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Throughout the world, I’ve found places that I’ve fallen in love with — perfect beaches, isolated islands, wild and interesting cities of all sizes. New places are constantly being added to my list of favorite places in the world.
But could I live there? That requires a whole different set of criteria. In an ideal place, the weather is sunny and warm, the cost of living is cheap, it’s well-connected travel-wise, and it’s home to lots of fellow expats and cool locals, with plenty of things to do.
No place is perfect — each one has at least one downside. But here are the places that top my list:
I never expected to fall in love with Innsbruck! I always imagined it as a posh winter resort, but it’s actually a cool mid-sized city with lots of fun bars and a big, party-loving student population. There are parks everywhere, the people seem so active and outdoorsy, and there’s easy access to the gorgeous Tirol countryside. Best of all? The Alps surround you in every direction. I could never get tired of looking at them.
The downside: winter. I started traveling in part to avoid the long, snowy winters of New England. Innsbruck, quite obviously, gets doused in snow each year.
I would love to live in Spain, and Granada tops my list of Spanish cities where I would live. Granada is a very comfortable city with lots of nice people. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with lots of different neighborhoods. Watching the sun set over the Alhambra as flamenco music plays is one of the most romantic experiences you can have, for free, on a nightly basis. The weather is OUTSTANDING. And, of course, the FREE TAPAS culture is amazing!
The downside: it’s not as well-connected. The Malaga airport is over an hour away, and connects decently within Europe, but for any further than that, I would have to fly through Madrid.
Ao Nang, Thailand
I hadn’t heard much about this beach town before arriving in Thailand, but it became one of my most memorable stops. Ao Nang — which is part of the town of Krabi — is home to an amazing expat community, mostly dive instructors from Europe. Ao Nang is home to a lot of characters, and you see far more expats than backpackers. I have my favorite restaurants, the bars are great, and people REALLY know how to party here. Krabi also has an international airport and it’s the ferry hub for all the islands on the Andaman Coast. They also film the occasional movie here!
The downside: too much of a good thing. If I lived here, I would get sucked into the partying vortex.
Between living in Florence and traveling the peninsula for years, I’ve always loved Italy — but as soon as I arrived in Bologna, I knew this was the city I was waiting for all along. Fabulous Bologna is a medium-sized, student-filled, lesser-touristed Italian city where I could blend in as a local (with the right expensive black clothes, of course). I love Bologna’s night markets, its architecture, and especially its food, widely (and grudgingly) acknowledged as the best in Italy.
The downside: the reality of living in Italy. Between the bureaucracy, the endless red tape, and the supremely laid-back attitude when you need to get stuff done, visiting Italy is a lot more pleasant than living there. Also, I would gain a hundred pounds.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I felt like this city and I were perfectly suited for each other! A late-to-bed, late-to-rise schedule I can agree with, tons of nightlife, lots of interesting neighborhoods, plenty of beautiful parks, and amazing people. The Couchsurfing community here is so extensive and enthusiastic that I know I would never lack for friends or things to do, and my Monday nights would be spent throwing myself around at a sweaty percussion show.
The downside: no food variety. Argentines love their steak, pizza, pasta, and empanadas. That’s great for about a week, and then you start going crazy for vegetables.
In my six months in Southeast Asia, I spent nearly a month in Bangkok alone — it feels like home to me. Bangkok is a rare big city where everything is affordable, and it’s the biggest travel hub in the region. Bangkok is great for shopping (especially for cheap shopping) and my nights out have been so wacky. I love that travel bloggers are always passing through Bangkok for both short and long stays. The biggest highlight of Bangkok is the street food — it’s on every corner and SO DELICIOUS.
The downside: it’s hard to get out. Between the traffic and sprawl, it often takes two hours to get into or out of Bangkok. It seems easier to stay and never go anywhere else.
It always makes me so happy each time I return to Edinburgh, my favorite city in the UK. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the architecture is fabulous, and it’s filled with cool shops, bars, and restaurants. There are also plenty of expats and visitors passing through. Scottish people are some of my favorite people in the world, and it’s virtually impossible to not have a good time out in Edinburgh.
