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Europe’s best lake towns and cities

Florence Codjoe Image
Written by Florence Codjoe, Content Editor

4 April 2022

In a bid to discover Europe's most desirable lake towns and cities, Uswitch created an index of various factors that would help determine the best places to live if you want to be near water.
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For many, waterfront living is a dream come true. The beautiful scenery is reason enough to purchase a waterfront property, but there are also the added advantages of tranquillity, privacy and an abundance of wildlife to observe. What’s more, these locations also tend to have cleaner air, as well as a host of psychological benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety and depression. 

With this in mind, the mortgage comparison experts at Uswitch were curious to find out the best European lake towns and cities to reside in. By creating a points-based index system, factors such as the average weather conditions, number of restaurants and percentage of greenspace were evaluated, providing an overall score out of 100. 

The best European towns and cities for lakeside living

Europe’s best lake towns and cities - Image module

1. Bolsena (Italy)

Italy is home to some of the world’s most beautiful villages, so it is little surprise to see the wonderful lake town of Bolsena in first place. 

With a score of 88.98, it is easy to see why it stands on top of the podium. With over 90% greenspace, this stunning lakeside settlement is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Located about 100km north of Rome, this majestic town is situated on the shores of Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe. This would explain why lake temperatures are the highest here of all the towns in our study.  

With almost 239 hours of sunshine per month and surface temperatures of over 27°C, this really is a place where you can enjoy the fantastic, Mediterranean climate. 

2. Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon (France) 

Second in our rankings is the strikingly beautiful French town of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, with a score of 83.26. 

Nestled amongst the hillsides and overlooking the vast lake of St Croix, this haven for nature boasts an impressive 98% greenspace. With over 250 hours of sunshine per month and surface temperatures of 25°C, this is the perfect location to fully relax and enjoy the weather. 

What’s more, this lake town boasts a staggering 580 restaurants per 1,000 inhabitants, so there is little risk of not being able to find somewhere to eat either.

3. Limone Sul Garda (Italy)

With a score of 80.82, and completing the top three, is Limone sul Garda. Despite being a popular tourist location on the shores of Lake Garda, Limone still retains the soul and feeling of a small village. 

Situated in the mountains, its development has been restricted and helps to account for its impressive 91% greenspace. Furthermore, temperatures here are moderately warm at 21.4°C, which is ideal for those interested in more comfortable climatic conditions. 

Limone is one of the few lakeside towns in our study where the lake temperature is warmer than the surface temperature. In this case, by almost 1°C, making it the perfect location for swimming and partaking in water sports.

4. Castiglione del Lago (Italy)

Castiglione del Lago continues the Italian theme in our study of Europe’s best lake towns. 

In fourth position, and with a score of 75.94, this delightful village is unlike those in the top three. Located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Lake Trasimeno, Castiglione del Lago boasts a charming town centre circled by medieval walls. Despite this, almost two-thirds of the town is still greenspace, thus retaining the feel of a semi-natural environment. 

Temperatures here are the hottest of all the lake towns in our study, regularly reaching around 28.4°C. The crystal clear waters are also perfect for a dip and swim, at just over 24°C. With more than 225 hours of sunshine a month, this historic retreat is a gem to behold. 

5. Mörbisch am See (Austria)

In fifth place, with a score of 75.92, is the picturesque lake town of Mörbisch am See in the east of Austria. Situated near the 37 square mile Neusiedler See - Seewinkel National Park, just over two-thirds of the land is dedicated greenspace in this spot.

With the lowest amount of sunshine hours in our top five, the climate is cooler than its Mediterranean counterparts in the top four. However, in this lake town, you can still expect respectable temperatures average of around 25°C on land and 21.7°C in the water. 

You will not be spoilt for choice for places to eat here, either, with 63 restaurants for every 1,000 inhabitants. 

Other notable examples

Coming in seventh, Morcote, overlooking Lake Lugano, is the only lake town from Switzerland in our top 10. With an impressive 614 restaurants per 1,000 inhabitants, this gorgeous locale is not the warmest place to visit in Europe, but offers an almost perfect blend of nature and urbanisation, with 51% greenspace. 

Similarly, in ninth position, Keszthely is Hungary’s only representative in the entire study, let alone the top 10. Despite having much less sunlight than competing lake cities, this gorgeous settlement boasts temperatures of over 26°C, as well as the second highest lake temperatures. 

If glorious weather is what you are after, you must visit Marignane in France. This delightful commune overlooking Lake Berre receives almost 259 hours of sunlight per month (the highest in our study), as well as temperatures of 28.4°C (the second highest). 

If you appreciate nature, and hot weather is not a factor, then it would be well worth paying a trip to Mustvee in Estonia. Situated amongst pine forests and sandy beaches, this rural lake town ranks seventeenth in our study, but is blessed with a staggering 96% greenspace. 

The worst European towns and cities for lakeside living 

Europe’s best lake towns and cities - Image module

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the worst European lakeside towns and cities tend to be in northern Europe, with four out of the five being Scandinavian locations. 

Östersund comes in last with a score of 12.64. Although not the coldest of all the lakeside towns, lake temperatures of just over 14°C are still not particularly appealing for a nice, relaxing dip. Surface temperatures of marginally under 17°C are the third lowest in our study. 

Whilst all of the bottom five have relatively low sunshine hours, none can compete with Killarney in Ireland, with a mere 88 per month. That said, out of the five, it does have one of the best ratios for restaurants per capita, with 10 per 1,000 inhabitants.

Listed as the European Green Capital for 2021, Lahti ranks marginally higher than Killarney overall. With almost 50% of its total area dedicated to green space, as well as over 40 hours a month more of sunshine and 3°C warmer temperatures, it is easy to see why it is listed as one of the best destinations to visit; just maybe not to live. 

Tips on buying a waterfront property

Mortgages expert, Florence Codjoe, outlines what you should think about if you are considering investing in a waterfront property. 

“The thought of waking up each day to the sound of lapping water, opening your curtains and looking out across a vast expanse of water certainly sounds idyllic. But decisions should not be made lightly, as they can prove costly if you do not consider your investment wisely. 

  • Investment opportunity - Some locations are better than others from an investment perspective. For example, living near a park can add value to your property, and the same can be said for water. Houses built in a desirable area on safe ground will more than likely increase in value, so you should get an expert to inspect the land first to make sure it is sturdy, and the waterline is not rising

  • Renting opportunity - you can rent out your property for up to 180 days per year when you are not using it. You do, however, have to make personal use of it for 10% of the days it would be rented out at fair market value. 

  • Opportunities for outdoor activities - it is worth seeing what opportunities there are in the area for leisure and recreational activities. This will vary from person to person, but are they activities that would interest you? What are the peak times of the day, and is this going to spoil the peace and tranquillity? Or does this place offer more in the way of walks and hiking opportunities? 

  • Budgeting for expenses - living near water will come with additional costs for wear and tear. You should have the property inspected to see how much it will cost you for upkeep and maintenance, and ensure you have the right level of insurance cover against flood risk and injury.”

Methodology and sources

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Creative Commons