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French property watch: Gard - new destination for early retirees

With typical Mediterranean features, this department is becoming more and more popular among those looking to enjoy their golden years

Views of Nîmes, capital of Gard Pic: saiko3p; ermess; RossHelen; Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

Departmental capital: Nîmes

Main cities/towns: Alès,  Bagnols-sur-Cèze, Beaucaire, Saint-Gilles, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Vauvert

The Gard has a Mediterranean climate, with warm (except when the wind blows), wet winters and hot dry summers.

It also has seen, in the last 50 years or so, another typical Mediterranean feature – a constantly renewing migrant population of early retirees in search of good weather, good food and, hopefully, the good life. 

Property prices are largely dominated by this market, with higher prices near the coast and lower ones in the Cévennes mountains, which stretch across the north west.

The coastal part of the department is only 23km long and contains the swamps, salt pans and dunes of the Camargue, as well as the jewel of a fortified village in Aigues-Mortes.

Nîmes, the prefecture, is just two hours 50 minutes from Paris by TGV if you catch the fastest train, and there are two autoroutes – the A9 linking with Orange and Montpellier, and A54 linking Nîmes and Arles with Marseille.

Away from the coast, it is still possible to buy properties for under €200,000, with most being village houses without gardens. Properties under €100,000 are harder to find and might be without bathrooms or other modern conveniences.

A feature of some old, stone-built houses in the region are archways used to hold the structure up – something the locals will assure you is a direct inheritance from Roman builders who flooded the region when Nîmes was one of the most important cities in the country.

Tourism plays a large part in the economy – from Port-Camargue, which is among the biggest marinas in Europe, to the hiking trails of the Cévennes made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson and his walk with a donkey. Running gîtes is a popular job for many early retirees who move here and, as a result, properties with gîte potential are expensive.

Related stories:

French property watch: Could Aube be the country’s best hidden gem?

French property watch: Aude - A worthy alternative to the Cote d’Azur

French property watch: Discover the unspoilt landscapes of Aveyron

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