You’ve decided to make the big leap and move to France in 2024. You might have already decided whether you want to live somewhere sunny, in a large town, by the seaside or in the countryside. But how do you choose the best or the nearest city?
In this article I’m sharing a much-loved list in France called "La liste des villes où il fait bon vivre". This list is published every year in Le Journal du Dimanche and has become very popular with French people. Most towns are doing their best to keep improving their ranking from one year to another.
I thought that it was time to share this list with you, as some of you are looking to move in 2024.
1. Which criteria are taken into account?
This ranking covers all 34,820 communities in mainland France, and is based on 198 criteria grouped into 10 categories: quality of life, safety, environmental protection, health, shops and services, transport, education, sports and leisure, solidarity and real estate.
It has been published since 2017 by the association Villes et Villages. In the 2023 ranking, "Environmental Protection" moved up into the French people's order of priorities with 41%. Outranking "Education" (32%), "Solidarity" (25%), and "Sports and leisure" (25%).
2. TOP 10 towns to live in France in 2023 > 2,000 inhabitants
The top 10 towns with more than 2,000 inhabitants are the following:
Nb: the number in brackets refers to the department where this town is based. For instance, 64 is Pyrénnées Atlantiques in Occitanie. You can check the list and map of French départements.
- Angers (49)
- Bayonne (64)
- Biarritz (64)
- Anglet (64)
- La Rochelle (17)
- Lorient (56)
- Annecy (74)
- Rennes (35)
- Brest (29)
- Le Mans (72)
Occitanie and Brittany regions are doing well on this list. Many French people have re-discovered the beauty of these regions after spending lockdown there. Many Parisians have made a permanent move to Province (meaning any region outside of Paris…)
3. TOP 10 towns to live in France in 2023 < 2,000 inhabitants
Bear with me, as this second list focuses on small towns, which you are unlikely to have heard about. I only knew Epron and Martinvast which are near my area. These are the little-known villages, where inhabitants seem to be enjoying their lifestyle.
- Guéthary (64)
- Eprin (14)
- Martinvast (50)
- Peltre (57)
- Authie (14)
- Saint-Quay-Perros (22)
- Mazère-Lezons (64)
- Buros (64)
- Cambes-en-Plaine (14)
- Marcellas-Albanais (74)
Normandy is doing well on this list, with 4 out of 10 towns (departments 14 and 50)!
4. Major shifts in the 2023 town ranking
While Angers remained in the lead, the top 10 is marked by the return of medium-sized towns to the top of the rankings, with Biarritz and Anglet joining the top 5.
The disenchantment with large cities, observed since the beginning of the ranking in 2017, is accentuated by their drop in the rankings: Paris is 91st (66th in 2022), Marseille is 122nd (93rd in 2022) and Lyon has dropped 14 places to 77th. I bet that you didn’t expect this!
On the other hand, the addition of this new category confirms the previous rankings for villages with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. Guéthary (64), located near Biarritz, retains its first place and reinforces the Basque Country's status as a region where life is good. It is followed by two Normandy communes, both regulars at the top of the rankings: Épron (14) and Martinvast (50), a new arrival in the top 3. Peltre (57), winner in 2021 and 2nd in 2022, finishes at the foot of the podium.
You might be surprised by this ranking, but as it is 100% based on French citizens, it probably doesn't reflect the towns that expats naturally think of.
I know that I always look forward to reading this list, as most mayors in France “Madame or Monsieur Le Maire”. And sometimes you have some strange surprises. For instance Martinvast, near where I live making the top 3!!. A little village with nothing special makes it to the top of the list! Happy inhabitants I guess…
The next list of best cities to live in France, will be issued in February 2024. I shall keep you posted on any major changes or trends.