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Best cities to live in France for Expats

Updated: Jun 21

Right now, all over the world, families are moving to new countries to begin a new and exciting life. Some people move because the job prospects are better, others to be closer to relatives and loved ones, and some retire from working life and want to soak up the sun or experience a new culture.

France is a popular option for all these groups of people, and it is a gorgeous backdrop to call home. There are loads of unique urban and rural communities of expats waiting to welcome you with open arms, and today, we’re going to focus on the best cities to live in for expats in France.

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1. Paris

All natural, starting point is Paris. Many people spend years dreaming of living there, and when they finally get the chance, it does not disappoint. It’s one of the most iconic places in the world, and almost everyone can identify it when shown a picture of the Eiffel Tower.

It is also home to the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre Museum, making it a cultural experience you will love. By night, it is illuminated in many neon colours, which has earned it the nickname the City of Lights. It’s certainly a city that never sleeps, so if you’re looking for somewhere with outstanding nightlife, this could be the place for you.

Of course, if you enjoy city living but aren’t interested in nightclubs and all-night partying, provided you don’t live on one of the main streets, you won’t notice the hustle and bustle each evening. The fact that it has such a busy nightlife does mean that there are some stunning restaurants available for the odd evening meal treat, and many shops do stay open late to take advantage of passing trade.

Rental prices are naturally more expensive as Paris is the country's capital, although they are not relatively as high as those found in London. Their transport network can be a little unreliable, but it is very cheap.

2. Rennes

In the north-west of France, Brittany has long been popular with expats. There are lots of reasons for this: the gorgeous coastline, lots of green space and the peace many people looking to retire or seeking. However, it does also have some vibrant cities, and we’re going to focus on Rennes.

It is a gorgeous city with lots of history, nestled in the old town, and in contrast, modern buildings, designer boutiques, and plenty of indoor markets. The fact that they have preserved many of the 15th-century timber houses is fantastic and worth visiting.

Many of them are now home, two cafés and terraces and one place in particular that you should visit whether you are going to live there or just on holiday is the Palais du Parlement, a 17th-century building destroyed in a vicious fire in 1994. It was lovely rebuilt and restored, and the Grande Chambre is a masterpiece.

Even if you choose to live in the city, you can escape to the countryside quickly, and Britney has a cooler climate than some of the cities and regions further south. For city living, Rennes also offers incredibly reasonable property prices whether you want to purchase or rent.

During the summer months, it can be very popular with tourists, making it harder for locals to get about, but if you can put up with this and the lack of High Street brand shops (there are a myriad of gorgeous independent stores), it is a delightful place to call home.

3. Lyon

Although France is known across the country for its fantastic food and local dishes, it has to be said that Lyon is, perhaps, the heart of everything French cuisine. One of the reasons for this is the traditional family-run restaurant that is known as a bouchon.

Each offers something slightly different, focusing on recipes handed down through the generations. Quenelle, for example, is a dish that takes either fish or poultry and turns them into delightful dumplings, dipped in breadcrumbs and served much like a sausage.

Speaking of sausage, the Lyonnaise saveloy is also a popular cured meat dish and sticking with the theme, they also offer Grattons, which you would recognise as pork scratchings, seasoned with vinegar, salt and pepper.

The region has not gone unnoticed by the most influential people in the food industry, and 20 restaurants in the area have a Michelin star rating. As well as the wealth of good eateries, Lyon is also famous for art, galleries, history, and museums, and the fact it has excellent transport links makes it an easy commute.

The property market tends to be quiet, so it could be some time before you find the perfect home, but it is still a great city to base your new life in.

4. Montpellier

Montpellier is a popular choice with expats as it is multi-cultural and has one of the largest selections of bilingual schools, making it an excellent place for families starting a new life in France. This means that children will be taught in both English and French, giving parents less anxiety about children not being understood in the classroom. It is a large and continually growing city, but it does have an awful lot to offer.

It may not be the best choice for expats seeking a retirement community as over 43% of the residents are 30 years of age or younger, leading to it being dubbed the city of youth. Part of this is because of the education, which does not end at the school level; Montpellier also has many prestigious universities. Of course, the young at heart may find this refreshing and enjoy sharing their community with young people.

