20 Cheap Cities to Live in France and Work

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Some of the cheapest cities to live in France are Lille, Grenoble, Metz, Nimes, Dijon, Marseille, Montpellier, etc. The cost of living is very low in these cities; you’ll get cheap housing, excellent entertainment options, and a vibrant atmosphere.

Aside from the fantastic tourist attractions that France has to offer, there is one question that almost every traveller gets to ask before setting out for France. How expensive is it to live in France?

There is no doubt that France is quite an expensive country to live in, but there are some cheap cities that you can live in. Whether you are planning a short vacation to France, relocating permanently, or a student on a study trip, quite a few cities in France allow you to maintain an average lifestyle.

You can enjoy life the French way, visit incredible locations, get immersed in the French culture, and explore the numerous historic sites in France without living beyond your means. Read on to learn more about living on a budget as we explore the ten cheapest cities to live in France.

10 Cheap Cities to Live in France

Top 10 Cheap Cities to Live in France

As a young explorer, traveling to France has always been one of my dreams. I’ve always wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower, stroll through some of the memorable parks in Paris, and spend a day in the elegant Maison Carrée temple admiring the ancient architectural designs that tell the stories of Roman culture in France.

Amongst the million reasons I would love to visit, like every first-time visitor, I can’t do this without an expert’s opinion – someone with at least five years of residency in France. With the help of Uncle Dele, a distant relative who has been in France since 2012, residing in Paris’ Goutte d’Or, a vibrant black neighborhood in France, I could put together the cheapest places to live in France. 

To ensure that you make informed decisions regarding your travel options in France, I will provide insights into the job market, minimum wage, rent, cost of feeding, transport, and the overall standard of living in these cities.

Here are the top 10 cheap cities to live in France:

CitiesRent/MonthCost of LivingTransportation Cost (Single ticket)Leisure, Relaxation and Entertainment Costs
Lille€350 – €650€1,343.54€1.60Cinema – €12Calls and Data – €26 – €29Beer – €2Fitness Club – €35
Grenoble€300 – €650€1251.48€1.70Cinema – €12 Calls and Data – €31 – €34Beer – €2Fitness Club – €33
Metz€445 – €700€1119.32€1.60Cinema – €10 Calls and Data – €20 – €21Beer – €3 – €5Fitness Club – €23
Châteauroux€300 – €600€1075.56€1.65Cinema – €13 Calls and Data – €28 – €32Beer – €3Fitness Club – €28
Brest€340 – €700€1019.05€1.70Cinema – €11 Calls and Data – €17 – €29Beer – €2Fitness Club – €77 – 89
Nimes€312 – €910€1092.82€1.71Cinema – €10 Calls and Data – €22 – €25Beer – €2Fitness Club – €50
Dijon€340 – €970€1116.52€1.57Cinema – €9 Calls and Data – €31 – €38Beer – €3 – €4Fitness Club – €37
Saint Étienne €280 – €870€959.73€1.60Cinema – €8.50 Calls and Data – €27 – €31Beer – €1 – €2.50Fitness Club – €22.50
Montpellier€390 – €895€1320.65€1.60Cinema – €12Calls and Data – €28 – 34Beer – €3Fitness Club – €28
Le Havre€330 – €650€1144.68€1.80Cinema – €12Calls and Data – €30 – 32Beer – €5 – €6Fitness Club – €23

1. Lille

Lille is one of the Cheap Cities to Live in France

Located close to France’s border with Belgium, on the river Deûle sits this small city with an average population of 1 million in 2023, a workforce that accounts for over 24% active employees, and many job opportunities for immigrants. The average cost of living in Lille is €1,343.54, with housing options that go for as cheap as €350 – €650.

Rent in Lille can shoot up for as high as €1,200; this depends on your rental options and if you’re living close to urban or remote areas. Entertainment and leisure life is cheap in Lille; a bottle of beer costs as low as €2. If you plan on doing business in Lille, you should consider pitching your tents in the Trade, transport, durable goods, and food processing sectors.

The minimum wage in Lille is €11.65 per hour as of January 1, 2024. With a 35-hour-per-week work window, you can earn enough to sustain yourself in Lille as a first-timer, even after tax deductions.

Also Read: 15 Best Places to Live in Orange County Based on Quality of Life

2. Grenoble

Grenoble is another Cheap Cities to Live in France

In the middle of the mountains, sharing borders with Chartreuse, Vercors, and the Belledonne range, is Grenoble. This city boasts of a growing population of over 540,000 inhabitants, over 40,000 job openings, with a job market that spans across different industries: AI, healthcare, research, microelectronics, and digital and biotechnologies.

“Sufficiency” is the keyword in this small city. However, there is quite enough variety to keep you entertained. The cost of living is €1251.48, a single bus ticket costs €1.70, a bottle of beer is €2, and you can visit the gym, cinema, or eatery without breaking the bank. Like almost every other city in France, the minimum wage in Grenoble is €11.65.

3.               Metz

This charming city is located just a few hours northeast of Paris, towards the banks of the twin Rivers, Moselle and Selleand. Aside from being known for its gothic cathedral and rich 3,000-year history, Metz also boasts one of the lowest living costs in France. Despite its proximity to the capital, an apartment in this historic city will cost you roughly 60 percent less than in Paris, with rent options falling between €445 and €700.

