Living in France is an exciting opportunity for expats. The country is full of beautiful cities, sun-soaked beaches, and fantastic culture.
And while there are many things to consider before moving to France, deciding where to live may be the hardest decision of all.
When most people think of France, they immediately think of Paris, that’s not the only city that should be on international citizens’ radars.
Keep reading for our guide to the best cities in France for expatriates.
Why Lyon is a Great City to Live in for Foreigners
As the third largest city in France, Lyon feels like a small town, while still having all of the benefits of a big city.
Thanks to the city’s rich history that dates back to 43 BC, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On top of its history, Lyon is the food capital of France (and some say the world), and it’s home to over 2,000 Michelin star restaurants. The area where the Saone and Rhone rivers meet is a trendy hot spot where you’ll find an excellent shopping center, a rock climbing center, and stylish rooftop bars.
Lyon is known for being a great place for American entrepreneurs in France, so it’s an excellent option for foreigners looking to start their own business.
And if you love to travel, it’s close to other European destinations, including the Alps and the beaches on the Mediterranean Sea.
Expat Life in Montpellier is Slower than Big Cities
Montpellier is a charming little city in Southern France. It’s not a popular tourist spot (compared to Paris and other cities in the area), so it’s an excellent place to live if you want to feel like a local. It boasts a warm and sunny climate and offers a slower pace of life than many other French cities.
Orchestras, music and film festivals, nightlife, incredible restaurants, museums… You’ll find them all in Montpellier.
If you enjoy the outdoors, this bike-friendly city has over 90 miles of bike paths, including some that lead directly to the beach.
Engineering Jobs in Toulouse are Plentiful
1.2 million people make Toulouse the fourth largest city in France. It has a Mediterranean climate and is home to great diversity among cultures and nationalities. People love taking cruises on the Canal du Midi, and it’s close to the Pyrenees, which is a world-class destination for hiking and skiing.
Toulouse is Europe’s leading space center. The aviation industry is a significant part of the economy, making it a popular destination for engineers. It’s also home to various business colleges, engineering colleges, and universities, so it’s a thriving city for students.
Nice for Expatriates
Nice is the capital of the stunning French Riviera. It’s the fifth largest city in France, and it’s perfect for nomads who love the arts. This coastal city has a booming tourism industry, and it’s ideal for nonnatives looking to work in the tourism and hospitality industry.
With its leisurely lifestyle, it’s a favorite among wealthy world travelers and celebrities.
Expat Life in Paris
If you love large metropolitan areas, Paris is the place to be. Paris has all the excitement of other major cities like London or Madrid, but it still has the charm that only France can other.
There’s no need to drive in the City of Lights, it’s a walkable city, and public transit is exceptional. And it’s not as tropical as cities on the Mediterranean Sea, so you can experience the seasons.
While Paris may be known for its arts and culture, it’s also a major business hub in Europe. There’s only one real downside: the cost of living in Paris is the highest in the country.
Resort Living in Pau for Foreigners
Located a few miles from the border of Spain, Pau offers stunning views of the Pyrenees mountains. Whether you love the snow or the sand, it’s only a short drive to ski resorts and beaches.
As home to Europe’s first 18 hole golf course, Pau is one of the country’s most celebrated sports town. It even hosts portions of the annual Tour de France.
Bordeaux: A Wine Lover’s Dream
Bordeaux is the wine capital of France, but there’s much more than complex reds and crisp whites. It offers a high quality of life, comfortable weather, and a lower cost of living than the cities of Paris, Lyon, or Montpellier.
When you need a big city experience, the high-speed rail system will get you to Paris in two hours.
Bordeaux is home to the national opera house and ballet, and it also offers incredible designer shopping. The booming tourism industry and a strong economy make it a viable option for many foreigners.
A Final Word
France has something to offer everyone. There is big-city living in cities like France, and there are towns for beach getaways on the southern shores.
Do your research before you move so you know what part of the country is best for you. If you have the time, we recommend you visit a city and spend a few weeks there before making any permanent moving arrangements.