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In this article, Compare My Move explore the 7 best places to live in France as a British expat. If you're looking to join the estimated 300,000 British citizens currently living in France, you'll first need to decide which area 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 with Compare My Move, let's explore the best places to live in France.
Let’s begin 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. Also known as The City of Light (La Ville Lumière), Paris is actually the most visited capital city in the world. It has many famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe 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 Brits living in France are based in the Ile-de-France area, which includes Paris and its surrounding area, therefore meaning that around 14,880 to 20,832 of the expat population are in or close to Paris.
Paris is a notoriously expensive city to live in and is comparable in many ways to the cost of living in London. Renting an average three bedroom apartment in the city centre could cost you around €2,582 and buying a property in the same location could set you back €10,997 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 lifestyle.
The city of Montpellier offers a cheaper but as interesting living experience as in Paris. It also offers a slower pace of life and is often loved for its beautiful boulevards, family-run bakeries and stunning white sandy beaches that are right on its doorstep. The city is steeped in history and allows for endless days wandering around, 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’s based is very popular amongst Brits. The Occitanie region is predicted to hold 15-19% of the overall population of Brits living in France.
Living in the area is more affordable compared to living in the bustling capital of Paris. In terms of rent you may expect to pay around €612 a month for a single bedroom property in the city centre, or around €3,333 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 after 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.
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 this area but this is actually split between Nice, Marseille, Cannes and 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 rent for a one bed city centre flat could set you back €767 and to buy, the equivalent is estimated at around €5,200 per square meter. Living costs are also generally higher with eating out costing 30–40% more than a cheaper alternative like Montpellier. However, for those that can afford it, Nice is an excellent option for stunning views and a high quality of life.
If taking a step out of city 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 like the prehistoric cave paintings in the Vézère Valley 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’s noted as cheaper than the average cost of living in France as a whole. For example, you would expect to pay less in this area compared to a city as 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. This popularity is due to a number of factors including its stunning architecture, incredible and immersive culture and key attractions such as the world's leading Cité du Vin wine museum and the Place de la Bourse.
Many Brits flock to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine area it’s located in, with an estimated 29,760 to 38,688 expats located there. This may be because of the lower living costs compared to the UK, yet with still a very high quality of life.
In fact, living in Bordeaux could cost you 4.82% less than living in London making it a great choice for those moving to France from the UK. Rental costs are reasonable for a city, with rent on a one bedroom apartment in the city centre reaching around €592. Whereas if you want to purchase, you would be paying close to the sum of €4,895 per square meter.
The biggest city in the popular Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Marseille is growing as a popular place to live for Brits. Although the region has had a sketchy past, this has greatly improved in recent years 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 typically 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 588€ per month or €3,097 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’s of such importance that it’s 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 653€ a month and purchasing could cost you €4,667 per square meter.
To help with your move across the pond, it’s highly recommended to hire a reliable international removals company to get your items safely to your new home. There’s only so much work you can do by yourself, so take some of the weight off of your shoulders and find a trustworthy and experienced removals team to aid you through this chaotic time.
As well as being able to professionally pack your belongings ready for transit, a removals company can also help you find a secure storage facility to protect your items until you’re settled in and ready to have them delivered to your new home. Find the right team of movers for you and don’t forget to compare international removing companies to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.
We hope this article has helped start your research into living in France. For those planning to make a lifelong dream a reality, check out our guide on retiring to France from the UK for another perspective on this beautiful country.
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