Best French Cities to Live in 2021
Tired of living in a city you don’t like? Looking for a place to settle down to earn quality of life? To be completely happy, it is important to live in a pleasant environment, which you like, and above all that corresponds to your deep needs. In this article, I give you my ranking of the 10 most liveable cities in France.
What is reflected in my ranking: the different statistics that exist (labor market, security, proposed activities, ..), weather and geographical considerations (sunshine, proximity to nature, …), and obviously my personal feelings and my subjective impressions when I went there.
Obviously, this ranking of the best cities in France has no scientific value, and I am far from having seen the whole of our beautiful country. On the other hand, if I can give you ideas or desires, then I would have succeeded in my mission. Go!
Top 10 major French cities where it’s good to live
Let’s start with the big cities. Personally, I am now more and more attracted by small towns and nature (I will end my life in the countryside, for sure!), but I know that many of you need the dynamism that a large city brings. So here is my ranking of the major French cities where it is good to live:
These are the top 10 best cities to live in France;
1. Angers: the most family-friendly
The safest city in its category (between 250,000 and 500,000 inhabitants), Angers has real advantages in terms of quality of family life. Indeed, the city provides essential services for young parents in search of a new address.
From nursery to university, Angers is the highest rated in terms of accompaniment. Other strengths: on the employment and security side, the results are also there.
2. Besançon: the highest tech
Two hours from Paris, the capital of Franche-Comté is modernizing a little more each year. Renowned for its tradition in watchmaking, Besançon has been able to put itself in the age of new technologies. Among other things, it now has a center of technological excellence in nanotechnology and biomedical.
In fact, this student city (one in five people) is very attractive because it opens up opportunities in research. To carry out its entire economy, the city has also developed its transport into an efficient urban network.
3. Clermont-Ferrand: it looks like the south
With only 90 days of rain per year, Clermont-Ferrand is the surprise of the ranking. In addition to its mild climate, this large city (approximately 460,000 inhabitants) is the best place in its category in terms of employment.
On the other hand, and thanks to its university hospital, the Auvergne guarantees its inhabitants quality medical care, and access to leading hospital services. Another bonus point is that delinquency has a rather low figure.
4. Marseille: like the capital, the sun in addition
Like Paris, the Phocaean city is an extremely attractive hub for many obvious reasons. An extensive transport network and very good accessibility: with stations and an airport that serve the rest of the European continent. France’s second-largest city has the advantage of its size over its southern cousins.
More people come to live there because it offers more jobs, leisure activities, and quality hospital services. Another argument for younger students can benefit from quality education at reputable colleges such as Aix-Marseille University.
5. Montpellier: health champion
Last year, cities in the West now outpace those in the South. But there remains an exception that confirms the rule: Montpellier. The capital of Languedoc-Roussillon won the prize for the city where it makes the best living in 2012.
An attractiveness that is evident in the figures since only 23% of the population was born in Montpellier itself. Called “the gifted” by its former mayor George Frêche, the metropolis enjoys the best health care, ahead of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Rennes.
The reason: it welcomes in its well-equipped hospital the fine flower of caregivers, and indeed the largest number of specialized doctors and private clinics in the country. On the sun side, it is 3rd just behind Marseille and Toulon.
6. Nantes: the greenest
Just a few kilometers6. from Rennes, the economic capital of the Far West is a “green” pearl. Indeed, the city of the Dukes of Brittany will be the future green capital of Europe in 2013, because of its efforts for the environment and sustainable development.
The city has 100 parks and gardens covering a total of 215 hectares. On the real estate side, prices are two to three times expensive than in Paris (2,438 euros per sq m). Well placed in terms of jobs, Nantes is also the most dynamic of the metropolises of France, ahead of Toulouse and Marseille.
7. Poitiers: the champion in all categories
Whether to work or live, the most suitable city in France is Poitiers. At the top of the rankings for these two criteria, the capital of Poitou is a true haven of peace. In addition, dynamic and accessible, it meets all the qualities of a “normal city”.
This human-sized city (about 250,000 inhabitants) is also a fairly good employment field. A promising sign for young people, since currently in the city, one in nine people is a student. You’ll know, Poitiers isn’t just about Futuroscope!
8. Rennes: dynamics
It was known that the south was popular due to milder weather. Surprise in the rankings, good weather is no longer the most important criterion. To choose their new home sweet home, the candidates at the start pay more attention to the living environment in general.
