If you love the great outdoors, you’ll find plenty of great places in Europe to call home. With stunning beaches, varied terrains, and swathes of glorious countryside, Europe is crammed with natural beauty. But with such a vast number of countries, regions, districts, and cities to choose between, how do you pick the best? To help you out, we’ve rounded up the 20 best places to live for the outdoors in Europe. Without further ado, here they are.
20. Tossa de Mar, Spain
If you want to experience the thrills of the Catalonia coastline without the crowds you’d expect in Barcelona, cast your eyes in the direction of Tossa de Mar. Sun, sea, sand, and heaps of outdoor adventure await you in this ancient fishermen’s village. The cost of living is blissfully affordable, while the town itself is a gorgeous mix of color and charm. If surfing, diving, swimming, and fishing are your thing, Tossa de Mar could well be your ideal town.
19. Salzburg, Austria
With streets packed with historic architecture and medieval sights, Salzburg oozes history. But there’s more to the city than culture and history. If you’ve ever seen ‘The Sound Of Music,’ much of which was filmed in and around Salzburg, you’ll know exactly what to expect: soaring mountain ranges, pristine lakes, and glorious countryside for as far as the eye can see. Suffice to say, hikers, mountain climbers, and other lovers of the great outdoors will love the city enough to never want to leave.
18. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is tucked away in the foothills of Matterhorn, a mountain range that has the distinction of being the most photographed peak in the world. But this is a mountain that offers much more than just a photo opportunity. With 63 mountain railways and more than 200 miles of slopes, it’s one of the most popular destinations in the country for hikers, skiers, and anyone with a taste for spectacular mountain landscapes. Its most famous hike is the Haute Route, a challenging route that passes through several countries and takes several days to complete. The town itself is as charming as the surroundings. Despite being small, it has all the essential ingredients you need for a comfortable life.
17. Zadar, Croatia
Zadar might lose tourists to the more well known Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnik, but for nature lovers, it’s a winner. Its location on the Dalmation Coast allows easy access to dozens of world-class beaches, while the wonders of the world-famous Plitvice Lakes National Park is just a short drive away. The town itself is charming, packed with picturesque cobbled streets and outdoor cafes.
16. Appenzell, Switzerland
Ordinary Traveler describes Appenzell as ‘a rural paradise surrounded by rolling hills.’ Located in the north of Switzerland at the foot of the Alpstein Mountains, this idyllic little town is home to around 7000 people. It’s small, it’s charming and it’s full of age-old traditions, folk festivals, and cultural events that are positively spellbinding. The surrounding mountains offer every possible outdoor activity imaginable, from hiking in spring to sledding and skiing in winter.
15. Interlaken, Switzerland
Never Stop Travelling has named Interlaken as the ‘Adventure Capital of Switzerland.’ They couldn’t have picked a more worthy winner. Located in the Bernese Oberland Region between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, the town is overlooked by three huge mountain ranges: the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The trio affords plenty by way of outdoor adventure. With 45+ mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts, the town is clearly well geared to make the most of those 150 miles of slopes and trails. In the summer, Beatenberg-Niederhorn, a picturesque spot just 7 miles away, is a popular spot for paragliding. Nearby Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, meanwhile, are perfect for boating and fishing.
14. Lake Como, Italy
You could sail to all four corners of the globe and still struggle to find somewhere quite as beautiful as Lake Como. This incredible region in the rolling hills of northern Italy is a photographer’s dream. Thanks to the abundance of walking, swimming, boating, and camping activities on offer, it’s also a little slice of paradise for outdoor lovers.
13. Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia is often overlooked by tourists, but it shares many of the same bucolic charms as its more famous (and slightly flashier) Mediterranean neighborhoods. Of its many attractive towns and villages, Bled is arguably one of the most appealing. Its idyllic location on the shores of Lake Bled is hard to fault, while its charming church and picture book castle are architectural wonders. The range of outdoor pursuits available in the town and its surrounding countryside is immense. Pick from biking, rafting, horse riding, swimming, mountain climbing, hiking, or even abseiling the waterfalls.
12. Lucerne, Switzerland
If you like hiking, you’re going to love the small Swiss city of Lucerne. Its location in the heard of the mountains makes it a paradise for hikers. It’s also home to some great rock climbing and sledding opportunities. It’s not all about the great outdoors, though: the town itself is often described as one of the prettiest in Europe, blessed with stunning (and extremely well preserved) medieval architecture, charming little shops, and winding cobbled streets.
11. Orvieto, Italy
Busabout describes Orvieto as a historic city perched on top of a dramatic rock formation and surrounded by rich green countryside stretching as far as the eye can see. As descriptions go, that sums up the appeal of this small city very well. As well as boasting plenty of urban delights to enjoy, the city is an excellent base for getting out and enjoying the stunning Italian landscape. Bike it, walk it, or horseback ride it… whatever way you do it, you’re going to have an amazing time.
10. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland’s capital might be expensive, but boy, is it beautiful. Crammed with historical sights and charmingly colorful architecture, it’s an urban delight. But while the buildings and streets are a marvel, it’s the natural beauty of the city that sets it apart from the competition. The air is clean, the surrounding beaches are dying to be explored, and the geysers and hot springs are just waiting to be wondered at. Whether it’s watching a geothermal geyser eruption, snowmobiling on the Langjökull glacier, or marveling at the northern lights, there’s no end of outdoor fun to be had.
