Attractive cities

The attractive village of Rochefort-en-terre in Brittany

Radio station Europe1 had on their website an article that was headlined, “The Three Most Attractive Cities in France.” Since Bill and I enjoy traveling, especially here in this country, I was anxious to read about some new destinations. The lead-in said that at the top of their list of 30 places were Besançon, Orléans and Saint-Étienne while Bordeaux was at position 20, Paris at 26, Nice at 28, and Nîmes at the very bottom. Interestingly, we have visited all of those cities that came in at the low end, some several times, and always found them inviting.  In contrast, we only knew one of the top cities, Orléans, because we stayed overnight at a pet-friendly hotel when we moved here with our dog, Heather, and were driving from Paris to Carcassonne, but that doesn’t really count. What that headline meant, we thought, was lots of new discoveries to make…until we read the rest of that first paragraph.

Rocamadour in the Dordogne

To create their article, Europe1 compiled data from two different websites: one that specializes in real estate and the other in job placement. The result, therefore, is a list of cities in France where you are most likely to find a job and also find affordable housing. Oh well, not necessarily prime places to visit but we’re always open to new ideas and in case someone reading this is considering a move to France for work, here’s the top 10:

  1. Besançon
  2. Orléans
  3. Saint-Étienne
  4. Grenoble
  5. Rouen
  6. Lyon
  7. Strasbourg
  8. Metz
  9. Caen
  10. Clermont-Ferrand

Shortly after that list appeared, one of our local newspapers published an interactive map that showed average net hourly salaries in our region of Occitanie. I pulled out the top 10, based on population, and those results are below. To get an idea of a worker’s annual net income we’ll use Toulouse where the aerospace industry is a significant employer. Using an average workweek of 35 hours multiplied by the average net hourly salary of 15.70€ multiplied by 52 weeks, the result is 28,574€ or about $31,500 net per year. Since everyone is covered by universal health care, a university education is 170€ per year and public transit makes getting around easy—our local bus fare is 1€ and with our Senior card we pay nothing per trip—there is little out-of-pocket expenditure for those items.


Toulouse 15.70€
Montpellier 13.96€
Nîmes 12.97€
Perpignan 12.28€
Béziers 12.31€
Montauban 12.90€
Narbonne 12.26€
Albi 12.82€
Carcassonne 11.94€
Sète 12.72€


Belvès, known for its wine and cheese shops!

But for those of us who moved to France for retirement, I found this list on the Expat Forum of the criteria people who are moving here for retirement might look for:

  • Affordable and attractive housing.
  • Good infrastructure.
  • Good health care (doctors, hospitals, specialists).
  • Good public transportation, both internal (metro/tram/bus) and external (rail and air).
  • Interesting things to do and see.
  • A decent, but not oppressive, expat community.
  • Readily available fresh foods.
  • Good restaurants.
  • High speed internet.

For us, as the British say, Carcassonne ticks all the boxes.


Radio Europe1:

Salary map of Occitanie:,8525011.php

Expat Forum France:

3 thoughts on “Attractive cities

  1. That’s exactly what Jill and I have said about Carcassonne, almost verbatim – it ticks all our boxes. And with the new sports center and incoming aquatic center being built, it just keeps getting better.
    I guess I didn’t realize that “ticks all the boxes” was a British expression, but I suppose I picked that one up from my exceptionally Brtish grandfather. How British is he, you’re might ask? His name is Langdon Kellogg Bentley. I think to be any more British than that, his name would have to include “Duke of” somewhere in it.

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  2. Glad you clarified – Besançon compared with Nîmes? I’ve been to both and Nîmes wins the beauty stakes hands down. The charts are very interesting – thanks to your research I have learned something, as I always do from your writing. Carcassonne ticks all of the boxes for me, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have only been to a couple of those cities. They are not really the ones people tend to talk about outside France. I am actually surprised to see Caen on the list i thought it was devestated during the battle of Normandie.

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