Many of Europe’s most vibrant tech hubs happen to be in some of the continent’s most glamorous cities, like Berlin, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Logically, then, programmers who would like to move to Europe typically plan for one of those household names. Who wouldn’t want to follow in the footsteps of Emily in Paris or Enola Holmes?
Yet there are plenty of hidden gems in Europe’s tech panorama – cities where a developer may find a job and enjoy an excellent quality of life, while spending significantly less than they would in the great metropolises.
So, what are Europe’s best kept secrets for developers? Here are just five that can get you started.
In recent years, France has been pursuing a vigorous policy of investment in technology and research, and tech talent has been flocking to the country as a result. But Lyon preeempted even its own national government: years before President Macron was elected, the city was already connecting its internal research and industry sectors, opening startup spaces and building broadband infrastructure.
The result is that Lyon now has one of the the most rapidly-growing software industries in France, with major financial and pharmaceutical companies based there. The city is especially famous for its start-ups and its high number of yearly registered patents, usually scoring among the highest in Europe. The game developers Arkane Studios, creators of the Dishonored series, started there with a team including just six developers and showed just how far you can go.
Lyon may not have the international glamour of Paris, but it is still among the greatest French cities, with an astoundingly rich culture and history and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere in the world. If you like to enjoy a glass of wine after a long day of coding, then you can really spoil yourself in central France.
Hamburg is the largest non-capital city in Europe, and, in terms of the tech industry, it has been among the greatest beneficiaries of Germany’s stable economic growth over the past couple of decades. Other than Berlin, there is simply no city in the country that can match Hamburg’s combination of booming startups and established software titans (among them Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Google, who all have offices there).
Something that not many are aware of is that Hamburg also happens to be the European capital of competitive gaming. RCADIA, the largest and most important space for gaming tournaments in Europe, is located in the city, attracting not just gamers but droves of international developers and gaming companies.
While Germany may not be the most celebrated European country for its tourist destinations, Hamburg has a lot to offer indeed. With a rich Medieval history and sightly canals crossing the urban tissue everywhere (it’s the city with the highest number of bridges in Europe), there are plenty of places to relax and take the sights in. Final boon: there is a wonderful music scene, with both Classical and modern styles of music represented.
Copenhagen is a great capital in a small country, Denmark, which implies it naturally magnetises investment, particularly from within. This means that alongside its prosperous grassroots tech scene, there are also abundant government programs and public resources for anyone looking to to work or better themselves as a developer – more than almost anywhere else in Europe.
The city’s focus on innovation has already given fruit: major tech companies like Unity, Zendensk and Tradeshift were all born here. And TechBBQ, hosted yearly in the city, is the biggest startup event for the entire Scandinavian region.
Copenhagen is famous for its beauty, its clean streets, and its extraordinary public services. While taxes are high, the returns in the quality of healthcare, education, and transport more than balance it out, particularly for high-earning professionals like software developers. Denmark has some fairly strict immigration rules, which doesn’t make it very easy to get in, but it’s an excellent option for programmers and, perhaps more so than any other city on this list, for programmers who want to raise a family.
London and Dublin usually grab all the headlines when it comes to tech news in the UK, but they are far from the only options. Manchester, one of the largest cities in the UK, is a place welcoming to developers at any stage in their career. Manchester University and the Manchester Metropolitan University both offer excellent software development courses, while tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Booking.com all have offices there, alongside some of the country’s greatest brands (Barclays, the BBC and ITV).
As long as you’re ok with the (in)famous British weather, Manchester is also a wonderful place to live. The city has ample beautiful architecture and excellent transport connections both within the metropolitan area and to the rest of the UK. As you no doubt already know, it is also home to two of the most prestigious and successful football clubs in Europe, Manchester United and Manchester City – so if you’re into the sport, you can be there in person for some of the world’s most spectacular matches!
Manchester is, of course, also much cheaper than London – although admittedly that may not be much of a boast nowadays.
The Zurich tech scene is perhaps not quite as varied as in some of the other cities on this list – by far the most advanced sector seems to be Fintech, along with all of its related technologies, like blockchain. This makes sense, as Zurich is, of course, one of Europe’s leading financial centres.
Nevertheless, the city offers extraordinary opportunity to up-and-coming developers. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, even Disney all have bases there, and they all pay extraordinary well. In fact, salaries for developers in Zurich are among the highest not only in Europe but in the world, while taxes are shockingly low.
A splendid city in its own right, Zurich is also ideal for those who wish to visit the rest of Europe, with France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Balkans all relatively close by and connected by rail. Alternatively, take a hike or go skiing – the Swiss mountains are just on your doorstep!
This is the end of our article, but certainly not of the list! If you’re planning to be a developer in Europe, then be sure to look around – there are more hidden gems than you probably think!