France is a popular country to retire in and it has hundreds of desirable locations that check the boxes on your retirement wish list. France was blessed with a great variety of geographies, climates, and cities, towns, and villages, so you’re sure to find the best place to retire in France.
With 3,500 miles (5,500 km) of coastline with dramatic cliffs and golden sandy beaches, the country is traversed by mighty rivers and has imposing mountain scenery in the French Alps, Pyrenees and Vosges. There are large, vibrant cities ideal for foreigners, including Paris — the most favorite of them all –, as well as pretty medieval villages snuggling among vineyards.
France is definitely a wonderful place to enjoy your retirement years. If you are living on your retirement income and are looking for somewhere not quite as expensive or busy as Paris, France has many affordable places to live in.
Let’s explore the best places to retire in France, depending on your preferences:
1. Retiring in a large city in France
Paris is the first choice with many American and British retirees. It offers the best of everything: the quintessential French lifestyle, entertainment, culture, world-class dining, the best shopping you can dream of, and un-rivaled class and beauty.
Because of its size and diversity, there are so many great neighborhoods in Paris to live in, from affluent neighborhoods for those in search of a high-standard lifestyle, to areas rich in parks and greenery for active bodies and minds, and more affordable but vibrant districts for artists and creatives.
But if the high cost of living in Paris is prohibitive, there are a number of other beautiful French cities that are among the best places to retire in France.
These include Lyon, Nice, Lyon, and Marseille. The great advantage of choosing to live in a city is that everything is on hand including good shopping, a choice of restaurants, and plenty of cultural events.
Another major bonus of city life is that there is usually a good public transport network which means that having a car may prove unnecessary – which can definitely prove a bonus with limited parking and the challenges of driving in the city too. Another big plus when opting for city life is that healthcare facilities are usually excellent and close at hand.
Most housing in the heart of the city (whether you choose to rent or buy) is in apartment buildings. If you would like a house with a garden, this is going to be easier to find on the outskirts of the city, and certainly at a more affordable price.
All the French cities have distinctive characters and so choose the ones that fit your lifestyle when thinking about places to retire.
Bordeaux in the southwest of the country is world famous as the center of one of the most important wine-growing regions in the world. It is a compact city, so much of it can be reached on foot. Just 20 minutes from the city center is Merignac, its international airport.
Montpellier is another ideal city to explore on foot and it is steeped in history as its medical school is the oldest in the world. Montpellier is situated in the south of France so it is within easy reach of beautiful beaches too.
The small green city of Pau stands close to the Pyrenees and offers spectacular views to its residents. There are palaces, museums and a castle to visit. The border with Spain is less than 60 miles (100 kilometers) away, for fun weekend breaks in St Sebastien.
Retiring in beautiful Normandy and Brittany
Situated in northern France, both of these regions are beautiful, but do experience plenty of weather surprises. Residents of Brittany say that you can experience all four seasons in a single day.
Nevertheless, both are among the best places to retire in France and offer a relaxed lifestyle and excellent food. The great news is that you can also find good real estate deals, especially if you are prepared to do some work on the property. If you’re willing to renovate, you can pick up a good-sized property for under €50,000 ($53,000).
For those who want to easily visit the UK and British retirees wanting to visit family, there is the added bonus of being close to the Channel ports and Channel Tunnel.
Normandy is known for its rich history and the famous Normandy beaches. A popular region to retire in, Normandy has an attractive countryside dotted with farmsteads and villages. Its best feature however is its coastline dotted with numerous pretty fishing villages, which many expats call home.
It also has rich agricultural land with rivers and canals and lovely weekly farmers’ markets held in the different towns. Getting around isn’t quite as easy as in the main towns and cities, so it is good to have your own wheels.
Retiring in the lovely Nouvelle-Aquitaine region
Situated in southwest France, this region is the largest in France and it offers several great retirement choices. The Dordogne, with its numerous pretty villages and rivers, has long been a popular retirement area for expats.
Charente-Maritime is the peninsula of land that stretches along the Gironde estuary and is a good choice for those who enjoy walking, cycling and delicious seafood. There are the pretty islands of Ré and Oléron to explore in the mouth of the estuary too.
Further inland, the towns of Cognac and Angouleme are both popular with expats as they offer reasonably priced housing and a variety of leisure pursuits. Lot-et-Garonne, further east is the area sitting on these two mighty rivers. In addition to affordable housing, some great markets and numerous cycling/hiking trails, this area offers excellent fishing and boating opportunities.
If you’re looking for a more “off the grid” lifestyle, further south, heading towards Pau and the Pyrenees, Landes is a vast area of sparsely populated forest, dotted with small communities, often without even a village store.
Retiring in relaxing Burgundy
Burgundy is a large region on the eastern side of central France. It covers a large area and comprises four departments. Expats and foreign retirees who live there believe it is among the best places to retire in France.
This area is known for its excellent wines and numerous châteaux. Its most popular cities include Beaune and Dijon. Additionally, Burgundy has a number of attractive medieval towns including Halon-sur-Saône, Autun and Tournus, just to name a few.
There are some lovely houses to buy and rent throughout Burgundy. The local architecture is a distinctive half-timber style. Burgundy is an affordable region to retire in. For instance, rentals start at about €700 a month ($740).
Retiring in the glorious south
The south of France is definitely not the cheapest part of France to choose, but it is one of the best places to retire. Its greatest attribute is the climate, basking in 330 days of sunshine per year.
Nice was the first town in the area to attract the gentry from northern Europe at the end of the 19th century, as it was felt that the climate was perfect. Ever since, Nice on the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) became a popular winter retreat for the rich, famous and even royalty.
Today, Nice remains as popular as ever because its wonderful climate is so invigorating. It has beautiful sandy beaches you can enjoy almost year-round. For creative spirits, the daylight is exceptionally clear, lending a clarity to the colors they choose for their canvas.
Besides Nice, Cannes, Port Grimaud and St Tropez are all charming retirement destinations and attract the rich and famous of France and the rest of Europe every year.
Provence is another one of the best places to retire in France. It is a really popular area, situated in south-east France, close to the country’s border with Italy. Provence is a beautiful mixture of lavender fields, vineyards, orange blossom and olive groves.
There are numerous medieval villages that are very picturesque and popular towns, including Aix-en-Provence, Arles and Avignon. This region definitely sums up the best France has to offer: glorious summers, mild winters, the Mediterranean, excellent food and fine wine.
Property prices are not the cheapest, but you can find lower prices if you opt to live in one of the villages, however, speaking passable French is a must. Provence is popular with American, British and Australian retirees who love this area. There is a number of expat clubs offering a great variety of activities.
If you would enjoy somewhere cheaper, with a similar climate, Occitanie-Languedoc-Roussillon lies west of Provence. It offers more affordable housing options and a lower cost of living but is still close to the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean.
This is a beautiful area of diverse countryside with rolling hills and further inland, the Cevannes mountains. The region’s towns include Montpellier, Nîmes and the dramatic fortified UNESCO-listed town of Carcassonne.
Knowing exactly where to choose to retire in France can be really difficult, no matter how much research you do in advance. Many people retiring to France find it easiest to choose an area and to take a short-term lease, there so that they can decide whether they have made the right choice.
There are so many points to consider when planning to relocate to France, but ideas are never ‘set in stone’. If you embrace the spirit of adventure, you will soon find the perfect location to call ‘home’ in France for your retirement.
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Featured Image Credit: manjik.