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With stunning turquoise waters, some of the best surf spots on the continent and beautiful sandy beaches, France’s varied coastline is unsurprisingly one of the most popular in the world. Visitors to France are spoilt for choice when it comes to the gorgeous range of towns and cities, but finding somewhere that is in close range of one of the stunning beaches is an even bigger bonus. If you are considering investing in a coastal property in France for retirement, a second home, or an investment opportunity, here are some of the most beautiful and culturally interesting towns and cities that are close to the extraordinary coastline.
While it is one of the lesser-known coastal spots in Northern France, Trouville-sur-Mer is an excellent choice of area if you are looking to invest in a quiet holiday cottage close to a great range of seaside shops and the 19th century boardwalk. With a huge sandy beach, it is the perfect option for those who are looking for somewhere that offers a little more space during the crowded summer months. Along the hills, old villas provide gorgeous architecture, and the old fishermen’s area, which is still a working port, is one of the most popular local attractions. Trouville-sur-Mer is located close to the city of Le Havre, in the Calvados region.
The fact that three sea walls here protect the sandy beaches from the fierce winds makes this a rare and unique French Atlantic coastal town. If you are looking for a stunning coastal area, then look no further. With a beautiful sandy beach and white houses with red roofs lining the streets, you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped into a postcard. The local food here is also fantastic, including the local speciality sheep’s milk ice cream and freshly caught fish and seafood daily. The town has a very interesting history as the place that the Sun King, Louis XIV, married Maria Theresa of Spain all the way back in 1660. If you are a fan of surfing, it is close to Biarritz, where there are some of the best surfing beaches in the world and lessons available.
Sitting on the Mediterranean coast of France, you will find the thriving port of Sete. To the west of the town, you can find the main attraction, which is thirteen kilometres of stunning coastline, dividing the sea from the Etang de Thau, a saltwater lake. The large stretch of beautiful sandy beaches makes this one of the quieter spots on the Mediterranean. If you enjoy seafood, it’s one of the best places in the south of France to find excellent fresh seafood restaurants. It is known for an unusual sport – water jousting – which dates back to the medieval times.
If you are looking to find an affordable cottage for sale in the south of France, Marseille is an ideal choice. Although it is the second-largest city in the country by population, it is home to a unique blend of historic neighbourhoods, wide sandy beaches, rocky outcrops, and excellent spots for beach picnics. The beaches are very family-friendly, making this the ideal location for families with young children looking for a holiday cottage. There are various cultural attractions in the area including the historical Fort Saint-Jean and the interesting Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Along the shoreline, there are plenty of excellent diving areas. Nearby, the village of Les Goudes is a popular gateway to the Les Calanques coastal inlets.
Located in the Mediterranean, the island of Corsica is one of the eighteen administrative regions of France and is known across the country for being the best place in France to find stunning beaches. With clear turquoise waters, golden sandy beaches and pink cliffs, it’s no surprise that this is the perfect haven for those looking for a stunning holiday cottage. Pigna is an old village that has been built into the side of a mountain, leading down to the sandy shores. It is the ideal location for those who are looking for a more rustic lifestyle at a slower pace.
Honfleur is the ideal choice of destination for anybody who is looking for a more traditional French atmosphere and vibe. It is located at the point where the River Seine meets the English Channel, with a harbour and townhouses that date all the way back to the sixteenth century. Once a thriving port, it has now moved to the larger neighbouring area of Le Harve, making Honfleur a popular destination for history and scenery lovers. There are plenty of stunning attractions to explore here including the beautiful coastal Botanical Gardens or Saint Catherine’s Church which dates back to the fifteenth century. It is an ideal option for families with young children, with safe beaches that are great for catching crabs in the rock pools.
Located on the Atlantic coast, this gorgeous and sophisticated town was made fashionable by the arrival of Emperor Napoleon III with Spanish Empress Eugenie in 1854. It was once the destination of choice for European royalty, including Queen Victoria, who often chose to holiday here and further increased the popularity of the area. Since it is located very close to the border of Spain, the cuisine here is a delightful combination of foods influenced by both the French and Spanish. There are many sandy, wide beaches, and the Atlantic coast winds make it a perfect choice for surfing holidays. During July, an annual surfing festival is held in the town. Along with holiday cottages, there is a selection of fantastic boutique hotels, a lengthy promenade running between the two main beaches, several annual festivals, and thalassotherapy centres.