The downside (and it’s a big one): THE WEATHER. I’ve been lucky enough to have perfect weather every time I’ve visited Edinburgh, but it’s cold, rainy, foggy, and dark for far too much of the year for my taste.
Beautiful Paris, the first city I ever loved, still holds its original position as my favorite city in the world — though places like Granada and Bangkok threaten to usurp it. Oh, Paris is just magical — walking through the beautiful streets, sipping Bordeaux at a cafe, watching the impossibly chic people stroll around the streets. Paris is also practical — the public transportation system is great and Paris is probably better-connected airline-wise than any other city in the world. But just knowing that you are a resident of this city is an enormous ego stroke.
The downside: it’s expensive. Everyone wants to live in Paris, so it doesn’t come cheap. And if you find something that you can afford, it’s hard to live the life you should live in Paris on a cheap budget.
61 thoughts on “The “I Could Totally Live Here” List”
Lovely post! Since I went to Ghana and felt that I had found part of myself there I had experienced before, I started thinking seriously about living abroad. Ghana could be home for a while, and I enjoyed it while it lasted, but I couldn’t see myself truly living there. Over about 30 countries across six continents I’ve traveled to, some for a few days and some for a few months, Argentina is the one country I could truly see myself living… with a lover, with a family, with everything. I’d probably stay in Buenos Aires, but Mendoza and smaller cities such as El Bolson or Ushuaia are so amazing. I think of them often and plan to head back there when I finish my masters…
Yes, Ao Nang! I spent two weeks in Krabi at the tail end of my Thailand trip – mostly because it seemed cheaper than the more touristy shoreline spots and I was running out of money. I didn’t expect to totally fall in love with the place, but I did. Its quaint, friendly, and totally accessible to bigger beaches.
Love this idea! I think perhaps I may have to start keeping a list like this!
The current number 1 on my list is Tasman on the top of the South Island of New Zealand. It’s a great little town full of shops and you can get most of what you need in there. Plus a couple of amazing gluten free friendly restaurants in the area doesn’t hurt :-). Oh and all the glorious beaches too!
I love this idea. I’m not sure how I’d narrow it down… San Francisco is and always will be my favorite place on earth, but there are quite a few cities that I’ve fallen in love with over the course of my travels. Munich, Amsterdam, and Paris are pretty high up there. Beirut would also be an amazing place to spend a year or two. But I haven’t traveled enough to narrow it down enough- I still have to visit the South Pacific before I could make an official list!
1. Berlin, Germany
2. Sydney, Australia.
3. Hong Kong.
4. Stockholm, Sweden.
5. Nassau, The Bahamas.
Ahhh Edinburgh! I think I could get over the weather and get used to the beautiful city anyway. Other places I would live are Boston, Portland OR and Melbourne. I LOVE those places.
But damn, I don’t think I could ever more permanently away from Montreal. I love it so much!
Great idea! We’ve yet to get to Edinburgh but we keep hearing such good things we obviously need to make it a priority. I fell in love with Istanbul last month, so that could be an option or anywhere in Belgium sounds good, think of all that beer and chocolate!
What a great list! I agree with you on many places… Specially Granada (although this one might be topped my San Sebastian for me). I’ve got this idea that I MUST go and live in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Melbourne and Cape Town at some point in my life. Also, one of the places I’ve lived that really surprised me and left me wanting more was Zurich – it’s a walkable city with the same international flair that other much larger european cities have. Plus, you’ve got a lake and mountains very close by – paradise!
I always ask myself the “could I live here” question when I travel. I am an American living in Stockholm and top on my livability list is Sydney, Australia. And my first love was also Paris.
Great list!! Edinburgh is a city I’m really, really looking forward to visiting when I get to travelling next year…and I think you just made me add a few more to my already WAY too long list!
