Sometimes, we feel the need to make a change. To escape our day-to-day routine, explore new places and cultures, interact with people that we don’t ordinarily get to meet, and enrich our knowledge of the world.
Even if you are a frequent traveler, you know that spending just a week or two in a place helps with that to some extent, but the effects wear off soon after you unpack your bags. That’s why so many people opt for a more lasting experience and make a new country their home for a while.
If you’re considering moving to another country, we thought we’d give a helping hand by putting together a comprehensive list of the best cities to move to in 2019 -- and give you some great ideas for cities outside of the most popular and well-known destinations like London or Paris.
To compile our list, we looked at the happiest countries in the world, as ranked in the World Happiness Index, then researched each country’s most popular cities to see which are the best fits for nomads. Note that this is neither a “cheapest cities” list nor a “biggest cities” list. We wanted you to have all the option, so we left in cities big and small, cheap and pricey -- but all too lovely and welcoming to nomads.
To make it easy for you to see at a glance whether a city is a good fit or not, we’ve included some valuable information -- like population, crime rates, cost of living (for one person) and rent for a one-bedroom apartment close to the city center, along with additional information on what you can expect moving there. Find your happiest place and get ready to pack your bags!
- Helsinki, Finland
The progressive mindset, the fun-loving philosophy of life and a remarkably low crime rate are just some of the reasons why Finland is ranked as the happiest country in the world. This alone should make, Helsinki, Finland's capital, a must on your list of ‘top cities to move to in 2019’.
Helsinki is a vibrant seaside city with plenty of green parks and open spaces, glamorous buildings, superb sculptures tucked behind trees and more than 300 beautiful islands -- all interconnected by a maze of bridges.
- Bergen, Norway
Bergen is Norway’s second largest city, full of history and tradition -- a city with small-town charm and atmosphere. Here, family, friendship, food, and heritage are the focus. If this doesn’t describe happiness, what will?
A rare treat for nature lovers, Bergen is known as the 'city of seven mountains' -- due to the mountains that surround it -- and is home to some of the country’s most beautiful fjords, including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest fjord.
- Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, the beautiful capital of Denmark, is the epitome of Scandi cool. Modernist lamps light New Nordic tables, bridges buzz with cycling commuters and eye-candy locals dive into pristine waterways.
Offering a wonderful mix of great outdoors with top-notch nightlife and entertainment options, Copenhagen is home to many unique and culture-rich art and history museums, world-class shopping, trendy neighborhoods, and gourmet restaurants.
Unfortunately, as the city’s international appeal has grown considerably throughout the years, Copenhagen is becoming less and less affordable, with both rents and monthly living costs exceeding most of the cities in our list. But if you’re looking for a diverse, vibrant, safe and entertaining city to move to this year, Copenhagen may be worth the extra money.
- Reykjavík, Iceland
Even if you’re not considering moving to Iceland, you should at least visit it. Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world, and yes, you’ll experience some cold dark winters. But it’s all worth it for the beauty, with Iceland’s landscapes being recognized as some of the most beautiful in the world.
And Reykjavík may be one of Europe’s smallest and most remote capitals, but it is a cosmopolitan city where people live at a slow pace, enjoy life and don’t need supermarkets with 200 kinds of breakfast cereals. Reykjavík has plenty to offer when it comes to culture, nature, and night-life, but it is, however, the 8th most expensive city in the world, so make sure it fits your budget before making the jump.
- Bern, Switzerland
If you’re looking for “safety first”, then you should know that Bern is considered to be the second safest city in the world (according to Mercer).
Very few cities have managed to retain their historic charm quite as successfully as Bern. The capital of Switzerland is well known for its high quality of living, medieval streets and is home to many institutions of education, international companies, and expats.
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
Similarly to Denmark, the Netherlands also ranks high in happiness — with Amsterdam playing a significant role in that ranking. There’s obviously some secret to happiness in the Dutch mindset, as people here are open-minded, healthy, friendly, and relaxed.
Amsterdam is a great place to live in due to its work-life balance, active lifestyle, and endless entertainment options. It’s also one of the greatest cities in the world for biking, with over 60% of inner-city trips being made by bike -- making Amsterdam by far the most bicycle-friendly capital in the world.
- Ottawa, Canada
If you’re looking for a place that has a great blend of city living and small-town appeal, Canada’s capital has a lot to offer.
This city is considered to be one of the most educated in Canada, it's economically stable, has a low crime rate and low unemployment. The beauty of Canada’s capital has not gone unnoticed, and parts of it have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Wellington, New Zealand
The second most populated city in New Zealand -- and the nation's political center -- Wellington boasts great weather year-round and its people’s will to live and to enjoy life is contagious.
