European countries are leading the way when it comes to remote working. The continent was already nurturing culture and infrastructure around flexible work long before Zoom meetings became the new normal. With the world’s fastest internet speeds, advanced transport networks, and government policies encouraging a shift away from the traditional office, no other region of the world is better prepared for the remote boom. In this guide to remote working in Europe, we look at the best places to head for with your laptop, and how you can find remote jobs in the region.
Why work remotely in Europe?
Perhaps you are reading this because you are already doing location-independent work, and you’re looking for the next place to live for a while. It could be that you’re planning some time out of work to travel, but you’d like to do some side-hustling along the way. Or maybe you want to make the most of your flexible arrangements and take a short workstation (or ‘workcation’ if you prefer).
Whatever your reason for looking into remote working, Europe has many compelling options. Cities across the continent are well set up for it. Many of Europe’s urban centers are on the doorstep of incredible nature, from spectacular mountain ranges to idyllic coastline. It is also the safest region in the world, as we’ll see below.
Let’s take a closer look…
Remote working in Europe: a quick overview
Countries in Europe frequently rank among the world’s best for the factors that facilitate a good remote working environment. Perhaps most importantly, European nations have some of the most progressive attitudes towards remote working.
The Netherlands and the Nordic countries were the first in the world to embrace flexible working. Finland, for example, has had a flexible working culture for decades. Before the pandemic, people in the Netherlands were more than four times as likely to work away from the office regularly than people in the USA.
This cultural foundation has underpinned the development of sophisticated infrastructure for remote workers across Europe. The continent accounts for around 20 of the top 30 countries in the world for internet speed (information sources differ on this a little, but it’s always around this ballpark). Cities across Europe have reliable modern transport systems. Co-working spaces and plug-in cafés are a growing feature everywhere, even in rural towns and villages.
Europe is also home to some of the best places for standards of living. Vienna, Austria, has topped the last two rankings of the world’s most liveable cities. No European city has ever featured in the top ten least liveable list. And, according to the Global Peace Index, 21 of the 30 safest countries in the world are in Europe.
Remote working has even made it onto the legislative agenda in some parts of the continent. Government ministers in Germany have been building proposals to enshrine the right to work from home in law. In the United Kingdom, employees are entitled to request flexible working hours after half a year in a job.
Flexible working in Europe is here to stay
Companies based in Europe have been among the best prepared for the challenges of Covid-19, which has seen offices closing down all over the world. And the evidence is continuing to show that businesses everywhere are switching to remote working permanently.
There is little appetite among workers to rush back to the nine-to-five grind. Meanwhile, business leaders have seen their costs reduced and productivity levels raised. A report by McKinsey & Company suggested that a third of the work in Europe could stay remote after the pandemic.
But isn’t Europe expensive?
It’s true that the Western European destinations mentioned above have higher than average costs of living. However, if the expense is one of your top considerations when choosing somewhere to work remotely – whether permanently or just while passing though – there are many affordable options in Europe with facilities that rival the more expensive locations.
Eastern European destinations with low costs of living have become increasingly popular with the digital nomad community in recent years. In countries such as Ukraine, Serbia, and Albania, which have seen a growing influx of remote workers, there have been rapid advancements in infrastructure to keep pace with the demand.
In the next section, we pick out ten great cities for remote working in Europe, covering options across the spectrum.
Best cities for remote workers in Europe
1. Cologne, Germany
Germany has taken one of the most progressive attitudes towards remote working since the onset of the pandemic. As well as seeking to expand rights for homeworkers, the country’s government has also planned a tax rebate for people working from home. A recent study found that 80% of German workplaces offer flexible work policies, which is more than anywhere in the world. This all adds up to a conducive environment for remote working, and no German city is better suited for it than Cologne.
Although it is only Germany’s fourth-largest city, Cologne is extremely well connected. Every day a quarter of a million people pass through its train station, which is a major European transport hub. The city is clean, easy to navigate, and has a great range of work-ready accommodation. From its colossal cathedral, which took 600 years to build, to the beer halls and chilled-out riverside eateries, Cologne has a special charm. It’s a diverse and welcoming place for anybody to live and work, with a vibrant community of ex-pats.
2. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava is one of the best-connected cities in Europe as a base for exploring. A short train ride will take you to Vienna; a few hours’ drives in the other direction are the Tatra Mountains. The Slovak capital is steeped in history, with a beautiful old town characterized by colorful buildings and narrow, cobbled streets. All of this makes it a lovely place to visit, as we found out, but it’s also a pretty cool place to work.