Awesome list, Kate! I may have to steal this idea after I see more of Europe this summer…
I love love love Edinburgh, but I agree with you on the weather. And my number one is also Paris. I love this list!
I went to Edinburgh uni. Edinburgh is a fantastic place to live, although it’s a very student-focused city. I know a lot of us moved away after uni because it was more ‘happening’ in London. And yes, the weather is definitely it’s main downfall, but you forget after a while that sideways rain and 500 mile an hour wind isn’t normal! As for Buenos Aires, I’ll be there for the first time at the end of the year. Late nights, late mornings, steak, no veggies…heaven! I’ve heard it said before that if Buenos Aires had a beach it would be perfect!
I have a “Places I Could Totally Live” list, too- that’s even what I call it! And Edinburgh is no. 2, just behind Montreal 🙂
Wow! What a great list. I am living my next year in Thailand and will definitely check out Ao Nang. I am planning ten places to spend a year in. Currently in Mexico, as I mentioned Thailand next year and after that . . . you just made my job a little harder. Seems the more I learn the more places I want to go.
I’m surprised that there’s not a single U.S. city on your list!! And sad that Lisbon didn’t make the cut. I could see myself living in three U.S. cities – NYC, New Orleans and San Francisco (if it wasn’t so expensive!) and London still tops my list, having lived there for 3 years I still think it’s the best city in the world… if the weather wasn’t as awful as it is.
My answer to this question is pretty much anywhere. As long as it’s not permanent I’ll live any place that’s not a current war zone. We don’t have a ton of say in where we live now, so I dream about where I’d like to live when we retire. So far that list includes London, New Zealand, and the French speaking part of Switzerland.
I’m from Bangkok, Thailand and yes totally agree that it’s an awesome place to live! Been to a few of those places on your list my self. Very cool post. I’m also a travel&lifestyle blogger at http://www.theblissrepublic.com. If you’re ever in Bangkok again you can always drop in a line. Been here all my life so I know it inside out =)
Some fantastic cities on the list here, Kate! I’ve not yet travelled enough to compile a really varied list, but I’d put Sydney, Daegu, Newcastle and Istanbul on there for myself. Hoping to discover some more next year & then totally stealing this and writing my own similar post. Unless I HATE everywhere I go hahaha!
I think Edinburgh’s downside applies to pretty much any UK city, though but hey, I’m used to it! I think a constantly sunny place would unnerve me too much and I’d go in search of a place where I need layers.
Innsbruck & Granada would win on this list for me….or Bangkok for the cute guys (always an important factor in my book 😉 )
I like to consider this when I travel, too. For me, I’d consider Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand, London, Singapore, and then in the US, San Francisco and Boston.
Probably can’t live anywhere but Hobart but love to spend long stretches in Malta, Rome, Granada, Casole d’Elsa (Tuscany).
Cheers to Buenos Aires baby! Though you need to go at the same time I’m there so that I can show you all of the awesome places to eat that offer a variety of food. 🙂
I would love to see YOUR tour of Buenos Aires!!
Uthai Thani, Thailand
love this! it’s definitely our test for every city. one that surprised us? florence. we knew we would love it, but didn’t realize we would be able to envision ourselves living there.
Awesome list, Kate! I’m hoping to live in Granada one day! I lived in Sevilla for 6 months and it was so blissful. I NEED to return to Spain. Bangkok is my next stop after Korea, though! One year in beautiful, crazy Bangkok is going to blow my mind! Love reading your adventures, keep them coming!
You are going to have the BEST time, Alyssa! And I love your taste in travel!