The city is currently booming in the tech and creative industries and almost everywhere you look you’ll see a sight that can be turned into a postcard (shout-out to shutterbugs here). Wellington offers everything you need, from a quiet walk in the park to fantastic night-life.
You do, however, need to know that there’s always a chance you might experience a small earthquake now and then. Nothing serious though, we hope.
- Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg is the second largest city in the Nordics and is located on the beautiful west coast of Sweden. Living in Gothenburg means you can avoid the busy crowds of big cities, but still enjoy the benefits of living in an international city.
It is home to many students, and while it may not yet be a famous expat destination, the archipelago, the delicious seafood, and the cultural relevance are just some of the many reasons to move to Gothenburg. There are also plenty of events held here year-round ranging from concerts to theatre performances, hockey and football games, to fairs and exhibitions.
- Melbourne, Australia
If you’re a big fan of going out, you should know that Melbourne has the highest number of restaurants and cafes per capita than any other city in the globe.
This beautiful metropolis is made up of people from all over the world, 38% of its population being born overseas. Still, everyone feels right at home, which makes it a great place to consider moving to, despite its rather hefty city rents and less-than-cheap cost of living.
Nevertheless, Melbourne offers entertainment for all ages and tastes, has great weather for most of the year, and smiley faces everywhere -- so it’s definitely worth including in your list of target cities.
- Tel Aviv, Israel
You’ve probably heard people saying that living in Tel Aviv is like living in a nice bubble, and that’s 100% true since its vibrant city life can make you forget you’re even in Israel.
Set merely forty-five miles away from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv prides itself on being the most unique city in Israel, with a rich cultural tapestry and a lively nightlife. If you love to party, this might be the right place for you!
- Vienna, Austria
As the home of the world’s first psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, Vienna is often known as The City of Dreams. No surprises there… After all, Vienna is the capital of cake, classical music and was seven times voted the city with the best quality of life.
It can get somewhat crowded though, as the Austrian capital attracts an average of 3.7 million tourists per year. But no worries -- if you’re craving country air, it is very easy to take a break away from the city. And if you’re a sucker for Christmas, Vienna will be right up your alley, as the city is home to Europe’s biggest (and best) Christmas market and the entire town abounds in festive decorations during the holiday season.
- Cork, Ireland
It’s breezy, cosmopolitan and perfect if you’re into jazz festivals or craft beers. Cork is Ireland’s second largest city where life is laid back, and nothing is too much hassle. Living in Cork can be a cultural experience due to the city's history of which traces can still be found in the form of its historical buildings (Cork received city status in the 900s). It’s also an important educational center and close to some of the most beautiful regions of the country.
- Berlin, Germany
Germany's capital has an excellent quality of life — with good employment opportunities, a high standard of housing and a high personal safety score.
Not to mention that there are over 3,000 lakes around the city to swim in, excellent nightclubs, bars on every street corner, and “spatis” where you can have a beer for a little over $1 on outdoor picnic tables. If you hear a German say "Alles gut" (all is good), and he’s holding a beer, know that he really means it.
- Antwerp, Belgium
Belgium’s second largest city has so much more to offer than you might think. It is home to over 500,000 people and some of the happiest -- as Antwerp is known for being the happiest city in Belgium.
Antwerp has long been an important city in the Benelux region, growing to become the wealthiest city in Europe during the “Age of Exploration”. It is widely known for its fashion scene, diamond trading, and lively nightlife, so make sure you read more about this hidden gem of a city.
- Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Despite its tiny size, Luxembourg is big on historical heritage, and in importance, being one of the founding member states of the EU.
Luxembourg City offers both excellent job opportunities and a high quality of life, with thriving cultural and historical attractions across the country. More than 40% of people living in Luxembourg are foreigners – so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to become a part of the big expat community.
Rarely will you find a country in Europe where so many cultures, traditions, mentalities, and languages live together in such perfect harmony.
- Birmingham, United Kingdom
Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city and, demographically, the youngest one in Europe.
It’s a great city for culture, with lots of green spaces, and a vibrant job market, welcoming businesses both from the UK and outside of it. Birmingham is buzzy and fun, with lively, friendly people and is a highly diverse city, where you are bound to blend in regardless where you’re from.
The city also offers excellent schools and affordable housing (by the UK's standards), so if you’re thinking of moving to the UK but can’t afford London’s crazy rents, then Birmingham is worth considering.