Another good thing about Montpellier is the safety; it is one of the safest areas in the country, meaning you can enjoy your life without worrying about crime. The local transport network focuses on the Tramway system, which runs late into the evening, so anyone returning home in the wee small hours will still have access to safe public transport.

So, what’s the negative? Well, because it is such a famous city. There is a lot of competition for rental and purchase properties, which pushes the price up relatively high. Compared with some of the cities in France, Montpellier, although, as we previously mentioned, continually expanding, is one of the smaller cities. Is this a negative? We will leave that to you to decide. In the city centre, the green spaces are somewhat lacking, but they do focus on being eco-friendly.

5. Bergerat

Although technically a town, we will allow Bergerac into the list as a want-to-be small city. This is because we cannot leave out the Dordogne as a region of France. It is worth considering, and if you are looking for a larger, more city-like city, Bordeaux is an hour and a half commute away, meaning you can visit regularly and get your city fix.

The Dordogne is another trendy region of France, and with good reason. It’s known for its wine production and expats. Looking for accommodation will be delighted by the low rental and purchase prices on offer in the area. It’s also expat-central, with over 59% of residents in the Dordogne coming from Great Britain.

If you are a keen DIYer, you will find plenty of dilapidated buildings on sale incredibly cheaply, just waiting to be renovated. Of course, this is not a cheap way to achieve your dream home, but if you have time and skill, it can be a very satisfying way to begin a new life in France.

If you want something ready to live in, a stunning property in the area starts from just £100,000. The bottom line is that Bergerac is slightly isolated compared to many of the cities in the area, but for some people, this makes the dream even better. There must be a reason so many expats have chosen to call it home. The Dordogne and Bergerac have an exciting history and offer an excellent standard of life.

6. Nice

Another small-scale city worth considering is Nice. Set in the Riviera, it has the largest population, although some may still argue it is just a town. There is no doubt that the Cote d”Azur is a beautiful region, and many properties are situated on the coast.

This location is excellent for those looking to work in France as it is a big business area. It has been dubbed the city of tomorrow and has a thriving tourist industry, so depending on your line of work, French will be an advantage. Because of the stunning location, it is not at the cheaper end of the scale when renting or buying property. One-bedroom apartments tend to rent for around £480-£698 a month up to around £786 - £961 a month for something with three bedrooms.

The good news is that France offers a part-funded healthcare system, and 7% of wages are deducted at source to cover this service. It is considered an amicable neighbourhood, and you can quickly move between bustling and active city life or quiet and peaceful, getting away from all city life. When raising a family in the area, there are plenty of educational establishments, although they will be more French-speaking than bilingual.

However, if this is particularly important to you, check out the International School of Nice, which takes pupils from 4 to 18 and is a bilingual establishment. Post 18, the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis is well respected around the world and was attended by the renowned English philosopher Simon Critchley.

7. Toulouse

For our next choice, we are heading back to big-city living in Toulouse, which is the fourth biggest city in the country. It is far enough south to experience a year-round Mediterranean climate, making alfresco living part of daily routine. From an industry point of view, the area is famous for engineering.

Many professionals head there wanting to work at one of the two leading space centres: The Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales and Cite de l’Espace, both of which are excellent resources in the development of space travel, and it doesn’t end there. The city has also been dubbed the capital of Aeronautics and is home to the headquarters of Airbus. Some people call it the Silicon Valley of France.

Another great reason to choose Toulouse as your next home is the cost of living. It is incredibly affordable for a city in the Mediterranean region of France. One of the things you will notice when you stroll around the area is the number of pink brick buildings, which are also famous, giving it another nickname, the Pink City. You will also find stunning waterways, and you should look like a tourist and cruise on the Canal du Midi. If you enjoy getting outdoors, there are plenty of stunning visitors to enjoy exploring on fit, and you could also easily commute to the Pyrenees for some skiing and hiking fun.

The Takeaway

So, there you have it! A line-up of some of the best cities In France if you plan to pack up your life and move to the area. Don’t forget that here at Pinnacle Removals, we are experts in European relocations, and we are delighted to help you with the process from your first idea to the day you move into your new home.

Our team of experts has lots of experience and can answer some of the regularly asked questions. Why not get in touch today for no obligation, chat, and get a quote to see how we can help you find your new dream life in France?

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