When asked about the best places for expats in France the great cities like Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux often come to min but a new study has found that it is the Breton capital of Rennes that comes out top.

It has been named as the best city for foreigners to live in across France for all-round quality of life in a study that looked at several categories including jobs, air links, rents, public transport, weather, nightlife and culture.

In second place was Nantes which scored highly for having green spaces, international flights and low rents, followed by Bordeaux which scored well for air links, nightlife and sunshine. Paris came in fifth place and scored badly for housing costs with average monthly rents of over €1,000.


Rennes is already well known as being a great city for students but now the city, which has a population of just 200,000 has been voted the best in a poll carried out by The Local online news site.

And it is not a total surprise to Mayor Nathalie Appere who said the French have long appreciated the appeal of the city which houses the Brittany Parliament. She pointed out that the upcoming 90 minute rail link to Paris, new Metro works, and a €2 billion investment in public services will make it even more so.

Others who are not surprised include Ryan Carter, an Englishman who co-owns the Fox and Friends pub in Rennes. “It’s a brilliant place to live. You’ve got everything you need but in a small format. You’re not lost as you would be in a big city like Paris or Lyon,” he told The Local France.

Many outside France may not even have heard of Rennes, but foreigners who already live there are not surprised it topped the rankings given the quality of life. “Lyon, Bordeaux, and Paris are great cities, but they are overwhelmingly big and can be intimidating to someone visiting France for the first time,” said Georgia Wyche, an American English teacher who has been living in Rennes for two years.

“The size of Rennes is quite comfortable and not intimidating. It's a lively university and student city that is accustomed to opening the door to foreigners,” she added.

Rennes scored highly in several categories including nightlife, for which it is renowned and indeed only Lille and Clermont-Ferrand have more bars per inhabitant. Rennes was also the city in France with the most amount of green space per inhabitant at 42 square meters compared to the national average of 31 square meters.

Rennes also had the lowest unemployment rate of all the 13 cities in the study and low average monthly rents of just €470. It also tied with Nantes in third place for having a local accent that’s quite pleasing to the ear.

It does have some downsides, including a lack of Michelin starred restaurants and places of culture and the average hours of sunshine were poor compared to cities like Marseille, Nice and Montpellier.