Revealed: France’s 5 greenest cities

Looking for trees, fresh air, and environment-friendly city policies? Here are France's five greenest cities.

Revealed: France's 5 greenest cities
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Observatory for Green Cities publishes a ranking of the greenest cities, with the methodology based on how much green space is dedicated to each city inhabitant, how much of the city budget goes toward green spaces per inhabitant, the ability for citizens to be involved in greening projects, and the number of trees per inhabitant.

1) Angers

Angers, in the Loire Valley in western France, is widely known as a green city, but its been made official by the Observatory list, which names it the greenest city in France.   

Angers is exceptional for the fact that it was one of the first cities in France to have local authorities fully integrate a ‘greening’ policy into municipal projects.

On top of that, green spaces represent about 14 percent of its surface area (not including forests). It continues to devote significant amounts of its budget to keeping the city green, and has even instituted a “zero phyto” policy to reduce pesticide usage in green parts of the city.

2) Nantes

Based on the observatory’s study, Nantes comes in second place for most green French cities.

Actually, Nantes even beats Angers in one criteria: green investment. The city has invested more than €41 million per year on average for greening projects. In 2013, Nantes won the Europe-wide “Green Capital” contest – 100 percent of the population in Nantes lives within 300 metres of a green space, so if you head to Nantes you will never be far from fresh air.

3) Metz

Metz, which is located eastern France, comes in third place. For Metz, their green pride mostly shines through their gardens, their eco-citizen budget, and their pioneering plans for waste management.

In 2019, Metz dedicated a specific citizen budget to allow residents to propose their ideas for improving Metz’ living environment in terms of sustainability and urban ecology. Most notably, Metz has 871 shared, family garden plots, which allows people to feel connected to nature and their neighbours simultaneously. 

READ MORE: And the greenest city in France is…? No, it’s not Paris.

4) Amiens

With €14.1 million set aside for green spaces, the historic capital of Picardie in north east France, Amiens is a small but mighty force in the competition for France’s most green cities.

Amiens has taken dedicated steps to becoming recognised as a green city, having moved up six places since the last Green Cities ranking.

It has focused on protecting local biodiversity – like the city’s wetlands and bees. On top of that, each year the city organises a flower contest and has the highest rating for France’s “Villes et Villages Fleuris.”

Amiens has also launched a local council dedicated to mental health, which is also dedicated to promoting the health benefits of green spaces.

5) Lyon

Even though Lyon shares a similar architectural style to Paris, with its Haussmanian buildings and large boulevards, you’ll notice quickly how much more fresh the air is while walking through Lyon.

Coming in at number five, it is no surprise to Lyon-lovers that this city made the list for France’s top green cities. With a hefty budget to keep Lyon green, the city is working to give inhabitants more green space.

In fact, the average surface area of green space per inhabitant has increased by three metres squared, and the city overall can offer over 430 hectares of gardens, green squares and generally green spaces.

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French doctors advise ‘be more Spanish’ as heatwaves continue

With a fourth summer heatwave on the horizon for France, French doctors are advising their compatriots to copy Spanish habits to deal with the high temperatures.

French doctors advise 'be more Spanish' as heatwaves continue

France has had a dangerously hot summer – one that emergency doctor, Patrick Pelloux, estimates will lead to “5,000 to 10,000 excess deaths” by the end of the season.

French weather forecaster Météo France has repeatedly sounded the alert for dangerously high temperatures via its heat alert system – as of Wednesday, 18 départements are on ‘orange’ alert for high temperatures.

As a result, several emergency medicine doctors have announced new recommendations to help the French adapt and stay safe in the warmer temperatures.

Interestingly enough, it might involve mimicking the behaviours of France’s neighbours to the south – known for their heat adapted lifestyles (e.g. the afternoon siesta).

French daily Le Parisien, has even published a map comparing temperatures in French cities to those in Spain:

Here’s how these doctors recommend the French become more Spanish:

Alter the daily routine – Spain is famous for its afternoon siestas and late evening meals. In France the classic apéro or ‘happy hour’ usually begins at about 5 or 6pm with dinner at 7pm or 8pm, but during the heatwave many bar owners are reporting that terraces are empty at 5pm, and only fill up from 9pm when the temperatures start to fall.

Pelloux recommended to Le Parisien that the French may need to begin adjusting their working hours to avoid the hottest part of the day, but continue until later in the evening.

Another emergency medicine doctor, Agnès Ricard-Hibon, who works as head of the Samu du Val-d’Oise emergency unit, told the newspaper: “It is logical that we imitate the Spanish rhythm.

“When it’s very hot, you have to get up earlier and take a break in the afternoon, especially if you’re a vulnerable person with a risk of complications due to dehydration.”

It might also be recommended to extend the classic 12-2pm shop and office closure and keep shops closed during the high heat of the early afternoon, and instead take evening strolls at 8pm, rather than earlier.

Pelloux said that as France transitions “from a temperate to a tropical climate, we will have to stop working between noon and 5 pm.” 

No more tanning and goodbye suits – With skin cancer on the rise in France, experts worry about the popularity of the tanning trend, particularly during the hottest parts of the day.

Emergency physician Christophe Prudhomme told Le Parisien that it might be necessary to “close beaches at the hottest times” in order to keep people safe from the heat.

He also said we might have to change our fashion habits – dark coloured clothing, such as suits, hold in heat on hot days. Prudhomme recommends embracing fashion trends with more breathable fabric, such as cotton or linen.

In Spain, prime minister Pedro Sanchez is leading the way by announcing that he will no longer wear a tie when the weather is hot.

Lighter lunches – Ricard-Hibo told Le Parisien that as the days go by, we must learn to accept the heat and lighten our lunches.

Other experts recommend eating lots of hydrating foods during heatwaves, so maybe this is your opportunity to test out a particularly tasty gazpacho for your midday meal. The Local Spain has some other delicious recommendations to test out during the hot weather. 

READ MORE: The best Spanish food and drink to keep you cool during the summer heat

What about the official governmental advice? 

Meanwhile, the French government’s official advice is of course to drink plenty of water, but it is also a bit contradictory to the gazpacho suggestion – in the graphic below, you can see the French government recommending regular meals to keep from feeling faint in the high temperatures.

The government also recommends keeping the shutters closed, avoiding alcohol (maybe go light on the sangria), and staying cool by ‘getting your body wet’ whether that be by jumping in a fountain or standing in a brumisateurs (the machine that pumps out water vapour).

Eat sufficient meals and shut the shutters – French government advice for staying cool in a heatwave