Portugal! Scotland. South Africa! Anywhere in the Caribbean. Really, any place tropical with great beaches and even better diving!
better than Sydney, Wollongong, Australia has everything you could picture an Australian surf city having. Start the day at one of a hundred or so cafe’s, or beach kiosks, head to work (Skydiving, teaching people to surf, working in an office that overlooks the beach, spending your lunch hour in the surf, at the golf parks), head to the mall, surf, swim, skydive, study at the uni. There are fantastic drives from Wollongong – in particular the coast road up north to Sydney gets a lot of attention. 🙂
I have found several cities where I could live. A girl’s gotta have her options! Buenos Aires definitely tops the list. The place has such a good vibe, there is always something going on, lots of expats, beautiful architecture – I could go on! I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up spending a good chunk of time there in the future…
While I am definitely not a world traveler as of now, one place has sparked serious interest in me moving out of the US. That place is Roatan, Honduras. While I only spent 3 days solo on the island , I felt like I was at ‘home.’
So many people tried to discourage me from visiting Honduras and many of those people were either from there or knew someone from there. I am so glad I didn’t get fearful and cancel my plans. It was the best experience ever.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Roatan. Glad you decided to go despite the naysayers!
Just stumbled onto your blog today and really enjoy your writing. As a fellow avid traveler, this post was particularly interesting. The more i travel the more i think about where might be best to settle down some day. i’m not at that point yet, but some day….
Anyways, i just got home from a 5 week trip in Hanoi and a few other great places in Vietnam and I can definitely say that if i could, I would turn around right now and go back!! Vietnam is great. The people are friendly (dont hassle you to buy too much crap), the food is great, the expat community is pretty tight and its really easy to make friends and have a good time. That said, I would probably live in HCMC if i returned as its a bit more open and more of a true urban city.
Next, i must agree with the above mention of San Sebastian – amazing beach surrounded by an expansive city, and the food there is like nowhere else in the world (think mix of best of french and spanish). Also, many other cities in Spain: Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla – all gorgeous and offer something unique.
Other European cities would be Berlin for its history, sophistication and counter culture; Paris for the above mentioned and sheer beauty of the place; Budapest for its resilient nature, its amazing bathhouses (literally i could spend 4 hours a day in the Szechenyi baths!), its cheap beer and food and its party scene; London as one of the most international cities in the world and for its food (kidding!); and lastly Galway for its gorgeous landscape, less jaded than Dublin population and great links golf courses.
I would also recommend Osaka, Japan as a great, more affordable and more laid back little brother to Tokyo. You can live here for about half the price or less than the country’s capital and Japanese people are super welcoming to Westerners. If you have blond/brown hair and blue eyes, you can expect more than a few admirers giving you the occasional celebrity status!
Wherever you all go just remember to listen more than you speak when possible, taste the foods that seem strange, dance/sing/run around if thats what the locals do and take many pictures so your friends back home can get super jealous!!! Safe travels.
What a great list, Sean! You have a great way of writing that makes me want to jump on a plane to Osaka or San Sebastian right now! Thanks for sharing.
I have heard alot of good things about Edinburgh, may have to pay that place a visit.
I will add one to the list, and that is Arequipa, Peru. Its a beautiful liveable city where the people are just wonderful. The most important factor is the coffee! – its incredible!
I have heard very good things about Arequipa. Should prioritize that for South America.
Arequipa was my favourite city in Peru! It’s a fabulous place.
I could live pretty much anywhere that has some English-speaking locals, a decent supply of chocolates and English language books, a semi-decent internet connection, and no temperatures below 10 degrees ever. and of course a job…. I thought Yangon would be difficult, but it’s surprisingly ok, with a crazy expat community, not that I have anything to do with partying, but others may be intrigued to find out 🙂
I would really like to live in Indonesia for a while… I have never lived on the sea so that would be very exciting for me. and of course Thailand, especially Chiang Mai, still feels like home, and when I’m talking of going on my next visa run, I always say “I will go home”, confusing everyone!
I’m glad to see that you’re able to get online halfway decently in Yangon!
While I Love to travel anywhere any everywhere, and I can live (and have) almost anywhere for a few months to a couple of years, I think I’m a little spoiled by my hometown and I can’t envision settling anywhere for the rest of my life except for NYC.
Perth, Australia (Beautiful small city with wonderful nature, beaches and amazing mix of people)
Amsterdam, Netherlands (tolerance, city with bicycles, friendly atmosphere, and cultural mix… and of course you find anything that you want!!)
Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (Amazing nature and weather throughout the year)
Three places that I can’t wait to visit, Mutassem!
I love Granada! That’s the only place I’ve been out of all of these, but I can imagine the others a very diverse, interesting cities with a very comfortable feel. Florence had that comfortable feel for me, but not quite as much as Granada. I’m hoping the city I get placed in for teaching in Spain next year has that great feel. Although, I know I will enjoy the simple fact that I’ll be living my dream abroad!
I am slowly assembling my own where I could live list, I agree with Bangkok, that will make my short list for sure!
Florence, Italy – where I’ve been, and Scotland – where I havent but it’s my Promised Land.
I could live in…
-Upsides: it’s fun, exciting, and laid back all at the same time. And the weather. And the food.
-Downside: The economy is pretty shitty, so finding a job could be difficult.
-it’s quirky, fun, exciting, and fashionable. I would just drink black tea all the time and say fun British words like “flat” and “queue”
-THE WEATHER. I’m with you girl, I can’t stand cold, dark weather. Also, London is damn expensive.
-I spontaneously went to this border town for an hour while I was in the south of France. It was stunningly beautiful, and the people that I met were really nice and awesome. I’d love to return for more than an hour… I would just eat pasta, drink wine, go to the beach, wear pretty clothes, speak a cool language, and just live a glorious, laid-back lifestyle…
Definitely agree with Buenos Aires!
I agree with some places , but i am an Argentinian and we don’t eat pasta “steak” pizza and empanadas all day at all.Perhaps you were there as a tourist…!
Of course I was there as a tourist. I’m not an Argentine. 🙂 But I found there to be an incredible lack of variety in Argentine cuisine, and many fellow travelers to Argentina agree.
Yes, I loved Bueons Aires, but it sucked for me being a Veggie!! Ahhhh Where were all the vegtables hiden? haha. I did managed to find an awesome vegetarian closed door restuarant in San Telmo though. If any one wants info i wrote about it on my blog coffeewithasliceoflife.com.
Great post Kate, as always.
Favorite destinations where I can see myself living there:
SANTA FE, NM
A world female solo traveler in search of the perfect fit for a place to live.
I love Amsterdam! The people are the most attractive friendly helpful people in the world! Only problem is the rain and expense.
I am going to Buenos Aires next week and will live in Argentina for 6 months.
Who dosen’t love Italy? Been there 7 times.
Portugal has some beauitufl towns but has the worst food ever!
Barcelona, Spain has the worst gang of thieves ever encountered.
Ubud, Bali is lovely but too many motorcyles and mold
Sydney Australia is awesome. Byron Bay quaint beach town.
I love the town Nelson,New Zealand on the north of South Island.
I’ve lived in Santa Fe, NM, Boulder, CO, Marin County, CA. Maui, Hawaii, Solana Beach, CA, (San Diego beach town) spent months in Ashland, OR and Sedona, AZ
What a list Kate! Hope you will be healthy and keep traveling for as many years as possible!
My cities on that list would be:
1)Luzern – Switzerland
2)Hanoi – Vietnam
3)Amorgos – Greece
4)St Petersburg – Russia
5)Cartagena – Colombia
Great list! I’m moving abroad in January and am having SUCH a hard time deciding where! There are so many places I want to settle in for a while.My first passion has always been Europe (I’m all about real culture, and local authenticity), but I can’t seem to bear the cold winters there. Any tips on how to decide?
THIS IS A GREAT LIST, KATE!
As a 60-ish soon to be retiree, I’m really interested in living anywhere but the US of A (unless I can afford summers in Vermont and winters in Key West!), especially because I’d like to retire earlier and stretch my dollars. Your list has given me a few ideas to start with…LOVE your site!
So happy to see Donauinselfest on the list, I’ve been in town last time on a business trip and our clients took us there. Pretty cool, huh? They also arranged our transfer to and from the airport. I was quite satisfied with the service and ask them what company they used, they said http://wientransfer.com/ so I go with them now too whenever I visit.
