Retiring to a tropical paradise is certainly high on many people’s lists, but if you’re more interested in culture (the arts, history, great food and wine) and First-World amenities, the idea of retiring in France should be on your radar. This country offers arguably the world’s best quality of life, and a France retirement is more affordable than you might think.
Looking past the obvious temptations of world-class wines and haute cuisine, a vibrant art scene, and the variety of lifestyles on offer here, retiring in France also means availing yourself of the world’s best health care, infrastructure that is second-to-none, and investment opportunities you might not have thought possible. (You could buy and renovate an old farmhouse in the Languedoc, or invest in a rental property in Paris.)
If you’re looking for something more than sipping mai tais in a hammock on the beach, you need to come and explore the many possibilities for Old-World living that retiring in France offers.
How do you imagine your life in retirement? Do you dream of sidewalk cafés in Paris, sipping espresso and reading the latest issue of Le Monde or Paris Match? Or does the French countryside with its vineyards and chateaux call you? Your France retirement options are many, so you need to narrow your focus.
The Burgundy region is justly famous for its wines (and tasting tours), but there is so much more here to see and do for the adventurous retiree. Take a barge, or try canoeing or cycling along the many canals in the region.
Exploring the countryside, you can visit the16th century Château de Ancy-le-Franc with its Italian-influenced murals and painted ceilings, and l’Abbaye de Fontenay, one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in France, with its strong, uncluttered architecture and stained glass windows illuminating the interior in tones of aquamarine, sky blue, and brilliant yellow.
Horseback riding and hot-air ballooning are more great ways to get to know this corner of the country, while farmers’ markets on the weekends and the many festivals (there is a truffle festival early November in the medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein) showcase all the wonderful food on offer here.
Best of all, real estate in Burgundy can be very affordable. You can find a cottage or row house for around US$100,000 and fixer-uppers in the countryside for as little as US$55,000 or less.
Morbihan in southern Brittany features a variety of interesting contrasts for retirees, with the prehistoric monoliths of Carnac, the beaches and islands along the coast, medieval towns and castles inland, and the ports and villages around the Gulf of Morbihan.
The more than 3,000 standing stones at Carnac, dating back as far as 4500 B.C., still inspire awe, and the Prehistory Museum here showcases artifacts from the Stone Age up to Roman times. The popular resort of Carnac Plage has all the usual beach facilities, as well as numerous restaurants, cafés, and small shops, while off the coast here you’ll find the picturesque islands of Ile-d’Arz and Ile-aux-Moines.
Pontivy in the north of Morbihan could be ideal for history buffs. The seat of one of Brittany’s most powerful families in the 15th century, the medieval town center is still dominated by the castle that bears their name, the Chateau Rohan. In the early 1800s, Napoleon expanded the city westward using a cleaner and more regimented design, giving Pontivy two very different faces.
Morbihan also offers some incredible bargains, including a two-bedroom house, minutes from the village of Rohan for under US$30,000.
Retiring in Paris means a never-ending feast of gallery openings and special performances, museum exhibitions and seasonal celebrations. You can enjoy three course meals for US$20 or less, and you can spend hours at a cafe, watching the city flow by, for the price of a single café au lait. You can join conversation groups, discussion groups, book clubs, and cooking classes, often for very little cost, even free.
While the price of real estate (renting or buying) is higher here than anywhere in France, there are neighborhoods that are still quite reasonable. Look to the 15th, 16th, and 18th arrondissements for the best property values. (You’ll find the largest concentration of American expats in the 16th arrondissement.)
France’s rich history and culture provide retirees with endless opportunities for enjoyment, in Paris and around the country.
The variety of lifestyle options available here is tremendous, from medieval walled villages to the City of Light, plus the best of country living and dramatic Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, retiring in France means you’ll never be bored.
France has arguably the world’s best health care, and if you qualify for French Social Security, the cost is minimal.
The infrastructure is among the best in the world and less expensive than in many U.S. cities.
We don’t recommend people leap into retirement to France without first trying it with a three-month trial. Doing a three-month trial gave us the time to look at where in France we wanted to live, and the extra time let us network and make more friends with other retirees. Paris costs the most to retire to, so for us and many other retirees, it wasn’t a practical place to get an apartment. Instead, the countryside or the other vibrant cities make for a great choice, and the cost of living there will be cheaper.
Usually, Americans have no trouble getting long-term residency and retiring in France. Nevertheless, you still need a lot of documentation and to meet the requirements here before you can retire to France. For example, you will need a passport valid for three months after the last day of your stay. Other documentation needed will include:
Your nearest French consulate will give you the best instruction on the process of retiring in France.