Living in Central Europe: 5 Progressive Cities for Digital Nomads

5 Central European Cities for Digital Nomads

Living in Central Europe

I spent much of last year searching for somewhere to live. Unsuccessfully. I left Paris in 2012 with the intention of travelling for a year or so to create content for my blog and to find my next home. But it’s been almost 1000 days and I’m still on the road.

During those 1000 days I’ve travelled around most of Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and a good chunk of Western Europe too. I’ve loved almost everywhere, but never enough to tempt me to settle down.

Working online means I don’t need to be in a big city but I do love the lifestyle a big(ish) city affords. But not just any big city. I’m looking for a destination where entrepreneurship and innovation are encouraged, people are passionate about their startups and the locals use design and technology to their advantage.

I don’t want to be somewhere where everything is done the way it’s done because it’s always been done that way (hello France!).

For me that means moving to Central Europe and reading Nomad List has helped cement that decision.

No one city stands out for me as perfect. They all have their pros and cons. I could see myself living quite happily in each of these cities. I love them all and was reluctant to leave when the time came but eventually I settled on a city which offers a high standard of living, a friendly startup scene and outrageously cheap property.

Warsaw, Poland

Central Warsaw

Warsaw is a smaller, less hipsterish, considerably cheaper version of Berlin. I haven’t even written about my time in Warsaw yet as I can’t put into words how much I love this city.

I really, really felt at home in Warsaw.

Warsaw is a big city which feels small, there are beautiful parks for jogging and picnicking, the history and architecture fascinate me and the people are friendly and happy to speak English. Apartments in central Warsaw are modern and new or you can stay in the hipster Praga district. Wherever you stay it’s super affordable and the wifi is fast.

Warsaw's New Old Town

There are great farmers’ markets, organic food shops, 24 hour restaurants and a tasty street food scene. I didn’t even mind being woken up at 3am every morning with the rising sun.

So why not Warsaw? Travel opportunities. Warsaw does have access to a number of low cost airlines but if you don’t want to fly your options are limited. There are few interesting day trips around and I didn’t want to waste a day driving just to get to another country. Ukraine and Belarus are close but I have an aversion to getting visas.

I love Warsaw but I can’t bring myself to live there long term.

Tallinn, Estonia

I know Tallinn isn’t in Central Europe but hey, close enough.

Medieval Tallinn is High Tech

Tallinn tempted me in so many ways. It’s an undeniably beautiful city, affordable, medieval but high tech and I find the Estonians to be the friendliest people in Europe. The culture is quite different to the rest of the Europe, with its combined Nordic and Russian influences plus their own uniqueness. The country is so small you can get from one side to the other within a few hours, which works well if you’re looking for day trips and weekend getaways.

Love This Place!

But as far as travelling in the rest of Europe, Estonia is remote, especially if you travel by car or train like I do. Living in Tallinn would mean less travel which would be good for my budget but not for my business. It would be great to spend time in nearby Russia and Belarus but they require annoying visas and Finland and Sweden are pricey for extended stays. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland aren’t too far away geographically but the lack of motorways makes driving excruciatingly slow.

Tallinn would make a fantastic European base but eventually its remoteness would drive me crazy.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin! You either love the vibe, the cool neighbourhoods, the startup scene, the coffee culture, the markets, the festivals and events, the shopping, the food or you’re an old fart and you don’t.

Cafe in a quiet Kreuzberg courtyard.

Just kidding. Berlin has its annoying aspects too. The never-ending bitching about foreigners is tiresome as is the gentrification issue. I wish they’d move on already.


RELATED: Exploring Berlin’s Kreuzberg Neighbourhood


Street Food Thursday in Kreuzberg, Berlin

Still, I love Berlin and feel like I’d quickly fit in. Even though Berlin is considerably cheaper than London and Paris, it’s not as dirt cheap as it used to be. Unfortunately it’s just out of my budget which is a shame as it would have been such a fun place to live. If you’re thinking about moving to Berlin, pretty much everything you need to know can be found in this post.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Everyone raves about little Ljubljana, how adorable the city is and the beautiful and peaceful surrounding countryside. I said it was boring. Yet I kept being drawn back. As a tourist, I can’t see that you’d need more than a day, maybe two, to see everything. But I do think it has some merit as somewhere to live.

Ljubljana's Dragon

Ljubljana is clean, calm and extremely laid back. The internet in my apartment was the fastest and most consistent of any I’ve ever experienced. Ljubljana is at the crossroads of Western Europe, Central Europe and the Balkans so it’s perfect for travelling. There is little pollution and the entire country seems obsessed with natural, organic living and protecting their pristine environment.

