In this article, Compare My Move explore the 7 best places in France to live as a British expat. If you're looking to join the estimated 148,800 British citizens currently living in France, you'll need to decide which part of France you are going to call home.
We take a look at the best cities and areas for expats to live in and asses some of the living costs you may expect to pay including average costs of renting or buying a property. We also take a look at why these areas are so great to live in and what fantastic things you can do to pass the time. So, before arranging your removals to France, let's explore which area you should call home.
Let’s kick this off with the most obvious option when it comes to living in France, the capital – Paris. Brits have always flocked to Paris both because of its integral part as a business hub of Europe but also because of its rich culture and romantic atmosphere. Affectionately known as The City of Light (La Ville Lumière), Paris is actually the most visited capital city in the world and for good reason. It has many famous attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and The Louvre that pulls droves of tourists to the city every year.
Although data on the exact number of Brits living in Paris is not available, stats show that 10-14% of all expats living in the country are based in the Ile-de-France area which includes Paris and its surrounding area so therefore representing around 14,880 to 20,832 of the expat population being in or close to the Paris area.
Paris is a notoriously expensive city to live in and is comparable in many ways to the cost of living in London in the UK. Renting an average three bedroom house in the city centre could cost you around €2,400 and buying a property in the same location could set you back €9,800 per square meter. Paris is certainly not the place to live if you want to experience French living on a budget, but it does offer a beautiful and exciting area to live in.
The city of Montpellier offers a cheaper but in many ways as interesting living experience as Paris. It also offers a slower pace of life and is loved for its beautiful boulevards, family-run bakeries that let out mouth-watering smells and stunning white sandy beaches right on its door step. The city is steeped in history and allows for endless days wondering around the city enjoying the sites and taking in the architecture.
Official figures of exactly how many expats live in Montpellier are not available, however the region in which it is based is very popular amongst Brits that move to the country. The Occitanie region is predicted to hold 15-19% of the overall population of British living in France, which would equate to 22,320 to 28,272 in individuals living there. This popularity is due to the relaxed nature of the city and the benefits of warmer weather compared to northern France and the UK.
Living in the area is more affordable in comparison to living in the bustling capital of Paris. In terms of rent you may expect to pay around €590 a month for a single bedroom property in the city centre, or around €3,300 per square meter if you wanted to buy a property in a similar location.
The city of Nice is based in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and is the second biggest in the region after that of Marseille. The city is famed for its beautiful warm climate and it’s Promenade des Anglais which gives visitors a stunning walk along the coast. However, the biggest pull of Nice to Brits looking to move to the area is its rich culture and charm which is taken in at a slower pace of life.
If you visit it will quickly become clear that Nice is popular with Brits, although we cannot say exactly how many live within the city. We know that 5-9% of the total British population are based in that area but this is split between Nice, Marseille, Cannes, Toulon as well as other towns and cities.
Living in the area is one of the more expensive options when stepping outside of Paris. For example, the average monthly rental on a one bed city centre flat could set you back €770 and the equivalent to buy is estimated at around €4,500 per square meter. Living costs are also generally higher with eating out, costing 30–40% more than a cheaper alternative such as Montpellier. However, for those that can afford it, Nice is an excellent option for a high quality of life.
If taking a step out of city of living is more your thing then one of the best places to live in France is undeniably the Dordogne. This stunning area based just outside of Bordeaux is full of beautiful little villages and picturesque countryside. The area is also rich in history and loved for its fascinating sites of note such as the prehistoric cave paintings in the Vézère Valley, the Cathedral St-Front in Périgueux and the Vesunna Museum which is built around Roman ruins.
The area stretches across the Nouvelle-Aquitaine area of the country which is the most popular with Brits, homing 20-26% of the entire British population of France. The area is generally loved for its delicious food and world famous wine.
The cost of living in the area varies, although it is noted as cheaper in general than the average across the country. For example, you would expect to pay less in this area than in a city, average house prices are around €125,000 which is significantly cheaper than elsewhere. With so much incredible food and drink being produced on your doorstep you may also expect to pay less for these.
For those that love the idea of living near the Dordogne but aren’t up for country living, Bordeaux offers an excellent opportunity. However, the city isn’t just great due to its close proximity to the area, but is a fantastic city to live in regardless. This popularity is due to a number of factors including its stunning architecture, incredible and immersive culture and key attractions such as the world leading Cité du Vin wine museum and the Place de la Bourse.
Many Brits flock to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine area in which Bordeaux is located, with an estimated 29,760 to 38,688 expats located there. The reason behind this may be the lower living costs when associated to the UK, yet still providing a very high quality of life. In fact, living in Bordeaux could cost you 4.82% less than living in London. Rental costs are reasonable for a city, with rent on a one bedroom house in the city centre reaching around €580. Whereas if you want to purchase you would be paying close to the sum of €4,000 per square meter.
The biggest city in the popular Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and the third biggest metropolitan area in France as a whole, Marseille is growing as a popular place to live in for Brits. Although in the past the area has had a bad reputation for high petty crime rates compared to the rest of France in recent years this has gone down rapidly with the introduction of CCTV and other security measures in the main areas of the city.
Given its previous reputation, the major benefit of living in Marseille is that the cost of living is epically low in comparison to the rest of the country and the UK. Figures suggest that living in the city is 20.54% cheaper than living in London, with rent on a one bedroom flat in the city centre at around €540 per month or €3,000 per square meter to buy.
For those that love their architectural and historical culture, Lyon offers it in spades. The city is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site which means that it is of such importance that it is protected by a worldwide organisation. Not only is it stunning but it also offers some of the most famous gastronomy in France. Both of these factors results in it being a massive hit with Brits looking to move to the area.
However, all these positive points do not come cheaply. In fact living in Lyon on average is only 2.19% cheaper than living in London. Rent for a one bed flat in the city could set you back an average of €700 a month and purchasing could cost you €4,500 per square meter.
We hope this article has helped start your research into living in France. You can take your planning to the next stage by reading our guide on the costs of living in France, and for those planning to make a lifelong dream a reality, check out our guide on retiring to France from the UK.
Once you have a good idea of the area you'd like to move to, check out our guide to moving to France from the UK for all you need to know about the process.
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