog sledding or ride on a snowmobile under the northern lights in winter and enjoy hiking or kayaking on long summer days. Although cultural facilities are limited, there are friendly bars and the local museum has some good art exhibitions. Property prices are commensurate with southern England (outside London) but because they’re so well built you’ll find you save on maintenance and on fuel bills – despite the sometimes chilly weather.

Carvoeiro, Portugal

Sunny and warm almost all year round, with cooling breezes blowing in off the sea, Carvoeiro is a beautiful place to settle down in retirement, start a business or become a part of the local artistic community. Its picture postcard houses nestled against gently sloping hills are surprisingly affordable and very comfortable. The local food and wine are excellent and the people very friendly. It’s home to quite a few British ex-pats and the visa system makes moving there remarkably easy to do.

With so much choice out there, why think only about the famous cities and resorts? These lesser known places have lots to recommend them and could be just the place to find the home you’ve been searching for.