While Bratislava has grown in popularity as a tourist destination, its laid-back feel has endured, making for a chilled working environment. The old town is compact and accessible. There are a handful of co-working spaces to choose from, as well as plenty of laptop-friendly cafés, and a good tram network if you need to get further afield. This setup has made the city increasingly attractive to creative industry startups and digital nomads.
3. Krakow, Poland
Krakow was one of the first European cities I fell in love with. It has so much to offer in terms of cultural heritage and architecture. The main square in the old town is one of Europe’s biggest, perfect for sitting in outdoor cafés on summer days, and in the caverns below there are some brilliant underground bars and jazz clubs. Best of all, you can be sure of a warm welcome from the city’s friendly people.
With affordable living costs and a multitude of workspace options, Krakow is also a great place to set up an office. Co-working spaces in the city are abundant and very reasonably priced, and some are accessible 24 hours a day. There is a sociable ex-pat community, which is growing all the time, so it’s easy to make new connections.
4. Valencia, Spain
If you are more partial to warmer climes, Valencia on Spain’s Costa del Azahar is an option well worth considering. This cosmopolitan Spanish city has a growing community of remote workers, attracted by its warm climate and cheaper living costs than the likes of Madrid and Barcelona. The weather here is great all around, with the average temperature barely dropping below 10 degrees celsius even in January.
But it’s not just about the beach in Valencia. There are tons to see and do around the city, including the stunning Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, the buzzing Mercado Central, and the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral. It’s a very practical city to live in for a while too. The remote working infrastructure is advancing to accommodate the rise in long-term travelers, with excellent transport links and a whole host of co-working spaces to choose from. True to the Spanish way of life, you can find a café to plug-in throughout the day or well into the night.
5. Vilnius, Lithuania
When we spent our second wedding anniversary in Vilnius, we were struck by the amount of nature in the city. I can’t think of any other capital that has so many parks, riverside paths, and forests. In fact, almost half of the city’s land is dedicated to green space. At the same time, Vilnius is a technologically advanced city, ranked number one globally for tech startups in 2019 by the Financial Times. This balance of nature and connectivity, as well as low living costs, makes it a great place to find wellness while working.
A place that epitomizes Vilnius’ remote working qualities is Vilnius Tech Park, which is the largest technology hub in the Baltics and Nordics. Built on the site of a 19th-century hospital, it combines office and co-working spaces with outdoor recreational areas. There are many more spots around the city to work from too, not least its many cafés. Vilnius made headlines in April 2020 when it responded to the pandemic by transforming its old town into an open-air café, another example of the city’s pioneering nature.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Sticking with the Baltic theme, Estonia is another country that has transformed itself into a global tech leader. Did you know that Skype was created by Estonian engineers, or that the international payment platform TransferWise began as an Estonian startup? The country’s capital, Tallinn, is at the heart of this innovation scene and was recently named the world’s best city for remote workers. In recent years the country’s government has taken steps to encourage this environment, introducing a new visa that allows remote workers to stay for up to 12 months.
A few years back I went to Tallinn on a solo trip, working on a passion project while I was there. With its compact fairytale old town, blended with modern facilities and workspaces aplenty, the city had everything needed for making the most of my time. It was here I found some of the quirkiest drinking holes I’ve ever witnessed, from the characterful Estonian pub, where I hung out with a group of retired bikers who were traveling across Europe on Harley-Davidsons, to an underground bar themed entirely on Depeche Mode! There is much to enjoy and explore in Tallinn outside of working hours, and a great set-up for when you need to be productive.
7. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon has one of Europe’s most friendly and engaged remote working communities. The city’s relaxed pace of life and stunning riverside setting across seven high hills is drawing entrepreneurs to set up here in droves. It also has a well-connected transport infrastructure, and a wide and varied choice of places to work.
Remote offices have become a part of the fiber of the city, with various coworking spaces in Lisbon bringing a range of different styles and environments. Coffee culture is growing too, with many cafés roasting their own beans and welcoming remote workers. Green spaces are interspersed among the gorgeous Manueline and Pombaline architecture. Break up your working day here with walks in the parks, among the pretty neighborhoods, or along the riverfront.
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Netherlands has one of the longest traditions in Europe for flexible lifestyles, and few countries cater better to international remote workers. In fact, it has the highest percentage of remote workers of any country in the world, coupled with being one of the most open-minded and welcoming places for international visitors and immigrants. With all of this in mind, we couldn’t ignore it in this compilation! And where better to station yourself than in the most diverse and intriguing of capital cities: Amsterdam.