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Considering that it overtook both London and Paris when it comes to best cities to work in and best cities to do business in, Abu Dhabi has been named the second-best city to live in in the Ipsos Top Cities index.
Abu Dhabi is a more traditional city than Dubai, centered around family and the community. Nevertheless, the city is the second largest in the UAE, so do expect to see a certain level of luxury and wealth (the kind that most mortals can’t afford). And since everybody already has pretty much all that they need, the city is calm and incredibly safe.
- Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, has been a trendy destination for expats for many years now. And local authorities have gone out of their way to accommodate newcomers. The city offers excellent international schooling, a great infrastructure, and access to healthcare, all the while unemployment rates have often been among the lowest across the EU.
The Old Town of Prague is one of the best-preserved in Europe, and it’s routinely ranked among the best places to live in. Who wouldn’t be happy living in such a beautiful, historic city?
- Valletta, Malta
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place that was once nicknamed Superbissima by the ruling houses of Europe?
Valletta, with its small population of fewer than 7,000 people (though the metro area is closer to 400,000), stands proud as the southernmost capital of Europe -- and one of the most visually stunning. While the second world war left major scars on the city, Valletta's fortifications -- consisting of medieval bastions, curtains, and cavaliers -- along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens, and churches have led to the city being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. That’s quite the achievement, so definitely make sure to add this charming city to your list -- even if just on the “must-see” one.
- Marseille, France
Marseille is a beautiful city that breathes dynamism. Located next to the Mediterranean, Marseille is France’s sunniest city, where cultures from all over the world blend together harmoniously. It’s vibrant, and its residents are proud to be Marseillais.
The city does, however, have a history of criminal activities. While things have changed a lot and Marseille is known to be safer now, tourists sometimes report that they’ve been the target of pickpockets. Living here, you’d have to factor in that you’ll need to learn the city and know which areas are best to be avoided.
- Santiago, Chile
Moving to Santiago can be a big step, partly due to how far away it is from much of the world. But it’s probably the distance that can make the experience so much more exciting.
Santiago is a dynamic and cosmopolitan city, and if you decide to take the step, you should know that people here like to work late hours. Also, summers are hot, and winters are mild, and it can rain a lot. The Internet is fast and reliable, and the highways are modern and make it easy to move around, so if you’re a digital nomad, Santiago can be a good option for you.
- Taipei, Taiwan
Located among the complex tectonics of Yangtze Plate, Okinawa Plate, and Philippine Mobile Belt Plate, Taiwan is an ideal location for mountain trekking and taking day trips away from the labyrinth of skyscrapers. It’s less polluted than other major cities in the country, there are many opportunities to learn Chinese, and the food is delicious.
This is certainly not a boring city, and the variety of exciting things to do in Taipei is endless. And even though it’s a busy city with heavy traffic, but it has some of the best public transport in the world.
- Panama City, Panama
Moving to Panama can be a drastic lifestyle change. But the bustling and lively atmosphere, the tropical climate, and the welcoming people can serve as good reasons to make up your mind.
Panama City is a regional hub of trade and immigration and has a lot to offer. And it’s another excellent choice for digital nomads that like working remotely in beautiful sceneries because in Panama, whenever you would feel that routine is taking over, you’d know that escape is never far. You can always take a trip to the sandy beaches or explore the rainforests. These are some unique experiences that others only dream about, but for you, they’ll be just a stone’s throw away.
- Cordoba, Argentina
Cordoba, the second-largest city in Argentina, has an entirely different vibe than the metropolis of Buenos Aires.
With its 17th-century Jesuit ruins standing proudly alongside modern art galleries, and its huge student population, the city is both fascinating and vibrant, while still much more relaxed and regularly paced than Buenos Aires. No wonder Córdoba is nicknamed “Corazón de mi país,” meaning the heart of my country.
The city has a mild climate, a vibrant job market, and guarantees many leisure opportunities and activities. The people here (Cordobesas) are known to be fun-loving folks and a treat to be around.
- Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is well-known as South America’s premier beach resort. It’s a big, luxurious city where you can find the highest quality of life in Uruguay.
The country is among the safest in Latin America, and Punta del Este offers a growing year-round calendar of cultural and entertainment events. If you’re wealthy enough, this seems like the perfect place to retire. You can live in a residential tower equipped with gyms, swimming pools, saunas, 24-hour porter/security, daily maid service, beach service, and valet parking. You know… the good life!
