The best places to live in France for English speakers


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France has long been a firm favorite with many nationalities who choose to make it their home. France is particularly popular with the British and Dutch, who find it easy to travel home to see family and friends. Many of them live in areas that have long been known as the best places in France for English speakers. France is also popular with Americans, Australians, Portuguese, Spanish, and Poles who enjoy the French style of living.

France is a huge country, so it definitely has something to offer everyone. It has a diverse countryside with more than 2,000 miles of beautiful coastline and much of it enjoys warm sunny weather. Having said that, winter lovers are drawn to the areas that get good snowfall as a range of winter sports. There are contrasting lifestyles to choose from – either the vibrancy of city life or the slower pace of rural communities. Wherever you choose to live in France, you can buy fresh produce in the local market and enjoy excellent wines. If you are looking for the best places in France to live for English-speaking expats, we selected the top spots you should consider.

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There are many good reasons for choosing to live in France

In most parts of France (except the center of Paris and the much sought-after areas in the South of France), real estate prices are lower than in the UK, US, Netherlands, and many other countries. If you are good at DIY renovations, there are some real bargains on the property market.

  • When you are registered in the French system, you can apply for your Carte Vitale. This is a health insurance card that covers basic health care and reimbursement of a large percentage of medical costs. The French health system is very good. The frequent question is ‘can I live in France without speaking French’ and in most hospitals and clinics there are doctors and nurses who speak English.
  • To own a car in France is recommended, but if you don’t there is an excellent rail network including the high-speed TGV trains that operate between the main cities. There are local bus routes that vary from one area to another, but for longer journeys between the cities and into Spain there are low-cost coaches including Flixbus and Ouibus.
  • If you speak French you will be able to settle anywhere and if you are prepared to learn the language, you will be able to immerse yourself in local life and make everyday living that much easier. French lessons are widely available, many of them in Anglo-French groups which are great fun!

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Here are 7 best places to live in France for English speakers

If you are planning to move to France, choosing a city for your new home will certainly make things easier. English is much more widely spoken in the cities because they have young populations. English is the main foreign language taught to students aged 11 years and upwards. It is more likely that there will be an Anglo-French club or association that you can join. These are great fun and the perfect way to learn useful tips about the locality and to make your first French friends.

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7. Nice

For more than 100 years, the beautiful city of Nice, which overlooks the sea in the south-eastern corner of France, has been welcoming wealthy expats who enjoy its year-round warm sunny climate. The construction of its famous Promenade des Anglais was funded by wealthy expats and since then it has been viewed as the best place to live in France for English speakers.

Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, with a strong Italian influence and a real mix of nationalities. There is plenty to see and do including museums, art galleries and restaurants serving its famous regional dishes. The region produces good wines – in particular rosé. For those who want to travel, it has an international airport and Italy is a short drive away. Nice is certainly one of the best places in France for British retirees, but like Paris, real estate comes with a hefty price tag!

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6. Montpellier and Narbonne

These two delightful towns are situated in southern France and are both quickly becoming a good choice of where to live in France if you are English. Although they both enjoy good weather and have easy access to the beaches, neither of them is that popular with tourists either – they really are a well-kept secret!

Narbonne has a delightful market where you can choose what meat or fish you would like to eat and get it cooked at one of the restaurants! It has a fascinating history and a good cultural scene with music festivals and dramatic productions and lovely walks along the canal. Montpelier is charming with plenty of history to discover and winding streets to explore. Like in many parts of France, a huge number of properties for sale have their own swimming pools. An added attraction for this area is that there is a good rail link to Toulouse and Bezier Airports which are both served by a number of low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair.

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5. The Dordogne

This particularly picturesque area in southwest France is nicknamed ‘Dordogneshire’ as it really is a popular place with English-speaking expats!  It really is a delightful part of France, home to ten of the prettiest villages in France and a lovely view around nearly every corner! There is a huge number of expats living in this region that enjoys nearly 200 days of sunshine each year. In some of the market towns like Eymet, it is sometimes hard to hear any French voices! It really is one of the best places to live in France for English speakers.