I love this list and we are planning some world travel based on some of your suggestions here.
I am wondering, is there any cities you would add to this list since you wrote it?
These days, I live in New York and the only other places where I could live are Boston, London, and Berlin. That’s all I would consider because I need to live in a big city with lots of my friends.
That’s a very nice list
I suspect that since this post and comments are from many years ago, some of the cities on your list may have changed since then as you’ve changed. Like in your post on Copenhagen where you compared how you would have toured the city in 2010 vs 2015, your criteria for “I could totally live here” will certainly have changed. I agree that many of the cities you listed are fabulous based on experience, or they are on my list of places I plan to see. As I’m ~20 years older than you, the fabulous night life rating doesn’t even register for me as a criteria for somewhere I’d love to live. In fact it might register as a downside to a place – far too noisy in the evening. I recall in New Orleans witnessing city workers hosing down the sidewalks each morning to remove the nasty evidence of drunken partying the night before. As an easily sunburned person, I love a good ocean view, but really couldn’t care less about the beach itself. Common sense about skin cancer wins over a fabulous tan. In my 20s and even 30s I would have cared about the night life and beaches, but not any more. To me choosing a place to really live is completely different than choosing a place to see on my travels. If I’m going to settle somewhere it needs to have museums, galleries, libraries and lots of opportunities for art or photography classes, good gardening weather, good healthcare and general safety, a reasonable cost of living and preferably good transportation connections. When I go on vacation/travelling I want to see historic sites, important architecture, famous vistas, and try the food and activities the area is known for. Once I’ve done those things as a tourist, is there enough there to make it a great city just to live in? Enough to entertain me over the long term? There are lots of cities that would have been on my list 20 years ago that I wouldn’t consider now, and the reverse is also true. I’ve hiked the Cinque Terra and thoroughly enjoyed it. But it’s done. Even if I lived there I might only do it again if I was showing visitors around. It was stunningly beautiful but beyond the hiking there wasn’t enough to make it my permanent home. At this point in my life I recognize that when I’m not travelling to see other parts of the world, I want to be home visiting with friends, reading, taking classes, and perhaps taking up gardening so long as it doesn’t chain me to my yard and interfere with the travelling. I may even go back to university for another degree just for fun. As boring as it is to say, I’m very content in my part of Canada, but I have a list of cities where I intend to live for 1-2 months to totally immerse myself and attempt to live like a local. I’d never actually move there, but I enjoyed it so much and there is so much to see that I’d like to go back and stay long enough that I stop feeling like a tourist on a schedule. At the moment those cities are: Paris, New York, and London. All are too hectic to live in permanently, but trips there have only left me with a still endless list of things I didn’t have time to see. I also suspect that after visiting some cities I have planned for the future, they’ll also make it onto the list of places for a return long stay.
I both retired and was widowed a couple of years ago so my whole view of travel at this stage of life has changed. The trips we had intended to take together in early retirement are now solo trips with only my own preferences to guide me. It’s not the type of travelling I was expecting to be doing in my 50s but I’ve decided to look at is as an opportunity to do something different. It’s lovely to enjoy new places with someone but as none of my friends are retired yet and my available relatives aren’t physically up to the challenge, I find myself unexpectedly a solo traveller. The trade off to travelling solo is that now I go when and where I want, stay as long as I please, see and do what interests me and come home when I’m good and ready. No negotiating or compromising required – I hope I don’t become incredibly selfish as a result! PS thanks for that post about safety for solo women travellers. It’s all things I knew but mostly it’s good reminder and refresher as I head out on my first long (7wk) solo trip this fall.
From your list, I would pick Granada – However if it’s Andalusia, I could rather imagine my life around Seville. I could totally live in Rome. That was my dream for years…
Oh, and Barcelona. Any time I could live in Barcelona, in Tuscany, in Malaga, Milan, again in Budapest.
Oh, and for it’s beautiful landskapes, I’d definitely consider Provance in France!