Where are the ‘best’ French towns and cities to live in 2022?

A new ranking of French towns and cities according to job opportunities and real estate affordability has thrown up a number of surprises.

Graffiti marks the side of a building in Mulhouse
Graffiti marks the side of a building in Mulhouse - ranked as the best city in France. (Photo by Sebastien Bozon / AFP)

According to a new ranking, the city of Mulhouse near the borders with Switzerland and Germany is the best place to live in France. 

A study by Meteo Job and Meilleurtaux combined two factors to compile the ranking: job security and the affordability of housing. 

The percentage of the working age population with indefinite (CDI) work contracts served as a proxy for job stability. To calculate the affordability of housing, they examined how many squared meters of housing someone could buy on the median salary for that area. 

“This ranking shows that big cities like Paris, Marseille and Lyon don’t have the best results if we cross these two data sets,” concluded the authors of the survey. 

“Small and medium sized towns are starting to offer great opportunities with very high rates of permanent employment and entirely affordable prices per squared meter.”

You can find the full ranking below:

The top three 

Mulhouse, Orléans and Dijon rank as the the top three towns. 

Mulhouse has neither the highest level of indefinite employment nor the most affordable housing when combining the two, comes out on top. It held the same position last year. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, the authors of the study described it as a city that “is a little bit out of the way” but noted that it “benefits from proximity to Germany and from a dynamic economy with more job offers than demand for jobs.”

The former industrial city is nicknamed “the French Manchester” after its industrial past and also has a famous car museum. 

Orléans, a city to the south of Paris in the centre of France made it into the top three largely because it ranks highest for job security with 7.22 percent of the working age population holding CDI contracts. 

Like Orléans, Dijon is less than 2 hours to Paris on the train and has seen its population grown during the pandemic thanks to city dwellers seeking a breath of fresh air and more affordable property prices. 

The city of Dijon is run by a former labour minister who describes himself as an ecologist. It has a vibrant cultural scene with a 9,500 capacity arena, an opera house and a number of museums. The city centre is entirely pedestrianised. 

“These two cities are going from strength to strength. They offer a great quality of life, a comfortable amount of living space and many green areas,” said Maël Bernier, one of the authors. 

The bottom three 

Paris ranks at the bottom of the 31 town/city table, in large part because of property prices. This ranking corresponds to a survey of foreign residents earlier this year that found the French capital to be one of the worst places for people living abroad – reassuringly though, our readers did say there were some redeeming features. 

READ MORE ‘Parisians are quite lovely’: Your verdict on quality of life in Paris

Joining Paris at the bottom of the table were Nice and Montpellier, which scored particularly badly for job security. Both cities are located in the South of France, a part of the country which is overrepresented towards the bottom of the table with Toulon, Toulouse and Aix. 

With the exception of Paris, southern France is generally more expensive than the rest of the country as far as property prices are concerned. The impact of the pandemic and the shift towards distance working means that this matters more than ever. 

“We estimate that a third of jobs are done entirely remotely and another third partially remotely,” said Marko Vujasinovic, one of the authors to Le Parisien

Member comments

  1. Loved the comments on twitter from other towns. My own comment “Et Brest alors!? Ville dynamique, prés de l’ocean, les plus belles plages de France, etc etc….” and the lowest average rate of COVID infection throughout the pandemic.

  2. Interesting article but you’ve got it wrong when you speak of “The percentage of the working age population with indefinite (CDI) work contracts…”.
    If you read the info at the top of the table you’ll see that the percentage refers to the number of CDI job offers in October.
    Otherwise those percentages would be really low. Only “7.22 per cent of the working age population holding CDI contracts” in Orleans! I don’t think so.

  3. Hmm, I guess if you’ll ignore the opinions of the population – but Mulhousians seem to rather dislike it.

  4. Congratulations to Mulhouse! The city’s quality of life is so high that even its graffiti is magnificent! The photo here in the Local shows an example of “graffiti” that is an exceptional painting, almost resembling the work of Spanish artist Fabio Lopez Gonzalo , alias Dourone. And clearly the owner of the building and the police were so enlightened as to not enforce the laws by stopping the “graffiti” artist. The artist must have needed at least two weeks to apply the layers of plaster and paint. And yet the authorities allowed it to go forward! If this is the level of graffiti in Mulhouse, the fine art in the museums must be almost too beautiful to gaze upon.

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Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

From the tax office to the post office, internet firms and pets - who you need to tell when you move house in France

Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

Whether you’re moving down the street, to the other side of town, or to a different département, the administrative scale of the task is almost as big as the physical side – and at least as stressful, unless  – on actual moving day – you lose the kettle and can’t make a cup of tea.

The job of moving house gets more difficult the closer you get to moving day, and it’s easy to forget or put off those administrative jobs you have to do. So, here’s a list of those annoying red tape jobs you need to consider in good time. 

1. Give notice to your landlord

If you’re renting your current property, you need to give either one month or three months’ notice – depending on the type and location of the property rental –  that you’re moving out, and arrange with your landlord a suitable time to carry out an état des lieux of the property, similar to the one carried out when you moved in.

2. Schools

Parents of school-age children attending state-run schools must notify the establishment if they move out of its catchment area, and find a new school for their children within eight days of moving. 

Under certain circumstances children will be able finish the school year in the establishment they attended before the change of residence.

The first step is to contact the town hall in the town you are moving to. The full rules, including those for children in private education or who are home schooled are here.

3.Tell the taxman – and other administrative bodies

The taxman needs to know you’re moving – if only to send your next tax form to the right address. 

You can inform tax officials of the fact and date of your move online, by logging into your Personal area on the website

Here, at least, there’s some additional good news. France has set up a system in which you can tell a number of administrative offices – including the tax office, EDF, Pôle emploi, and Caf – that you’re moving house with one online form. Find it here.

4. Residence permit

Anyone living in France on a residence permit – such as Britons who have a post-Brexit Carte de séjour – needs to update the address on it.

The process can be completed online.

5. Driving licence and carte grise

Sadly, for technical reasons, declarations of change of contact details to the Vehicle Registration System with an effective date after June 30, 2022, aren’t currently included in the one form, all admin system mentioned above.

So, to change the registered address of your vehicle on its carte grise, you need to go to the ANTS website

Bizarrely, there is no rush to change the address on your driver’s license.  You can leave it until you apply for a new one (for example, if you lose it, or it expires) – and there’s no dedicated ‘change of address’ option on the driver’s licence application section of the ANTS website.

6. Utilities

You need to contact your electricity and gas supplier, as well as the water company and whoever operates your telephone, TV, internet package.

Be aware, if your current internet operator is unable to supply your new home, you can request the termination of your subscription free of charge.

Don’t forget your bank, either. 

7. New GP

You may want to change your GP – especially if you’re moving some distance. You will need to find a GP able to take on new patients, and they will be able to help with the process.

8. Don’t forget your pets

In France, carnivorous pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets, must be identifiable – usually by microchip, or tattoo – so that they can be returned to their owners if they get lost. This information is kept on a national database, which must be updated when you move house. Do that here

9. Get your mail forwarded

La Poste will forward any letters to your new address for up to 12 months. Click here for more information.

10. Help with the costs of moving

You may be eligible for some help with moving costs on the day itself. Those on lower incomes may be able to access help from the fonds de solidarité pour le logement towards the cost of hiring a removals firm, for example.

Parents with three children or more, or who are expecting a third child may be eligible for a moving allowance from CAF under certain conditions. More information is available here