France has everything we look for in a retirement destination at International Living: unspoiled countryside, a good climate, top-notch culture, excellent healthcare, colorful traditions and history, and, of course, the glitter and sophistication of Paris. It’s no surprise that France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with approximately 80 million foreign visitors each year.

While the country’s capital may be out of many expats’ budgets, there are still a lot of towns and cities where day-to-day costs are less of a drain on the wallet while still providing the best living in France. France should be on your list if you value good healthcare, a relaxed lifestyle, and all the modern conveniences you have at home. The cities and towns in France with the best value for money are listed below.

Best Cities In France For Good-Value Living

Sarlat-la-Canéda

Sarlat, with a population of around 11,000, is located in southern France’s heart of the Dordogne region. Sarlat provides big-city convenience and activities in a small-town setting, making it a delightful place to visit and a wonderful place to live. Narrow streets punctuated by quiet squares meander through the historical center, evoking romantic images of small-town France. Visitors are drawn to the area by caves with prehistoric paintings, castles guarding nearly every hilltop, and rivers quietly winding through forested valleys.

Sarlat is more than just medieval architecture and quiet lanes. It’s simple to stay active here, whether you’re canoeing the rivers, biking along country roads, or climbing limestone cliffs. Sarlat’s artistic side is highlighted by the Summer Theater Festival, Fall Film Festival, and Holiday Music Festival. Throughout the year, the Cultural Center hosts exhibitions and performances. The local food is just as excellent as the setting. The region is famous for truffles, which add a delicate yet musky flavor to many local dishes. Many of Sarlat’s restaurants serve goose, duck, and foie gras.

Prices have gotten higher in the last few years, and low-cost repairable structures are becoming more difficult to find. So, village homes can be found for €204,559 to €357,978, while renting a two-bedroom apartment will likely cost you €577 per month. Sarlat is situated far enough from large cities to provide a quiet, small-town life, but it is also easily accessible to the major cities of southwest France. Both Bordeaux and Toulouse are approximately two hours away by car.

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Bordeaux

While Paris is the crown jewel of France, Bordeaux is a gleaming diamond in its own right. This ancient city in southwest France’s famous wine-growing region has undergone a dramatic renaissance in recent years. Many cities have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their beauty and history. And Bordeaux is a wine lover’s dream, with everything from world-famous estates to small cellars that are little known outside of France. Bordeaux is located on the Atlantic coast. It is close to many beautiful sandy beaches. The beaches in the area are naturally wild, with scrubby pines, marshes, and enormous dunes. Hourtin Lakeside Beach is located on the shores of the largest freshwater lake in France, Hourtin Lake.

Bordeaux’s weather is typically mild, with summers neither particularly hot nor cold. In July, for example, average temperatures are only around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (though highs are around 79 degrees Fahrenheit), while the low in December is 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

In comparison to Paris, Bordeaux provides good value for money. If you want to be in a city in France, it’s an excellent alternative to the capital’s high prices. The real savings kick comes if you stay for the long haul. Furnished properties of 700 square feet for rent in the city center can be found for around €1,841 to €1,943 per month. It will be less as you move away from the lovely center.

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Pau

Consider Pau, a beautiful French city of 80,000 people just a few miles from the Spanish border, for a retirement option that genuinely delivers. Beautiful villas and mansions line the streets. They offer breathtaking views of the snow-capped Pyrenees. The city of Pau experiences mild, wet winters and mild, warm summers. Summer temperatures range from 68 F to 86 F, while winter temperatures hover around 54 F. With such weather, it is easy to see why European nobility flocked to the city for vacations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. So, its location allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds. This includes the closest ski resorts, and you can be at an Atlantic beach in an hour. Climbing, hiking, and cycling are all popular activities in the city. Pau is only second to Paris in terms of Tour de France stages hosted.

Pau is known for its love of sports. It is home to Europe’s first 18-hole golf course, which you can still play today. It has a Victorian-style clubhouse with a decidedly British vibe. It wouldn’t be France without a local wine, and Pau is famous for Jurançon, produced in only 25 towns and villages throughout the country. The most well-known is the moelleux (sweet) white wine, but they also make a dry one. Pau, on the other hand, has an excellent hospital and other health centers, an airport with connecting flights all over the world, and the TGV (Train Grand Vitesse) trains that run to places like Paris, Bordeaux, and Toulouse.

Property prices are reasonable compared to the United States but higher compared to cities of similar size in France. Pau is a university town, so buy-to-let apartments, particularly one-room studios, are popular investments. A full-time retirement home will cost around €245 per square foot, but apartments can be purchased for less than €18 per square foot.

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Best Cities For Expats To Live In

Montpellier, Paris, Brittany, Lyon, Luberon, Dordogne, and Provence are the top seven places to live in France for expats. These options are based on what we believe will be most important to those of you who are considering relocating. Check our table below for a summary, and keep reading for more information!

