With 56% of companies worldwide now allowing employees to work remotely, and 16% operating on a fully-remote model, zoom towns are becoming the places to be.
In this article, we take a look at the most popular zoom towns worldwide – the places attracting huge influxes of digital nomads. If you too are interested in joining the zoom town revolution, be sure to check out our guide to becoming a digital nomad.
A zoom town is a city or region that tends to attract high numbers of remote workers and digital nomads. There are many reasons workers might flock to zoom towns, with some of the most common being a low cost of living, good digital infrastructure, an attractive local culture and the opportunity to live abroad. Some towns and cities are even paying remote workers to move there.
Zoom towns benefit from influxes of remote workers. They see a boost to the local economy, a higher number of young people, and they may even see an increased number of employment opportunities. One study in the UK found that remote working has redistributed wealth away from central business districts and back to local environments to the tune of £3 billion in leisure, retail and hospitality spending.
As such, many of these up-and-coming zoom towns roll out the red carpet for remote workers. One of the biggest changes has been the exponential increase in the number of co-working spaces – these facilities are expected to exceed 40,000 worldwide by 2024, more than double the number compared to 2020.
On that note, let’s jump right in and look at the cities that have the highest number of digital nomads.
1/ New York City, USA
Annual digital nomad population: 1,000,000
Average rent: US$3,725
Average utility bills: US$180
Coworking spaces: 245
As the birthplace of co-working empire WeWork, New York City has a solid claim to calling itself the original digital nomad destination. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Big Apple tops the list of the most popular zoom towns worldwide.
NYC is one of the most developed and multicultural cities in the world, with an economy that produces everything from media to finance, technology and education. As such, the culture of New York is perfectly suited to hard-working digital nomads.
During the day, you’ll find no shortage of co-working spaces dotted around the town, filled with young entrepreneurs, small teams of start-ups, and university students. Then, in the evenings, these folks spill out onto the streets to partake in New York’s frenetic nightlife scene, finding no shortage of world-class bars and restaurants. It’s a work hard, play hard zoom town that will suit digital nomads who aren’t afraid to live life in sixth gear.
Of course, moving to New York is not something most people can do on a whim. NYC is far and away the most expensive city in the world for expats, according to ECA International, and you’ll need to be prepared to pay astronomical prices for rent, transport and everyday essentials – especially if you intend to live close to the metropolitan centre of Manhattan.
Another thing to bear in mind is that, if you’re planning to move to New York as a digital nomad, you will need to take out international health insurance policy from a specialist provider that covers the USA – remember, the cost of healthcare in America can be astronomical if you don’t have health insurance. US citizens travelling home benefit from up to US$50,000 cover with their existing William Russell international health insurance policies.
Despite being quite expensive, you’ll find nothing but fun and adventure in New York City – the most popular city in the world for digital nomads, and easily the world’s biggest zoom town!
2/ London, United Kingdom
Annual digital nomad population: 717,000
Average rent: £2,100/US$2,700
Average utility bills: £300/US$390
Coworking spaces: 1,320
Coming in a close second, London boasts the largest digital nomad population in Europe, which is why it’s no surprise the sprawling capital city of England also offers over 1,000 co-working spaces. Not that you’ll need them – many Londoners choose to work from the city’s many cafés, pubs and even parks. As a digital nomad in London, you can make every inch of the city your own personal office for the day.
As a global city, London is an epicentre for everything from finance to technology, and has a vibrant arts and cultural scene, which attracts not only entrepreneurs and business executives, but young creatives too. Whether you are a financial analyst or a graphic designer, you’ll fit right into London’s exciting working culture. And when the time comes to down tools for the day, you’ll find no shortage of things to keep you busy, from the bustling theatre district, to over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, and of course the city’s trademark pubs.
However, it is worth remembering that London is also one of the most expensive cities in the world, and is currently going through a cost of living crisis making prices even higher than usual. As a digital nomad in London, you may find your finances stretched. But the pay-off is clearly worth it – with over 37% of its population born overseas, London is a magnet for expats and digital nomads from around the world, and truly deserving of the title of zoom town.
3/ Paris, France
Annual digital nomad population: 677,000
Average rent: €1,230/US$1,370
Average utility bills: €190/US$210
Coworking spaces: 245
Paris has captivated visitors for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise it’s emerging as one of the best cities for digital nomads. There’s no shortage of things to recommend France as a destination – it was already one of the top countries for British expats, and the best country in the world for healthcare. But the French capital especially offers everything the canny digital nomad could ever ask for – chic cafés to work from during the day, intimate restaurants to visit in the evening, and all the croissants and coffee your heart desires.
As a digital nomad in Paris, you’ll be enthralled by the city’s unique culture, which puts food and drink at the top of its hierarchy. Paris boasts over 100 Michelin-starred restaurants, but every local will have their own recommendation. And if you like wine, you’re in the right place – with Parisians drinking around 700 million bottles of vino a year, it’s no wonder Paris is known as the world capital of wine. And no matter where you’re from, you’ll feel at home – more than 20% of the population of Paris was born outside of France.
