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Rural Towns or Major Cities? The Best Destinations for Expats

Choosing a place to live can be hard, especially in a country as diverse as France. InterNations gives an overview of four regions in the land of wine and cheese that are perfect for relocation.

At a Glance:

  • Expats from the UK prefer the Bretagne, with its picturesque villages and more than 2,000 km of coastline.
  • While the French Riviera impresses with its warm climate and mediterranean lifestyle, the southern Alpes are a great place for skiing.
  • Nice offers a high quality of life, but living there does not come cheap.
  • The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is known for its Basque culture and cuisine, as well as the fantastic wines from Bordeaux.
  • Outside of the ski resorts, quiet Alpine towns are a great place to get out of your expat bubble.


For many tourists, France is the perfect holiday destination — many of them travel from all over the world to the center of Europe to enjoy everything the country has to offer. By 2020, France is expected to welcome 100 million visitors each year. For some, France is more than just a two-week holiday, and they end up relocating to the country for good. Before you place a bid on your dream home, check out our overview of the different regions.

Discover Historic France in Brittany

Proximity to the UK may be the reason why many British expats decide to relocate to this part of France, but there are plenty of other reasons why Bretagne is a popular place to live. Located in the north-west of France, the region has 2,700 km of coastline with charming villages and pretty countryside. With a comfortable climate compared to the surrounding regions, the weather is generally milder near the sea. The region is divided into four departments, and the cost of living is relatively affordable. However, the closer you get to the coast the more expensive property will be. The Celtic lands of France (Bretagne and Pays de la Loire) are more affordable. Popular with expats, places such as Nantes — the former capital of Brittany — are known for their great quality of life and work-life balance.

Retreating to the Sunny French Riviera

If you’re looking for a place that’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the Provence-Alpes-Côte D’Azur is the place to go to. Lavender fields, southern Alps, and a stunning coast line are all found in this wealthy region. In the Haute-Alpes department you will find over 30 ski resorts, attracting many tourists during the winter months. While winter sports take place in the north of the region, the south is home to the French Riviera. The capital of this department is the fifth largest city in France: Nice. It’s a hub for technological research and one of the top French cities for a high quality of life. Relocating to this city with year-round sun is expensive, and it may be hard to find affordable accommodation. However, the average income in the area tends to be higher than other parts of France. Another popular coastal city is Marseille, the second largest city in the country. It is home to France’s largest commercial port, and many cultural and historic sites can be seen around the city.

The region’s beauty comes at a high price: the southeastern part of France is one of the most expensive areas of the country, especially in prestigious cities like St Tropez and Cannes. In the departments Alpes-de-Haute-Provence  and Vaucluse you can find cheaper properties in lesser-known villages that are slightly more inland.

From the Border of Spain to the Lush Countryside

After the restructure of the regions early 2016, three areas merged into what is now the biggest region in France: Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Near the Spanish border is the Basque region filled with its own distinct culture and cuisine. Dordogne is one of the twelve departments in the region and a popular expat destination thanks to its beautiful villages and scenery. The area is easily accessible by train, car, and plane, with the main airport situated right outside Bordeaux. The capital of the region is the largest urban World Heritage site according to UNESCO, and they don’t call it a city for bon viveurs for no reason! Bordeaux is one of the many cities in the region that has mastered the art of making fine wine. The coast is also a popular destination for both tourists and expats, with harbor town La Rochelle being one of the main attractions.

As the region is so large, cost of living and property prices vary immensely. While Bordeaux is one of the most expensive areas in the region, property in Dordogne can be a bargain if you avoid the tourist towns. The style of properties also differs: while you’ll typically find French village houses throughout the region, near the border of Spain you’ll also stumble upon Basque-style houses with colorful exteriors.

Quiet Pace of Life in Alpine Towns and the Gastronomic Capital

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is one of the biggest regions in the country, and it’s composed of eight departments. Most tourists will flock to well-known ski areas in Savoie and Haute-Savoie, but Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has many hidden gems. Almost one third of the region’s population (over 7.7 million) reside in the capital, Lyon, which is often described as “the stomach of France”. Besides this dynamic city, there’s plenty of other areas to explore. Various alpine towns like Chamonix, Grenoble, and Annecy are famous for their old towns and surroundings. Outside the ski resorts you won’t find too many expats and meeting French locals is easier. Depending on the area, the cost of living varies immensely. If you’re looking to buy property near the French Alps, it’s recommended to look outside the famous ski resorts — like Courchevel and Val Thorens — because the region has much more to offer besides these tourist destinations. If you head south to Luberon, you’ll find the breathtaking lavender fields in full bloom around Summer time.


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