Posted: Oct 23, 2015
Retirement is what you make it. But if you can track down an affordable location, decent amenities and a good range of activities to keep you busy, you will have made the best possible start to your golden years.
Everyone has such different priorities in their twilight years that there is no such thing as the perfect place to retire. But once you have decided to spread your net far and wide, then the world really is your oyster. Here are just twenty destinations, some familiar, some less so, offering a rich spectrum of late-life pleasures – many at attractive prices.
1. Vicenza, Italy
Less than an hour from Venice by train, this beautiful old city wears its history lightly. The street markets pulse with so much life that you hardly notice the magnificent Palladian buildings all around you – until you settle down for your al fresco lunch. You could pick up a two-bedroom apartment in the city centre for around £225,000, learn Italian and drink your fill of la dolce vita.
2. The Languedoc, France
Thanks to low-cost airlines, the south-west of France has never been more accessible for Britons who want to retire to the Mediterranean, but make regular visits to the UK to show off their tan. Property prices – around £500,000 for a four-bedroom house – will seem remarkably reasonable to anyone used to Kent or Surrey.
3. Zeeland, the Netherlands
Just two hours from Calais, this delightful region of the Netherlands is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. The beaches are amazing, the pace of life is ultra-relaxed and the many cycle paths make it the perfect place to stay fit. Expect to pay around £300,000 for a three-bedroom property in the charming regional capital of Middelburg.
Grenada offers reasonably priced properties – about £320,000 for a good two-bedroom villa – in meltingly beautiful surroundings. The combination of sandy beaches and lush rainforest is irresistible, and the locals always give expats a warm welcome.
5. Brittany, France
Indelibly French, but within easy range of the UK, Brittany remains many Britons’ favourite corner of France. Property offers good value – even in a popular town such as Quimper, you can get a five-bedroom house for less than £300,000. And a Breton retirement could hardly fail to be a gastronomic pleasure.
6. Ravello, Italy
Greta Garbo found peace and seclusion in Ravello. So did Gore Vidal. And if this exquisite hilltop town on the Sorrento coast has more coachloads of tourists than in the past, it still represents small-town Italy at its incomparable best. There is a hefty property premium – you might have to pay £2 million for a suitably spectacular clifftop villa – but it is worth every penny.
7. Wellington, New Zealand
Smaller than Auckland, and a bit more sedate, Wellington is New Zealand in miniature: a relaxed, gentle-paced community with plenty to offer by way of culture, sport, food and wine. Considering that it is a capital city, property prices are thrillingly reasonable. About £200,000 will buy you a three-bedroom home.
8. Prague, Czech Republic
If you don’t mind being woken by the odd stag party, Prague is one of the most beguiling of the great European capitals: rich in history, easy on the eye, but not so hectic that life ever becomes stressful. If your idea of a perfect retirement is an apartment in a lively, cultured city, Prague ticks that box with aplomb. Expect to pay around £150,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Cyprus is an old favourite with British retirees but, despite some ups and downs in the property market, has lost little of its intrinsic charm. The coastal towns of Limassol and Paphos are great year-round communities, while the Troodos Mountains in the interior offer scenic variety. You can get a three-bedroom villa in Limassol for about £350,000.
10. Kerala, India
If you have visited Kerala on holiday, you have probably already fallen under its spell. So why not continue your love affair with this beautiful part of India? You could pick up a three-bedroom property for under £150,000 and enjoy a retirement which will make you the envy of your friends.
11. Symi, Greece
If you love the Greek islands, but are wary of the ones that are awash with tourists in the summer, little Symi, in the Dodecanese, is a beauty. Its Venetian-style houses are enchanting, there are some attractive secluded beaches and a diet of fresh fish, olives and ouzo will keep you going for years. For around £200,000, you can get a two-bedroom property in a good location.
12. Cordoba, Spain
Smaller and more manageable than neighbouring Seville, Cordoba is one of the most delicious cities of Andalusia, a real feast for the senses. The eye is seduced by the combination of white-washed houses and brilliantly coloured flowers, while the nose is waylaid by the ubiquitous smell of tapas. Pick up a three-bedroom house for approximately £350,000 and you could look forward to a glorious, sun-kissed old age.
It has become so celebrated as a holiday island that people sometimes overlook Barbados as a congenial place to retire. Property is certainly not cheap. Even in one of the less fashionable parishes, such as St Peter in the north of the island, you might have to pay around £500,000 for a four-bedroom villa. But in terms of year-round entertainment, something for everything, Barbados continues to be streets ahead of the competition.
14.Quebec province, Canada
Brush up on your French and you could have an absolute ball in this French corner of Canada, with some wonderful scenery on your doorstep. Both the city of Quebec and Montreal – where you might expect to pay just over £300,000 for a good two-bedroom apartment.
15. Innsbruck, Austria
If you want to stay active as long as possible, skiing into your eighties and walking in the summer, Innsbruck and the surrounding area is as good a place as any to live that dream, drinking in the mountain air. The local amenities are excellent, and you should be able to find a good two-bedroom apartment for less than £250,000.
16. County Clare, Eire
If year-round sun is not your priority the Emerald Isle makes a terrific alternative to the United Kingdom. And nowhere better embodies the unhurried charm of Irish rural life than County Clare, half way up the west coast. Competitive property prices – less than £250,000 for a four-bedroom detached house – are allied to an exhilaratingly enjoyable lifestyle. Your neighbours will become your friends in no time.
17. The Camargue, France
Famous for its white horses, the Camargue is a great choice for retirees in search of sun, sea and sand, but intimidated by the silly-money property prices of the Cote d’Azur. It is an interesting region, with some atmospheric old towns such as Arles and Aigues-Mortes. You can pick up character properties in out-of-the-way villages for around £200,000.
18. Ballarat, Australia
Small-town Australia has a charm all of its own, epitomised in the old gold-mining town of Ballarat, two hours north of Melbourne. Property prices are very reasonable – about £150,000 for a detached three-bedroom house – and the whole ambience of the town is relaxed and welcoming. There are even statues of Queen Victoria and Robert Burns on the main street, to reassure home-sick Pommies.
19. Cape Town, South Africa
One of the most sought-after cities in the southern hemisphere, and with good reason, Cape Town offers far, far more than sunshine. From fantasy beaches and game reserves, to the wineries of the Western Cape, there are so many possible excursions out of what is already a vibrant city that you will never be bored. Three-bedroom apartments in the fashionable Camps Bay area cost around £400,000.
More and more people are discovering Croatia, particularly its magnificent coastline. Property prices are far lower than similarly beautiful corners of the Mediterranean – you can get a three-bedroom villa with sea views for under £250,000 – but this is certainly not the back of beyond, just a quiet, civilised region with a great climate to retire.