The best European cities for new graduates to move to

You’ve got your degree, you’ve probably got your student loan to pay off and you’re ready to take that next big step into the rest of your life. But where do you see that happening? The world isn’t quite your oyster because you’ve not made your fortune yet, but as a young, qualified and enthusiastic person looking to kickstart their career, there’s plenty of potential new homes for you around Europe’s big cities. But how do you know which one is right for you?

There’s lots of factors to take into consideration when making a decision as big as this one, of course. Looking for the right city to live in as a new graduate means knowing about all of these factors:
  • Where you can afford to rent
  • Where you can afford to live on a day-to-day basis
  • Where you can get a job
  • Where other graduates choose to live
  • Where there’s good sports and leisure facilities
  • Where there’s good cultural and entertainment opportunities
Without all of those aspects to some extent, a city can’t be said to be good for new graduates, so a study has been done to assess all of Europe’s biggest cities to see which would come out on top. The big news to start with is that London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Rome and other famous European cities were all nowhere near the top of the list, not because they aren’t great places to live, but mostly because they’re unaffordable places for graduates to live.

The overall winner was Glasgow in Scotland, which just pipped Prague and Munich, mostly thanks to its score for sporting and leisure facilities, while getting good scores in all the other key categories. Here’s which cities are the best for each category:

Most Affordable Rent

After living in student properties for the last few years, and paying student rents, it can come as a shock to move into the real world, especially in big cities. That’s the main reason why the likes of London are far down on this list, with renting in most areas of the British capital incredibly expensive. Eastern Europe is the place to go for low renting costs, with Sofia and Bucharest the two cheapest, coming just ahead of Zagreb, Budapest and Krakow.

To demonstrate the enormous gulf in costs, you could get a one-bedroom apartment in Sofia for an average of €364 a month, while doing so in London would be more like €1904, which would eat up most of - if not completely obliterate - your monthly income as a new graduate.

Most Affordable Cost of Living

Of course, it’s not just rent you need to spend money on, there’s also all the other expenses, like clothing, groceries, eating out, transport, utilities and sports and leisure activities. In London and Paris, you’re looking at spending another €900 on these each month, while you can live for less than half of that in Bucharest, where it averages out at only €439 a month. After all, while the big glamorous cities might have lots on offer, they’re only exciting if you can actually afford to do any of them and still keep food on your table.

Best Chances of Getting a Job

Once you’ve graduated, a major priority has to be getting a job now that you’re out in the big world after all those years of education. So if you’re looking to relocate somewhere, it has be somewhere with a thriving jobs market that gives you the best chance of a good-paying job. So for this section, the research took in not only the unemployment rates but also the average wages in each of the cities and Munich came out on top.

With an unemployment rate of only 3.5% and average monthly net salary of €2645, Munich certainly has a lot to offer anyone looking to get into the jobs market, though it did score badly in the rent and cost of living categories, as did many of the other big scorers here. Finding the balance between a good economy and affordable living is tricky as they don’t often go hand-in-hand, but it’s useful to be able to see this balance mapped out.

Best Chance of Finding Friends

Cities are full of people, but can also be lonely places, especially if you’re moving there from another country. One way to give yourself the best chance of finding friends is moving to a city that has lots of people in the same circumstances as you and at a similar age, so a city with lots of new graduates already is a good option. Interestingly, the numbers of graduates living in a city don’t seem to match with which cities are the most affordable, with the charms of Madrid and Barcelona clearly tempting enough people to risk living beyond their means.

Best Cultural and Sporting Facilities

These categories are where Glasgow really shines, coming out on top in terms of satisfaction levels with its sports and fitness facilities as well as being second highest for cultural happiness. If you want to keep fit, Glasgow seems to be the place to go, despite all the deep-fried Mars bars on offer, with no less than eight outdoor gyms for anyone brave enough to cope with the weather.

And there’s certainly no shame in being behind Vienna when it comes to cultural opportunities, with the Austrian city so renowned for its concert halls, museums and libraries if you’re the cultured type. Munich also scores highly in both categories, while Manchester’s sporting history means it’s no surprise to see it doing well in that category. Surprisingly, London only got a fairly mediocre score for cultural satisfaction, finishing below the likes of Hamburg and Krakow.

Graduating is the start of another exciting adventure and you’ll have seen here that there’s so much potential for starting it in a whole new city if you want to try. So, now that you’ve seen how these European cities all compare for the issues that matter most for new graduates, which of them look most appealing for your next big step in life?

These are the best European cities for graduates to work in right now (study + interactive chart)

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