Dordogne is a good place to consider as there are many properties for sale or rent  ranging from modest apartments to chateaux. Some of the shops advertise that their staff speak English and there are several that import all the favorite UK or US food products such as Heinz Baked Beans and Colmans mustard! There are a number of different expat clubs to join and for those who are feeling homesick, one of the restaurants in Eymet serves fish n’ chips on a Friday evening! Golf and horse riding are popular in the area as well as canoeing and swimming. For those who prefer a pleasant walk in the country, there are plenty of opportunities although a sport that is definitely gaining is exploring on an electric bike.

Importantly, Bordeaux international airport is accessible, as well as Bergerac, which is a smaller regional airport used by several low-cost airlines.

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4. Toulouse

Nicknamed the ‘pink city’ because of the color of its buildings, Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France and is situated in the southwest. Toulouse is large and diverse with more than a million residents. Economically, the city is doing well. As well as being a cultural hub, and hosting many concerts of different genres, Toulouse is very much a working city. It is best known for its technology and aerospace industries and is where the Airbus passenger aircraft is made.

Toulouse is a great choice for expats as its international airport makes it easy for expats to return home or travel abroad. For those wanting to work, there are the usual job opportunities for expats plus specialist openings in aeronautics, engineering, electronics and biotechnology. It is without a doubt one of the best cities in France for English-speaking expats.

The city’s geographical location makes it easy to reach the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans and the Pyrenees which are perfect for hiking and skiing. It is also easy to visit Spain from here.

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3. Lyon

Situated in south-eastern France is the third largest city, Lyon, which stands on the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Saone and has a sunny Mediterranean climate. Lyon is a great choice for English-speaking expats as it is vibrant with a rich history and culture and its residents are warm and welcoming. Lyon is the largest industrial city so it is ideal for those looking to work with openings in several industries ranging from catering to technology and logistics. Lyon is a lively city as it has a large student population – many of the foreign students and this helps to make it one of the best cities in France for English-speaking expats.  A bonus is that the city is conveniently situated for those who want to explore Italy and Switzerland.

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2. Brittany

Located just across the English Channel in north-western France, Brittany has long been the best place in France to live for English speakers. Brittany is large with a rugged coastline that overlooks the Atlantic. This part of France has its own micro-climate which is cooler and similar to southern England.

Brittany is very affordable and rents are lower as far as food prices because many fruits and vegetables are grown locally. House prices are also very attractive in Brittany. All of the main towns including Brest, Rennes, Saint Malo, and Dinan are popular and they are among the best places to live in France for expats. They are particularly ideal for British expats as it is just a quick hop across the Channel by ferry or through the tunnel to visit family.

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1. Paris

Paris is very cosmopolitan and because of this, it is the best place to live in France for English speakers. Situated just north of the center of the country, Paris has nearly 30,000 foreigners living in the capital, and this definitely makes life easier. However, the Parisians still expect you to make an effort to speak French and when you do, they will happily reply to you in English if it is easier!

If you want to work, there are certainly job opportunities for English speakers in Paris with the most common being teaching English, working as a tour guide and working in bars/restaurants. If you are highly qualified you can secure an excellent job – if you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland you don’t need a work permit. The main problem is finding somewhere to live in the capital. Most people live in apartments rather than houses and they are expensive and the cost of living in Paris is higher than in most of the country.

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Where to live in France if you are English is certainly a question that is difficult to answer as there are so many attractive areas to enjoy and it will take some careful research to find which one for you is the best place for English speakers. Whether you are British, American or Australian and planning to move or retire to France, you will be delighted that you made the decision to do so.

While planning your move to France it is important to know that if you are Australian you may need a visa and as of November 2023 you will need electronic tagging authorization. Americans are required to apply for a long-term visa if they would like to stay in France longer than 90 days. Since January 2021, following Brexit, all British passport holders now have to apply for a long-stay visa, as France is in the Schengen zone…but the hurdles are worth jumping!

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