The 5 Fastest Growing Cities in Europe and Odd Similarities (2023)

The Fastest Growing Cities in Europe Have Some Odd Things in Common

What are the common things between cities like Gothenburg in Sweden and Bordeaux in France? Certainly not the weather, or the average wine consumption (the French drink 4 times more of it than the Swedes). Both are, however, among the fastest growing cities in Europe.

There are other remarkable things that put together the Mediterranean French municipality, the 2nd largest city in Sweden, and three other European mid-sized urban areas.

One of them is that all of them are experiencing explosive demographic growth. It doesn’t stop with that: the population increase will likely get even faster during the next few decades.

The Population of European Cities Will Decrease Drastically, But…

…Not Everywhere

According to Eurostat, cities like Athens in Greece or Katowice in Poland may lose up to 40% of their inhabitants, but the fastest growing cities will grow in equal proportion, or even more.

The situation is so drastic that we wrote an entire article about countries with declining populations.

Other capital cities like Paris (a city where safety concerns we discussed here), London, Rome, Amsterdam, or Berlin will keep their size.

On the other hand…

The incredible growth of the 5 cities we will mention in the next paragraphs is even more impressive when we consider that the European population is heading to a historical shrinkage.

For instance, by 2100, it is expected that Italy’s population will drop to less than 37 million.

This is because Europeans are getting older, and the birth rates are not even close to enough to replace the older generations.

Chart of the Population pyramid of the European Union countries.
Population Pyramid of Eu-27 countries in 2019 and the projection for 2100. Source.

Read also: The Easiest Countries to Adopt a Baby From

Who Calculated the Numbers For the Fastest-Growing Cities in Europe?

The numbers in this article are from Eurostat, using the baseline projections from December 2022.

So we are using very recent data.

Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union (EU). Its objective is to provide policymakers, researchers, and the public with high-quality statistical information. Its main job is to collect, organize, and publish statistics about the EU and its member countries. These statistics cover various topics, such as economics, population, the environment, and social issues. 

Eurostat’s reputation for producing high-quality and reliable statistical information has made it a trusted source of data for policymakers, researchers, businesses, and the public, both inside and outside the EU.


One thing must be said (and this is a personal opinion):

Socio-economic forecasts for the far future should be seen with a pinch of salt. Often, they are bollocks. I honestly would not take very seriously a projection for 2100.

But it is still interesting to see why these cities have such high numbers forecasted. While the reality in 2100 may deviate drastically from the numbers below, it is clear that there is a trend of explosive demographic growth in each of these cities.

With no further ado, let’s jump to the 5 fastest growing cities in Europe in terms of population size, and what are the weird similarities between them.

Read also: Best Countries to Retire in the World in 2023

The 5 Fastest Growing Cities in Europe

The numbers below refer to the forecast from Eurostat published in December of 2022 on the populational change of European cities in the XXI century.

5th — Bordeaux, France

Total increase forecasted in the number of residents: 523,000

Forecasted population growth rate: 31%

Bordeaux is also one of the best places to retire in Europe.

Bordeaux, France, the 5th fastest growing city in Europe
Bordeaux, France, the 5th fastest growing city in Europe

4th — Toulouse, France

Total increase forecasted in the number of residents: 472,000

Forecasted population growth rate: 33%

Curiosity: despite (or maybe, because of) the high growth, Toulouse has one of the lowest costs per square meter among major cities in France.

Toulouse, France, the 4th fastest growing city in Europe
Toulouse, France, the 4th fastest growing city in Europe

3rd —Gothenburg, Sweden

Total increase forecasted in the number of residents: 715,000

Forecasted population growth rate: 41%

Gothenburg, Sweden, the 3rd fastest growing city in Europe
Gothenburg, Sweden.

2nd — Stockholm, Sweden

Total increase forecasted in the number of residents: 1,032,000

Forecasted population growth rate: 43%

Stockholm, the Swedish capital city
Stockholm, the Swedish capital.

1st — Malmo, Sweden

Total increase forecasted in the number of residents: 620,000

Forecasted population growth rate: 44%

Curiously, Malmo also figured in two other very polemic rankings, like the one about the most violent city in Sweden, or the list of the most dangerous cities in Europe.

Malmo, the fastest growing city in Europe
Malmo, the fastest-growing city in Europe

Why These Cities Are the Fastest Growing in Europe?

Here are a few reasons that make these cities experience incredible growth when compared to the quickly-fading European population.

If there is something we missed, feel free to tell us in the comment section.

Fertility Rates

The fertility rate is a measure of the number of children that would be born from a woman, on average, over the period of her lifetime. It is based on the age-specific fertility rates observed in a given year.

The total fertility rate (TFR) is calculated by summing up the age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) for women in a specific area or population and multiplying that sum by the width of the age intervals used to calculate the ASFRs.

This is likely the number 1 factor to explain why the population of these cities will expand so drastically, but not the only one.

It is not a coincidence that all five cities are either in Sweden or France.

These are the two countries with the highest fertility rates in Europe!

