Where are the ‘best’ French towns and cities to live in 2022?

A new ranking of French towns and cities according to job opportunities and real estate affordability has thrown up a number of surprises.

Graffiti marks the side of a building in Mulhouse
Graffiti marks the side of a building in Mulhouse - ranked as the best city in France. (Photo by Sebastien Bozon / AFP)

According to a new ranking, the city of Mulhouse near the borders with Switzerland and Germany is the best place to live in France. 

A study by Meteo Job and Meilleurtaux combined two factors to compile the ranking: job security and the affordability of housing. 

The percentage of the working age population with indefinite (CDI) work contracts served as a proxy for job stability. To calculate the affordability of housing, they examined how many squared meters of housing someone could buy on the median salary for that area. 

“This ranking shows that big cities like Paris, Marseille and Lyon don’t have the best results if we cross these two data sets,” concluded the authors of the survey. 

“Small and medium sized towns are starting to offer great opportunities with very high rates of permanent employment and entirely affordable prices per squared meter.”

You can find the full ranking below:

The top three 

Mulhouse, Orléans and Dijon rank as the the top three towns. 

Mulhouse has neither the highest level of indefinite employment nor the most affordable housing when combining the two, comes out on top. It held the same position last year. 

In an interview with Le Parisien, the authors of the study described it as a city that “is a little bit out of the way” but noted that it “benefits from proximity to Germany and from a dynamic economy with more job offers than demand for jobs.”

The former industrial city is nicknamed “the French Manchester” after its industrial past and also has a famous car museum. 

Orléans, a city to the south of Paris in the centre of France made it into the top three largely because it ranks highest for job security with 7.22 percent of the working age population holding CDI contracts. 

Like Orléans, Dijon is less than 2 hours to Paris on the train and has seen its population grown during the pandemic thanks to city dwellers seeking a breath of fresh air and more affordable property prices. 

The city of Dijon is run by a former labour minister who describes himself as an ecologist. It has a vibrant cultural scene with a 9,500 capacity arena, an opera house and a number of museums. The city centre is entirely pedestrianised. 

“These two cities are going from strength to strength. They offer a great quality of life, a comfortable amount of living space and many green areas,” said Maël Bernier, one of the authors. 

The bottom three 

Paris ranks at the bottom of the 31 town/city table, in large part because of property prices. This ranking corresponds to a survey of foreign residents earlier this year that found the French capital to be one of the worst places for people living abroad – reassuringly though, our readers did say there were some redeeming features. 

READ MORE ‘Parisians are quite lovely’: Your verdict on quality of life in Paris

Joining Paris at the bottom of the table were Nice and Montpellier, which scored particularly badly for job security. Both cities are located in the South of France, a part of the country which is overrepresented towards the bottom of the table with Toulon, Toulouse and Aix. 

With the exception of Paris, southern France is generally more expensive than the rest of the country as far as property prices are concerned. The impact of the pandemic and the shift towards distance working means that this matters more than ever. 

“We estimate that a third of jobs are done entirely remotely and another third partially remotely,” said Marko Vujasinovic, one of the authors to Le Parisien

Member comments

  1. Loved the comments on twitter from other towns. My own comment “Et Brest alors!? Ville dynamique, prés de l’ocean, les plus belles plages de France, etc etc….” and the lowest average rate of COVID infection throughout the pandemic.

  2. Interesting article but you’ve got it wrong when you speak of “The percentage of the working age population with indefinite (CDI) work contracts…”.
    If you read the info at the top of the table you’ll see that the percentage refers to the number of CDI job offers in October.
    Otherwise those percentages would be really low. Only “7.22 per cent of the working age population holding CDI contracts” in Orleans! I don’t think so.

  3. Hmm, I guess if you’ll ignore the opinions of the population – but Mulhousians seem to rather dislike it.

  4. Congratulations to Mulhouse! The city’s quality of life is so high that even its graffiti is magnificent! The photo here in the Local shows an example of “graffiti” that is an exceptional painting, almost resembling the work of Spanish artist Fabio Lopez Gonzalo , alias Dourone. And clearly the owner of the building and the police were so enlightened as to not enforce the laws by stopping the “graffiti” artist. The artist must have needed at least two weeks to apply the layers of plaster and paint. And yet the authorities allowed it to go forward! If this is the level of graffiti in Mulhouse, the fine art in the museums must be almost too beautiful to gaze upon.