- Doha, Qatar
How would you like to live in a city where your net salary is higher because you pay no taxes? Doesn’t sound half bad now, does it? Doha, the capital of Qatar, is a place with a captivating culture, otherworldly landscapes, remarkable architecture, and upscale nightclubs. It is an Islamic city though, so while there is no dress code per se, for foreigners, conservative clothing is recommended. Also, whether you are a Muslim or not, Ramadan in Doha is a time of piety, family, and celebration – a tradition that requires your full respect.
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Maybe this experience is not for everybody, but assuming you do your homework before moving into another city, and you can get past the cultural shock (not being able to drive as a woman; wearing an abaya, etc.), you’ll discover that Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh, is a modern, up-and-coming metropolis.
While the country is often dubbed “The Forbidden Kingdom,” once you arrive into Riyadh you will be pleasantly surprised by the enchanting list of activities within. Working in Riyadh may promise the lure of generous, 100% tax-free salaries for well-qualified expat employees.
Singapore is a small-but-prosperous island nation, both a city and a country, with one of the world's strongest economies in Southeast Asia.
As an expat, you’ll enjoy Singapore’s diversity and its luxurious lifestyle. The city offers job opportunities in various sectors and has received high-ranking marks for education, technology, health care, and quality of life. You can forget about driving in Singapore as the city has an excellent public transportation system, so there’s no need to be stressed behind the wheel if you’re living in Singapore.
- Madrid, Spain
The third-best nightlife city on the planet (trailing behind uncontested leaders London and Tokyo), Madrid is an excellent place for the wild ones. Also, thanks to factors such as the quality of its health care, the price of housing, the climate and the time it takes to get from home to work, the capital of Spain seems like it has it all.
The city is the financial capital of southern Europe, so it offers many job opportunities. It’s also colorful, vibrant, full of history and practically a magnet for expats.
- Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava’s many layers of history are all exposed, so be prepared for palaces, castles, churches and outlandish Soviet megastructures. The city features a very safe living environment and offers many working opportunities, as it is the economic hub of Slovakia.
The capital has a free public school system, and expats have access to the public healthcare system. However, you might want to opt for private healthcare insurance that will provide a higher standard of care.
- Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw, the capital of Poland, offers everything from a wealthy job market to a wide range of cultural events (art exhibitions, concerts, talks, food events and film, and music festivals).
It is a very green city, with fantastic transportation, and can easily be a great fit for families, young couples, as well as singles looking for a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a vibrant nightlife. Rich in history, Warsaw’s wartime past is something you have to explore once you’re there.
- Manama, Bahrain
Manama has historically welcomed expats from different nations and ethnicities and has been rated among the best cities in the world to emigrate to.
Due to its massive economic growth, many multinational companies have set up headquarters in Bahrain’s capital city of Manama, so there are a lot of job opportunities. You are expected to dress conservatively, though, no matter how hot it is outside.
Other than that, it appears that a lot of people found it easy to get by without even speaking Arabic. The city is also said to be great for making friends and building lasting relationships.
- Milan, Italy
Italy’s second city is a shrine dedicated to arts and fashion that offers expats both a business-like atmosphere and plenty of cultural treasures (opera, ballet, concerts).
Despite Italy’s economic troubles in the past few decades, Milan is investing heavily in future growth sectors, such as biotechnology and pharmaceutics. If you love fashion, you probably know Milan is the hub of Italian glamour, thus making it is one of those places where you can literally shop ‘til you drop.
- Vilnius, Lithuania
While it is easier for EU citizens to move to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania still offers some opportunities for skilled expats. The city is so green you may feel like you live in a forest, but is most known for its baroque architecture, seen especially in its medieval Old Town. Once you’re all settled in, Vilnius is likely to offer you the work-life balance you deserve, a world-class business environment and infrastructure, lively arts and a vibrant cultural scene.
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is undoubtedly one of the most stunning cities in Europe.
The capital of Slovenia is a great place for people interested in working in the industrial sector, and its education system is considered to be one of the best in the EU.
A multicultural city, home to many museums and art galleries, Ljubljana is known for its very safe living environment and its good public transportation system. As for the weather, here you will experience warm summers, but frigid winters, so make sure to pack accordingly and be prepared.
Methodology: To compile our suggestions for cities to move to in 2019, we first extracted a list of top 50 happiest countries in the world, as ranked by the World Happiness Index. We then looked at the biggest and most popular cities in each country, and complemented the information with expenses and safety information, to select the best destinations for nomads. Population data has been sourced from Wikipedia and takes into account city population (not the metro area). Rent information has been taken from Numbeo and consists of one month’s rent for a 1-bedroom apartment close to the city center. Living expenses have been taken from Numbeo and consist of the average monthly costs for one person living in that city. Crime information has been taken from Numbeo’s crime index.