One reader asked me about which places in France suit an expatriate family the most. I couldn’t give an accurate answer that time, so I decided to dedicate one article to this topic. Here in this article, let's take a look at the most family-friendly places in France.
First off, you might have heard some news that France’s economy is sluggish nowadays. I admit it is true, and as part of the Eurozone, France is not safe from the recession / financial crisis, which substantially affect its citizens.
Nevertheless, France is still hailed as one of the most family friendly countries in the world with its high consideration for arts and culture.
For starters, it is only natural for a parent to desire the best for their children, right? So, choosing the right place to live with your family is a crucial factor for the growth of your child and family.
This is the reason why it is necessary to do some background checks first about a location before moving there. Now, what are the criteria that you must look for in choosing the city or place you want to live in with your family?
These are the six most common criteria that families check before moving to a city, though it can increase depending on the subjective preference of each family.
So, if you are thinking of moving to France, the top three departments for good schools and advanced educational facilities are:
1 - Haute-Garonne in the Midi Pyrénées
2 - Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Aquitaine
3 – Vendée in Pays de la Loire
These three departments also have an abundance of shopping places and employment prospects making them great for families.
The three departments scored average to high in the criteria for a typical family destination.
For some of the most suitable cities for an average family, here are 12 cities I gathered and examined for you.
I would just like to give a piece of warning that this list is only based on the research I’ve done for each city.
I narrowed down the list by looking into written articles and surveys, as well as cross-checking them with the criteria I mentioned above, plus some based on my own preference as well.
Mediterranean weather, melting pot of cultures and nationalities, strong Spanish influence, top schools, European aerospace industry (Airbus, Aerospace Valley,etc..) , rich history, cultural and historical sights, and a good economy... These are only some of the reasons why Toulouse remains one of the most attractive places to live in France, for both French people and expats (expatriates).
This beautiful city is situated in Southern France, which benefits it from warm Mediterranean summers and mild winters---good for children and the elderly! As the fourth largest city in France, it has a strong mixture of diverse cultures and nationalities.
Known as “the Pink City”, don’t be surprised when you find yourself surrounded by architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks which earned the place its name. This is one of my favorite picks (I am biased: one of my cousins lives there).
Economy: Toulouse’s recent economic development is based on the meteorology and aerospace industries, and has become “Europe’s capital of aerospace industry”.
As a parent, one of the primary concerns that you have is the security of your family. Nowadays, it is very hard to find a place still existing in such a haven where there is almost zero crime.
But, in a sleepy corner of Southwestern France, there lies a charming thirteenth century town called Eymet. Eymet is the sort of place where children can walk to and from school unchaperoned, and play with their friends on the street without worrying their parents that something bad might happen to them.
With a crime rate of almost zero, citizens of Eymet are free from worries of burglaries and other vices. The whole community is also filled with friendly neighbors supporting each other.
Most of the people living in Eymet are Britons, as there are around 800 Britons living in this town alone. As for cost of living, you can buy fresh produce directly from producers around the area at a very low price. Houses are also cheaper here than in other French towns.
So, if you are thinking of building a family without worrying too much about stability and security, Eymet may sound like the perfect place for you! The only downside is that you might not be able to practice comprehensibly your French language skills.
Economy: Eymet’s economy remains dynamic with its wind industry, tourism, and foie gras.
Historically, Saint Gaudens had been the capital of the Haute-Garonne department, but it was beaten by Toulouse when the latter became more prominent. Nevertheless, Saint Gaudens is still one of the important towns of the department.
With its fortified towns, Saint Gaudens is quite pretty but large enough to offer all amenities that an average family will need. The town also provides an additional bonus for people who love sports, with its mountainous scenery and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.
You can teach your children fishing, mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, and rugby. On the other hand, it is also very close to Spain, so expect a little touch of Spanish influence in the area. Settling here is also not a big burden to a family with a tight budget, as real estate here is cheaper than the national average price .