Like London and New York, Paris comes with a high price tag, so if you’re planning to move here to work remotely, make sure you’ve run the budget. But wait, what’s that? You heard the Parisians are renowned for being quite rude to foreigners? Au contraire! Paris is actually second on our list of the world’s friendliest cities.
4/ Bangkok, Thailand
Annual digital nomad population: 440,000
Average rent: US$750
Average utility bills: US$85
Coworking spaces: 168
If you’re after a destination that’s the right mix of tropical and technological, Bangkok has everything you need. Thailand is the third most-tagged country on Instagram with the hashtag #digitalnomad according to one source – and it’s little wonder why. The country is not only a well-established destination for trade and commerce, it’s also notoriously relaxed when it comes to taking in remote workers. So much so, the Thai embassy has stated that most digital nomads can live and work in Thailand with nothing more than an ordinary tourist visa.
This laissez-faire attitude has already attracted digital nomads in their droves from around the world, and the city is changing fast to adapt to the influx. Benefitting from some of Asia’s fastest internet speeds, life in Thailand is well-suited to the needs of the modern digital nomad. Better yet, the cost of living in Thailand is low compared to Western countries, meaning you’ll have cash to burn on all the incredible cultural activities across the region.
Whether you use that cash to live up in the metropolitan capital, venture out into the Thai heartlands, or even go island-hopping around the Indian Ocean, you’ll find no end to the incredible sights, tastes and experiences Thailand has to offer. Just don’t forget the time difference – you won’t want to miss your 9am start… right?
5/ Barcelona, Spain
Annual digital nomad population: 394,000
Average rent: €1,100/US$1,230
Average utility bills: €170/US$190
Coworking spaces: 353
Barcelona is fast becoming one of the best cities for digital nomads for several reasons. The first and most important reason is that it is now incredibly easy to secure a digital nomad visa for Spain. This allows you to work in Spain for up to five years as a remote worker. Meanwhile, an ordinary tourist visa allows you to stay for up to three months, while EU citizens have unlimited rights to live and work in Spain.
As a tech hub for Spain, Barcelona is uniquely equipped to deal with digital nomads. The sprawling metropolis is packed full of cafés that offer the perfect places to work from during the day, while to the south of the city lies the Mediterranean sea, tempting you with the opportunity to work from the beach too. Better still if you can find a city centre apartment with a roof terrace – what’s better than working under the sun with a cold sangria to hand?
And, as one of the youngest cities in Europe, with a median age of just 43, Barcelona is not only a great place to live and work, but a great place to make friends and socialise too. Because businesses in Barcelona tend to stay open late into the evening, you’ll find the city starts to come to life just as you finish your working day, giving you plenty to do after closing your laptop.
It’s also good to note that Barcelona is nowhere near as expensive as other major cities, making it one the cheapest cities for digital nomads in Europe.
6/ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Annual digital nomad population: 290,000
Average rent: €1,715/US$1,920
Average utility bills: €200/US$225
Coworking spaces: 58
Amsterdam may not have the year-round sunny weather that tends to attract digital nomads to other zoom towns, but it has every other destination trumped when it comes to culture. Not only does Amsterdam attract free-spirited intellectuals and adventurers, it is also the EU’s unofficial finance epicentre, meaning the city is rich with fintech start-ups. No surprise, then, that Amsterdam is also bursting at the seams with digital nomads, eager to take advantage of the Dutch capital’s work hard, play hard culture.
Naturally, EU citizens are free to move to Amsterdam as they please, while non-EU citizens can easily claim a self-employed residency visa. Or, if you’re aged between 18–30, you may also be able to take part in the Netherlands’ official working holiday program. You’ll want to extend your visa as far as it goes – you’ll be surprised by the incredible range of things to see, do and experience during your time in Amsterdam.
Having said that, it’s important to bear in mind that the cost of living in the Netherlands is fairly high, so make sure you’ve budgeted before packing your bags for the Dam. Be sure to set aside a little extra after rent and bills to partake in Amsterdam’s world-renowned nightlife scene, as well as to pay for entry to all the museums and cultural experiences on offer. Don’t worry about saving for a car, though – Amsterdam is among the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities, with 850,000 bikes in the city compared to only 440,000 households.
7/ Berlin, Germany
Annual digital nomad population: 213,000
Average rent: €1,300/US$1,450
Average utility bills: €350/US$390
Coworking spaces: 150
The fast-moving German capital has been on the up-and-up in recent years. The digital economy in Berlin is booming as the city continues to establish itself as Europe’s tech hub. The increasing number of start-ups has brought a culture of remote-first working to Berlin, and the city has adapted to this cultural shift by opening its doors to digital nomads.
Like Spain and the Netherlands, EU citizens can move freely to Berlin, while other digital nomads can easily apply for a digital nomad visa giving them the right to work for between three months to three years. Find out more on our list of the best countries to get a digital nomad visa.
