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Best Cities in France for Expats


Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

4th Jun 2024 (Last updated on 10th Jun 2024) 9 minute read

France is among the biggest countries in Europe. Home to over 67 million people, there are currently 148,300 British expats living in France, according to the National Census.

Paris is the most popular destination for British nationals, with over 16,800 people residing in the capital. This equates to around 11% of UK expats in France. However, thanks to its large size, there are many regions and cities to explore in the country outside of Paris. Those moving to France from the UK have lots of options to consider.

In this guide, we discuss the best cities for expats in France beyond Paris. Whether you’re looking for a rural destination or a bustling city, France has a wide range of locations to choose from.

  1. Best Cities in France Besides Paris
  2. Does France Have a Strong Expat Community?
  3. Why are People Moving to France?
  4. Find an International Removal Company

Best Cities in France Besides Paris

While Paris remains the most popular location in France for UK expats, there are plenty of other options to look at. Whether you are looking to retire to a rural destination or looking to change careers in a new city, there are a lot of choices.

Here are the best cities in France you could consider moving to:

1. Bordeaux

Bordeaux is one of the major cities in France and is an ideal choice for wine enthusiasts. It is a port city located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France. As a port city, it boasts magnificent views of the Garonne River. There is also plenty to do thanks to the various art museums, galleries, and stunning architecture.

The city is steeped in history and has become a firm favourite for British movers looking to retire in France. If you are seeking employment, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a high demand for jobs, so make sure you secure a career before making your move.

2. Lyon

Lyon is the 3rd largest city in the country and is the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Located in southeast-central France, there are views of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It is a perfect choice for those wanting to live in a busy city without compromising spectacular views.

Those looking for work can benefit from Lyon’s corporate offerings. The banking, pharmaceutical and biotech industries are among the strongest in the city. There is also a push for business start-ups, making it a hub for entrepreneurs. There aren’t a lot of UK expats living in Lyon, which can appeal to those wanting to immerse themselves in French culture.

3. Marseille

Another city in the southern region of France is Marseille. It is the main city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and also the second-largest city in France behind Paris. It is a popular location for British expats with plenty of job opportunities and lots to do for retirees. Compared to Paris, property prices are a lot cheaper. However, the crime rate is higher than other areas of France, so it’s important to keep this in mind.

Despite being the 3rd highest populated city in France, Marseille boasts a relaxed lifestyle. This means expats can enjoy a large range of things to do without the hustle and bustle of Paris. Founded by the Greeks in 600 B.C., Marseilles is the oldest city in France. This makes it an excellent choice for those wanting to be surrounded by history.

4. Nantes

Nantes is based in western France in the Brittany region. It is renowned for its vineyards that produce the world-famous Muscadet white wine. Known for its strong industrial history, Nantes has one of the strongest economies in the country. This makes it a superb choice for Britons looking for work abroad.

Brittany is a Celtic region with lots of similarities to the UK lifestyle. This has made it a popular choice for retirees who want a mix of British and French cultures.

Nantes is home to one of the most significant castles in France, Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany). In 1840, it was declared a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

5. Nice

Nice is a southeastern city located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Its iconic coastline on the Mediterranean has made it a popular choice among British nationals for decades. Situated near the France-Italy border and Monaco, it is known for its tropical climate. Nice is a top choice for retiring Brits wanting to enjoy time in the sunshine. However, there are a lot of self-employed entrepreneurs based in Nice, making it a great place to build a strong business network.

Founded by the Greeks in 350 BC, there is plenty of historical architecture to admire. Nice is also home to 19 museums and art galleries, including the Musée Matisse and Musée Marc Chagall. These boast some of the most iconic works from their namesakes.

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6. Rennes

Rennes is in northwest France and is the capital city of the Brittany region. With a history spanning over 2,000 years, there is plenty of medieval architecture to admire. Over the last century, Rennes’ population has grown exponentially thanks to the industrial boom of the 1950s. This saw many people migrate from rural areas and has helped make Rennes an important telecommunication hub.

Those looking to start a career in the digital and automotive industries should consider Rennes. There is also a large student community in Rennes, making it a great choice for families.

7. Saint-Malo

Saint-Malo is located in the Brittany region in northwest France. It is a walled port city that is highly popular among tourists and British expats. Thanks to its seaside location, the main industries in the city surround maritime manufacturing. This includes shellfish food processing and shipbuilding.

Saint-Malo is a well-connected destination as you can easily visit other areas in Brittany including Dinard. There is also a ferry port that goes to Portsmouth, Poole, Jersey, and Guernsey.

