France as a nation seems to embody the idea of having its cake and eating it – they really do have something of everything. From gorgeous rolling countryside, to sunkissed southern coasts, to elegant cities, there’s a wealthy of options open to property buyers looking in France. Today, we’re exploring the Republic’s urban centres: its best cities for expats. Come with us to discover which is the best French city for you.
We couldn’t start without mentioning the ‘City of Light’. Possibly the most iconic city in the western hemisphere, Paris holds the crown as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Its elegant Haussmanien buildings are instantly recognisable, with their grand facades, exquisite detailing and simple colouring. This is a city that’s ideal for those who like to be in the centre of everything – boutiques, restaurants, shopping, museums, galleries, monuments, they’re all within easy reach. And when we say easy reach, we really mean it. The efficient public transport system, between the Métro and overground trains and buses, can take you anywhere without the need for a car. Plus, of course, you’re only a Eurostar away from the UK – perfect for hopping over to your pied à terre on the weekend!
Heading down to the southwest, we find the elegant city of Bordeaux. Known for its wine and, again, elegant architecture, this is a major metropolis on a liveable scale. Its wide avenues and grand centre bring to mind its long history – and have earned it the distinction of UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a shared history – the city was one of the homes of the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, who later became Queen of England. The surrounding suburbs have easy access to the gorgeous countryside of the Gironde.
This ancient city – which has existed since Roman times – has a modern edge to it. It is praised by commentators and experts for its environmental qualities and, in fact, received the European Green Capital award in 2013. Of its more than 100 parks, the most famous is the Jardin des Plantes, dating back two centuries. Sitting on the Loire, the city is ideal for those who want the convenience of a medium-sized city, but still want to be able to explore the gorgeous Loire Valley and its châteaux on your weekends.
Lyon, pronounced Lee-on and not Lye-on, sits in the sunny southeast of France. It’s a city for foodies, known for its gastronomy and heralded by Curnonsky as the ‘food capital of the world’. Many of its dishes are emblematic of French cuisine in the UK, such as coq au vin and marron glacé. The city enjoys a pleasant climate, neither hot, nor cold, with a yearly average of 12°C/54°F.
This small city, with just around 120,000 inhabitants, is bursting full of history. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca, who once ruled over the region, keeps watch over the city from its perch on the citadel. The Place de la République is a gorgeous small square, with plenty of cafés in which to sit and enjoy the southern sunshine. And by sunshine, we mean sunshine. There are over 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, with an average summer temperature in the high twenties.
It may very difficult to resist making puns about how nice Nice is, but there’s more to it than its accidentally correct name. The famous seafront has attracted visitors from overseas for over a century, especially the Promenade des Anglais. Like Lyon, it’s known for its cuisine – we’re all familiar with the eponymous salad. The beach may be more shingle than sand, but the sea is warm and the summer temperatures regularly hit 30°C/86°F. The elegant Place Garibaldi, lined with historic buildings in beautiful pastel tones, is a wonderful location to spend a lazy afternoon enjoying a cup of coffee (or tea without milk, if you dare) on a summer’s day. The city really suits those looking for a ‘the good life’, with lots of good food and wine, excellent weather and a lively social life.
If you would like further advice on the buying process in France, download your free France Buying Guide
Why not split the cost and double the fun of owning a holiday in France by buying with family or friends? Read our guide to Buying Abroad with Family
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