The Top Retirement Towns in France
Volume XXI, Issue 33
What are the top retirement towns in France? And why?
Our clients ask us regularly where is the perfect location to retire. They have already decided it’s France, but what city or town? There’s been a bit of this topic in the recent French press and these are good questions. I have my own list for our North American clients which I’ve written and talked about many times in the past, but this article offers up the answers discovered from a survey done by Seloger.com related to the ideal places for health, housing and safety.
One must consider factors such as real estate options, healthcare, living conditions, and overall appeal. I would add to these factors climate, transportation/accessibility and community, which are reasons why my own list might differ from Seloger’s survey.
Cities that are large enough to have a good public transportation system also allow retirees to give up their vehicles, which not only saves money, but also removes the risk of us seniors having the need to own and operate a car. In my book, this is a big deal and a big advantage to living in Europe.
And what about language? How fluent are you in French? If not so great, then retiring to a town that has virtually no expatriate community with which you can communicate, commiserate and make friends, might feel very isolating and lonely indeed.
Seloger.com discovered in their survey that of the best cities for retirement, Nice claimed the top spot. It’s no wonder I’ve become such a devotee of the Riviera town.
According to the findings of their comprehensive report, the city of Nice ranked as the premier choice attributing that to various factors, notably its picturesque setting by the Mediterranean Sea, a wealth of museums, a vibrant cultural scene, and an array of activities tailored for retirees and beyond. The region’s landscapes, shoreline, and hinterlands played a pivotal role in this recognition. The city’s reputation for culinary excellence, embodied by its renowned traditional eateries, also contributed to its standing. The city’s proximity to Italy, a neighbor known for its culinary prowess, further bolstered its appeal. I agree with all of these and would add to them the city’s international airport and large American community as well as the fact that it’s France’s most moderate and sunniest climate.
Closely following in Seloger’s survey were Bordeaux and Perpignan. Completing the top five were Le Mans and Nancy, trailed by Angers and Clermont-Ferrand. To formulate this ranking, Seloger.com relied on six primary criteria. These encompassed the availability of healthcare facilities, specialized medical services, overall quality of life, local amenities, presented activities, and general allure. It failed to address those things I think are of utmost importance to Americans moving to France, who want to travel easily, quickly and inexpensively all over Europe and beyond. (So, I don’t agree with their list!)
Naturally, property prices were a decisive consideration, and this is where Nice encounters a significant hurdle. With an average price of 5,500 euros per square meter, the cost of real estate is considerably high, rendering it inaccessible for many budgets. I’ve watched Nice property prices double in the last 10 years. In fact, it’s the only city in France at the moment with prices increasing rather than going down or even staying stable. Okay, fair enough, but compare this with Paris, and you’ll find it a real bargain.
In a 2023 publication, Le Figaro highlighted Beaulieu-sur-Mer (ranked 22nd) and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (ranked 29th) among the country’s 30 most appealing retirement destinations. Notably, Nice did not feature in that list, but both of those are spitting distance from Nice and couldn’t be closer to perfect.
Here’s what the survey concluded were the reasons for their results:
Nice: the gentle seaside
Bordeaux: wine, gastronomy and dynamism
Perpignan: between sea and mountains
Le Mans: the best quality of life/price per square meter ratio
Nancy: for lovers of the East
Angers: the gentleness of Anjou
Clermont-Ferrand: in the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes
What are the criteria for choosing a city in which to retire?
Choosing a city in which to retire is not the same as choosing a city in which to raise a family or advance your career. To this I am in agreement.
Here were their main criteria:
• Health: opt for a city that offers privileged access to modern, specialized care, with a large number of healthcare professionals and a renowned hospital
• Quality of life: choose a municipality with green spaces, carefully planned urban development and that encourages soft mobility, such as bicycle paths and public transport
• Local services and housing prices: strike a balance between an attractive real estate market and quality local amenities
• Activities: leisure activities are essential for a fulfilling retirement. Opt for a dynamic city in terms of sports and social activities, cultural leisure and entertainment
• Attractiveness: study net migration, economic trends and the proportion of retirees in the local population to find a town with a good balance between calm and dynamism
So, where to retire? When they crossed these different criteria with the ranking of cities where it’s good to live, they arrived with a list of favorite cities:
1) Nice: the gentle seaside
Nice is renowned for its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. With its Promenade des Anglais, numerous museums and rich cultural scene, the city offers a wide variety of activities. Retirees can enjoy an active outdoor life, culinary delights and scenic beauty. The city is also very close to Italy. The price per square meter is high, around €5,500, but quality of life comes at a high price.
