Budget Baguettes: The 9 Cheapest Places to Live in France

Cheapest Place to Live in France
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From the rolling lavender fields of Provence to the medieval hill towns of the Loire Valley, the alpine resorts of the Haute Savoie to the Mediterranean beaches of the Cote d’Azur, the home of the Eiffel Tower has oodles of draws for would-be expats. But what are the cheapest places to live in France?

Cue this guide. It’s all about pinpointing the most bargain-friendly regions and towns in the country. There are certainly some that stand out from the crowd, like the sun-kissed southern student city of Montpellier and the mountain-shrouded city of Grenoble, plus the tried-and-tested vacationer’s fav of the Dordogne. But you can also live for less in some suburbs of Paris and even close to the Med.

The truth is that France can offer some serious bang for your buck on the property and rental front. Country houses and barn conversions here can sell for a whole load less than in, say, the UK. Plus, the cost of living isn’t often overly high, with even Paris coming in something along the lines of 35% cheaper than NYC.

Grenoble

Grenoble
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Small but mighty, Grenoble is a top choice if it’s mountains and nature suit your fancy more than metropolitan entertainment. Located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region in the southeast of France, the town spreads out between the Isere and Drac Rivers at the foot of the Alps. Renowned for its museum, its old universities, science research centers, and proximity to exceptional outdoor sports, Grenoble offers small-city-living within outstanding scenery.

Often presenting itself as the Capital of the Alps, the winter backdrop of snow-capped peaks is hard to ignore. Much of the region’s tourism is centered around the Deux Alpes and Alpes d’Huez ski resorts – which are both around about 1.25 hours’ drive away. But that’s not it, go a touch further and you can even access the big resorts of the Three Valleys and Val d’Isere.

For all the city has to offer, the living costs come out surprisingly low. A single person can expect to spend around €800 or $900 a month without rent, and as little as €1,225 ($1,375) with accommodation included. Property prices are almost as high as the national average, just shy of €3,000 per square meter. Still, depending on location, you can expect spectacular alpine views from most apartments in Grenoble, and the property market is a good investment with the thriving student population.   

Lille

Lille
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Lille, the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, promotes a near-opposite side to living than Grenoble. Close to the Belgian border and home to a major Eurostar terminal, the city is one of the main transport hubs for Western Europe. A high-speed rail service operates between Lille and the European capitals of London, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Better yet, the low living costs will leave you plenty of leftover pennies for adventures. 

The city was once a merchant center of French Flanders and then a grim manufacturing powerhouse. But Lille has done well to shake off its industrial past to emerge as a vibrant cultural and commercial hub, with a charming old quarter chocked-full of medieval history and lingering Flemish influences. Vieux Lille, the historical center, is peppered with 17th-century brick townhouses, cobbled streets, and home to a large central square, namely the Grand Place.

There may be more famous cities in France, but Lille rates high in housing, safety, healthcare, and free business environments. It is also one of the cheapest places to live in France, with average living costs of around €1000 ($1,120) per month, and about €800 ($895) for students. You can find one-bed apartments in the city for as little as €600 a month, or $675, and less than €500 for student housing which is around $560. Rent in Lille is over 70% lower than in New York, and property prices are below the national average, at approximately €2,800 ($3,135) per square meter. 

Marseille

Marseille
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Marseille is one of the most popular cities with expats yet still one of France’s cheapest places to live. With the big city vibe of Paris but without the rocket-high property prices, it’s got a good balance between energy and chill factor, something that’s helped a whole lot by the proximity of some fantastic beaches.

The port city has been a crossroads of trade and migration since its inception in 600 BC. Located in the historical Provence region of southern France, it is every bit alluring as it is alive. The Old Port, or Vieux-Port, is the life and soul of Marseille. Fishmongers sell their catch along the quay where local boats bob among flashy yachts. The Basilique Notre-Dame-de-La-Garde, a Romanesque-Byzantine church, is a memorable highlight on the sparkling city skyline, and Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse complex and the CMA CGM tower, designed by Zaza Hadid, are among the modern sights. 

Property prices are considerably lower here than in other major cities at €2,500 per square meter, or $2,800. This is 40% lower than Bordeaux and 70% less than Paris. A single person can expect to spend around €775 per month or $867, without rent, and about €600 ($670) for a one-bed apartment monthly. 