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Readers reveal: What makes the quality of life in France so high

Good cheese, comprehensive healthcare and friendly neighbours - The Local's readers reveal the reasons for their great quality of life in France.

Readers reveal: What makes the quality of life in France so high

Earlier this month France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies found that the average French person rated their quality of life as 7.4 out of 10 –  but it seems that readers of The Local are much happier. 

Out of 100 people who responded to our survey last week, most said they were very happy and the results of our – admittedly unscientific – survey gave a life satisfaction score of 8.5 out of 10.

“Living in France was the best decision we ever made,” said American, Robert Heuer. 

A whopping 91 percent said that life in France was better than in their home country, with work-life balance, great public services and magnificent culinary offerings among the reasons why.   

Here’s what you had to say: 


Unsurprisingly, French cuisine is seen as a key benefit by many of the country’s foreign residents. 

Julia Fray, an American living in the Alpes-Maritimes, praised the country’s “wonderful markets”. 

Among her favourite culinary delights are “wild-caught fish and game, mushrooms, provençal wines, locally raised vegetables, fruits, flowers, meat, and delicious prepared foods: foie gras, terrines and pâtés en croûte.” 

Others among you pointed out the obvious, but nonetheless salient truth. 

“Wine and cheese is much cheaper,” said American, Barry Epstein. 

A British lady called Harriet, living in Paris, praised the city’s “croissants and baguettes”, while an American reader told us how they appreciated having a “more connections with local merchants”. 

Louise McTavish, a mother living in Essone, said that France had less of a “junk food culture” compared to her native Scotland. 

Pace of Life 

Another common theme among our readers is an appreciation for what Elaine Denny, who lives in the Pyrenees, described as a “relaxed pace of life”.

“There’s more respect for the pleasures of life here and people make time to enjoy them,” said Paris-based American Robert Friday. 

“There is a more balanced lifestyle in France between work and home,” said Randy Kerber, perhaps reflecting the fact that French workers spend fewer hours at work than the European Union average.  

Economic opportunity 

The French economy has bounced back strongly from the fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic, with unemployment at a near-10 year low. 

Canadian Val Critchley, put it succinctly. “Cost of living cheaper, housing cheaper, friendly neighbours, low crime rate.” 

READ MORE How well is the French economy really doing?

“Somehow I make less money, but end up having many more holidays and can afford better quality clothing,” said Fabio Ferretti, an Anglo-Italian. 

Maryke from South Africa, described France as having the following benefits: “Economically stable. More spending power and disposable income. Better prospects.” 

An Indian reader, Aditya Das, said that the standard of living in France is about the same as in India when it comes to the middle class, “but for the poor, France is much better.”

Public services 

Many of you said that state-managed services were run highly effectively in France. 

“Our taxes are visible in the good roads, schools, parks and free events,” said Scheenagh Harrington, a Brit living in Tarn in the south west.

John Walton praised the country’s “genuinely helpful local services” and “rural fibre internet, high-speed rail, fast roads”. 

Americans, in particular, were also keen to highlight France’s incredible health system. 

“The quality of healthcare is first rate and is so much less expensive than in the US,” said Robert Heuer. 

But the Brits were impressed too. 

“The health system is second to none,” said Susan Smith, who is based in Aude. 


While it is an election year, we were still pleased to hear how many of you are enthusiastic about French politics – or rather, French politics in relation to your home country. 

“I don’t have to live in a country that would elect Donald Trump president, or even a corrupt half-wit like George W. Bush,” wrote Julia Fray. 

Harve Cohen, also from the US, heralded a “better political environment” in France. 

Readers from the UK also said the political scene was less toxic here. 

“No Brexit, less racists”, declared Howard Turner, from the UK, when summarising why he preferred life in France. 

“At a population level, the Brits suffer from an overbearing superiority complex in combination with an attitude of righteous indignation if anyone disagrees with them. The French might be anarchic socialists but they are easier to live with,” said Nigel Thomas. 


Perhaps surprisingly, at least for those living in Paris, the friendliness of the local population was also frequently mentioned as a key advantage of life in France. 

“When out walking everyone says ‘Bonjour’,” said James Dunkley. “We have found the French people to be very friendly.”

READ MORE Why bonjour is the most sacred word to French people

“While we have many American friends and have developed strong friendships with our French neighbours,” said Robert Heuer. 

“French people, in my experience, are always pleasant and friendly,” said La Sarthe-based Brit, Geoff Todd.