Known for the canals running throughout the streets linking the Etang de Berre lake with the sea, Martigues started out as an encampment, and the present-day town was officially founded in the twelfth century. Today, it is primarily a fishing port and is home to a number of historical buildings including churches that range from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century such as the Annunciade Chapel. La Couronne is just a short drive away, where you can find some of the best sandy beaches in the area including the Plage de Sainte-Croix. It’s close to a wide range of local amenities including restaurants, shops and more.
Although it is located very close to the ports of Calais and Dieppe, many people arrive by boat and leave quickly, meaning that Ault is not a popular spot with tourists, making it the ideal choice for anybody looking for a quiet and authentic place to stay in France. Rather than sophisticated hotels and restaurants, the main charm of Ault is its beautiful pebbled beaches, stunning white cliffs, and a slow pace of life that is dominated by the locals rather than tourists. With a population of just 1,500 people, it’s the ideal place to invest in if you’re looking to get away from the beaten track along France’s coastline.
A citadel city that was founded by the Celtic tribes and fortified by the Romans, Saint-Malo is a stunning coastal city with tons of cultural heritage and history to explore. A large monastery was established here in the sixth century, and the monks named the rocky headland after the Celtish bishop Maclou. In the twelfth century, fortifications were built to surround the city and protect locals against Viking invasions, which can still be seen in the present day. The huge fortress is encompassed be beaches, with a wide, sandy shoreline and an awesome saltwater swimming pool that fills up when the tide is high.
Famous for its gorgeous limestone cliffs, Etretat is a town with a thriving tourism industry built on its geological heritage. The cliffs run along four kilometres of stunning coastline, but at Etretat, the weather and the water have eroded three ‘doors’ into the face of the cliff, similar to Durdle Door in Bournemouth but on a much larger and more impressive scale. The beaches are some of the most ideal spots for a beach picnic, and the area attracts people of all ages and from all walks of life. Thanks to the thriving tourism industry, you can find everything that you need here in terms of amenities.
Finding a cottage to spend summer weeks in along the coastline in France is a dream come true for many. And with some of the most stunning and diverse coastline in the world, France certainly offers plenty of different atmospheres and experiences, whether you’re looking for bustling port or fishing towns, quiet rural areas, or water sport havens.
If you’re one of the many British expats who are considering a permanent move overseas, knowing where to call your new home can be difficult. For those who have France in their sights, they’ll know that the country is full of bustling cities, lively towns, and quaint villages that will suit different personalities and ways of life.
It’s estimated that over 300,000 British citizens reside in France. If you’re ready to add to the number and start a new way of life, here are some of the best places to live in the country, as well as information on living costs that can give you a better idea of where to make your next move.
Before we divulge the best destinations to live in France, you should have a general idea of what you want to get out of your new life abroad. For example, if you’re starting a business, it’s wise to move to a bustling city, whereas those who are retiring may want to live in a quieter, peaceful village.
Undoubtedly, the most obvious destination you will think of in France is Paris. As the capital of the country, Paris is home to thousands of expats who have decided to work overseas or retire in the popular city. Brits have flocked to Paris for hundreds of years, whether it’s for business meetings or city breaks.
Paris is part of the business hub of Europe, meaning those who are moving for work will live in a bustling environment that can help them on their career journey. When compared with every other capital city, Paris is the most visited of them all, welcoming over 30 million tourists from across the world every year. Be warned, Paris is an incredibly expensive city to live in, so for those who are on a tight budget and are watching every penny, you may not get the most out of living in the capital. You also need to remember the number of tourists that head to the city every year, so if you are looking for a quieter pace of life, Paris may not be right for you.
For those who are keen not to live in a busy city, taking a step away from the hustle and bustle and considering the Dordogne may be more to your liking. This gorgeous area situated on the outskirts of Bordeaux is home to an array of tranquil villages and glorious countryside. The Dordogne is full to the brim with history, and it’s loved by locals, tourists, and expats alike. Up to 26% of the whole British population in France live in this area.
The Dordogne is known for its world-famous wines and tasty cuisine, meaning you are always close by to some of the best foods around. Regarding the cost of living, the Dordogne is generally cheaper than most areas of France. For instance, you would pay significantly less for a house in the area than you would in another village or city. If you’re ready to retire and want some much-needed peace and quiet, you will definitely find it in the Dordogne.
The city of Nice is home to over 340,000 residents, many of whom are expats. For those who are seeking sunnier climates and want to escape the unpredictable weather that the UK is infamous for, Nice experiences pleasant climates all year round. When the sun comes out, you can head to the Promenade des Anglais for a wonderful stroll along the coast. If you’re not keen on living in a city and want to be close to the sea, Nice may be the perfect destination to settle in.