With remote working well embedded in the culture, Amsterdam ticks all of the boxes for infrastructure. The transport network is one of the world’s best. Internet is fast and reliable, English is spoken widely, and you can rarely turn a corner without stumbling upon a coffee shop. The only drawback for remote workers is the high cost of living in comparison to other options we have covered. But if you can commit to the financial strain, there are rewards to enjoy, not least the city’s fabulous fresh air. With bicycles the choice mode of transport, and a scattering of green spaces everywhere, Amsterdam is made for work-life balance.
9. Bucharest, Romania
Romania’s capital, Bucharest, is another city that has seen a surge in popularity as a remote working destination. One of Europe’s cheapest capitals, it has that magic combination of low costs, fast internet, and plentiful working spaces that hits the sweet spot for remote workers. In fact, Romania has some of the highest fixed broadband speeds in the world.
The city’s relaxed vibe and coffee culture add to its appeal, with no shortage of places to plug in and hunker down for a few hours’ work with a cuppa or three. There’s also much to keep you occupied in your downtime. Bucharest’s historic old town, bohemian street markets, green parks, delicious local cuisine, and buzzing nightlife make it a thoroughly engrossing place to stay awhile and slowly soak up the culture.
10. Manchester, United Kingdom
We round off this list with the city I called home for 12 years of my life: Manchester. Many visitors to the UK only ever see London, which is a shame, because other parts of the country have so much to offer – not least the gritty north-west of England. Manchester oozes culture and personality, home to a world-beating music scene, two of the world’s biggest football clubs, and a pulsing digital culture. Recently rated the best UK city for flexible working, it has an ideal environment for remote work.
Tips for planning a remote working trip in Europe
If your remote working adventure in Europe is still just an idea, this section will help to begin piecing a plan together. Whether you want to spend an extended period of time in a country or simply take a short working trip, there are a few questions to ask yourself first to ensure you get the most out of the experience.
Also read our guide to workstations, which includes general guidance on planning a working trip, productivity tips, and what to pack.
Have you agreed to terms with your employer?
Do you already have an agreement in place with your workplace to do your job remotely? If you work from home, it’s very possible your employer will be fine with you working from anywhere, including another country – but don’t just assume it. Depending on your country of residence, there may be implications relating to tax, social security, and other legal matters when it comes to working from overseas.
The best way forward is to simply raise the question and have a conversation with your line manager. The pandemic has transformed business attitudes towards remote working. If your job can be done easily away from a fixed workplace, there is a good chance you will be able to agree to work from an alternative location, at least temporarily.
What are you looking for in a remote working destination?
Hopefully, our suggestions above will give you some ideas on where to work remotely in Europe. To narrow down the options to fit your preferences, here are a few quick criteria to think about:
- Would you prefer to work in a city or somewhere off the beaten path?
- Is the weather a factor in your ideal working environment?
- Are there any natural features you want to be near, for example, beaches or mountains?
- How far will your budget stretch? Budget Your Trip is a great resource that gives approximate living costs for countries, regions, cities, and towns throughout Europe.
- What kind of accommodation would you prefer? Are you looking for a comfy resort with work facilities? Or are you happy getting along at your own pace in a self-catered apartment?
- What kind of working space will you need? Are you ok working from your accommodation, or will you need a destination with a good choice of co-working spaces and cafés with good wifi?
- Would a language barrier be problematic for you? If so, keep your search focused on places where English is spoken commonly.
Writing down your answers to these questions will help to establish a picture of your perfect remote working destinations. You can then use this to draw up a shortlist.
How long will you be traveling and working?
The length of your trip will have a strong bearing on what you will need to consider when planning. This could affect your destination choice. For example, you might enjoy working in a busy city for a few days, but three months of noise distraction might be less if you’re not used to it.
If you are considering an extended remote working trip, perhaps you could consider combining a few destinations into an itinerary. For longer stays in a single location, you may want to look carefully into local facilities such as healthcare.
What are the local laws and regulations?
Visa requirements and the rules on length of stay vary by country across Europe. The European Union and the Schengen area account for 31 of Europe’s 44 countries. If you are traveling within this area, or into it from a visa-exempt country – which includes the USA, the UK post-Brexit, and various other countries – you can stay for 90 days in a 180-day window.
Some other countries, such as Ukraine as outlined above, have similar rules. But be sure to check the rules thoroughly when considering destinations, and how they apply to your nationality.