As of 2021, these are the fertility rates in the European Union are:

  • Malta: 1.23
  • Spain: 1.24
  • Italy: 1.27
  • Cyprus: 1.32
  • Greece: 1.35
  • Portugal: 1.36
  • Slovenia: 1.39
  • Latvia: 1.42
  • Croatia: 1.43
  • Lithuania: 1.44
  • Austria: 1.45
  • Romania: 1.46
  • Poland: 1.47
  • Bulgaria: 1.49
  • Estonia: 1.50
  • Czech Republic: 1.52
  • Slovakia: 1.53
  • Hungary: 1.53
  • Germany: 1.54
  • Luxembourg: 1.54
  • Finland: 1.57
  • Belgium: 1.59
  • Ireland: 1.64
  • Netherlands: 1.65
  • Denmark: 1.67
  • Sweden: 1.76
  • France: 1.84

So yes, more babies, more people. No mystery so far, until we ask ourselves:

Why the fertility rate is so much higher in France or Sweden?

To answer this question, we should look for another piece of data.

Percentage of the Population With a Foreigner Background

Here is the percentage of the population with a foreign background in the European Union countries, as of 2021:

Average of the EU-27 countries: 10.3% of the population has a foreign background.

By country:

  • Bulgaria: 2.2%
  • Romania: 2.5%
  • Poland: 2.8%
  • Latvia: 4.5%
  • Lithuania: 6.2%
  • Croatia: 6.4%
  • Portugal: 6.8%
  • Greece: 7.0%
  • Estonia: 8.4%
  • Slovakia: 10.3%
  • Hungary: 10.8%
  • Cyprus: 17.4%
  • Czech Republic: 17.8%
  • Malta: 18.5%
  • Austria: 19.0%
  • Italy: 19.3%
  • Slovenia: 19.8%
  • Spain: 21.9%
  • Belgium: 22.3%
  • Germany: 25.2%
  • Finland: 28.5%
  • France: 31.5%
  • Denmark: 32.5%
  • Netherlands: 35.9%
  • Ireland: 37.2%
  • Sweden: 40.3%
  • Luxembourg: 47.1%

How do this data explain the higher fertility rates?

Studies confirmed that immigrant families (and the following generations) have higher fertility rates than local families.

This may be for various reasons, like:

  • Cultural aspects.
  • The arrival in a more peaceful and prosperous environment stimulates motherhood.
  • In some cases, welfare benefits.

Read also: The Best Place to Visit in Europe Each Month of the Year

Social Housing is abundant in ALL these cities

Here things start to be really curious and even can be useful for public leaders willing to act with success to revert the downward demographic trend of their cities.

All the cities mentioned above have ample and expanding offers of social housing.

This does not mean free housing. This is not what social housing is, at least not in the definition used in most European cities.

Social housing in Europe generally refers to affordable housing that is available to individuals and families with low or moderate incomes, and often to those with other social or health needs as well.

The higher affordability of social housing is due to:

  • Tax breaks
  • Housing expansion projects that build a large number of housing units, fullfiling the demand and driving down the price of the real estate market and making it more affordable.
  • Special subsidies for families.

Few things are more necessary for couples willing to have a kid than the security of a roof over their heads.

Here is the percentage of social housing over the total housing offer in each of the 5 fastest growing cities in Europe:

  • Bordeaux: approximately 20% of all residential units are social housing, according to data from the French Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities. This means that 1 in 5 dwellings in Bordeaux is categorized as social housing.
  • Toulouse: 18% of all residential offer is social housing, according to data from the French Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities.
  • Gothenburg has approximately 23% of its residences classified as social housing, according to data from the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building, and Planning.
  • The city of Stockholm has approximately 22% of its residences defined as social housing, according to the same source from above.
  • Malmo: the city of Malmö had approximately 24% of its residential units classified as social housing. Almost 1 in 4 dwellings in Malmö are social housing.

Read also: The Most (and The LEAST) Beautiful Capital Cities in Europe

Tl;Dr: The Fastest Growing Cities in Europe

While the European Population is expected to decrease and cities like Athens (Greece) or Katowice (Poland) may lose almost 40% of their population, certain parts are predicted to have explosive growth.

The fastest growing cities in Europe in terms of projected population are:

5th — Bordeaux, France

4th — Toulouse, France

3rd — Gothenburg, Sweden

2nd — Stockholm, Sweden (We wrote an exclusive article about violence in Stockholm.)

1st — Malmo, Sweden

The common factors among these European cities are:

  • All of them are in the countries with the highest fertility rates in Europe (Sweden and France)
  • A large share of the population with a foreign background
  • Ample offer of social housing.

If you enjoyed this article about the fastest growing cities in Europe, here are a few other travel tips and reading suggestions for you:

The 7 Countries With The Worst Work-Life Balance in The OECD

The Best Cities for Remote Workers in 2023

The Mind-Blowing Tourist Scams You Can Find in Europe

Levi Borba is the founder of The Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transactions.

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