France - 10 Best Places To Retire

La Belle France may just be the place in the world to retire – if you can afford to live there. If offers just about everything you could want in a place to live – amazing architecture, great food, a temperate climate (for the most part), the world’s best wines and haute couture. Let’s take a look at what makes France one of the 10 best places to retire.

The population of France is approximately 64,058,000 and its size is 211.209 sq. mi.,

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making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas. It borders on the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, between Belgium. It also borders on the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Spain.

Cost of Living

Rental in communities near Paris can cost around $645 U.S. a month. However, downtown apartments and condominiums can reach the astronomical price of $1900 to $2500 U.S. a month.

On the average, an individual in France will spend about $129 U.S. a week for food. For example, six eggs will cost around $2.50 U.S., 250g of ground coffee $3.75 U.S., a can of lager (beer) $1.30 and a 6 liters of mineral water $5.55.

When you go out to eat in Paris, a toasted cheese sandwich will cost you $4.25, a three-course evening meal, $26 to $38 and a ticket to the cinema $9.70. However, a bottle of an ordinary French table wine will cost you only about $5.16 U.S.

France also has a very high sales tax that is known as the TVA (tax sur la valeur ajoutee). It is just under 20% and is usually included in the prices you are charged, rather than added on later.

French taxes

Retired Americans living in France get somewhat favored treatment as the French-U.S. income tax treaty takes into account the fact that Americans are required to pay tax on U.S. income in the U.S. To compensate for this, France does not tax income generated in the U.S. The top French tax rate is currently (July, 2010) is 40% but surcharges can boost that rate to 51%. Here are French tax rates at the time of this writing.

Up to $5400                                                    0%

$5400 to $10,629                                            7.05%

$10,469 to $18,707                                         19.74%

$18,707 to $30,293                                         29.14%

$30,293 to $49,287                                         38.54%

$49,287 to $62,071                                         43.94%

Above $62,071                                               49.58%

Note: These taxes would not be applicable to Americans paying taxes in the U.S. as noted above.

France has two property taxes, the taxe d'habitation and the tax foncière. While the amount of these taxes varies across the country, the combined total typically ranges from about $260 U.S. to a high of $2600.

When you buy a property, it is subject to the TVA at the rate of 19.6%. But this tax is usually included in the purchase price of the house or apartment, though it is technically to be paid by the buyer.

The food

When you say French cuisine, you’ve just about said it all as probably no other country in the world has had the effect on cooking that France has.

Game and ham are popular in Champagne and well as the sparkling wine for which it is famous. Lorraine is known for fine fruit preserves as well as the famous Quiche Lorraine. 

France’s coastline is known for its dishes built around crustaceans, sea bass, monkfish and herring. Normandy is known for its top-quality seafood, including scallops and sole. Brittany’s cuisine is heavy on lobster, crayfish and mussels while Normandy is home to a large population of apple trees with their fruit used in dishes, cider, and calvados.

French real estate

French real estate agents (agents immobiliers) are regulated very strictly. Their professional association has 8,000 members and is called the Federation Natonale de l’Immobilier (FNAIM). It has a website with a comprehensive list of agents that also details properties available in any given area.

If you buy property in France, the buying and selling is usually handled by a certified real estate attorney-un notaire. Since this person is responsible for ensuring that all deeds are authentic and of incontestable value, you will have to appoint one to act for you. When you sign the compromis de vente, you will pay a deposit, usually 10% of the property’s price.  If you wish, you can finance the other 90% with a mortgage.

France has hundreds of miles of eye-catching beachfront property. You can choose to buy near the calm, family-friendly resorts of the Normandy coast; the rugged beauty of the Celtic Brittany shores, or the thrilling surfs of the Atlantic by Biarritz.

Probably France’s best-known coastal area is the Cote d’Azur, which stretches between Hyeres and the Italian border. Prices of real estate along the Cote d’Azur have increased in recent years and now rival those of Paris but it is still possible to find compact studio apartments in these coastal towns for less than $150,000 U.S.

 Marseilles has oodles of atmosphere. A ready-to-move-in, one bedroom apartment of just over 450 sq. ft, and with a view of the sea can be purchased for $145,000.

You can buy a studio apartment on the beach on France’s Aquitaine Coast for around $150,000. There is also beachfront property available in Normandy with its 400 miles of clean, pristine coastline and easy access to Paris. The western Brittany coast has stunning rock formations, hidden bays and tiny harbor towns. Along the south are warmer, sandy beaches.

Properties in rural France are much less expensive than beachfront properties. France is basically a rural country and its rural areas are where you will find very affordable houses and even chateaus.

The climate

France has four climactic areas. The climate near France’s coasts is temperate, winters mild (45o F. in January) and rainfall plentiful.

The interior of the country has a mid-latitude continental climate with hotter summers (average of 64o F. in July in Paris) and colder winters (average of 36o F. in January in Paris).

The mountainous areas have winters that tend to be bitterly cold and last a long time. For example, Briancon in the Alps has a mean temperature of 28o F. in January. Many villages in France’s high valleys get more than 50 days of snow each year.

Finally, the Mediterranean coast has a Mediterranean type climate that is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. Its average temperatures are 45o F. in February and 73o F. in July.

Retiring to France

As a rule, it’s not difficult to get long-term residency in France if you are a retiree. However, it’s a good idea to check out your situation at your local consulate or embassy before making plans to move there permanently.

As of this writing, you will need to provide the following documents when applying for residency in France.

  • A passport signed and valid for three months
  • Eight separate application forms
  • Eight passport-sized photos
  • One long-term application annex
  • Financial guarantee such as a letter from your bank stating that you have enough income to live in France or proof of a retirement pension
  • Proof of medical insurance that covers you for any treatment you might need in France. This generally takes the form of two copies of a letter from your insurance company.
  • Proof of lodging in France such as a lease, the promise of a lease, the title to a property or a letter from a legal resident of France stating that he or she will provide for your accommodations.
  • A written statement from you that you will neither seek nor accept any work during your stay
  • A visa fee that is usually $135 but can vary

Once you have all these documents, you can apply in person or by mail to the French consulate general covering your area. Processing your application will require one to two months.

When you arrive in France, you will need to apply for a residency card from the administrative offices of your local prefecture. You will most likely be issued a Carte de sejour, which you will need to renew every year for the first three years you are in France. After those initial three years, you can apply for a 10-year carte de resident, which renews automatically.


The official language of France is French and it is by far the most widely spoken language. However, there are some regional languages spoken to varying degrees. For example, the Walllon language is spoken in Wallonia in the northeast part of the country and a minority of the people of Lorrain speaks the Lorrain language.

Health care

If you retire to France, be assured that health care for retirees is excellent.

In fact, according to a recent World Health Organization study, France has the world’s best health care.

You will have to have private health medical insurance when you retire there. Once you are in France, you may be able to transfer your health care plan to a French company or to one of the many British companies that provide coverage to expats.

How much your insurance costs will depend on your age and medical history. You may be able to save money by joining an association that offers a group plan. One of the largest of these is the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO). It costs $60 annually for an individual to belong to this association but its health care plan is very popular with expatriates living in France.

 Most French doctors speak English. You will be expected to pay the doctor in full at the end of your visit. Whether or not you are reimbursed for this cost will depend on your health insurance.

How you are reimbursed for a hospital visit varies from hospital to hospital. As a rule, you should check with your health insurance provider about reimbursements before checking in – unless it’s an emergency. This is because your insurance may cover you for treatment only in a public hospital and not a private one.

The French economy

France per capital GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is $32,800 and its inflation rate a modest 0.1%.

France’s leading industrial sectors are aerospace and defense, shop building, telecommunications (including communication satellites), construction, civil engineering, automobile production and chemicals.


In Paris, some of the leading cultural attractions are walks to discover the city’s historical and picturesque areas such as Le Marais, Montmortre, Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter.  There are also the Picasso Museum, the Louvre, the Museum of Modern Art, the Grand Palais and other, lesser-known but still exciting museums such as the Rodin Museum.

France is also the home of many architectural masterpieces. According to the experts at Dallas roofers, Roman architects were some of the first to use concrete which allowed for incredible new structures like domes and arch doorways. You can see an example of Roman architecture at the Alyscamps, a large Roman metropolis outside the town of Arles. Romanesque architecture can be seen in the Angouleme Cathedral, as well as Saint-Etoemme om Caen. Sens Cathedral and Notre Dame of Lano are great examples of French gothic architecture. And for an example of contemporary French architecture, look no further than Ronchamp, the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut.

Three great areas for retirement in France – Where to Retire in France

For retirement in France, there are three cities you should consider – Strasbourg, Montpellier and Avignon

 Strasbourg. ECA International recently named Strasbourg one of the best cities for expatriate retirees. Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande Île ("Grand Island"), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. It is also home of the University of Strasbourg. The city is in the Upper Rhine Plain, about 12 miles east of the Vosges Mountains and16 miles west of the Black Forest.

A 6-room house with four bedrooms and 1079 sq. ft was recently for sale in Strasbourg for $403,540. Strasbourg also had a one-bedroom apartment listed ad $172,128 and another at $71,036.

Montpelier. This city, in southern France, is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, as well as the Hérault department. Montpellier is France’s 8th largest city. Two of the city’s best-known cultural attractions are The Jardin des plantes de Montpellier – oldest botanical garden in France, founded in 1593 and the La Serre Amazonienne, an Amazon greenhouse.

To give you an idea of real estate costs in Montpelier, a large apartment with living room, kitchen and two bedrooms was recently listed at $192,937; and a villa in the center of Montpelier with a swimming pool was for sale at $162,880.

Avignon. This city is well known for its Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries. It is situated on the left bank of the Rhône, a few kilometers above its confluence with the Durance, about 360.4 mi southeast of Paris.

As of this writing, a villa with garden and pool near Uzes was for sale for $270,824.  Also advertised was a 1-story, detached house with 2 bedrooms, and a garden for $304,500.

France offers the world’s best food and wines, a rich culture, a strong economy and many, many things to do and see. You can choose to live in Paris, the city of lights, out in the country, on a sun-dappled beach or in one of France’s cities or villages. France also offers a varied climate and the world’s best health care. Add all this up and you can see why France is one of the world’s 10 best places to retire.

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