French property watch: Drôme - an idyllic ‘gateway to the south’

Home to some of the most beautiful villages in France, this department attracts potential house buyers with scenic views and affordable prices.

Clockwise: views of Valence, Romans-sur-Isère, Bourg-lès-Valence and Nyons in Drôme
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Departmental capital: Valence

Main cities/towns: Montélimar, Romans-sur-Isère, Bourg-lès-Valence, Pierrelatte, Crest, Die, Nyons

Drôme is often portrayed as ‘the gateway to the south’ and when looking at property advertisements, the description of a land of lavender and thyme often features.

The department has no fewer than five of the Plus beaux villages de France, which gives an idea of both the pride locals have in their heritage and the attraction for second-home owners, who have an estimated 8% of the property market. Prices vary and can go up from €1,364 to €2,295 per m² for a flat.

Apart from tourism and agriculture, economic life and most of the population is concentrated in the west of the department, along the banks of the Rhône river. This zone, too, concentrates the transport links, with the A7 autoroute (linking Paris with the south) and TGV rail lines all in what has become a major transport corridor.

Away from the frenzy of the autoroute, the department has some spectacular roads to drive on, as the land rises to the Alps and sun-soaked villages complement stunning scenery.

Valence, the department’s capital, has had its own TGV station since 2001, as well as the town centre station, also on a TGV line, which links with settlements to the east and Switzerland. In terms of air travel, the main airport is Lyon, around 100km to the north, or Grenoble, which has regular flights to Barcelona, Dublin, Rotterdam and Warsaw.

Traditional local metal-smithing industries have had a rough time and parts of the department have unemployment figures above 15%. Tourism is seen as one way to help and initiatives flourish. Sites include a crocodile farm at Pierrelatte and the amazing Palais idéal du facteur Cheval, a fantasy palace built by a postman with pebbles he collected on his rounds.

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