Nantes

Nantes
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On the banks of the Loire River in Upper Brittany, western France, Nantes is a historical port city where the Duke of Brittany once lived. His home, a castle named Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, is now a restored landmark and museum with multimedia exhibitions and a rampart walkway across the medieval fortifications. 

Despite the rich history, Nantes is a bustling and youthful university city with an artistic metropolitan area full of galleries, museums, and landmarks. It is also famously green, promoting itself as a pinnacle of sustainability with a slow-paced lifestyle and plenty of quirky outdoor spaces. Base yourself in Nantes to live between the action and nature with low living costs, diverse real estate, and spectacular forest scenery on the doorstep.

A single person living in Nantes can expect to spend around €800 a month without rent, that’s about $895, and only around €550 ($615) for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center. What’s more, rent outside the center could set you back as little as €430 a month ($480) and less than €3,000 per square meter to purchase. 

Montpellier

Montpellier
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The third-largest French city near the Mediterranean coast, Montpellier, sits just behind Marseille and is characterized by its Gothic architecture. The Cathédreale Saint-Pierre with its conical towers dominates the city skyline. Montpellier is also home to the chic and neoclassical-inspired Antigone district, a modern development home to hip bars, extensive bicycling lanes, inviting outdoor spaces, and affordable housing.

Montpellier has three universities in its midst and is something of a student hub with a vibrant atmosphere and low-cost living to match. Still, if your university days are long gone, don’t fret. Montpellier has something for everyone, with swanky suburbs, quaint cafes, and iconic galleries, such as the Musée Fabre, housing French and European artworks by the likes of Breughel, Rubens, Manet, and Raphael.  

Montpellier has experienced some of the country’s most substantial economic growth in recent decades and ranks high in worldwide living quality. Yet, the city is still one of the cheapest places to live in France, with living costs averaging €815 ($900) per person without rent and less than €3,000 ($3,350) for a family of four. Property costs less than the national average at around €2,980 ($3,335) per square meter, while rent averages at €600 ($670) for a one-bedroom apartment and just €1,225 ($1,370) for three bedrooms in the city center. 

The Dordogne 

Dordogne 
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Occupying 9,000 square kilometers in southwest France, the Dordogne is one of the most popular regions with ex-pats, set between the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Loire Valley. The Dordogne has a rich culinary heritage – it’s known as the duck and truffle capital of Europe! It’s also worth a special mention here for its cheap property prices, which have lured Brits for decades.

You’ll find prehistoric cave paintings in the Vézere Valley, Roman ruins and the St-Front cathedral in the capital of Périgueux, and medieval towns situated along fast-running rivers perfect for water sports. Bergerac is one of the Dordogne’s most famous historic towns. It’s a popular base for expats looking for slow, country life with large rural markets on Saturdays and Wednesdays, selling everything from fresh produce to pastries to freshly cut flowers. 

You can live out the French dream in these parts for as little as €500 a month or $560, lodging in an old chalet or converted barn, acres of which you can own for just €1,220 per square meter. That’s less than half of what you can expect to spend in the cheapest cities and almost one-third of the national average.

Saint-Quentin

Saint-Quentin
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There is one town that out ranks almost all others when it comes to low cost of living: Saint-Quentin (and we’re not talking about the American jail where Johnny Cash performed, either!). With average family house prices at around €1,130 per square meter to purchase, and under €10 per square meter to rent, Saint-Quentin is the perfect balance between affordability and cultural city life. 

Located in northern France, Saint-Quentin is just two hours from Paris by car and is an important medieval pilgrimage town. The city was an trading center in the middle ages but was almost completely destroyed in World War I. Still, some significant landmarks remain. Overlooking the Flemish-inspired central square with its 173 sculptures illustrating town life is the 16th-century Saint-Quentin Town Hall, with its striking Gothic façade. The 13th-century collegiate church of Saint-Quentin, restored following the war, is also thought to be built over the tomb of the 3rd-century martyr, Gaius Quentinius (Saint Quentin), from whom the town gets its name. 

Rent prices aren’t quite as much of a steal as buying, but this makes the property market a superb investment in Saint-Quentin. You can find two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments in the city center for around €600 ($675) a month, well below the national average, and living costs come in at roughly €700 ($785) a month per person. 

Châteauroux

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The regional capital of the French department of Indre might not hit the travel headlines like some of the other mentions on this list. What it does do is offer a fine price tag for would-be expats, coming in the heart of a part of the central-western belt of the country that’s got some of the cheapest property prices of all – we’re talking like €1,047/meter square to buy!