Indeed, an apartment here costs around €1,800 per square meter compared to €2,200 per square meter in other towns in France. The price of a house is even way lower than the price of an apartment, if you can still not afford this estimated price. Housing is a good investment for a family nowadays, most of all to families starting in a new place.
Economy: Saint Gaudens has some dynamic industrial industries. There are various industrial companies, both local and international groups, looking for skilled workers.
Just as Alphonse de Lamartine said: “Pau has the world’s most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea.” Pau is a small commune on the northern edge of the Pyrenees.
Its economy is mainly dependent on its oil business (natural gas), aerospace industry, tourism, and agriculture. Due to the good economy of Pau, the cost of living and property prices here are quite high.
It could be observed that Pau has a dominant Occitan culture and language with many manors and flowers in the city center. Pau is also popular for its green spaces; attracting upper class Europeans to live in the country.
Pau is also called “University city” as a strong proportion of its inhabitants are students studying in the Universite de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour and other universities around the city. All in all, the city is very welcoming to expats and foreign visitors.
Economy: Pau is dependent on oil production business (natural gas), aerospace industry, tourism, and agriculture.
Region: Pays de la Loire
A high quality of life which will not burn your pockets is how we can best describe La Roche-sur-Yon. This small town in the region of Pays de la Loire is built on granite rocks overseeing the Yon valley and the Atlantic coastline.
It is a place that offers a sound environment for children growing up with plenty of friendly and generous people. Thumbs up also to the effective actions of the city government in implementing price control on basic commodities.
When it comes to employment, La Roche-sur-Yon is just 40 minutes away from Nantes which offers numerous job opportunities. Similar with Saint Gaudens, La Roche-sur-Yon offers lower real estate prices compared to other French communes.
Lastly, the climate here is a combination of dry and warm which is common to most of the cities in the southern part of the department with cool fresh air coming from the Atlantic.
Economy: Tourism is the main economic resource of the city.
Rennes is one of the most advanced communes in France. Its local industries include car manufacturing, electronics and telecommunications. Rennes is 2nd after Paris in terms of its concentration of ICT firms, while it is 3rd for innovation potential in the French agro-food industry.
Following these lines of technological advancements are top universities focused on science and technology. Université de Rennes 1 and 2 are the two main universities in the commune. The first one offering courses in science, technology, medicine, philosophy, law, management and economics; the second one offering courses in the arts, literature, languages, communication, human and social sciences, and sport.
If you want to orient your family to advanced technologies and high quality of education without jeopardizing a fun and happy life, Rennes is a good place for you and your family.
Economy: Car manufacturing, electronics, and telecommunications are the major income generator of Rennes.
Montpellier is the most dynamic city in Herault, the 8th largest city of France, and the fastest growing city in the country over the past 25 years. It is built on two hills, namely Montpellier and Montpellieret and a mile away from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Due to its proximity to the coastline, the climate in this area is typically Mediterranean with warm summers and mild winters. As of now, private and public sectors are working together to transform the city to a “City of the Future”.
It means that Montpellier will serve as the site of the Eco Cite Project, which will create an urban laboratory to accelerate innovation and sustainable development. The town is also run by policies and laws benefitting its citizens in terms of low tax, high employment rate, and cheaper commodity prices. Moreover, Montpellier is a “university city” like Pau with over 60,000 students living within it.
It is also the home of the University of Montpellier, founded in 1160, and is one of the oldest universities in the world. Montpellier is a good investment if you aspire that your child will study in one of the best schools and universities around France. When it comes to real estate, prices in Montpellier are below the departmental average, but the value rises every year due to its strategic location and to the investments pouring into the area.
Otherwise, the edge of Montpellier against other places is its effective transport network, aiming to reduce car traffic in the city center. Actually, Almost one third of its population don’t own cars.
Economy: Montpellier economy is dominated by state governmental activities and tourism.
Famous for its wine, gourmet cuisines, picturesque village, and historical sites, Bordeaux is also a great choice for families who want to live in France. The city is fondly nicknamed as ‘La perle d’Aquitaine’ (The Pearl of Aquitaine) or ‘La Belle Endormie’ (Sleeping Beauty).