This is how Rennes won the bet in the group of metropolises with more than 500,000 inhabitants. Because its record is positive: a very good level of security, proper family supervision and a quality cultural life. On the labour side, the capital is second in terms of employment and 4th in terms of economic dynamism.
9. Saint-Etienne: first on housing
While real estate prices in Paris are slowly falling between 8,440 and 8,270 euros per sq m at the end of 2012, provincial cities seem to be defying all competition. This is how the former mining town, Saint-Étienne, stands out. Its attractiveness, it owes it to some of the lowest land prices in France. Indeed, the average price per square metre observed is in the range between 2,500 euros and 2,700 euros (source PAP).
Another strong point, the big city can boast a correct balance sheet on the theme of security.
10. Tours: Queen of Employment
Crisis obliges, exiles from big cities like Paris are looking for their new address of work, more affordable real estate prices as well as an effective health offer. This is exactly what they will be able to find in Tours.
Unemployment is not very high relative to the national average and installation costs are affordable. In addition, Paris is less than an hour away.
In addition to the Top 10 Best cities to live in France (2021) list, webbspy have added an additional seven cities for your better understanding.
11. Bordeaux for its dynamism and atmosphere
The two times I went to Bordeaux, it was raining ropes. You can’t say that weather level, I can give it a good rating. For the rest, the city is nice. She has undergone a real facelift in recent years. Before, many people didn’t like its atmosphere too much because of the pollution-blackened facades. Things have changed now, and Bordeaux is one of the pretty French cities, unquestionably.
We eat well there (as everywhere in France, that said), and of course wine lovers will find their happiness in the many bars of the city center.
Other advantages of Bordeaux, note the presence of the sea two hours away, it’s a bit far but it can still be done to spend the day in the beautiful season. The city is dynamic, student, and culturally it is among the best in France if we leave Paris (the Lyonnais and Lille will hate me).
Among the negatives, Bordeaux has the reputation of being sometimes a little snobbish or haughty, something I personally did not feel when I went there. It’s up to you to judge!
12. Toulouse, for its climate and its sporting dynamism
The pink city, and eternal rival of Bordeaux (the footballers know the famous derby of the Garonne), is not left behind in terms of quality of life.
The great strength of Toulouse is its climate: the rate of sunshine is one of the best in France, so if you live in the northern half of France and you are tired of the greyness, it may be the ideal city for you.
Toulouse shines in France especially through football and especially rugby. Culturally, the city is not left out: it hosts many festivals throughout the year.
In terms of the labor market, it is obviously the aeronautics that we think of when we mention Toulouse. Aviation also participates in tourism in Toulouse. For example, you can visit the Concorde or discover behind the scenes of the a380’s manufacture, for enthusiasts of the subject. Philippe recounts all this in detail in his article on Toulouse, on Expedia.
For me, Toulouse has two drawbacks: first, relative insecurity. I find that the streets, even in the city center, are not always very safe, especially at nightfall. And secondly, the cost of living: to stay well and in a nice neighborhood, it’s not given …
The last positive point that comes to mind for Toulouse, the proximity to the sea AND the mountain, less than two hours’ drive each. So easy to get out of the city for a weekend and go to recharge in the Pyrenees or on the Mediterranean beaches.
13. Nantes for its warm side
Let’s go up a bit but keep heading west. Nantes, at the gates of Brittany, is probably one of the cities in the northern half of France where life is the most pleasant. So certainly, the climate is not terrible (it rains often, anyway). But the quality of life is appreciable.
The Nantes are welcoming, open, and it is easy to make a hole, unlike many cities where people put more distance with newcomers.
Delinquency is still quite low in Nantes, for a city of this size (although there are neighborhoods to avoid clearly).
Culturally, Nantes is behind Bordeaux and Toulouse, but it defends itself. For my part, there is near Nantes the famous metal festival, Hellfest, where I go almost every year.
14. Montpelier, for the sea and the sun all year round
To tell you the truth, I seriously considered moving to Montpellier in 2015. It didn’t happen because finally, I went on a trip (I write these lines from Sweden, again!), and I decided again to move abroad, after several successive expatriations.
In short, I would not say that I had the crush for Montpellier, but almost. The city center is really nice, the Place de la Comedy is beautiful. It’s always beautiful (or almost). The sea is within tram range. The people are nice (I didn’t expect that, honestly). And there’s always something to do, it’s a city where you never get bored.