CityReason
ParisBest for nightlife
BrittanyBest for affordability
LyonBest for food and drink
MontpellierBest for families
LuberonBest for countryside
DordogneBest for retirement
ProvenceBest for beaches

Best For: The Nightlife

Paris

What better place to begin than in France’s capital? There’s a reason Paris is known as “The City of Lights” – imagine walking through the streets, illuminated by lights (neon) from endless clubs, full of anticipation for the night ahead.

This lovely city is well-known for its cultural offerings, which include the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Pompidou Center, and much more. Aside from this beautiful culture, those who enjoy the excitement of a night out will be pleased to learn that Paris is the epicenter of France’s nightlife. With over 4,316 bars to choose from, there is bound to be something for everyone.

Students and partygoers will be pleased to learn that the city offers a diverse range of pubs and clubs, including such household names as La Locomotive, Batofar, Chez Castel, and Le Montana. You are about to have the time of your life (if you manage to get your foot through the door at these upper-tier clubs).

The number of LGBTQ clubs in Paris is also growing. Over time, such establishments have sprouted throughout the city, primarily in the Marais district. The following are some of the most popular gay and lesbian clubs in and around Paris:

  • Open Cafe – Cafe-styled food and weekend brunch are available until 5 pm, with a happy hour from 6 pm to 10 pm for a more relaxed night out.
  • Le So What – Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, a lesbian bar is open for everyone to dance all night.
  • Le Cox – A gay bar open until 2 am every day to dance your worries away.
ProsCons
The bustling nightlifeHigher crime rates than other parts of France
Variety of restaurants and shopsHigh Rent prices (although not as high as London)
Wide range of history, art, and cultureCheap transport, but often unreliable
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Best For: Affordability

Brittany

Brittany is situated in the northwestern region of France and offers breathtaking views of rolling hills, a dramatic coastline, and historic towns. Many expats relocate to Brittany for various reasons, the most important of which is its affordability. Brittany is one of the cheapest places to live in France – but, unlike many other places, cheap does not always imply low quality.

Brittany is the peaceful home many seek, with over 700 miles of coastline to enjoy and endless countryside to explore. Its convenient location makes the journey back to the UK much easier and less expensive than from the south of France.

House prices in Brittany vary from area to area, as they do throughout the country. The average house in Côtes d’Armo (the cheapest area in Brittany) costs around €127,000, nearly half of what it costs in the UK (£234,370). If you want to live a more luxurious life on the coast, many expats choose to renovate abandoned barns – though this will be much more expensive in the long run.

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ProsCons
Affordable propertyThe climate is colder than Southern France
Countryside is beautifulIn the summer, some areas can become crowded
So much history to exploreNo big brand high streets for shopping

Best For: Food And Drink

Lyon

Let’s face it: wherever you end up in France, you’ll have fantastic food and drink access. It’s a country known for its delectable cuisine, and we couldn’t decide from so many different regions. But if we have to choose a place to live in France based on its food and drink, we’d go with Lyon.

Lyon’s food is distinguished from the rest of France’s cozy and charming ‘bouchons.’ Bouchons are traditional, family-run restaurants that serve delicious Lyonnaise cuisine dating back centuries. This French tradition is so essential in Lyon that the L’Association de Défense des Bouchons Lyonnais certifiés those bouchons that meet its authenticity standards each year, so you know you’re getting the real deal.

What food can you expect to find on Bouchon’s menu? Some dishes might surprise you:

  • Grattons (pork scratchings) – This is typically served as an appetizer, seasoned with salt, pepper, and vinegar.
  • Lyonnais saveloy (cooked cured sausage) – Although it is now made with pork meat, the original ingredient for this delicacy was pork brains. 
  • Quenelle – This is regarded as the pinnacle of Lyonnaise cuisine. These are dumplings made of minced poultry or fish coated in breadcrumbs and arranged in the shape of a sausage.

Around 70 of these cozy eateries can be found in Lyon, but it’s not just bouchons that help Lyon steal the culinary show. Lyon has many well-known restaurants and bars; in fact, Lyon now has 20 Michelin-starred restaurants as of 2019. You might be thinking about your waistline now, but don’t worry: authentic traditional Lyonnais food is made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

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ProsCons
Wide selection of food and drinksHigher crime rate than quieter areas of France
Art galleries, history and museumsShortage of property on the market
Good transport connections throughout the city

Best For: Families

Montpellier

Deciding a place to live is always a difficult task, especially when you have children to consider. If you’re relocating to Montpellier, this will be the last thing on your mind.

Common concern parents have when relocating to a non-English speaking country is that their children will struggle to learn the language. Montpellier’s variety of bilingual education institutions is one of its more appealing features for British visitors, making it much easier for children to settle in. The International Eridan School, Montpellier Business School and Ecole Privée Bilingue Internationale are the most popular schools for English speakers in Montpellier.

Montpellier has attracted a lot of attention in recent years due to its ever-growing size and education. This city offers a lot to the families, with museums, art exhibitions, playgrounds, beaches, and botanical gardens. You will be at a loss for where to begin.

