Where do the French have their second homes?

When it comes to the long summer break, the French are much more likely to head to rural or coastal France than take an overseas trip.

Where do the French have their second homes?
In Val Thorens in the French Alps, 89 percent of properties are second homes. Photo: AFP

And many French people have invested in a maison secondaire (second home) for their breaks away from the city.

France counts 3.4 million second homes, more than any other European nation, and while some of those are owned by foreigners, many are owned by French people. 

French newspaper Le Figaro, using data from the 2015 census collated by the national statistics agency INSEE, has revealed that the preferred destinations for French people to own a second homes are the Alps, the island of Corsica and the southern départements.


The rate of holiday homes in certain coastal towns and ski resorts can even exceed 80 percent.

Among the areas with the highest proportion of second homes are the island of Corsica and the Alpine departments of Savoie and Hautes-Alpes. The latter leads the way with 45 percent of its housing stock functioning as second homes.

Les Belleville, home to the Val Thorens ski resort, is the French commune with the highest proportion of second homes, at 89 percent. Sitting at 1,450m in altitude, the commune is almost entirely comprised of secondary residences.

Parts of the Mediterranean coast come close to equaling that record.

Leucate in southern France is dominated by holiday homes. Photo: AFP

A total of 85 percent of properties in the commune of Leucate, in the Aude department, are second homes. Beach-side towns on the west coast, such as as Arcachon (62 percent), are also in demand.

In terms of the number of holiday homes, Paris is by far the most popular destination.

In total 112,650 properties in the capital serve as second homes. Agde, in the south of France, is far behind in second place, with 33,193 second homes. The growing trend in Paris has been driven partly by the explosion in the number of properties being rented out via platforms such as Airbnb.

Residents' associations and local authorities have accused the increase in rental properties of driving locals out of cities such as Paris.

Since 2015, towns where demand for housing is superior to supply can impose a higher rate of housing tax upon second homes. The magazine Capital has compiled a list of the 218 communes which have chosen to exercise this new right.

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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to