France – A Country of Contrasts

France – A Country of Contrasts

France has long been a favourite move for Britons looking to retire overseas, sitting second only to Spain on the list of top destinations!

Quite apart from the relaxed pace of life, rich cultural heritage, renowned food and wine, excellent healthcare and ease of accessibility back to the UK, much of its appeal lies in the incredible diversity of environments which can be found across the country; which not only means there really is somewhere for everyone, whatever type of retirement lifestyle you are seeking, but also that there is such tremendous variety to explore and enjoy!

From the rural landscapes to the urban spaces and the climate, the contrasts – and choices – are endless!

Rural landscapes

In a country with around the same population as the UK but twice the land area, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that most of France is rural, characterised by picturesque countryside and dotted with a myriad of small, historic towns and villages.

From sweeping vineyards and olive groves to lush green farmland, from rugged coastline and wild beaches to vast expanses of golden sand and of course not forgetting the mountains of the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east – there is something to appeal to all tastes.

The vast majority of British residents in France live in the countryside which can make for a relaxed lifestyle in incredibly beautiful surroundings. However, it’s worth considering that it can be very isolating, perhaps requiring long journeys to reach supermarkets or finding yourself the only English speaker in the community can be challenging if your French isn’t up to scratch!

Also, many of the sleepy rural towns are dominated by second homes which can make them very seasonal, buzzing and thriving during holiday times but with lots of properties ‘shut up’ for large parts of the year.

With nearly 7,500 kms of coastline bordered by four seas, coast lovers can find everything from long sandy beaches and dunes perfect for sunbathing and beach life; small inlets and shingle beaches which offer fabulous scenery to enjoy and sailing opportunities; to rugged rocky coves and spectacular cliffs with fabulous walking and hiking trails.

The mountain regions of the Pyrenees and Alps not only provide spectacular scenery but are a haven for winter sports enthusiasts and walkers alike. The resorts offer world class ski slopes during the winter months, whether you choose to live close by or simply travel for weekends or holidays, and they are also improving and expanding their summer offering to provide more year-round appeal.

Urban spaces

Whilst thoughts of France may be dominated by the glitter and sophistication of its capital city, France is so much more than just Paris, with a huge variety of cities, towns and villages.

If the glitz of a vibrant city with its fast pace of life and higher property prices is what you’re after, then Paris and it’s surrounding areas might be the right choice for you but if good value living with all the modern comforts you enjoy at home is on your radar then look to the regional cities and towns.

Lyon, located in the Rhone-Alps region, is France’s third largest city but with its wide streets, numerous parks, two enormous hills and two wide rivers it feels spacious and mellow yet with all the advantages and liveliness of a big city. The whole of Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a fantastic old town for those that like to immerse themselves in history.

Montpellier is found on the warm, sunny southern coast in the Languedoc region. It is France’s 8th largest city but its fastest growing and is home to numerous museums, art galleries, universities and historic buildings and is known for its eco-friendly ways!

Limoges tops of the list of favourite places for retirees in France as it finds itself in one the sunniest regions of the country and yet its appeal goes far beyond its climate. The region boasts a relaxed way of life, a host of museums, art galleries and medieval chateaux, beautiful open surrounding countryside and a cost of living around half that of some of the more well-known locations.

Bordeaux needs little introduction as a wine lovers paradise! Located in the southwest of the country, it is surrounded by vineyards and is also home to the wine museum, Cité du Vin. Its attractions stretch beyond wine alone however, with much of the ancient city designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, a pleasant climate and easy access to a host of fabulous Atlantic coast beaches.

For those seeking sun, sea and sand, then Nice has to be one of the best options in France. Located in the heart of the French Riviera on the Mediterranean coast, Nice has much to offer sunseekers, art and culture lovers, and foodies alike and is a great base from which to explore not just the rest of the French Riviera but other locations by ferry such as Bastia and Corsica.


When it comes to climate and weather variations France really does have it all!

From the long hot, dry summers of the Mediterranean region to the heavy snowfall and rainfall experienced for three to six months of the year in the mountain region, France is a country in which you can enjoy seasonal variations much as you would in the UK.

France has a temperate climate but with four distinct climatic areas. The west is characterised by only modest temperature variations, with mild winters, cool summer temperatures and rainfall spread through the year; in central and eastern regions temperature variations are more marked, with cold winters and hot summers; in the Mediterranean climate of the south-east there is sunshine almost all year round with hot, dry summer months and mild, dry winters with some rainfall seen through the autumn; while the mountain regions see the heavy winter snowfall to support the great ski resorts.

With such incredible contrasts and variation, you can be sure that there will always be something new to experience should you decide to spend your retirement years in France.