A two-year study of official data has finally delivered an objective verdict on where the best place to live in France really is.
The Villes et villages où il fait bon vivre association studied 182 criteria in eight key areas - education, shops and services, health, sports and leisure, solidarity, quality of life, and transport - using data provided by national statistics office Insee to rank the 34,841 municipalities in France.
The association decided to discount a commonly used survey method of asking residents for their views. "There is no element declaring the feelings of the inhabitants and, as individuals, one may consider that they do not live well in a well classified city, or vice versa," Thierry Saussez, president of the association told the Journal du Dimanche, which published the results.
"We have chosen to use 100% quantitative and objective data, the only way to make comparisons. Thus, the economic policies of local elected officials or hyper-local initiatives are not taken into account."
Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie, tops the study for towns and cities with more than 2,000 inhabitants, ahead of Bayonne and La Rochelle.
Its location, low unemployment rate and the high purchasing power of its inhabitants, some of whom work in Switzerland where salaries are higher in France, is is enough to compensate for higher property prices and a rising population, the survey found. Angers and Le Man complete the top five.
Of the larger cities, Nice comes in sixth, then Bordeaux (eighth) and Strasbourg (11th). Toulouse was ranked 29th, Lyon 56th, Marseille 85th and Lille 86th.
Courbevoie (33rd) and Levallois-Perret (34th) were the highest ranked in the Paris region. The capital itself ranked 58th.
Among towns and villages with 2,000 inhabitants or fewer, Peltre, in Moselle, ranks top of the list, ahead of Guéthary (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Martinvast (Manche).
The Moselle stands out with the village of Mey, also leading in the categories of less than 500 inhabitants, while Longueville-lès-Metz is 2nd in the category of 3,500 - 5,000 inhabitants and Metz, for its part, ranks 24th in the category of towns.
To see the rankings, click on the website
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France