By Fiona Hurrey - Former Expat in Paris
Paris is a city of lights, of romance, of profound history, but what is it like to retire in the City of Love? Visiting the capital of wine, cheese, and baguettes is a dream for many but a reality for few. Is it on your travel list? Keep reading to hear from an expat living in Paris about how you can make the most of your trip and find your coveted local experience.
What are the Pros and Cons of Retiring in Paris?
The City of Paris
Paris is made up of 20 districts or arrondissements as they say in French. 14 are located on the right bank of the Seine River with the remaining 6 on the left bank. If you're looking at retiring in Paris...the district you choose will determine your cost of living.
The 1st arrondissement is the historical center of Paris and this is where the Louvre is located. The closer you live to this district, the more you'll pay in rent or to purchase a home.
To further orient you, the 2nd arrondissement is where Bourse is located and the 3rd and 4th districts are Marais North and Marais South. The Marais North is a hugely popular arrondissement in which to live and quite expensive. It's where you'll find the most adorable, quaint streets that also have restaurants, bars and shops galore.
Notre-Dame is located in the Marais South. The Eiffel Tower is in the 7th and the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées are both in the 8th arrondissement.
The 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th districts offer more affordable rents but you can really get a deal if you look just outside of the city. You can literally be in the center of Paris within a short train ride without paying the high prices to live within the city.
What is the Local Culture Like?
Parisian local culture is proud, free-spoken, and has a reputation of being very sophisticated. Parisians love the history of their French identity and won’t shy away from telling you about it.
Politics is a major topic of discussion whether it be with friends, co-workers, family, or someone they just met. They don’t shy away from a confrontation.
Huge value is also placed on the importance of enjoying mealtimes as a social occasion. You'll notice that everyone takes long breaks over lunch to meet up with friends or family in restaurants.
One thing that I still haven’t gotten used to is how much many Parisians seem to see smoking as an integral part of socialization. Though I think this is slowly changing amongst young people.
You can find the oldest house in Paris at 51, rue de Montmorency, 3. Arrondissement. It was built in 1407!
Is Paris Safe to Walk Alone at Night; Do Women Feel Comfortable Going out Alone?
Like all major cities, Paris has its dangers. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, is very common in touristed areas and on the metro, so it’s wise to keep an eye on your belongings. I’ve personally never had any trouble with theft, but I know too many other people who have lost their phone or wallet through bad luck.
As a woman alone you are likely to become the subject of unwanted attention at least once while in Paris. You should certainly avoid the outer areas of the city at night such as Porte de Clichy, Clignancourt, and Saint Dennis.
I certainly prefer not to stay out too late at night if I know that I’ll have to go home alone. It is also important to know that Paris has had an increased number of terrorist attacks over the last few years. It’s unsurprising that such a large international city has become the target of such attacks, but life must go on.
Getting Around The City – Do You Need A Car? Is Public Transportation Enough?
One of the best things about traveling through Europe, France, and Paris, is that public transport has become the norm. You will be delighted by the ease you have in getting around the city.
Most places are a ten or fifteen-minute walk from your closest metro underground station, and once you find a station, the entirety of Paris is at your feet. So no, you do not need a car to live in Paris.
Although once frequented by cars, the city has begun taking targeted steps to reduce its traffic. This means that driving your own car is a nightmare, and taking taxis or Uber-like services can make you impossibly late.
Finding parking is also close to impossible and overnight garage options will cost you a fortune. On the other hand, bus and bike lanes have been added and expanded in the last years to make commuting easier than ever. If you're retiring in Paris, there's no need to stress out about having to buy or drive a car.
For the more energetic types who want to see the wonders from Paris by bike, you can access a Velolib membership for just a few euros a month. With all the new bike lanes, you can go between almost all the main attractions by bike in less than half an hour or even fifteen minutes. Be warned that bike riding in Paris isn’t for the faint-hearted. Stay alert at all times!
It’s someone’s job to count and document the trees of Paris. The last count was 484,000.
What Languages Are Spoken in Paris? Can You Get By With Only English?
Being such an international city, you can do very well in Paris if you speak only English. A trick to receiving good service is to always greet people with a ‘bonjour’ before you start talking to them or if you enter a shop, but that’s generally all the vocabulary you need to know.
Perhaps this is the reason that Parisians have a stereotype of being unfriendly. Many Parisians speak English very well as they have studied it in school and are constantly surrounded by English films and TV series, but they can be a little shy in speaking it.
People will always be appreciative if you try to speak a little French, but you shouldn’t stress too much about dusting off your old schoolbooks or practicing religiously on language learning applications like Duolingo (unless you want to!).
How Is The Weather in Paris?
The best times in Paris are in Summer or during the mild temperatures of Autumn and Spring. In the Spring, take a stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, Jardin du Luxembourg, or Tuileries near the Louvre to watch the gardens and trees comes to life.
Though a little further out from the centre, the ‘Bois’ and Parc Buttes Chaumont are can be a beautiful choice for a self-packed picnic or bike ride. Summer brings clear blue days and temperatures of even over 100 degrees (40 celsius)!
Autumn bids adieu to warm weather with crowns of golden leaves and a blissfully perfect temperature. Winter is beautiful in its own way, although you have to be well equipped with a good coat and umbrella as the thermometer can fall to freezing and rain can last for months.
What Activities Do Locals Enjoy?
French culture is rich with history and Parisians adore to spend their time in art galleries, museums, and the theatre. That’s not to say that they don’t like having fun, too.
Paris is conveniently located near Disneyland Paris. If you want to get out of the city, consider also taking a train out to Versailles to see the stunning palace and gardens, find a wine tour, or explore some of the wonderful castles than France has to offer.
To relax like a local, take an aperitif and charcuterie board on one of Paris’ many terraces after a long day of work (or exploring).
Retiring in Paris Cost of Living Chart
Cost of Living Rank
22nd out of 589
1 Bdr Apartment in City
$2100 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City
$1600 per month
Meal for Two, Mid-Range
Dining Out in Paris – What Are Some Typical Dishes? What Restaurants Do Locals Enjoy?
If you’re looking for a classic French meal but don’t want to fork out for the extravagant prices of Michelin star restaurants, never fear! French restaurants called ‘Bouillons’ are your best bet.
They can be found in almost any neighborhood and serve delicious authentic dishes such as beef bourguignon, pot au feu, and of course escargot (snails)!
Don’t be put off by appearances. Most won’t give you the elegance and impeccable service of Michelin star restaurants, but they will provide good food at very affordable prices.
Keep in mind that most Bouillons traditionally don’t take reservations and get very busy around lunch and dinner times. You may have to queue to wait your turn or have a backup option if you aren’t prepared to wait.
Retiring in Paris is a dream for many people around the world. If you live in Paris, you can surround yourself with history, culture and some of the best food and wine in the world.
But if you're interested in Paris but it's too costly for your budget, why not give Madrid, Spain a look or even Vienna, Austria?
Quick Facts about Paris, France
Short and comfy summers with winters that are very cold, windy and wet. Average temps are from 35°F and 78°F
Flight time to U.S.
8.5 hours by plane to New York
No - There is a long stay visa available. More info...
Ample public transport. No car needed.