8. Strasbourg

Those wanting to move to eastern France should consider Strasbourg in the Grand Est region. Sitting on the France-Germany border, it is known for its German-inspired architecture. Strasbourg is a popular option for students. For those looking to move to the city permanently, it is better for those who are proficient in French and are looking for a quieter lifestyle.

Strasbourg has a strong tourism industry due to the aesthetic of the city. It has strong financial and tourist industries, making it a great place for British nationals looking for a career change.

9. Toulouse

Toulouse is the capital city of Occitania, which is one of the southernmost regions in France. Sitting on the France-Spain border, Toulouse is one of the largest cities in the country. It has one of the largest UK expat communities, making it ideal for those wanting to balance French and English-speaking.

The economy of Toulouse is often associated with the aeronautics and aerospace industries. This makes it a great choice for those looking for highly-skilled work. It is also a popular choice among retirees thanks to its warmer climate.

10. Tours

Tours is based in northwest-central France and is the largest city in the Centre-Val de Loire region. It is known as the Le Jardin de la France (The Garden of France) due to the high number of parks and green spaces throughout the city.

There isn’t a large number of British expats based in Tours. However, it can be beneficial for those wanting to live in a traditional French setting. A lot of the British and American expats in Tours work as English teachers in the city.

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Does France Have a Strong Expat Community?

According to Compare My Move’s data, France is the 4th top international destination people consider moving to. The enquiries show that Paris is the most popular city. However, other locations throughout France are gaining traction among UK movers.

Here is a breakdown of the British expat community in France, according to the National Census:

Employed - 55,000 Expats

Most British nationals in France are in full-time employment with the majority living in larger cities such as Paris and Lyon. Some of the most popular jobs among British nationals in France include English Teaching positions. There is also a large expat community working in The Alps in the tourism trade. Employed Britons make up 37% of total UK nationals in France.

Retired - 53,000 Expats

Most retired British nationals opt for rural destinations with sparse populations. This is thanks to lower property prices and scenic views. Some retired expats seek to take advantage of hotter climates by living in seaside cities such as Nice and Toulouse. Retired Britons make up 36% of total UK expats in France.

Second Homeowners

France is a hugely popular destination for holiday homes and buy-to-let properties with 86,000 Britons owning a second home in the country. This is in addition to the 148,300 British expats.

Like British movers, second homeowners follow similar trends. This means that the majority of British-owned second properties in France are found in the main cities. There is also a large portion located near the Alps. Britons are the largest group of non-French homeowners.

Read more on Buying a Second Home

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Why are People Moving to France?

Whether you are moving to France for retirement or employment, there are plenty of factors that pull Brits in. No matter what your interests are, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Here are some reasons why people choose to move to France:


France is internationally regarded for its high-end cuisine. Boasting one of the best agricultural industries, they contribute to some of the best cooking in the world. This has led to France being home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other country. There are currently 625 establishments holding 1, 2, or 3 stars.

It is the world’s leading grape and wine producer and is among the top 10 for cereals and various vegetables. Some of the most popular French dishes include boeuf bourguignon, escargot, and moules marinières.


France is known for its pioneering art scene. Many art movements originated in the country such as Baroque and Rococo. Some of the world’s most famous artists in history were French including Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Paul Gauguin.

There are currently 339 art museums in France, including the Louvre in Paris, the largest art museum in the world. Other significant art museums outside of Paris include:

  • Musée national Marc Chagall (The Marc Chagall Museum) - Nice
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon) - Lyon
  • Musée des Augustins - Toulouse
  • Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs (The Museum of Textiles and Decorative Arts) - Lyon


Many people move to France thanks to the warmer climates in the southern region. Locations such as Nice, Marseille, and Montpellier boast higher temperatures and sunnier weather. The close distance to the equator makes it an attractive location for Brits looking to escape the grey and rainy weather.

The northern cities in France have colder temperatures similar to the UK, although this is less often. This is thanks to France’s continental climate compared to the UK’s maritime climate. Brits wanting to live in a location similar to the UK will benefit from cities such as Lille and Calais.

Find an International Removal Company

Compare My Move connects customers with up to 6 companies to assist with your removals to France. Use our international comparison form to compare quotes and save up to 70% on your shipping to France costs.

Our removal partners have Goods in Transit and Public Liability insurance in place. This is part of our strict verification process that all companies must pass to join our network. Some of our international partners are members of FIDI, although this is not a requirement.

Dave Sayce

Reviewed by Dave Sayce

Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.