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France's 'best places to live': how is your town or village rated?

Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Calvados are the most praised departments. The listing, now in its fourth year, uses criteria set by the public and official statistics

The village of Guéthary was crowned France’s ‘best-to-live in’ village in 2023 Pic: Thibaut Muraro / Shutterstock

A new ranking to highlight the places in France where it is best to live according to a list of criteria set by the public has been released.

Angers (Maine-et-Loire) and Guéthary (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) came out top in the best town and village categories.

The ranking works by looking at 198 criteria gathered under ten categories listed by order of importance from a survey* of French people. The most important elements defined by the public as needed to make residents feel good about where they live were quality of life, security and access to healthcare.

Organisers then use data from France’s national statistics organisation Insee and other governmental authorities to compile the listings.

The ranking was carried out by the association ‘Villes et villages où il fait bon vivre’, which has been releasing similar lists for the past four years. It looked at data for all of France’s 34,820 metropolitan communes.

Towns and villages are given a ranking both within their department and nationally with the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Calvados scoring well in both.

Read more: ‘France’s favourite village’: See 14 contenders for this year’s vote

The top towns to live in ranking 

Behind Angers comes Bayonne, Biarritz, Anglet (all three in Pyrénées-Atlantiques), La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime), Lorient (Morbihan), Annecy (Haute-Savoie), Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), Brest (Finistère) and Le Mans (Sarthe.)

The top villages to live in ranking

Behind Guéthary comes Épron (Calvados), Martinvast (Manche), Peltre (Moselle), Authie (Calvados), Saint-Quay-Perros (Côtes-d'Armor), Mazères-Lezons (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Buros (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), Cambes-en-Plaine (Calvados) and Marcellaz-Albanais (Haute-Savoie.)

“The ranking really shows the attractiveness of mid-sized towns,” said Antoine Chauvel, general secretary of the association, adding that such towns were praised by French people for good access to services and their closeness to some of France’s biggest metropoles.

“It feels like being connected while living in a disconnected environment,” he said, adding that the intensification of remote-working has contributed to this phenomenon.

Mr Chauvel added that, on the other hand, French people are shunning more and more France’s biggest cities, with Paris being downgraded from position 66 in 2022 to 91, Marseille no longer making the top 100 (down from position 93 to 122) and Lyon (from 63 to 77.)

Annecy, a mid-sized town, was downgraded from second to seventh in 2023 mainly because of lower air quality and housing attractiveness, he said.

The association pinpointed that ‘safeguarding the environment’ was a new entry among the most important categories set by French people, ranking sixth.

The Pyrénées-Atlantiques did so well as it received excellent grades in housing attractivity, air-quality and overall security, said Mr Chauvel, although being listed among the top 100 communes required good statistics in all categories, he added.

To see how well your village or town in France fares, visit this link.

How is the ranking carried out?

There are 198 criteria organised under 10 categories: Air quality, security, health, transportation, shops and services, protection of the environment, education, solidarity, sports and leisure and housing attractivity. Each is ranked according to five grades from zero to 100: 0, 25, 50, 75, 100. 

Eleven criterias were added to the 2023 edition including extra security statistics such as the number of assaults, thefts, armed-robberies, sexual assaults, thefts of and from vehicles and environmental criteria such as air quality. 

The points accumulated under these criteria were then gathered into points per category. These are then weighted in order of importance by French people, according to a survey*. 

Survey participants were 48% men / 52% women and came from all regions. More than 75% were aged above 35. The three main professional categories were from higher socio-professional groups (28%), working-class (29%) and non-working persons (42%.)

The priorities for them were: General quality of life (78%), security (69%) and access to healthcare (55%), transportation-systems (42%), businesses’ implantation (42%), protection of the environment (41%), education (32%), solidarity (25%), sports and leisure (25%) and real-estate attractivity (14%.)

Air-quality was ranked the top criteria for people aged above 65 while men above 65 considered security their main priority. Likewise, health access scored the highest among people above 65 while people from 18 to 25 ranked transportation and protection of the environment as the most important categories. 

Towns and villages ranked among the top 500 are eligible for the association’s label, including a road sign on entry (for a fee). Around 200 have taken this up but Mr Chauvel said he expected more to follow with the release of the new lists.

 The ranking was released in partnership with French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

*Survey carried out by OpinionWay for ‘Villes et villages où il fait bon vivre’ on 1,004 French people above 18 on October 5 and 6, 2022 through Computer Assisted Web Interview.   

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