The big drawback of Montpellier is the labor market, which is struggling to take off. Before you embark on an on-site facility, find out about the opportunities in your industry, it would be a shame to flop for professional reasons.
15. Lyon, for its dynamism at all levels
I really like Lyon, personally. The city is big, but I think we breathe. It gives off good waves. The first ski slopes are a two-hour drive (a little more if you fall into traffic jams, one of the big drawbacks of this city yet served by the metro), so no problem to go and get some fresh air in the wild.
Professional level, there are opportunities in all sectors in Lyon, especially perhaps in the field of start-ups and new technologies.
The city is one of the most dynamic in France at many levels, sport, and culture in mind.
For me, the main drawback is that there is no sea at hand: it is one of the criteria on which I find it difficult to compromise. And the nice neighborhoods of the center are still frankly expensive in terms of rents (the Croix-Rousse, for example, the neighborhood a little bobo of Lyon, costs a real blind).
The Top 10 Best cities to live in France (2021)
I said in the intro, I know that not everyone is a fan of big cities. Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s possible to find an excellent quality of life in small provincial towns (these are the ones that attract me more and more, personally). The main obstacle to this type of city is often the labor market. Either they will turn to a single type of industry, or there will be no work at all. Below is my personal selection of what is best in France, for my taste.
Die (Drôme), for the nearby mountain
Located at the foot of the Vercors massif, Die is resolutely nature-oriented and will delight lovers of the great outdoors. The atmosphere is a bit hippie chic in the city, it will not suit everyone, it’s clean and clear. But the cost of living is affordable, and the job market in the Rhône-Alpes region is pretty good. Valencia, Montélimar, Gap, and Grenoble are at a safe distance if needed to work, shop or enjoy city life.
16. Biarritz (Basque Country), for the sweetness of life
Let’s leave the mountain and head to the seaside in the Basque country. Biarritz is a city on a human scale, feet in the water and head in the sun. The gentleness of life on the coast, the kindness of the people of the south-west, and the good food make this corner of France a real piece of paradise.
The Spanish border is within gun range, ideal for those looking for a bit of a change of scenery.
The main drawback of Biarritz is the cost of living. Without being as high as on the French Riviera, plan a good budget to live properly. Ah, and also, tourists can be invasive in the summer. It’s up to you to see if you like it or not.
17. Cherbourg (Normandy), for its Irish air
A city that has no tourists here is one! Cherbourg, nestled at the top of the tip of Cotentin, in Normandy, is areally quiet little town, perched in the middle of beautiful nature. The tip of the Hague has a taste of Ireland, and its old stone villages leave no one indifferent.
Cherbourg was elected several years in a row ‘the safest city in France’. And it is felt in the streets of the center: there is a sweetness of life, a tranquility among its inhabitants, which is becoming more and more rare in France.
The weather, no matter what you say, is rather pleasant: the Gulf Stream keeps the city cool in the summer and brings mildness in the winter. Ideal for those who don’t like cold or hot weather.
On the other hand, if you are looking for hectic city life, go your way: whether for shopping or nightlife, Cherbourg has no interest. Up there, the main activities are to walk in nature, by the sea, and to make his market with the little old.
Finally, in terms of work, if you are ready to work in nuclear, you will not have any worries, otherwise, it can be difficult to make your hole.
18. Périgueux (Dordogne) for its historical heritage
Let’s go down to the southern half of our beautiful country. Périgueux is in the heart of the Périgord, in the Dordogne. Simply one of the most beautiful regions in France. Lovers of nature and old stones will find their account.
The city itself is pleasant, sweet, and steeped in history. Walking through its alleys is a real pleasure. The disadvantage of the city are the traffic jams and the public transport network (in fact this is the case of many cities of this size, which have not always been very well thought out at the origin…).
19. La Rochelle, for its dynamism and maritime openness
Neither too small nor too big, La Rochelle has everything it takes to live well, quietly, in a pleasant setting. The weather is mild, the ocean is omnipresent, the island of Ré just across the street, the Bay of Aiguillon a few kilometers away, all this makes it easy to pass from the city to nature with a snap of your fingers. Ideal for those who work in urban areas but need to go out regularly to breathe the great outdoors in the great outdoors.
La Rochelle is dynamic, young, open. If you are young, it is a great place to study: always something to do, a festival, an animation. For a city of this size, it’s rare. And yet, the sweetness of life is felt on a daily basis.