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Nîmes tops list of best towns in France for people to retire in

The ranking is based on healthcare accessibility, weather, shopping options, cultural and sporting activities, the environment, security, and the proportion of retirees living there

Cities with good weather and access to the sea scored well in the ranking Pic: Goodluz / Shutterstock

The number one place for retirees to live in France with a population greater than 100,000 is Nîmes (Occitanie), according to a rating by newspaper Le Figaro. 

It awarded the southern city the prize due to its excellent living environment (such as climate and security) and its great healthcare options, as well as its affordable housing. 

Nîmes ranking score of 15.4/20 was the best of all the towns the newspaper looked at, finishing ahead of Angers (Pays de la Loire), with a score of 14.82 and Besançon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) with a score of 14.63.

Top 10 places for retirees to live in France (with population > 100,000)
Ratings in brackets*

  1. Nîmes (15.4)

  2. Angers (14.82)

  3. Besançon (14.63)

  4. Perpignan (14.44)

  5. Reims (14.44)

  6. Clermont-Ferrand (14.29)

  7. Toulon (13.97)

  8. Nancy (13.91)

  9. Dijon (13.89)

  10. Caen (13.83)

See the full top 20 at this link here

The ratings are based on a score out of 20 given for five different categories:


This includes access to doctors, nurses, specialists (such as physiotherapists, etc.), and to specialist health centres. It also takes into account distance to the nearest hospital, plus the time it takes for emergency services to reach the place. If it is more than 30 minutes, a score of zero is given.

Quality of life

This includes weather factors, including yearly amounts of sunshine and rainfall (which brings the rating down). It also includes transport links, such as accessibility of train stations and frequency of train services. Finally, it assesses security, looking at crime rates published by the Interior Ministry.

Service provision and housing prices 

This includes what types of shops are available in the town, such as bakeries, butchers, hairdressers, etc. And also access to larger shopping centres and supermarkets. This category also assesses house prices.


This assesses what cultural offerings there are, including access to cinemas and theatres, and frequency of live events. It also looks at what sports options there are, such as what pitches / fields / halls are available. Finally, it looks at the environment, assessing what green spaces there are, if there are good forests or nature walks, etc. 


This category mainly assesses the proportion of retirees in the place, with 75% of the score in this category based on that criteria. It also looks at the number of people arriving in the place compared to leaving, with this factor carrying a weight of 25% on the score. 

For more information on the categories, see this link here

Are foreign retirees looking for the same values as locals?

Le Figaro’s ranking is based on what French nationals are looking for in cities or towns: quality of life, healthcare options, weather, house prices, etc. 

Foreign residents in France share these values, but also look at certain additional aspects. 

For example, 19% of Britons living in France live in rural areas – usually in the west of the country. This is a far higher percentage than Belgians living in sparsely populated areas of France (9%) and Germans (5%). Dutch people also tend to like living in rural areas (20%), but there are far fewer of them in France compared to British people. . 

Another factor that British people tend to take into consideration is, obviously, access to the UK, with a high concentration of the some 150,000 British people living in France choosing places in Brittany or Normandy in the north of the country. 

Around 53,000 of British people who are residents in France are retirees, 2016 figures from a report from France’s national statistics bureau Insee show. This means roughly a third of British residents in France are retired. 

A slightly higher number of British people living in France are employed in the country (55,000), figures from the same report show. These people tend to live around large cities, such as Paris, Marseille, Lyon, etc. 

Related stories:

Top 50 French towns for retirees revealed

Downsizers: We swapped our big house in France for modern - and modest

British pensioners moving to France: How to apply for a visa

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