It is the world’s major wine producer and is the home for Vinexpo, or the world’s main wine fair. Another booming economy in the city is the laser and plasma technologies, with innovations by the French Ministry of Defense including the creation of the ‘Road of the lasers’ concentrating the optical and laser expertise in Europe.
The economy in the city is progressive and welcoming to people looking for a sustainable life. The city is located near to the European Atlantic coast giving it an oceanic climate; however, unlike the typical oceanic climate in other places, Bordeaux has warmer summers and milder winters.
In terms of education, Bordeaux has numerous public and private schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs. It is also classified as the ‘City of Art and History’ making it a great learning place for your child.
Economy: Wine manufacturing and laser and plasma technologies are the economic sources of Bordeaux.
Département: Haute - Vienne
Limoges, the capital of fire arts (capitale des arts du feu) is known around the world for its porcelain, enamel, and stained glass products. Limoges might not be as popular as the other cities in the list, but it is a wonderful place to live in.
It lies in a rural and quite preserved region of Limousin filled with fresh air and countryside ambiance. Its economy is working well as proved by the low unemployment rate reaching below the national average for unemployment.
The climate in this place is categorized under oceanic which is common to places in Western France. Nowadays, Limoges is starting to grow bigger, having its own University while focusing with promoting its Arts, Culture and History.
Economy: Limoges’ generates its income from high-tech businesses.
Region: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
“Nice la Belle!” This is how the city is fondly called by its residents and visitors. A vibrant city situated in the Southeast Coast of France, Nice is the fifth largest city of the country, and the second most popular French city after Paris.
The climate in this area is very warm, with six months summer and mild winter temperatures. Nice climate is different from most of the places in Paris and it’s proximity to the sea draws tourists and expatriates alike to this place. There is also a very strong Italian influence in the place which is evident in its cuisines full of pasta and olives along with its seafood dishes.
The cost of living in this place is pretty average. However, on the downside, the city has an average to high crime rate, graffiti, and long traffic jams (most of all during summers when there is a large flock of tourists visiting the area). Nonetheless, Nice is one of the most family-friendly places in France, because of its lively environment, excellent child-care and educational facilities, high rate of employment, and diversity in culture and beliefs.
Economy: Tourism is the main source of income of the town.
Lyon is one of the most favorite cities of expats from different parts of the world. With its growing economy which continues to develop plenty of job opportunities in various industries from banking, chemistry, medicine, pharmaceutical, biotech, gastronomy, and technology, Lyon provides opportunities for better and sustainable lives to any people who will persevere enough to survive.
People living here enjoy warm summer months and mild winters while exploring magnificent architecture, art galleries, and historical museums. Lyon is almost similar to Paris, and it follows as the second richest city of France. The city of Lyon has the reputation as the country’s ‘capital of gastronomy’.
You will never get tired of tasting the number of cuisines Lyon is boasting about. On the other hand, for families moving to Lyon, aside from its economic advantage, Lyon also prides itself on its excellent educational establishments and institutions for your child.
Economy: Lyon’s economy is more varied than the other eleven cities in the list. It has banking chemistry, medicine, pharmaceutical, biotech, gastronomy, and technological industries supporting the city.
Lille is one of the top ‘University cities’ in France with over 100,000 students living in it. Its landscape might be different from that of the other parts of France, because the architectural styles around the city are filled with Flemish influence and Belgian styles of residency.
Lille has a dynamic economy from its local enterprises to its revenues from its alliance with Roubaix, Tourcoing, and Villeneuve d’Ascq making up one of France’s largest urban conglomerations. Family life in Lille is in between living a French lifestyle and / or living the Belgian/ English lifestyle.
Economy: The urban conglomerates in Lille provide for the maintenance of the city.
Building and sustaining a family is not an easy task for anybody, but one step for having a happier family life is to choose the best place to live in.. However, as a big country, expect that France is composed of ideal places and not-so-ideal places to live in.
Just remember that the success of your family life is not only dependent on the city of your choice, but also, on your own perseverance and love for your family.
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Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +