Why the best place to work in France right now is… Nantes

A new study aimed at finding the best city in France to work has ranked Nantes as top of the pile for the second consecutive year. Rose Trigg explains why we should pack our bags and head out west.

Why the best place to work in France right now is... Nantes
Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbera/ Flickr

The study by L’Express newspaper ranked Nantes top of the tree for the best place to work out of France's biggest towns and cities apart from Paris.

But it's not just the L'Express study that suggests Nantes is thriving.

In The Local's own study on the best cities in France to live for foreigners, Nantes was ranked second, above Paris (5th) and was only beaten by its close neighbour Rennes. 

So why is Nantes the place to be right now?

The president of the city's Chamber of Commerce and Industry previously spelled it out for The Local.

“It’s got a privileged location in the heart of the “Great West” region,” said Yann Trichard.

But it’s also not far from Paris, has a balanced economy and powerful industrial base, he added.

He also stressed the “dynamism and innovation” of companies in Nantes that make it popular. He may have been talking about Faltazi, the Nantes-based company behind the eco-friendly street urinals that could end the plague of wild peeing in Paris.

Somewhat overlooked among French cities, the city on the Loire river surfaced as a dark horse in the competition to rival Paris’s job market, and has seen an incredible influx of people moving there in the last few years.

By 2016, it seemed that people had cottoned on to Nantes’ reputation as a great place to work. It was reported that 7,500 people were moving to Nantes every year.

And businesses are too. According to the local development agency 2016 was a record year for companies relocating to Nantes. Out of the 86 firms that moved into the area, which will help create 1,400 jobs, a third had upped sticks from Paris.

But what about the adopted locals?

Nantes: open for business

Foreigners who live and work in Nantes are not surprised that the city tops the ranking.

“Nantes seems like a city that is dynamic, youthful and open to new ideas,” Miles Watson, an English tutor at the University of Nantes, told the Local.

Photo: Momoleheros/ Wikimedia 

“It was absolutely fine to find a job as an English speaker, albeit in teaching positions,” he said.

“After three weeks, I had found my two jobs, and had turned down other teaching roles along the way.”

Finding positions outside of teaching may be trickier for English speakers, as locals say that French firms will often prefer French applicants, and few companies in Nantes target English-speaking graduates.

This could change as Nantes business district EuroNantes continues to grow and pulls in international businesses.

Just an hour's drive to Nantes-Saint-Nazaire, France’s fourth biggest port, Nantes has a natural advantage as a gateway to the Atlantic.

“Major service companies notably in IT, banks, and insurance companies are fully aware that Nantes is now a strategic choice for their organisations,” said Max Le Roux, former chairman of Atisreal (now BNP Paribas Real Estate).

Small businesses can also thrive from the low rent, especially in comparison to Paris.

“Rent is about 60 percent cheaper than it is in Paris,” said Brady Peter, owner of Brady’s Irish pub in Nantes.

“In Paris I would never have been able to get what I have here.”

A top place to live

Nantes isn’t just a city of all work and no play. Time magazine’s “secret capitals of Europe” edition named Nantes as the best place in France for quality of life in 2004.

Photo: Pymouss44/ Flickr

In The Local's study on the best city in France to live for foreigners Nantes scored highly in some key areas, including low rent prices, amount of green spaces, low unemployment rates and air links to the UK. (CLICK HERE for all the data)

Locals say it's a great place for family life, calmer than some bigger cities in France, but with plenty of bars and enough going on that there's always something to do. 

Great transport links

Commuters know that the trip to and from work can make or break a day, but you don’t have to worry about a miserable commute in Nantes.

Photo: InGolfBLN/ Wikimedia 

The local ‘Nantais’ population rave about the public transport, which is known for its efficiency and ease of access.

“It’s very well organised,” Brady Peter previously told The Local. “The tramways, the bus system, there’s a lot of people cycling around.”

In 1985 Nantes became the first city in France to build a modern tramway system, which snakes through the city’s wide, open boulevards and makes getting about fast and simple. 

Nantes also boasts strong transport links, both domestic and international.

You can also get to Paris via the 26 TGV trains a day in less than two hours.

A city of culture

A thriving cultural sector isn’t just good fun for residents, but an important source of income and jobs for any city.

Nantes’ lively cultural scene is renowned, and draws in tourism for the unique and playful installation art which dots the city. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbera/ Flickr

The 20th century wasn’t kind to Nantes, its historic waterways were filled in between the world wars (creating the wide streets), it lost its historical title as part of Brittany and suffered heavy bombing during WWII, forever changing the face of the city.

In 1987 Nantes was dealt another blow when the naval shipyards that historically formed the backbone of its industry were closed.

As a result, Nantes’s cultural outlook was distinctly glum and nostalgic.

“The city was culturally dead when I arrived here,” said Jean Blaise, an art director who, along with Mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault, devised a plan to transform the city into a cultural hub.

The project saw public spaces given new life by creating free public art installations around the city and a yearly arts festival called Les Allumées which ran from 1990 to 1995. 

A decade later, Nantes gained a National Theatre and an all new creative space made from the old biscuit factory called 'The Unique Space'. 

This plan is credited with transforming the feel of the city and giving it the more modern, global outlook it has today and encouraging business in all sectors. 

“This cultural strategy…has considerably changed the image of Nantes, making it creative and attractive,” says a report by art think tank The Contemporary Art Observatory

Nantes is now home to several major arts festivals, and one giant mechanical elephant!

Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbera/ Flickr

The theatre company La Machine, which created the giant mechanical spider that touched down in Liverpool in 2008, base their workshop in Nantes. Visitors can ride the 40ft elephant complete with outdoor terrace and working water-spraying trunk – not a bad way to get around.

Is it time we all moved to Nantes?

If it's classic, historic French beauty you're after, Bordeaux or Paris might be a better bet, but if you want to work in a dynamic city that reflects France's future, not just its past, it's time to pack your bags for Nantes.

A previous version of this story was published in February 2017. 

By Rose Trigg

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How to get a summer job in France

As the summer holidays approach in France, many employers are looking for seasonal workers - so if you're looking for a summer job, here's how to go about it.

How to get a summer job in France

There are thousands of employment offers in France – a simple internet search for jobs d’été came up with numerous jobs boards offering work in France, while the government-backed Centre d’Information et de Documentation pour la Jeunesse (CIDJ) offers advice and information on all aspects of life for young people in France, including finding seasonal work and summer placements.

Sectors including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are always recruiting in the summer, seeking fruit-pickers, holiday camp workers and serving/hotel staff.

But what are the rules for people seeking summer jobs?

READ ALSO Vendange: What you really sign up for when you agree to help with the French wine harvest


Children from the age of 16 (under certain circumstances, the age limit drops to 14) who are legally resident in France can work as long as they have written authorisation from their parents or legal guardians. A model authorisation letter is available here

Those under the age of 18 cannot undertake certain jobs for health and safety reasons.

In the following circumstances, children as young as 14 or 15 can work during school holidays.

  • The holidays must last at least 14 days;
  • The child must work no more than half the days of the holiday – so, if a vacation period is two weeks, they can work for no more than one of those weeks;
  • The child is given ‘light duties’ that offer no risk to their safety, health, or development;
  • From the age of 15 and if the child has completed their troisieme education, a minor can register for an apprenticeship. 


Salary is usually paid monthly and will have a payslip. For those aged 18 and over, pay will be at least equal to the minimum wage.

 For those aged 14 to 17, who have less than six months’ professional experience, the minimum allowed rate is 80 percent of the minimum wage. For those aged 17 to 18, the rate rises to a minimum of 90 percent of France’s minimum wage.

  • The minimum wage in France is currently €10.85 gross per hour (€1,645.58 gross per month based on a 35-hour week);
  • the employment contract is fixed-term and can take different forms (fixed-term contract, seasonal employment contract, temporary employment contract, etc);
  • Seasonal employees are subject to the same obligations as the other employees of the company and have access to the same benefits (canteens, breaks, etc.).

Under 18s have certain additional protections:

  • between the ages of 14 and 16, during school holidays, employees on any contract cannot work more than 35 hours per week nor more than 7 hours per day;
  • They cannot work at night;
  • Those aged 14 to under 16 working during their school holidays can only be assigned to work which is not likely to harm their safety, their health or development.

Right to work in France

If you’re a French citizen or hold permanent residency in France then you have the right to work, but for foreigners there are extra restrictions.

Anyone who holds the passport of a EU/EEA country or Switzerland, is free to work in France or to travel to France seeking work without needing a visa or work permit.

Most other people will need permission to work in France – even if it’s only for a short period or for casual work such as grape-picking. Depending on your country of origin you may need a visa – everything you need to know about that is here.

In addition to the visa, you may also need a work permit, which is the responsibility of the employer.  To employ anyone in France for less than 90 days, an employer must get a temporary work permit – before the prospective employee applies for a short stay visa. This permit is then sent to the embassy at which the employee is applying for a visa.

If you come from countries including the UK, USA and Canada you can spend up to 90 days in France without a visa – but you may still need a work (convention d’accueil) if you want to work while you are here.

READ ALSO Six official websites to know if you’re planning to work in France

Certain countries have specific ‘seasonal worker’ visas on offer, for certain sectors which allows – for example – Canadians to come to France and work the ski season. 

Cash-in-hand jobs

Certain sectors which have a lot of casual workers – for example seasonal fruit-picking – do have cash-in-hand jobs, known in France as marché noir (black market) or simply travail au black (working on the black, or working illegally). 

This is of course illegal and working this way carries risks – as well as the possibility of losing your job if labour inspectors turn up you are also in a vulnerable position. If your employer suddenly decides not to pay you, or make unexpected deductions from your wages, there is very little you can do about it since you won’t have any kind of work contract.