If you have visited Nice in the past, you will know how popular the city is with Brits. It’s estimated that between 6-9% of the total British population in France live in Nice. Just like with Paris however, you need to be warned that Nice is one of the more expensive places to live in the country. Whether it’s accommodation costs or eating out, it’s generally considered to be more costly when compared to other areas of France. For those who don’t have to watch every penny, Nice is a fantastic option for breath-taking views and an excellent quality of life.
For expats who love their history and culture, you will be happy to know that Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site in itself, meaning it’s protected by a global organisation. Wherever you look in Lyon, you will be dazzled with out-of-this-world architecture. If you enjoy being outside and getting fresh air, there are lots of picturesque places you can head to that are sure to offer stunning panoramas of the city and what makes it so popular with locals and tourists.
If you’ve decided that a move to Lyon is on the cards, there isn’t much difference in terms of living costs when compared to London. In fact, it’s only 2.20% cheaper overall regarding accommodation costs and square meters. If you’re from up north in particular, you may find the living costs in Lyon to be out of your comfort zone.
Marseille is a thriving city that is growing as a hotspot for Brits to live in. While the city may not have had the best reputation in the past, there have been huge improvements in recent times, thanks to CCTV and security measures in place in the main areas of Marseille. When you factor in Marseille’s previously sketchy reputation, this can help you in terms of living costs.
If you compare Marseille to other cities in France and those in the UK, you will find the cost of living to be typically lower. In fact, figures indicate that living in Marseille is said to be up to 20% cheaper than living in London. For Brits who love nothing more than to flock to the beach or take in the history, Marseille is a popular hotspot.
When compared to Paris, the cost of living in Montpellier is far cheaper. For expats who want to take things slower and put their feet up, Montpellier provides a more relaxing way of life. If you’ve visited the city before, you will already be aware of the wonderful boulevards you can stroll down, as well as the friendly, family-run bakeries that serve some of the tastiest grub in the country.
What’s more, there is an array of white sandy beaches at your fingertips, meaning you can head to the sea within a matter of minutes. Montpellier is bursting with architecture and history that is sure to fascinate you. Although there aren’t official statistics for how many expats reside in the city, the region is very popular with Brits. Living in Montpellier is far more affordable than the capital, meaning you can enjoy a great quality of life without a huge price tag attached.
Rennes has a population of just over 200,000 and is situated in northwest France. As the capital city of Brittany, Rennes is most known for its medieval half-timbered homes, as well as its relaxed atmosphere. When compared to other cities in France, Rennes isn’t as big, so for those who get easily intimidated, you can find your way around Rennes without too many problems.
Rennes is a safe place to live too, with visitors from different parts of the world holidaying in the city and surrounding areas with no trouble. As Rennes is a city with a small-town atmosphere, you will have no trouble mingling with the locals and expats, thanks to the welcoming community the area is known for.
There is a bustling expat community in Strasbourg that will make you feel right at home from the minute you move. Strasbourg is located at the eastern border of France with Germany, meaning the two countries and cultures combine which makes the city an exciting place to live. Whether you’re heading to the city for work reasons, or you want to retire and live out your golden years somewhere new, Strasbourg is one of the best places to live in France.
Also, the city is generally cheaper to live in when compared to bigger cities like Paris. Strasbourg also plays a key role as a business, cultural and commercial centre which welcomes expats from far and wide. You may be surprised to learn that the European Parliament is housed in Strasbourg, as well as the Council of Europe.
Now that you have a better idea of the best places to live in France, this should help you on your journey of deciding where to move to in the country.
Moving to any of the locations listed above will be one of the biggest decisions you make in life. If you’re ready to join the many expats already living and working in France, using this guide should give you a better indication of what kind of place suits your needs best.
With the UK now out of the European Union, you might be wondering what the procedures are for obtaining the legal right to purchase property and move to France. As citizens of the European Union, British nationals were able to travel to France for up to ninety days on a valid passport and entitled to stay for more than 90 days as long as they were working, studying, or running a business. Households that were economically inactive also benefitted from free movement to and from France provided that they had comprehensive healthcare cover and sufficient resources.
If you are planning to relocate to France, the good news is that you are still within your rights to purchase property in France after Brexit, with no restrictions. You are able to purchase a home in France to use as your second home, or as your permanent residence if you obtain the right to live in the country.
The good news is that little has changed in terms of purchasing French property after Brexit. UK nationals are still welcome to invest in property in France without the need to get any additional permissions. If you are considering purchasing a second home in the country, you will be able to freely move between the UK and France for up to ninety days without the need to apply for a visa.
