France offers immense geographical, climatic and cultural diversity: snow-white alpine ski slopes, golden sandy beaches, beautiful vineyards, medieval villages, and vibrant cities. Are you thinking of moving to France from UK, USA or some other part of the world to live a better lifestyle? Here you will find the information you need about the best place to retire in France which ticks all your boxes. The Grand Nation affords many opportunities between the Alps and Pyrenees, Mediterranean and Atlantic coast. The choice where to live in France is yours.
Enjoying the heat in Provence’s summer.
Best Place To Retire In France
The large and extremely expensive capital of France is the most popular destination of the country and offers countless sights, culture, art, and history, but expats are unlikely to retire in Paris. The preferred regions are in picturesque Provence and on the Mediterranean coast of the Côte d’Azur.
Property prices and cost of living are relatively high compared to the more northerly departments of France. But we will show you where to find the best region in France.
Here is a list of the best cities in France to live and a guide how to retire early.
Best Cities In France To Live
For some people, the best place to retire in France is a city for closer access to entertainment, shops, and restaurants. The largest cities after Paris are Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, and Nice. Marseille is the third most important port city in Europe. The tourist magnet Nice is regarded as a city of the rich and beautiful – visible expression of this are its marinas.
A study from Market Inspector (in French) gives a great oversight which cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants offer the best quality of life for retirees in regard to the cost of living, public transport and access to healthcare. The property prices are based on the French notaires index (French land registry).
Advantageous Regions And Places To Live In France as a Retiree
Best Place To Retire In France For Brits: Nouvelle-Aquitaine
The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region not only boasts a mild and sunny climate but is also a privileged location between the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central in southwestern France. It merges the former Aquitaine, Limousin, and Poitou-Charentes and is the largest administrative region in France.
With twenty-five major urban areas, among which the capital Bordeaux (850,000 inhabitants), Bayonne, Limoges, Poitiers, Pau, and La Rochelle this is economically one of the most attractive areas in France. Its territory is slightly larger than that of Austria.
Here is an useful guide how to stay in France longer than three months and on how to immigrate to France.
A variety of landscapes, from the famous Bordelais wine region to the charming Dordogne valley, the peaceful plateau of Millevaches, the Limousin mountains, the mysterious Marais Poitevin marshes, the islands of Ré and Oléron, the picturesque Basque Country and the majestic peaks of the Pyrenees, invite to a wide range of leisure activities.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine offers endless beaches of fine sand, waves so popular with surfers, lakes, and ponds that invite water sports, pine forests with a wide network of cycle paths, health resorts with pleasant springs, ski resorts, and innumerable hiking trails.
Fine wining and dining in Capbreton.
Prices vary hugely within the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. The further inland, the cheaper it gets. The Dordogne, the British region of choice, is one of Aquitaine’s cheapest departments along with the more rural Lot-et-Garonne. The main reason for Brits moving to France from UK is the mild climate and the affordable housing.
Properties are available at affordable prices, starting from about 115,000 euros. Long-term rent for a two-bedroom cottage is about 650,00 euros per month. 10,000 Brits live among the total 400,000 inhabitants which makes for a large English speaking expat community. There may be more Brits moving to France after Brexit and with restless (or ruthless) politics more people retiring to France from the USA in future.
Where Is The Best Place To Retire In France Upscale?
The most expensive to retire in France – but beautiful: Provence and French Riviera (Côte-d’Azur)
The Provence is a region in the southeast of France. It lies on the Mediterranean Sea between the Rhône Valley and Italy. The river with the most water in France is the Rhone. Over millions of years, it has fertilized its surroundings, smoothed the hills and softened the climate.
Summers are not as hot as in Spain and winters are not as cold as in the mountains. It can get mountainous in the Provence, but these are nevertheless only the foothills of the Alps. The hinterland with its small villages, picturesque old towns, and Provencal markets invites you to explore.
Stunning Roman architecture in the Provence – Pont du Gard.
Why is the Provence and French Riviera the best place to live in France for a majority of expats? Because here you stand with one leg in the foothills of the Alps and at the same time with the other in the Mediterranean. This is the land of idylls and francophile dreamers.
The French Mediterranean coast on the border with Italy attracts expats, with a mild climate all year round and even in the winter months up to 15°C is possible on warmer days. With over 300 sunny days a year, the Côte d’Azur is ideal for sun-hungry expats. The French Riviera is the hottest place in France.
