An Expat’s Guide to Living on the French Riviera

living on the french riviera

After spending years daydreaming about living a different kind of life, you’re finally ready to pack all of your belongings and make your move. Relocating to the French Riviera can be a dream come true, and knowing how to navigate life as an expat will make it easier to settle into your new home. In this expat’s guide to living on the French Riviera, we will look at what you need to know about making a success of your move to France.

living on the french riviera

What Makes the French Riviera an Attractive Destination for Expats?

The French Riviera — also called the Cote d’Azur — truly has something for everyone. Famed for its glitz, glamour, and luxury lifestyle, the region offers gourmet cuisine, renowned resort towns, beaches, cultural festivals, and sunshine year-round.

While the coastline is spectacular, venturing inland will bring you to medieval hilltop villages, lush green valleys, hidden chateaux, mountain resorts and some of the best skiing in the world.

Also, with the Nice International Airport and high-speed rail services right nearby, the French Riviera is an excellent jumping-off point for traveling throughout the rest of France, Europe and the world.

Which Locations on the French Riviera Are Ideal for Expats?

The key cities and towns on the French Riviera that are best for expats are Antibes, Cannes, Monaco, Nice and Saint-Tropez. Here’s a brief overview of each one:

  • Antibes: Old-world charm meets modern luxury, with a historic town centre and one of Europe’s largest harbours for private yachts.
  • Cannes: While known for the annual film festival, Cannes also offers a luxury urban lifestyle with La Croisette boulevard at its centre, where you’ll find high-end boutiques, five-star dining and exciting nightlife.
  • Monaco: The famous Monte Carlo district has a world-renowned casino, and the entire Principality of Monaco is clean, safe and extremely exclusive.
  • Nice: The largest city on the French Riviera, Nice is both rich in culture and a cosmopolitan way of life. Plus, it’s home to the iconic Promenade des Anglais.
  • Saint-Tropez: Attracting A-listers and jet-setters, Saint-Tropez has a stunning harbour that hosts luxury yachts, and it’s also known for its famous beach clubs, though it somehow remains laidback at the same time.

It’s also worth noting that the French Riviera borders Italy and the Principality of Monaco, both of which you can easily travel to.

Photo of Valbonne

What Is the Climate Like on the French Riviera?

The French Riviera’s characteristic Mediterranean climate gets an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, with hot summers and mild winters. Due to the microclimate in the region, you may be able to have breakfast and a morning ski in the Alps, followed by lunch and a swim in the Med later that day, depending on the time of year.

Snow is rare during the wintertime, though there is likely to be snow the closer you get to the Alps. A bit more rainfall is experienced during the spring and fall than the rest of the year, but summers tend to be dry. In general, humidity in the French Riviera is low to moderate, which makes even the hottest days bearable.

What Are the Recreational Activities Available on the French Riviera?

Whether you like to spend your time indoors, outdoors or a mixture of both, there’s more than enough to keep you busy year-round on the French Riviera.

  • Adventure Sports: With the French Alps right nearby, you can go rock climbing, skiing or snowboarding. Paragliding is also available in the area, offering unbeatable views of the coast.
  • Beaches and Water Sports: Tons of beautiful beaches provide ample time to go swimming, sailing, diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, etc. You can also take a guided boat tour or book a fishing trip.
  • Designer Shopping: The cities on the French Riviera, such as Cannes, Monaco and Nice, have designer and luxury stores that offer elite shopping experiences.
  • Family Activities: The French Riviera has plenty for families to enjoy together, including aquariums, gardens, playgrounds, theme parks, and zoos.
  • Hiking, Cycling and Exploring the Countryside: There is an abundance of scenic trails here for leisurely walks, heart-pumping bike outings, challenging hikes, and everything in between. You can also go horseback riding on the beach, in the countryside or through vineyards.
  • Cultural Events, Festivals and Local Attractions: The French Riviera has art galleries and museums, historical sites, concerts, music festivals, theatre, etc.
  • Luxury Past-times: With the French Riviera attracting so many wealthy homebuyers, it’s expected that there are luxury amenities to match. There’s no lack of golf courses, spas, tennis courts, and yacht clubs to choose from.

With such a wide array of recreational options, you’ll never be bored when you live on the French Riviera.

How Is the Food and Drink Scene on the French Riviera?

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be pleased to know that the food and drink scene in the region is diverse, featuring traditional ingredients and recipes, fresh seafood, and local wine. Here’s what to look forward to:

  • Diverse Cuisine: Because the French Riviera is a destination for people from all over, there’s an assortment of cuisines here, including Italian, Japanese and more.
  • Fine Dining: The French Riviera is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, many of which have innovative menus that prioritise regional ingredients.
  • Local Markets: The towns and cities of the French Riviera have regular markets where you can buy fresh produce, meat, cheese and gourmet specialties.
  • Wine Region: As part of the Provence wine region, you’ll have your pick of quality rosés, with vineyards often having tastings and tours.

You can pick and choose your culinary experiences on the French Riviera or opt for a bit of everything to truly immerse yourself in the region’s food culture.

food in france

What Do Expats Need To Know About Healthcare and Education on the French Riviera?

The healthcare system in France is known for being high-quality and reliable. Health coverage in France typically includes doctors, specialists, and public and private hospitals, and French residents get universal coverage. However, as an expat, you’ll need to wait three months before you get full coverage, so plan accordingly if you have health needs.

Here are a few more tips to know about healthcare in France:

  • To use the French healthcare system, you’ll have to pay toward social security, so include that in your budget when relocating.
  • Top-up insurance can be used to cover what your regular health insurance won’t. For example, if only 70% of your bill is covered by insurance, top-up insurance can be used to cover some or all of the difference.
  • While you’re waiting the three months required for expats before receiving full coverage, you may qualify for temporary medical assistance in the interim.

If you’re moving to the French Riviera with children, you’ll need to decide between sending them to a traditional French school or an international school. Here are a few tips to know as you’re deciding which option is best:

  • There are different types of international schools in France, including those that are bilingual and those that only teach in English.
  • An international school is the better option if you plan to move your children out of France at some point because they can learn the curriculum required for the country where they’ll graduate.
  • Some international schools require students to take an exam to qualify for admission.

You can learn more about international schools in France here.

How Can Expats Integrate Into the Local Community?

While there are certain challenges that expats in France tend to face, there are ways to overcome them and better integrate into your new hometown:

  • Learn the Language: Enroll in a French language class or hire a tutor. Also, practice your French in daily interactions.
  • Engage With Local Traditions: Make a point to learn about the customs, traditions and social etiquette of France and of the region where you live. This shows that you respect the way of life, and locals will appreciate your effort.
  • Join Expat Groups, Clubs and Social Networks: Browse expat forums to see where people are meeting in your area. Join groups and clubs to meet other expats, and forge relationships with those who seem to be well-integrated into the French lifestyle.
  • Get Involved in the Community: The French Riviera has numerous gatherings, festivals, and markets throughout the year. Make sure to attend them, and as you meet people, volunteer to help at the next event.

By taking steps like the ones above, you’ll build meaningful connections with expats as well as French locals.

Final Thoughts: Is the French Riviera the Right Choice for Your Expat Life?

The French Riviera has so much to offer that it seems to be an excellent choice for anyone looking to relocate, including expats. With so many options for expats to get involved in both international and local communities, access quality healthcare and education options, and live life the way many only dream of, there are practically no drawbacks to making the move.

Whether you are looking for a stunning beachfront home, a hideaway in the hills, or a country estate, you can find your dream home on the French Riviera. Contact us today to speak with an property agent.

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