But it’s still kinda boring.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is often ranked as one the most liveable cities in Central Europe for quality of life and as one of the most beautiful. The Paris of the East apparently. It’s the number one emerging economy in Europe and they have super fast internet.

Budapest: My New Home Town

I don’t know if all that’s true or if it’s important but I do know it’s a cool place to live. The city is constantly changing, different events are starting up, interesting cafes and restaurants are opening and the people will do anything for you. All my favourite travel regions are reasonably close by, the roads are good and the train is cheap. And importantly for a travel blogger on a budget, Budapest is very, very affordable. That all sounds good enough to me. I’ll be moving into my apartment in a few weeks.


READ NEXT: Road Trip: Budapest to Krakow


About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. I loved reading this list. A lot the reason is because I often complain about how slow the freaking wifi is in Frankfurt (seriously I feel like I live back in 1998 or something using dial up) but when I go east or to central europe, everything seems way more efficient. Even in Riga you can find wifi in taxis. I get what you’re saying about Tallinn being remote- I’d feel the exact same way!

    You gonna be around Budapest in mid- July btw??

    • I’ll be in and out of Budapest all summer but I can’t say exactly. Hopefully I’ll be renovating my new apartment! How long will you be visiting for?

  2. Your living the life that so many dream of (including me). Props to you for being brave taking the plunge!

    • Thanks Brittany! It seems daunting at first but once you get past that first step it’s not so bad. At least I hope it won’t be too stressful settling into life in Budapest! 🙂

  3. Warsaw is pretty awesome to live in between April and October, in other months it’s pretty depressing 😉 the problem is it’s in the middle of Poland so it’s fairly far away pretty much everywhere. On the other hand I enjoy night trains and buses as I can fall asleep in Warsaw and wake up in Berlin, Vilnius or Prague 🙂 you should come back, we have to meet! 😉 (still can’t believe it didn’t work out last time!)

  4. Luckily, we have black out blinds in our bedroom so we don’t have to worry about the early morning sunshine in Warsaw! 🙂 I agree with Kami and you about getting outside of Warsaw and Poland. It’s not always easy. Poland’s infrastructure has a loooong way to go, and you really have to stay on top of the cheap airlines to get a good, inexpensive flight. I think being based in Budapest will be much easier. If you do make it back to Poland, let me know. Enjoy settling in!

  5. Budapest looks amazing! I really hope you enjoy living there. Out of the 5 you posted, I would definitely say that Budapest looks like the best too. Good luck moving in, hope it all runs smoothly!

    • Thank you so much! I’ll be sharing my experience on the blog in a couple of months but I have high hopes for Budapest!

  6. The wifi situation in Riga is amazing! Just about every cafe and restaurant I’ve been to has free wifi that’s fast and reliable. It’s really quite remarkable! Waaaaaaay better than what I just experienced in Paris.

    • I don’t get how these wealthier countries can’t get their wifi sorted out when you have Romania, Hungary, Latvia etc with super fast wifi. You wouldn’t believe how slow the internet is in Australia. I can barely watch videos online.

  7. Budapest would definitely be my number 1 choice ! One of the most exciting cities.
    I really enjoyed Slovenia as a tourist but would be afraid to get bored there, probably best for people looking for a quiet life.

  8. I loved this list! Warszawa is such a beautiful city and I’m lucky enough to have family that lives near there so I can always visit. I’ve heard so much about Berlin and this post has convinced me that I can’t miss out on Berlin while in Germany!

    • Berlin is fun! You can never run out of things to do there. You should definitely visit if you get the chance. 🙂

  9. Such an interesting read, looks like you’ve thought about each place from all angles. Proximity to other places, great transport links, and affordability would be my priority too. Added to that would be the people. I would have to live in a rather open-minded, and secular place.
    Good luck with your move, looking forward to reading about Budapest!

  10. Such a great list Andrea :), with so many interesting options. While I am not planning to move to central Europe anytime soon, I am planning a big overseas adventure – so these places are going right on my explorers list ;).
    xX Zoe

  11. I have so many good things to say about Talin. Such a beautiful city, I lived there for about two years and it was amazing time spent there. I officially moved to Europe last year as I got married for my German husband who I met while I was living in Estonia. Now we are moving to Austria and I continue my discovering Europe. Greets!

    • How lovely that you were able to spend a couple of years in Tallinn. It is beautiful, as is all of Estonia I think. Enjoy Austria, another gorgeous country but in such a different way to Estonia. 🙂