Magnificent coastlines and endless beaches are characteristic. You will find here some of the best cities in France to live such as Nice, Cannes or Saint-Tropez. They have famous names that everyone knows and that promises wealthy retirees a high standard of living. The largest cities are Marseille (858.000 inhabitants), Nice (344,000 inhabitants), Toulon and Aix-en-Provence.
You will find long-term lettings to rent in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, from 530 euros for a modern, furnished two-bedroom apartment. The average house prices depending on the department in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is between 180,000 - 420,000 euros.
If you are looking for a cheap home, you should rather look inland. Retirement villages in France get more popular as time passes. They may offer affordable housing despite the prime position.
Best Places to retire in France: South Of France On A Budget: Occitanie
Moving to the south of France with a limited budget is possible. Occitanie-Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the best places in south of France to go for a house hunt if you can’t spend an arm and a leg but you want to be close to the Mediterranean anyway.
Occitanie lies west of the Côte d’Azur/Provence and is the most southern region of France. Not everywhere is the best place to live in Languedoc Roussillon for expats who struggle to speak French, especially if you choose a home in a small village.
One of many fortresses in Occitanie.
Geographically Occitanie extends to the Spanish border and the Pyrenees. The Languedoc is often described in travel guides as the “untouched version of Provence”. It is as warm and sunny as the Côte d’Azur. The 200-kilometer long Mediterranean coast is lined with bathing resorts with fine pearl-like sandy beaches.
The interior is also varied. There are hilly landscapes with many vineyards and further inland the rustic mountains of the Cevennes. The region also has a lot to offer culturally.
Retiring in Languedoc, France, a great place!
There are attractive towns worth living in, such as Montpellier, Nîmes and the fortified town of Carcassonne, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another advantage of the Occitanie-Languedoc-Roussillon region is its low cost of living.
On average, Lozere is the cheapest department of Occitanie. Prices average around 85,000 euros. This compares to 216,000 euros in Herault, Occitanie’s most expensive department. In a typical provincial town, you can rent a sunny and unfurnished apartment with two bedrooms for about 600 per month.
Where To Live In France Close To The Pyrenees and Mediterranean Sea?
In the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, a mix of Catalan and French culture is alive with lots of festivals and opportunities to celebrate. Perpignan is a vibrant city with plenty of opportunities to find cultural and social activities. If it all gets too much, peace and quiet are on the doorstep in the Pyrenees mountains or on the Mediterranean coast.
The small historical town of Pézenas is one of France’s hidden gems in the South-East of the Occitanie region with a population of only 10.000. It is famous for being the city of art and history. At least three festivals entertain throughout the year: the festival of Pézenas Sous le Regard de Molière, a theater festival and a European festival of totem animals.
Pézenas may be the best place to live in France for British or English speaking expats in this area. It has a closely bonded international community of retirees which organize hiking tours and craft workshops. With only 1.5 hours to the next ski-slope and 1/2 hour to the beach, it offers a prime spot for all interests.
These books I read with great pleasure. They are funny and give a great insight to French culture and how it is to live in France:
Nice Places To Live In France For Swiss Expats: Burgundy
If there is one expression that best describes the people of Burgundy, it is certainly serenity. If you search where to live in France as if time has stood still, this is the place to be. In Burgundy traditions still, play an important role; there is no feeling of stress and the noise of big cities.
The life of many Burgundians still follows the rhythm of nature today. This region has the highest population of farmers, winegrowers, craftsmen and traders in family businesses in the country.
Our typical timber-framed Ferme Bressane in Burgundy.
Burgundy is located just to the east of the central area of France and is made up of four departments: Cote d’Or, Nievre, Saone et Loire and Yonne. Bourgogne (French for Burgundy) is best known for the wine produced in the area and its chateaux.
Some of the best cities to live in France like Beaune, Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône and smaller medieval towns like Chalon-sur-Saône, Tournus and Autun can be found here.
The department of Nievre has the lowest property prices in Burgundy with an average of 82,000 euros. Homes such as timber-frame houses offer a taste of traditional French life and it is possible to find some that have been sympathetically renovated, or that need renovating for an affordable price. Also, long-term lettings are available from about 700 euros per month.
This area is very popular for retirees from Switzerland because of its close vicinity to the French-speaking part of their country of origin and the cheap living costs, combined with a good healthcare system.