The other thing that’s tempting about Châteauroux is precisely the fact that it’s not a tourist center. Come here to taste the real ebbs and flows of French life. The town itself has a medieval core that tells tales of Norman raids and French duchies, with a  charming church and weekly markets to get through.

Head to the outskirts and you’ll find oodles of suburbs with their own like bakeries and cafes. Past those rolls out the Indre countryside. That’s a land of truffle-filled forests and farm pastures, largely dominated by the protected Brenne Natural Regional Park, which hosts grand chateaux castles and big lakes for swimming.

Marmande

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The small country town of Marmande is known for its rollicking rock festival – the Garorock Experience – but also its position amid the rolling hills and dales of backcountry Bordeaux. This is a region not often associated with good bargains, mainly because it’s sought-after with wine buffs, beach lovers, and villa owners. But Marmande bucks the trend a little, since it’s got student energy and some decent cheap rentals to match.

For us, the real joy here is the surrounding rural villages and towns. They’re a picture of rustic France. Take tiny Fontet with its canal walks and cafes by the water’s edge. Check out Bazas, home to a haunting Gothic cathedral and stone-cut squares with covered arcades. Beyond those, you’ll spend days walking the Garonne River, sipping wine in little bistros, and cycling through sunflower fields.

Property prices here have remained relatively stable for some time, so you can still bag a four-bedroom house for under half a million euros. There are also loads of ruined barns and farms waiting to be converted, just in case you’re the sort of expat that likes a project!

The cheapest places to live in France – a conclusion

France certainly has some pricy places to live – Paris, the Cote d’Azur, the chic surfer towns of the west coast. But there are also some destinations that offer a good bargain for would-be movers to the country. We’ve showcased nine of them in this guide to the cheapest places to live in France, hopping from the medieval towns of old Brittany in the north to the balmy metropolis of Marseille in the south. You’ll also find buzzy student cities and even places on the doorstep of the sought-after Alps, for those interested in snow and skiing more than sun and sands.

Is France expensive?

France can be comparatively more expensive than the rest of Europe with the exorbitant property prices in Paris and the high taxes of the notorious affluent coastal towns in the south. But not everything comes with a high price tag in France, and the rural regions boast low living costs and cheap housing.

Fresh produce, meals out, fuel, and even haircuts can all be sourced cheaply in smaller towns, and the French countryside makes a popular choice for ex-pats due to just how your Euros can stretch when it comes to grand property and large pieces of land. Choosing where to go in France makes all the difference in how much it costs to live. 

Where is the cheapest place to live in France?

City life will always be more expensive than rural living. Still, Lille, Grenoble, Montpellier, Marseille, and Saint-Quentin all offer a great alternative if you’re looking for bustling metropolitan life at a lower cost than the capital. Still, France’s remote countryside will always be the cheapest for living, with the sparsely-populated Limousin being the most affordable region. There are hundreds of abandoned manor houses waiting to be snapped up for as little as €1,000 per square meter. But poverty also still has a stronghold on this province. The Dordogne offers impressively low housing, but its better quality of life means greater popularity with ex-pats.  

How much is one month in France?

In one month in France, you can expect to spend an average of €600 to €1,000 in rent, €40 on electricity, €500 on groceries, €50 on transport, and around €300 on luxuries like meals out and taxis. That brings the average costs to about €1,700 or $1,900 per person, but this depends on where you base yourself.

Expect to spend closer to €2,000 ($2,240) if living in Paris and as much as double if you’re traveling around the country. While the remote countryside regions of Limousin and the Dordogne can see average monthly costs for France, including accommodation, halved to less than €900 ($1,010) per person. 

Where is the most expensive part of France?

Paris is the most expensive place to live in France, costing an average of €2,000 per person and €1,300 for students per month. Daily groceries, property prices, and travel are well above the capital’s national average, but this could be considered a small price to pay to experience the most culturally riveting and vibrant city in the country.

The wealthiest of France’s residents live in the tremendous Parisian region of Ile-de-France, with Saint Cloud, Boulogne Billancourt, Versailles, and St Germain en Laye coming out on top. But St Tropez and Cannes in the south are also among the most expensive parts of the country with their warm Mediterranean climates and cultural significance.    

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Esmé is an English literature graduate and freelance writer. Originally from London, Esmé is lucky enough to call Bali home. Her travels have taken her from the far corners of the East to the islands of the Caribbean. When she's not writing, you'll find her lying on a beach somewhere, lost in a crime novel.