In the last article we looked at moving to France from the UK, focusing on the northern areas of Normandy, Brittany and the Loire region. This time we will be staying in northern France but shifting our attention to the east and looking at the regions of Haute-de-France, Ile-de-France and Grand Est.
These are among the most populated regions of the country, and that’s not surprising when you consider that Paris lies at the centre of Ile-de-France. We won’t be focusing on Paris just now but will instead take a look at the regions themselves, all of which feature the regular accoutrements of French living, from splendid towns and villages, beautiful countryside and affordable property.
You can’t get any closer to Britain than Hauts-de-France. France’s northernmost region is often seen as a place to whizz through on the way to or from the ferry in Calais, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Bordering Belgium and the North Sea, Hauts-de-France is often skipped over due to the visibility of industrial activity and the fact that its climate is similar to Britain’s. However, look behind this and you’ll discover a different side, including picturesque villages, medieval towns, miles of sandy beaches and the kind of quiet rural life that many people dream of. And if cities are your thing, there’s the charming historic city of Lille, often called one of France’s best kept secrets, as well as smaller cities such as Amiens, Roubaix and Dunkirk to tempt you.
Nevertheless, one of the biggest draws to the region remains its proximity to the UK. In fact, you can be in London in around an hour from Calais, meaning commuting through the Channel Tunnel is a distinct possibility. Many people who have moved to Hauts still work in the UK, and it is ideally suited to those who do shifts, such as nurses and transportation staff who might work several days on and then have several days off.
So how much does property cost in Hauts? This is one of the region’s main draws, with a range of decent properties falling within most people’s budgets. For example, a nicely proportioned four-bedroom townhouse can be yours for only €90,000, while a beautiful old cottage with garden in a peaceful village will leave you with change from €180,000. Apartments in the popular city of Lille can cost a bit more, and generally start at around the €200,000 mark.
Translating as “Island of France”, Île-de-France has Paris at its core and is the country’s most populous and wealthy region. Numerous chateaux and wealthy commuter satellite towns surround the “City of Light”, and as you might expect for an area that includes the Palace of Versailles, this is reflected in the price of property. They call the region an “island” because it is bounded by three large rivers; the Oise, the Marne and the Seine.
Mention Île-de-France and most assume you are talking about Paris. And although some 21,000 Brits call Paris home, making it the most popular destination for expats, it is the region that surrounds it we’ll be considering here. Prices become lower the further out you move from the city, and life becomes correspondingly more peaceful and picturesque; in fact, almost 80 percent of the region is made of agricultural land, forests and other natural spaces.
Île-de-France is a relatively small region, and you can easily live in a beautiful town within an easy hour of the capital. For example, Versailles is just 24 minutes away by train and behind the tourist façade is very peaceful and liveable town. As you might expect though, property is not exactly cheap, with townhouse flats starting at around a million Euros.
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more affordable, you could do worse than consider Provins. This gem of a medieval town is just over an hour from Paris and it’s drenched in history and culture. As a matter of fact, the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting tourists from far and wide. The town is packed with art and cultural attractions, and yet property is remarkably cheap, with town houses starting at around €150,000. Other places that you might consider include Mesnil le Roi, St Germain en Laye and Mareil-Marly.
Our third and final French region to consider is Grand Est. Literally “Great East” this is a powerhouse region that contains the city of Strasbourg and the European Parliament. Formerly known as the regions of Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine, Grand Est borders Germany and so it’s no surprise that there’s a Teutonic influence here. And yet the region is probably most well known for being the centre of Champagne production.
If you’ve ever driven down to the south of France from the UK, chances are you’ll have spent much of the journey travelling through Grand Est. Cities such as Metz, Nancy and Verdun may be familiar from signposts, but there’s much more to this region away from the transport network that passes through it. Its floral decked towns and villages are often packed with half-timbered buildings and ooze charm, especially in December when they host spectacular Christmas markets. There are natural parks, thermal baths, lakes and enough historical sites to satisfy the most ardent history buff. What’s more, the region is a gateway to the Alps, so skiing enthusiasts will never be too far from la piste.
Picking somewhere to call home could be a tough call when there are so many charming places to pick from. Strasbourg – the second most popular city if France for tourists – is a medieval gem, has apartments for sale starting at €130,000, but if you want a house you’ll pay at least three times this. Nevertheless, Strasbourg offers a galaxy of employment opportunities, so if you’re of working age this could be the factor that matters the most.
Other cities, such as Nancy and Metz, offer more affordable property, but the best bargains can be found in small towns and villages that are off the beaten track, especially if they need renovation. Rural houses with land and modernisation potential can be had for as little as €80,000.
If this short overview has piqued your curiosity to investigate more closely, be sure to check out other forthcoming articles about moving to France on the Currency Solutions website.
Remember, if you do end up taking the plunge and buying a property abroad, always make sure you get the best exchange rate you can and avoid wasting money needlessly on expensive bank fees. So, whenever you are ready to buy, be sure to give us a ring and we’ll tell you how we can easily arrange a funds transfer so you can purchase your dream home in France.
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