You’ll have plenty of cash to splash at the bars, shops, and restaurants. Visit to a cinema in Metz will cost you roughly €10, Calls and Data – €20 – €21, and a bottle of beer is €3 – €5 depending on if you’re going for the imported or domestic versions. With the cost of living pegged at €1119.32 in Metz, you’ll enjoy the affordability of this small town.

4.               Le Havre

Le Havre lies near northern France, just at the right bank of the Seine estuary, along the English Channel coast of the Pays de Faux. This small Port city has an estimated population of 170,000+ inhabitants and an estimated employment rate of 22.5%, almost in line with the national labor force. Le Havre might not be the “five-star destination”, but you will surely enjoy an average cost of living pegged at €1144.68, with business opportunities running through the logistics sector, business centers, co-working spaces, and tech hubs.

5. Brest

This is another affordable place to live in France

This Breton town is another cheap city to live in France and it is located near the northwest coast of Brittany Island and is an excellent choice if you are considering a cheap place to live in France. With an average population of 140,000 people, Brest, the second-largest French military port, has a lot going on its naval lands.

There are quite a few niche jobs, but you’ll stand a higher chance of landing a job in Brest if you can speak French. The cost of living in Brest is €1019.05. Surprisingly, you’ll spend less than €50 visiting the cinema and gym, even if you decide to grab a couple of beer bottles. If you’re a fan of seafood, you wouldn’t have a problem living in Brest and don’t forget to try out their Galette.

6. Nîmes 

Situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Cévennes mountains in the Occitanie region of Southern France, Nimes is one of France’s most affordable places to live. With an average population of 140,000 people, the cost of living in Nimes is around €1092.82.

Rent in Nimes is between €312 – €910, depending on your housing option and the location of the building. Outdoor life is cheap in this small city; the cinema is €10, Calls and Data costs €22 – €25, a bottle of domestic or imported beer costs approximately €2, and registration for a gym Club is within €50. There are many job opportunities in Nimes, with wide openings in the creative industry, customer service, healthcare, education, engineering, finance, etc.

7. Montpellier

Montpellier is one of the most affordable places to live in France for expats; mostly a good option for retirees. Located in the south of France along the Mediterranean coast and River Lez, Montpellier is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife. The cost of living in this fantastic cheap city is €1320.65, and you can get rental offers for as low as €390.

With a population of roughly 300,000 people, Montpellier has a labor force of 173.6 thousand workers, up to 30.8% working in the healthcare, accounting, and education sectors.

8. Saint Étienne 

Amongst the top 10 list of cheap cities to live in France, Saint Étienne is the cheapest. The cost of living is at €959.73, and rent is as low as €280. Saint Étienne is a good option for students; there are many student benefits, such as cheap transport and groceries, which are also very affordable. The environment is calm, maybe a bit boring compared to Grenoble, hospitality is excellent, and there are lots of work and study options for you to explore.

9. Dijon 

Sitting in the eastern part of France, in the heart of the dry lands of the two small rivers, the Suzon, this 159,000+ population city boasts a €1116.52 cost of living. Rent in Dijon is between €340 and €970. Although there are not enough job opportunities in Dijon compared to cities like Paris and Lyon, you can get jobs in the food production, wine, transport, or tourism sectors.

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10. Châteauroux

Châteauroux is one of the most affordable places to live in France, especially for families. It is located in the central region of France, along the Indre River, and is known for its stunning mountain scenery and outdoor activities.

The cost of living in Châteauroux is €1075.56; rent is within the range of €300 – €600, which is quite affordable compared to what is obtainable in other cities in France. Cinema costs €13, Calls and Data €28 – €32, a bottle of beer is within the range of €3, and there are some pretty English-speaking jobs that a visitor can start with.

FAQs

What is the cheapest city in France for international students?

Saint Étienne is the cheapest city in France for international students. Of all the cheapest cities to live and study in France, Saint Étienne provides the lowest cost of living, cheaper housing options, and an affordable entertainment and leisure lifestyle. 

The cost of living in Saint Étienne is 3x more reasonable than what is obtainable in most locations in the United States, irrespective of your lifestyle. The city is small, distances are short, and proximity to the market and significant locations is relatively close.

Where is the cheapest rent in France?

The city with the cheapest rent in France is Saint Étienne. This small city remains one of the few cities in France where you can find rent for as low as €200 per month. Whether you’re looking for student housing options, 2-bedrooms, short- or long-term rentals, Saint Étienne has the cheapest rental offers in France.

What city in France has the lowest cost of living?

Cities with the lowest costs of living in France include Châteauroux, Brest, Nimes, Metz, Dijon, Le Havre, and Saint Étienne. However, of all the cheapest places to live in France, Saint Étienne has the lowest cost of living. The cost of living in Saint Étienne is as low as €959.73.

CONCLUSION

France offers affordable living options in cities like Lille, Grenoble, and Saint Étienne. These locations balance low rents, entertainment costs, and job opportunities, making it possible to experience French culture without excessive expenses. Saint Étienne stands out as the cheapest city, particularly for international students, with the lowest cost of living and rent. I believe this guide presents budget-friendly alternatives for anyone looking to enjoy the charm of France without battling with a debt tag on their necks.


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