Berlin is a truly unique zoom town, combining all the best aspects of modern culture. On the one side, you have traditional German pursuits like opera and museums, while on the other side Berlin has a burgeoning alternative scene with world-famous nightclubs and avant-garde restaurants. Berlin is a city that is truly accepting of everybody, and is even widely-regarded as Europe’s most gay-friendly city.
As a remote worker in Berlin, you’ll find ample opportunity to explore the city’s many cafés and bars, which are highly accommodating of remote workers. Better still, if your German is a little rusty, you’ll find that English is the main language of business in Berlin, meaning most of the city speaks it to a high standard.
8/ San Francisco, USA
Annual digital nomad population: 188,000
Average rent: US$3,300
Average utility bills: US$270
Coworking spaces: 76
As the home of Silicon Valley, San Francisco is renowned for its digital economy. But, given San Francisco’s picture-perfect position on the Pacific coast of California, not to mention its incredible arts and cultural scene, and its world-renowned hipster cuisine (did you know San Fran was the birthplace of sourdough bread?), it’s no wonder this incredible city is now becoming known as a zoom town.
As a digital nomad in San Francisco, you’ll find the city tailor-made for remote workers, with oodles of cafés to work from during the daytime, and bars to socialise in at night. San Francisco is a competitive high-speed metropolis, which is why it’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world. Still, the pay-off is you get to live in California’s hippest city, where you can expect to find yourself mingling with software engineers, video game designers and tech entrepreneurs – especially in the southern suburb of Palo Alto.
As with New York City, make sure you’ve looked into international health insurance before you up sticks and move to San Fran. And, be prepared for a staggering cost of living – the digital boom that engulfed San Francisco has caused property and rental prices to soar to eye-watering heights.
9/ Zagreb, Croatia
Annual digital nomad population: 120,000
Average rent: €600/US$675
Average utility bills: €200/US$220
Coworking spaces: 18
While it may not be the most recognisable city on this list, Zagreb is consistently ranked one of the best places for digital nomads. That’s because digital nomads in the Croatian capital report higher happiness scores than anywhere else in the world.
We’re not sure exactly why this may be, if we had to guess, we’d say it had something to do with the Mediterranean climate, the digital-first economy, and the culture, which combines antique architecture with a modern, fast-paced way of life.
Indeed, don’t be fooled into thinking Zagreb is anything less than a high-speed, technological city. Home to 800,000 people, it’s fast-becoming a destination for technology companies. Attracted by Croatia’s high-growth economy and its enviable status as the gateway to Southern Europe, many entrepreneurs and small business owners are also flocking to Croatia – and thanks to the country’s new digital nomad visa, you could join them too.
As one of the cheapest destinations for digital nomads, Zagreb is the strongest candidate for most up-and-coming zoom town. With a few more co-working spaces, Zagreb might one day become the most popular city in the world for remote working.
10/ Lisbon, Portugal
Annual digital nomad population: 78,800
Average rent: €1,230/US$1,380
Average utility bills: €120/US$135
Coworking spaces: 50
Portugal is fast becoming a hot spot for digital nomads. So much so that Ana Godinho, Portugal’s Minister of Labour, has said that digital nomads are now ‘fundamental’ to the Portuguese economy. It’s not hard to see the appeal of Portugal: with its world-famous cuisine, laid-back way of life and beautiful climate – plus one of the lowest costs of living in Western Europe – it is an ideal destination for digital nomads. And if you’re thinking of taking a working holiday in Portugal, there’s no better place than slap-bang in the nation’s capital city and zoom town de force, Lisbon.
Lisbon blends the old and new with grace and panache. Historic buildings in the city centre are linked by a quirky, antique tram system, which betrays how modern and high-tech the city is becoming. Lisbon is also renowned for its arts and cultural scene, and digital nomads will find no shortage of things to do, whether it’s museums and art galleries, bars and cafés, or the most popular local passtime, surfing.
Lisbon’s economy is quickly adapting to the influx of digital nomads, with new co-working spaces springing up all over the city. This is all available at a discount price – indeed, Lisbon is considered one of the cheapest cities to visit in Europe. So, you can take full advantage of everything Lisbon has to offer, while still managing to put a bit of money aside.
Have we missed anywhere? If you’ve decided to live and work remotely as a digital nomad and think you’ve spotted a zoom town that’s worth mentioning, let us know your experience on X (previously known as Twitter).
Remember to take out international health insurance
If you’re thinking of becoming a digital nomad, make sure you have adequate health insurance. Many countries will require you to have private medical insurance before you can apply for a digital nomad visa.
At William Russell, we have over 30 years’ experience helping expats and digital nomads like you to get the best deal on the best international health insurance. Our policies give you access to an extensive network of over 40,000 medical facilities worldwide, and our areas of cover include both the USA and worldwide.
As a William Russell member, you’ll have access to some of the best customer service around – just take a look at what other digital nomads have said about us.
Let us help you start your new life as a digital nomad. Get an online quote today and travel anywhere in the world with total peace of mind.