2) Bordeaux: wine, gastronomy and dynamism
Bordeaux is above all a region of vineyards, a lively urban atmosphere and the Garonne River…three good reasons to consider Bordeaux for retirement. The city also boasts an efficient public transport network and pedestrian-friendly facilities. If you want to spend your retirement tasting France’s finest wines, this is the place to be. However, you should be aware that Bordeaux remains a very attractive city. This means a high population density and square meter prices around €5,000.
What is not great about Bordeaux is its location far from an international airport. It’s only a two-hour train ride to Paris, but every time you want to fly away, you will be limited to the destinations one can reach from Bordeaux’s own regional airport. On May 23, a French law officially went into effect banning air travel between cities that can be connected by a 2-and-a-half-hour train ride. For the air travel ban to take effect, the two cities have to be connected via high-speed rail, and the connection has to be direct and affordable. That means Bordeaux has become even more limiting for travel.
For expatriates, Bordeaux is not all that welcoming. The wine industry is rather insular and I believe you will find their world very difficult to penetrate. The North American community there is growing, however, and you will find a few expatriates, but not nearly as many as in Paris or Nice and activities will therefore be limited, too.
Bordeaux is not on my list of favorites. At this price, you’re better off in Nice!
3) Perpignan: between sea and mountains
Perpignan enjoys a unique geographical location. The city offers easy access to both the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. If you enjoy hiking in the mountains or relaxing on the coast, Perpignan is the perfect city for you, not to mention its intrinsic quality of life and the beauty of its heritage. The price per square meter in Perpignan is around €2,000.
Yes, it’s very inexpensive, but there’s a reason for that, let’s not forget. The closest international airport is Marseille and that’s more than three hours of travel with a change of trains. There is no viable community there and culturally, limited.
Perpignan is not on my list of favorites, either.
4) Le Mans: the best quality of life/price per square meter ratio
Le Mans is a town on a human scale. Here, retirees can enjoy a peaceful lifestyle while having access to top-quality urban amenities. The city is also renowned for its sporting events, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As far as real estate is concerned, Le Mans is still an affordable city, but one that has seen a great deal of recent development. The price per square meter is €2,000.
Le Mans is an hour by train to Paris, so at least it’s a bit easier, but again, it lacks the elements I believe make for a great life in France for a North American transplant.
Le Mans is not on the list!
5) Nancy: for lovers of the East
Nancy charms with its authentic architecture and refined atmosphere. The city is home to some magnificent sites. If you prefer Eastern France to the rest of the country, Nancy is a more affordable option than Strasbourg, for example. The price per square meter in Nancy is around €2,700.
Strasbourg is still a better choice, even if a bit more expensive. That’s because it’s just a bit further by train, but it’s a city that has an international community thanks to it being the seat of the European Union Parliament and it’s close to the German border, so it offers more, too.
6) Angers, the softness of Anjou
Angers is quite often the most attractive city in which to live. The reason? The city of Anjou offers a beautiful living environment with green spaces, a rich gastronomic life, and proximity to the Loire castles and world-renowned vineyards. The price per square meter in Angers is €3,200.
An hour-forty-minutes from Paris by train is not bad, but Angers offers little for the North American expatriate. There’s an American-style bar in Angers, but that’s about it. You might be very bored indeed!
7) Clermont-Ferrand: in the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes
Seloger ended their ranking with Clermont-Ferrand. Nestled in the heart of the Auvergne region, the city offers an exceptional living environment. Here, you’ll find top-quality spa resorts, as well as a great deal of peace and quiet. The average price per square meter in Clermont-Ferrand is €2,300.
I’m glad this town is last on their list, because it’s last on mine, too. It’s smack dab in the middle of the country and you have nowhere to go. There is almost no expatriate community. I hope you speak very good French, because you’ll need it!
So, what cities are on my list?
3) Provence (region)
Remember, we have different criteria than most other retirees! This topic comes up almost with every consultation I do because it can be challenging for many to decide…but I can help you make the best decision before traipsing all over France to discover each city for yourself. If nothing else, I can help you map out an itinerary of the best candidate cities so you don’t waste your own valuable time and money.
To discuss where to live before you go traipsing all over France to try to discover all this on your own, you can easily book a consultation with me that I believe you find very enlightening indeed. Just click here to make that happen.
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. Hot off the YouTube press…”KJ and Tony Move to France” interviewed me this week with a list of questions, their own and some of their viewers. This is a couple who has fallen in love with France and decided to move to here in November 2022, but returned to the USA in February 2023 to address a health issue. They are now spending 2023-2024 recalibrating their efforts with a home base in Vero Beach, Florida and traveling back and forth to France. Their YouTube channel offers a long list of interesting discussions and interviews. To watch our discussion, titled “Moving from US to France Expat Q&A | Adrian Leeds Tips | Moving to France from US,” visit their channel.