9. Zakopane, Poland
If you haven’t heard of Zakopane, you’re not the only one. Outside of Poland, this small mountain town is largely unknown. But anonymity comes with its benefits, including oodles of glorious peace and quiet. In winter, the town’s proximity to the Tatra mountain range makes it a great place for skiers and snowboarders. In summer, the mountains offer plenty of hiking, biking, and horseriding possibilities. If you’re a digital nomad looking to live in a tranquil spot packed with natural wonder, Zakopane might be your perfect town.
8. Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck offers the best of both worlds. With its shops, restaurants, and bars, it’s got all the comforts and conveniences of city living. Thanks to its stunning location in the heart of the Austrian countryside, it’s also the perfect base to explore the alpine meadows and peaks of the majestic Nordkette mountain range. Some of the most popular outdoor activities in the area include hiking, canyoning the gorges, skiing, climbing the rocky Karwendel mountain range, paragliding and parasailing. Basically, whatever outdoor adventure gets your blood pumping, there’s a good chance you can do it here.
7. Warsaw, Poland
The Polish capital is a vast, sprawling jungle of congested roads and soviet-era housing estates. But beneath the concrete exterior is a score of natural attractions. Almost a quarter of the city is devoted to royal gardens and stunning parkland, offering plenty of opportunities to escape the city and enjoy nature. Of its 82 parks, Łazienki Park is the largest and most beautiful. Populated by hundreds of different species of fauna and flora, it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring trails, picnicking under a canopy of trees, and wildlife spotting.
6. Munich, Germany
Munich might not be the first place you think of when it comes to the great outdoors, but there’s more to this busy metropolis than meets the eye. Wherever you are in the city, you’re only ever a few streets away from the outstanding Englischer Garten, a huge park packed with nature and greenery that stretches all the way from the city center to the northern city limits. In total, the park covers more than 1.4 square miles of green space – more, even, than New York’s Central Park. Other than exploring the beauty of the park, the city also offers the chance to river surf on the Isbar. Thanks to its excellent transportation system, it makes a great base for exploring the rest of the German countryside.
5. The Azores, Portugal
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you’ll find few better places to head than the Azores in Portugal. Set in the middle of the Atlantic, the islands are far enough off the beaten path to have escaped the effects of mass tourism. As a result, they still retain their age-old charm and appeal. The scenery is exquisite, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, swimming, whale watching, sailing, diving, and canyoning. There are also excellent opportunities for surfing and other watersports, as well as horseback riding, biking, and even paragliding. As Lonely Planet says, “it is hard to imagine a place better suited to nature lovers, fans of adventure sports, or anyone looking for a beacon of sustainability.”
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik is widely known as the jewel of the Adriatic, and for very good reason. Its cobbled streets and bustling harbor have inspired artists, designers, and filmmakers for centuries, and its appeal just seems to grow by the year. The town’s economy is centered around hospitality, making it a great choice for people looking to crack the tourist industry. That said, where there’s an internet connection, there’s an opportunity: regardless of your sector, you’ll find working in this medieval, sun-soaked town a joy. Once the working day is over, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained in the hills and islands that surround the city. Hike, fish, sail, scuba dive, swim… the possibilities are endless. Thanks to the all-year-round clement climate, there’s as much outdoor fun to be had in winter as there is in summer.
3. Basel, Switzerland
As European Best Destinations writes, Switzerland is a perfect destination for qualified expats looking for peace, security, and a well-paid job. The country’s job market is booming, offering plenty of opportunities in the technology, banking, chemical, and pharmaceutical sectors. But there’s more to the country than the 9-5. Take Basel as an example. Famed for its historic center, its gorgeous Christmas markets, and its legion of cultural events, the city has become a hugely popular tourist destination. Thanks to its many green spaces and the varied, picturesque countryside that surrounds the city, it’s also a popular choice for people who want to combine the perks of city living with the adventure of the great outdoors. Property prices are high, but the salaries are even higher, meaning you shouldn’t have too many problems in keeping up with your mortgage payments.
2. Olden, Norway
Olden is a small, idyllic village tucked away in the northernmost province of Norway. The village itself is a delight of charming wooden huts and small little shops, but it’s the countryside around that’s the real winner. Surrounded by lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers, this riverside village is heaven for outdoor lovers. Whether you want to hike, ice climb, fish, or sail, you’ll find no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy.
1. Brighton, UK
As Really Moving writes, if you’re an eco-warrior, Brighton could be the place for you. This seaside town boasts the only Green Party MP in the House of Commons, and regularly plays host to eco-positive events that aim to raise awareness of the many local nature reserves that surround the area. Ultimately, this is a place that prioritizes the connection between people and nature, making it the ideal destination for outdoor lovers and their families. The city’s famous beach and pier are perfect for whittling away sunny summer evenings, while the expansive shoreline is packed with trails, fishing spots, and wildlife spotting opportunities. Once you’re done enjoying the natural delights of the area, you’ll find plenty to do in the city, which is known for its cultural life, progressiveness, and vibrant nightlife. Housing is a touch expensive, but you certainly get a lot in return for your investment.