Combined with the pandemic, Brexit has had a huge impact on the housing market both at home in the UK and in France. If you are looking to invest in property, this might be the best time to take advantage of falling house prices in both countries as a result of the political and economic uncertainty due to the two huge events occurring at the same time. Right now, it is definitely a buyer’s market and many overseas buyers are interested in purchasing a property in the UK to take advantage of falling prices, particularly in areas like the capital.
If you are planning to live permanently in your French home after Brexit, there are several changes to consider. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, anybody who has permanent residency in France already, or has lived there for at least five years, is protected and does not need to meet any minimum requirements in order to continue staying in the country. However, if you have lived in France for less than five years or are planning to relocate in the future, you will need to apply for the right to stay in the country and show evidence of sufficient funds, assets, or employment. If you want to live and work in France, you will need to obtain a work visa from the French embassy, which might require you to have an existing job offer before you apply.
Of course, it’s not just property that UK citizens are worried about when it comes to moving to France. If you are planning to relocate to France, the question of driving is also likely to come up. The good news is that you will still be able to purchase a vehicle in France or bring your own vehicle over from the UK. However, you will no longer be able to drive as normal in France using your UK driving license unless you are only planning to stay for a short period of time. In addition, you may need to upgrade your car insurance cover to include driving in the EU if you are planning to drive your car from the UK to France. If you are planning to relocate to France permanently, you will be able to use your UK driving license for the first year but will be expected to replace it with a French license during that time.
Even though a Withdrawal Agreement was made just in time, many experts are yet to understand the full impact of Brexit on the housing market. According to predictions by the Bank of England, a worst-case scenario could mean that house prices in the UK will fall by 35% over the three years after Brexit, although the research says the opposite. However, right now, there is currently a stamp duty holiday in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven the demand for houses and seen house prices climb. Overall, house prices in the UK have risen by 14.1% since the UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016. The slowest growth, however, has been in the capital, which has not seen the rate of growth that would normally be expected and has turned London into an even bigger haven for overseas property investors looking to take advantage of the lower prices. A handful of areas in the UK have seen house prices fall since the EU Referendum vote, and the rate of house price growth has slowed down in almost 70% of the UK since that time.
Although the UK’s exit from the EU has been finalised and a Withdrawal Agreement put in place, there are still several areas to be worked out and adjusted to, particularly with travel restrictions currently in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are considering purchasing a property in France, you might be wondering if it is worth buying now or waiting until after the dust has settled from Brexit. The truth is that this is entirely up to you since it is unlikely that any difference will be made to purchasing a property in France for UK citizens in the future, who are likely to still be free to buy at any point regardless of whether or not they plan to move to France permanently.
If you want to buy a property but aren’t sure whether to go for a house on UK soil or property in France after Brexit, it’s important to weigh up the situation and your options. If you are planning to buy a property to use as a second residence or holiday home, France is still the ideal choice since UK homeowners in France will still be free to move back and forth between the UK and France for ninety-day periods at a time. However, if you are looking for a more permanent move, you may want to consider purchasing a property in the UK. Not only can you take advantage of the slower rate of house price growth in the UK right now as a result of Brexit, but relocating to France permanently is now trickier with the need to apply for permanent residency and show evidence of assets, savings, or employment with no guarantee that you will be allowed to move.
The good news for those who retired to France before Brexit is that little has changed in your situation. If you receive your British pension while living in France as a retiree, this will continue and you are free to purchase property as a French resident. In addition, if you worked in several EU member states and contributed to different pension funds in each state, you will continue to have these taken into account when your state pension is calculated.
If you plan to buy a house in France, it’s important to consider the differences between now and before Brexit. One of the main differences for UK citizens is the right to access healthcare in France. While you may have been covered as an EU citizen in the past, you will now need to get comprehensive healthcare insurance to cover you in France whether you are visiting or relocating. The exception to this is UK citizens currently retired in France. If you are British and retired in France, your health insurance coverage will continue to be provided by the UK, as long as you receive a UK state pension.
For those who are planning to work in France, it’s not only important to consider the need to apply for a visa and potentially have an employment offer in advance, but you will also need to think about paying tax. Thankfully, the UK’s double taxation agreement with France has not changed as a result of Brexit, so you will not pay tax on the same income in both countries if you are either employed or self-employed in the UK and France. If you have an A1/E101 form issued in the UK and are either working for an employer or running your own business in France, you will continue paying tax in the UK until the date stated. When paying tax in France, you will need to declare assets that you hold in the UK such as bank accounts and property, so it is worth getting financial advice.
Although Brexit has changed the way we travel to the EU from the UK, the good news is that those planning to purchase a house in France can still go ahead.