Moving to France? Discover the places where people are happiest 

Biarritz city and sand beaches - Miramar and La Grande Plage, Bay of Biscay, Atlantic France

Could you be happy in Biarritz on the Pyrénées-Atlantiques coast? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Money can’t buy you love – or happiness. Along with health, these are the things that we truly dream of, rather than a big house, fast car and perfect figure. If your dreams also include a move to France, a survey from the French national statistics agency INSEE has revealed the parts of France where people are happiest.

Happy on the coast  

In general, coastal areas of France offered a higher level of happiness and satisfaction with life. More specifically, the Atlantic coast (with the exception of Morbihan), from Finistère in Brittany to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and also on the Channel coasts. However, there wasn’t a discernible increase in happiness on the Mediterranean coast. 

Crozon Peninsula, Finistere, Brittany, France

Coastal areas, particularly to the west, are happiest - this is the Crozon peninsula in Finstère - Credit: Jon Mills

West is best  

In fact, western France recorded an overall higher level of happiness than the national average, along with several departments on a diagonal line linking Ariège (in Occitanie) to Haut-Rhin (in Grand-Est).  

Most satisfied departments 

The departments of France that rated higher than average levels of satisfaction were: Finistère in Brittany; Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire and Vendée in Pays-de-la-Loire; Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques in Nouvelle-Aquitaine; Hautes-Pyrénées, Ariège, Aude, Aveyron and Gard in Occitanie; Cantal, Haute-Loire, Loire and Haute-Savoie in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes; Doubs and Yonne in Burgundy-Franche-Comté; Haut-Rhin and Moselle in Grand-Est; Seine-Maritime and Manche in Normandy. 

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Sad in the city 

You’ll need a big budget to buy or rent a home in Paris – and it won’t necessarily make you happy. The capital and its surrounding region, Ile-de-France, ranked poorly in the survey. However, general satisfaction with life varied according to the departments, with the happiest people in Essonne and least happy in Seine-St-Denis and central Paris. 

La Defense Financial District Paris France

Paris didn't score highly in the satisfaction survey - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Larger French cities as a whole scored lower than the average, with people in cities with 200,000 to 700,000 inhabitants found to be least happy. This is in part due to the fact that unemployment levels are higher here. 

Least happy departments 

Outside of Ile-de-France, these departments ranked lower than the survey average: Morbihan, Loir-et-Cher, Cher, Allier, Isère, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône and Tarn. 

Saint Tropez

Glamorous and beautiful St-Tropez – yet the Alpes-Maritimes department ranked lower than the national average for happiness - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

People aged 50-65 happiest 

In the study, which was carried out before the pandemic, people in France scored their happiness at an average of 7.4 out of 10. It was based on general satisfaction with life, health, wealth, relationships, housing, work and hobbies. 

In addition to the happiest areas, the survey also found that the happiest adults were aged between 50 and 65, healthy, with a good standard of living, in a relationship, and born French (rather than foreign nationality or gaining French nationality later in life).