This rapidly growing city has been dubbed “The City of Youth” because roughly 43% of its residents are 30 or younger, including approximately 70,000 students. So, the main reason young people are drawn to Montpellier is the abundance of clubs, pubs, and beaches and the number of universities and educational institutes.

Above all, when relocating, you must prioritize the safety of your children. Montpellier, like any other city in the world, is never completely safe, and it’s always a good idea to be cautious – but overall, it’s a very safe area of France. The tramway system is also an efficient mode of transportation for any late-night adventures you or your children may embark on, allowing you to relax.

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ProsCons
All sorts of education opportunitiesThe property prices can be high
Eco-friendly cityLack of green spaces in the city center
Top-notch transport linksSmaller city compared to other French cities

Best For: The Countryside

Luberon

This fairytale-like region of France is out in the sticks, but if you’re looking for peace, Luberon is the place to be. It was revealed in 2018 that France’s rural population was only 19.5%. That means you can look forward to endless peace in your new home, with no frustrating overcrowding.

This wonderful area has a rich history (dating back to the 10th century) and endless trail walks, gleaming gorges, and undeniably breathtaking views. If you’ve always wanted a simpler life, take the plunge and find it here.

This location is quite remote from big-name brands and high streets. But, the local markets throughout the towns will provide you with all the necessities on your shopping list, wine and cheese at the top of that list.

So, what can you expect from these markets? All the food is obtained locally so that you can expect seasonal fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and cheeses, a wide range of wines from local vineyards, and clothing handmade by people in various towns and villages.

Unrestricted nature also means unrestricted sport. You won’t need a gym membership this summer because there will be many opportunities for hiking, kayaking, canoeing, cycling, horseback riding, rock climbing, and even some natural swimming.

But what about the time in the dead of winter? On the other hand, the lucky people of Luberon are only a two-hour drive from the ski resort of Mont Ventoux. This is a small ski resort, but it beats flying around the world for your next snow fix.

If all of this natural business becomes too much for you and you crave the hustle and bustle of city life, you’re only a 40-minute drive from Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille.

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ProsCons
The countryside is beautifulIt is very isolated
Property is affordableFew expats in the area
Good connections to larger townsTransport is limited without a car

Best For: Retirement

Dordogne

What more could you want than beautiful countryside, historical architecture, low property prices, and an endless supply of wine? This historical region of France, located in a region of beautiful greenery, offers a slower pace of life that is ideal for retirement.

If you’re looking for more than a slew of British expats to make you feel at home, many of Dordogne’s architectural features are also distinctly British. As a result, British buyers account for 59% of the population in this region of France.

Property prices, like anywhere else, can vary depending on how much money you spend. Simple flats, cozy cottages, and traditional old farmhouses are available.

Many expats purchase an old farmhouse shell for a few thousand pounds and renovate it. However, you’ll need more than a few thousand pounds for this, as most renovations can cost hundreds of thousands. You can invest in one of the simpler and quaint Dordogne properties for as little as £100,000!

If you miss the hustle and bustle of city life, Bordeaux, France’s third-largest city, is only an hour and a half away. A day trip from the countryside to Bordeaux’s bustling streets will immerse you in everything you could need.

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ProsCons
Many of British expats in the areaSlightly isolated
Affordable HousingAmount of British expats can distract from the local culture
Lots of history to learn about the city

Best For: Beaches

Provence

Are you searching for some fresh air and fantasizing about salty sea hair? Don’t we all?

The historical architecture, culture, art, and endless tasty treats come to mind when thinking of France. It is not the multitude of white sandy beaches it offers. The French coast is dotted with lovely sandy coves. In particular, some hidden gems can be found in the Provence region. Brits have recently discovered this; as of 2018, 1200 Brits are enjoying the sun there.

Beaches are ideal for tranquility and relaxation when you’re not leaping over hordes of sunbathing tourists in the height of summer. See our picks for the most picturesque Provence beaches below:

  • Calanques de Cassis – Calanques de Cassis, famous for its crystal clear waters and surrounding limestone cliffs, is ideal for either relaxing and floating around the sea or hiking around the surrounding cliffs and forests.
  • Plage de Notre Dame – This is one of Provence’s more remote beaches, accessible only by a 30-40 minute trail walk. Because this area of Provence is protected, you can be confident that the beach will remain pristine during your relocation.
  • Plage L’Escala Beach is another off-the-beaten-path option. This beach is very family-friendly for tourists and popular among locals.
  • Plage Paloma – This lovely beach is hidden in a small cove in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Many kinds of water sports are available on the beach, and a few restaurants and bars in the surrounding area.
  • Plage Mala, Cap d’Ail is another beautiful hidden gem where you can experience euphoria while floating on a sea of blue and green.
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ProsCons
Stunning views and natureProperty is expensive
Many restaurants and barsTourists in the summer months
Wide variety of beaches

The Verdict

As you can see, France has something for everyone, whether looking for a more affordable retirement, resting up in the sun with a glass of wine, or living a joyful life full of clubs and nightlife. Hopefully, this article helps you decide which part of the country is best for you.