Which French city is the best to escape to if you quit Paris?

Which French city is the best to escape to if you quit Paris?
Photo: Wolfgang Staudt / Wikimedia
Montpellier has been ranked as the city stressed-out Parisians would most like to escape to to live, but other surveys, including The Local's own, suggest they would be better off moving elsewhere.

In 2016  80 percent of high-earning Parisians  were dreaming of leaving the stresses of the capital for alternative cities, according to job site Cadre Emploi.

A new study by the blog Paris Je te Quitte (Paris, I’m leaving you) published on Wednesday names Montpellier as the most desirable place for Parisians wanting to escape the capital.

The southern city close to the Mediterranean gained the highest combined score from seven criteria, these being climate, quality of life, environment, geographical location, culture and leisure, security and employment.

Photo: Empoor/ Wikimedia

Just 8km to the beach, plenty of sunshine hours and an average rent of 595 euros, Montpellier shapes up well.

But is it really the best alternative to the Paris rat race?

Previous studies tout other cities as the ideal change from Paris

A city on the rise

A survey in September 2016 showed that among top-earning Parisians, 56 percent of them would choose Bordeaux as their ideal spot to start a new life should they leave Paris.

Bordeaux is on the up for employment and city life following years of investment. “Huge investments have turned Bordeaux into a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, which – in comparison to other major French cities like Paris, offers remarkably good value for money,” Helen Robinson, one of the directors at local real estate agency Bordeaux and Beyond, told The Local.

Improved links to Paris make the city an even more attractive proposition for resettling Parisians, as of July 2017 you will be able to get from Bordeaux to the capital in two hours by high speed train.

(The new museum of wine in Bordeaux. AFP)

So only a short trip away if you start to miss Paris life, you could even commute there and back if you were really committed.

However, all of this interest has a downside; property prices are soaring. Bordeaux has the fastest-growing prices of any major city in France.

“With property prices shooting up, there is a fear that the average man on the street will be priced out of the city,” British writer Scott Gilmour, who has made Bordeaux his home for 10 years, told The Local.

A small town vibe

(Nicolas Vollmer. Flickr)

Some recent studies suggest the best alternatives to Paris lie out west, in Brittany.

A comprehensive survey by L'Express magazine this week ranked Nantes as the best place to work in France, due to the city scoring well in categories such as jobs, low unemployment, transport connections and ease for young people entering the jobs market.

But what if you are a foreigner looking to flee all those Parisians?

Does that change anything when it comes to choosing an alternative city? It certainly does according to our own study.

If you’re a foreigner living in Paris and looking for somewhere new to start, then we say Rennes (see photo above) in Brittany offers the best choice for you.

In our own study on the best cities for foreigners in France, the western city came out on top of all 13 cities included (including the capital).

While it may not be able to boast the booming investments of Bordeaux, Rennes is a city for those seeking the quieter life outside of Paris and to improve their all round quality of life.

“A city with a small town vibe” is how Georgia Wyche, an American English teacher who has been living in Rennes for two years, describes it. “The size of Rennes is quite comfortable and not intimidating,” she told The Local.


You’ll certainly be able to a be a little looser with your budget in Rennes, it was only beaten by Clermont-Ferrand for low rent prices and had the lowest unemployment rate of the cities studied by The Local at 8 percent.

And you can spend the cash you save in one of Renne’s many bars, one for every 1,670 inhabitants.

“You know Montmartre (in Paris) with its little streets and the village feel? There are parts of Rennes that are quite similar to that, with lots of bars and cafes,” said Stewart Bennett, who runs O'Connell's pub and has lived in Rennes for 15 years. “But of course it’s not nearly as expensive as Paris.”

The categories where Rennes fell down was in its places of culture and number of Michelin-starred restaurants, art and fine-dining lovers might be at a loss after living in Paris.

But it's not just us ranking Rennes top of the table. An EU study in 2016 put Rennes top of the table of all French cities for quality of life with 95 percent of inhabitants saying they were happy with life there.

But in the end it's up to you? Or would you just rather stay in Paris?

by Rose Trigg


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