Which big French city?

No, we’re not about to move. Even after 6 years, Carcassonne still has what we were looking for when we were deciding on a place to live and it continues to get better. On our “must-have” spreadsheet that put 16 cities to the test, we found everything here except a water view, and that may have been a wise choice after all. (Another blog post will provide insight into that rising question.) Having lived in four of the biggest cities in the US—including numbers 2 and 3— we wanted our retirement location to have more of a village feel. While countless villages do indeed exist with colorful flowers cascading from window boxes outside blue shuttered windows in honey-colored stone houses set between cobble-stoned streets and babbling brooks, most of them are in rural locations (like this featured photo of Le Bec-Hellouin–sorry, not our house) requiring the one thing that we did not want: a car. We are grateful to have found a smaller city where we can walk to everything we need within a few minutes or ride a bus (15 € per year) anywhere else in town. However, lots of people are still looking for the buzz that you can only get in huge population centers so when I saw an article where the residents of this country’s 20 largest cities talk about what makes their home “best” I wanted to see why and who would come out on top.


Job recruiting company, Hays, asked 3500 residents of the most populous cities in France what it was like to live there including questions about employment opportunities, cultural activities, the cost of living, and their overall quality of life. They also asked about respect for the environment and what I thought was a true indication of what inhabitants thought, “Would you recommend your city to a person searching for a change of region?” The results were:

1. Rennes

2. Nantes

3. Strasbourg

4. Lyon

5. Brest


6. Toulouse

7. Grenoble

8. Tours

9. Dijon

10. Montpellier 

11. Bordeaux

12. Rouen

13. Nice

14. St-Etienne

15. Lille

16. Orléans

17. Toulon

18. Paris

19. Nancy

20. Marseille

Nice harbor

It didn’t surprise me that after going through 3 Covid lockdowns, homeowners highlighted the importance of having your own outdoor space. Paris, with infamously small apartments, suffered on that point. The capital did well, however, for its job market and economic outlook while Strasbourg was praised for its “soft transport” meaning the ease of getting around on bicycles and on foot. People in Rennes, the survey winner, were especially happy with their quality of life, cost of living, infrastructure, and job market.

Bill and I have vacationed in 14 of the 20 surveyed cities from one night to more than a week and the other 6 are on our list to visit. While we have enjoyed all of the cultural, historic, and entertaining opportunities available in these fascinating places, it’s always nice to get back home.

4 thoughts on “Which big French city?

    1. Hello Bob,
      interesting to see that slot 1 – 3 and also 5 are all in the northern parts of the country. Don’t you think?

      Best greetings on this sunday,

      Liked by 2 people

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