Best Places in France To Live If You Don’t Speak French: Brittany
There is an old saying that in Brittany (French: Bretagne) you can experience all four seasons in one day because of the rapid changes in the weather. Brittany was and is an inspiration for many painters and writers. The unique nature and numerous well-preserved sacred buildings and sights are an irresistible attraction, especially to Brits moving to France from UK.
Brittany’s landscapes are rich in contrast, and places steeped in history invite you to hike. Nature and culture of Brittany can be discovered on approximately 5,000 kilometers of hiking trails.
Flowers along the coast in Brittany.
From 125,000 euros you will find yourself a property in the Cotes d'Armor department. Most properties in Brittany are less than one hour’s drive from the sea. The closer to the sea, the more expensive it gets. If you are up to some renovation work, you can find properties around 34,000 euros. A refurbished two-bedroom cottage with furniture and garden costs about 450 euros per month.
Retire To France With Excellent Train Connections: Pays De La Loire
Pays De La Loire is a laid-back region with the main city Nantes hosting a population of about 900,000 people. Cheese, wine, and cider are the products of the region. Much of the area is rural and scattered with small villages.
Visiting chateaux in Pays de la Loire.
In this area, you will find some of the best towns to live in France for Brits, who need to head back to the UK regularly, because of the great connections by the Eurostar train. It’s only a little bit more than a four hours drive and Paris is only two hours away. Like in the Dordogne, a big community of British expats finds themselves in this area, too.
The Pays de la Loire is a cheaper alternative to Normandy or Brittany. Buying in Pays De La Loire can be as affordable as 80,000 euros for a two-bedroom house in the cheapest department of Mayenne. You can find a long-term rental from 450 euros per month for a furnished and refurbished two-bedroom apartment.
Best Place To Retire in France Between Ancient Volcanos: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Clermont-Ferrand is the capital of the Auvergne and is situated in the middle of the Puy-de-Dôme department. As one of the oldest French cities, it features some unique religious architecture like the Gothic cathedral and a Romanesque church.
The best area to live in France for nature lovers is the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, a massive hikers paradise lies just on your doorstep. Saint-Étienne is another remarkable town with architectural heritage and cultural gems.
Stunning hill-top villages in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, driving from the Provence to the Alps.
The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a region where to retire cheaply in France. The average price is 116,000 euros for an old house in the Auvergne and long-term rentals can be found for 500 euros per month for a studio.
It feels like the Provence of legend when driving through lavender fields, olive groves, and vineyards of the Drôme. The department north of the Provence and south of the Alps is much less touristy as the Provence and also offers a lot of sunshine and quaint medieval villages inspiring artists to paint and potter.
The price tags on houses are lower than in the Provence but you’ll have to pay more than in other departments of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Best Places To Retire In France For Expats Searching For A Happy Place: Grand Est
Alsace was renamed the Grand Est. It is the smallest and among others the happiest place with its capital Strasbourg one of the best cities to live in France (French analysts GLOBECO, THELOCAL.fr). The region is situated to the west of the Rhine. It is a popular place to live for German and Swiss nationals because of its close vicinity to both countries.
Germany and France influence the culture, cuisine, art, and language of the region equally. The climate in Alsace is characterized by distinct seasons and temperature differences with severe winters and warm summers. Wine is widely produced, but you can also enjoy the local beer.
Multicultural city, Strasbourg, in Alsace.
The average price for a property is about 200,000 euros and you can find a long-term rental for about 600 euros per month for a 70 m2, 3-bedroom apartment. The city of Strasbourg is more expensive.
Explore the region of your choice at a slow pace before you buy a property or rent long-term. Click here for accommodation.
Living In France Pros and Cons
- High taxes on property and income from property
- Bureaucracy is quite high in general but it has improved for the good with the internet.
- Value-added tax is applied to most goods and services which makes fuel, food, and clothes quite expensive. (Compare prices to UK and USA here)
- Toll roads throughout France are expensive. The TGV, or high-speed train, going in and out of Paris is pricey
- Opening hours of shops and offices are not exactly consumer friendly.
- A slower pace of life
- Great choice of affordable property
- Public transportation is good between cities and cheap international flights available
- Good wining and dining
- Stunning and diverse country.
Retiring to France post Brexit or from another country? Or, are you already living in France? Pro’s and con’s from your perspective help others to take the decision about emigrating to France. Please add your comments below.
Last but not least, I found some interesting books to prepare your retirement at its best: