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So where's the best place in France to be happy?

The Local · 9 Jul 2015, 13:10

Published: 09 Jul 2015 13:10 GMT+02:00

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A survey by the Observatory for Happiness has revealed the top ten cities in France in which the French believe they would be happiest living.

The grandly titled “Observatoire du bonheur” has released the results of its seventh-such poll, which reveal where you should head to in France if you are still on the eternal quest to find contentment.

Asked their ideal place to live – and let's face it, France has plenty of options – most French people opted to avoid the capital.

So where do they ideally want to live?

Jean-Pierre Ternaux, neurobiologist and co-ordinator of the Observatory of Happiness, which was set up to find out what makes the French happy, gives us a clue.

"Mainly coastal towns, where the climate is pleasant, and life is sweet," he said. "But above all, these cities [which have been chosen] have made tremendous progress in terms of ecological development, and we are able to breathe [in them]."

Here's the countdown:

Grenoble, Lille and Marseille took tenth-equal place.

Grenoble, at the foot of the Alps, is a favourite winter sports destination, while northern city Lille has shaken off its reputation as grey and industrial to become a cultural hub in French Flanders, and the bustling port of Marseille has been similarly regenerated as an arts and culinary destination that breathes dynamism into the otherwise sedate southern coast.

SEE ALSO: Lille - France's most underrated city?

Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace – famed for its Franco-Germanic mix of cultures and sweeping views of the Rhine – took ninth place.

On the other side of the country, the Breton capital Rennes, with its large student population and resulting lively bar scene, came in eighth.

France's culinary capital Lyon ranked seventh in the happiness ratings.Basking in 2,000 years of history and bursting with Roman, medieval, Renaissance and modern architecture, it is France's third largest city and a Unesco World Heritage Site.

France's capital city only managed the sixth spot. Love it or loathe it, Paris is indisputably France's political and economic powerhouse, and home to more than 18 per cent of the country's total population. A global city on a par with London, New York and Tokyo, Paris is a fashion and media capital, and each year vies with London to be the most visited city in the world.

Another tourist favourite, Nice, took fifth place. Capital of the French Riviera, the French are not immune to its glamour either and the sunny city is renowned as a culinary destination.

In third place are Toulouse and Nantes, each with 12 per cent of votes.

Toulouse, capital of France’s southern Midi-Pyrénées region and sitting by the Spanish border in easy reach of the Mediterranean, is nick-named la Ville Rose for the terracotta used in its architecture, while the western city of Nantes, on the Loire river, is only 30km from the Atlantic Ocean.

In second place, with 15 per cent, is the southern city of Montpellier, capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region and just 10km inland from the Mediterranean. Wealthy and bourgeois, Montpellier is famed for its antique shops and upmarket fashion boutiques as well as its medieval centre.

And finally, taking the top spot, is Bordeaux, with the French believing the southwestern city, not far from the Atlantic coast, is the place to live happily ever after.

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the port city is in easy reach of both mountains and coast, and is the wine capital of the world – its vineyards generate €14.5 billion a year.

No stranger to survey success, a separate poll in August 2014 placed Bordeaux in the top spot, with 39 per cent of respondents naming it the best place in France to work.

Patrick Dumoulin, director of the Great Place to Work institute in Paris, told The Local recently that there's no comparison between Bordeaux and Paris. 
"There’s a real attraction to the quality of life in this region. And the weather is attractive to many people as well. There's a certain 'south west way of life', if I dare to say that."
Story continues below…

Bordeaux was also voted best tourist destination in Europe for 2015 by 250,000 people across the continent, and the city's mayor Alain Juppé was judged the best in France in a ranking last year by French magazine L'Express.

The pollsters praised the "legendary wine-growing region" and lauded its elegance, culture, and proximity to Basque country, Spain, and the ski slopes of the Pyrenees. 

"Before, people would say Bordeaux is a ‘sleeping beauty’ – a sad or dark city, a city where you get bored, But now they say it’s a city that’s alive, where you can walk peacefully and there are beautiful things," Stéphan Delaux, deputy mayor of Bordeaux and president of the Bordeaux Tourism Board, told The Local.

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