Bordeaux is perhaps one of the best-known cities in France. If you’re considering moving there in retirement – whether the city itself or the surrounding area – you probably want some specific information about its living conditions.
In this guide we’ll cover all the important topics about retiring to Bordeaux. These cover things such as the cost of living, the best areas, and healthcare to help you make a more informed decision about this beautiful area of France.
Is Bordeaux a nice place to live?
Bordeaux has plenty to offer expats that makes it a good place to live. First and foremost is the great food and wine, which stands out even among the different areas of France.
What’s more, it has a large and vibrant expat community that’s integrated well with the locals. As a port city, it has a more multicultural atmosphere than some inland destinations, which is what many people seek in their life abroad.
The main spoken language is French, but it’s fairly common for people to speak English. However, learning some basic conversational French will make your daily life much easier, particularly if you want the true experience of living abroad.
You’ll likely find a number of expat language classes in the city, which can cover a number of different bases.
Bordeaux has its own airport, located roughly 5 miles from the city centre. This makes international connections a breeze so you shouldn’t have any problems visiting friends or family.
Is Bordeaux a safe city?
Bordeaux has a lower crime rate than many major British cities. While its crime rate is higher than the smaller surrounding towns, it’s considerably lower than London, for example.
Bordeaux’s crime rate is 41.77, compared to London’s of 62.13. The only high-risk crime area in the city is home theft, which sits less than one point lower than London.
However, other major crime areas, such as violent crime, drug-related crime, and race- or gender-related crime are all rated moderate to low.
On the whole, you shouldn’t have any concerns about the crime rate in Bordeaux as it’s fairly low. But if you do, then living in a smaller town nearby will solve this issue.
Moving to Bordeaux in retirement
As far as big cities go, Bordeaux offers plenty of opportunities for retirees. It enjoys a more temperate climate than some inland destinations thanks to its proximity to the sea, but it’s still much warmer than the UK.
Its wine heritage almost doesn’t need mentioning, but this is obviously a major draw for many. The area is home to a large number of vineyards that produce some of the best wine in the world. Getting it so close to the source is definitely a big plus for many.
Importantly, too, Bordeaux has an excellent healthcare system for both locals and expats. This is always a big incentive for retirees looking for security.
Property prices are quite attractive too, so Bordeaux makes a good destination for those wanting to either invest in property abroad or find a good location to buy a retirement home in France. However, renting isn’t too expensive either if you don’t want to live there permanently.
Factor in the city’s heritage and cultural landmarks, combined with the stunning scenery, and you’ve got a very desirable retirement destination.
In short, Bordeaux would be the perfect place for those who enjoy good food and good wine, are looking for a Mediterranean lifestyle without major heat, and want a nice balance between local lifestyle and expat communities.
Pros and cons of living in Bordeaux
While Bordeaux might sound like the perfect expat destination, it’s always worth weighing up both sides before you make the jump.
Pros of living in Bordeaux
1. A hotspot for wine lovers
Wine is one of the region’s main economic drivers and it has plenty of local heritage. The city is also home to Vinexpo, the world’s biggest wine fair.
To say the French keep the best wine for themselves is an understatement, so if you like wine, why pass up a chance to live so close to the source of some major world-renowned wines?
2. Close proximity to the coast
Living so close to the Atlantic Ocean certainly cuts through the sometimes overwhelming Mediterranean climate. It also helps to keep the winters mild but still offers a boost in temperature over the standard British climate.
3. Amazing green spaces
If you’re someone who enjoys spending time outside, whether walking, cycling, or driving, then Bordeaux has plenty to offer. The city itself is quite flat, so is excellent for cycling, and the surrounding countryside offers lots to explore.
4. Plenty of culture to appreciate
Bordeaux is known as a City of Art and History and its Port of the Moon is classed as a world heritage site. It has plenty of amazing buildings to take in, plus its fair share of museums and art galleries.
Bordeaux was a hotspot of 18th-century urbanisation, and if you’re lucky you might even catch a film crew taking advantage of its incredible architecture.
5. Great food
Saying that Bordeaux is a haven for foodies is a bold claim, particularly in France. However, the local specialities of duck and seafood, combined with the amazing local wine, are all proof of this statement. You’ve also got lots of local food markets, so you really won’t be short of amazing cuisine.
- Looking for more convincing advantages of living in France in retirement? Read Ten Reasons To Retire To France.
The cons of living in Bordeaux
1. It’s big on tourism
While it’s not necessarily a con, many expats don’t want to move somewhere that ends up full of Brits each summer.
However, it’s not your typical holiday park kind of tourism, as Bordeaux is regarded as a city of high culture. Plus, if it’s really a big issue, you can consider living in one of the small local towns instead.
2. Public transport isn’t great
Public transport isn’t excellent in Bordeaux, particularly compared to other big French cities. If you live outside the city you’ll need a car, but those based quite centrally should be fine with just a bicycle.
3. Food prices are fairly high
While in general, the cost of living is lower than in the UK, groceries are more expensive. This is particularly true for non-locally sourced products but is easily offset by the lower cost of house prices and utilities.
4. Everything takes a bit longer
Don’t expect to continue living at a British pace of life in Bordeaux. Like much of France, everything takes just that little bit longer.
The shops shut during the middle of the day, and many reopen sometime after 2, but this is never really set in stone. Just be ready to embrace a more relaxed way of life and you’ll be enjoying it in no time!
Bordeaux expat communities
Bordeaux is a good destination for expats because it already has a bustling and vibrant expat community. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to expat networking, and these can be a great place to go for more detailed and specific information.
There are also websites specifically for the Bordeaux expat community, and these are a great place to make friends. Some run courses on things such as bread making, which can be a good way of getting involved with the local expat community.
What’s more, the locals are very friendly towards expats, so you shouldn’t limit yourself to just expat networks. If you settle down in Bordeaux, consider joining some local classes to make integrating into the community a bit easier.
How much does it cost to live in Bordeaux?
Compared to other big French cities, the cost of living in Bordeaux is quite low; it will cost you significantly less than living in Paris, for example. It’s also much lower than in London, and you’ll have more buying power in areas such as property.
The cost of renting a city centre apartment in Bordeaux is around €683 (£619) a month, compared to £1,729 (€1,908) in London. Outside of the city centre, this price drops to €522 (£473) compared to London’s £1,256 (€1,386).
For buying property in Bordeaux, you’ll pay around €5,833 (£5,286) per square metre in the city centre, and €4,000 (£3,625) outside the city centre. When compared to London’s £11,417 (€12,597) and £6,221 (€6,864), you can see how much further your money goes.
Utilities, including electricity, heating, and internet are between 27 and 47% lower than in the UK, while amenities such as gym membership is also around 43% lower.
Eating out in a restaurant can be up to 40% cheaper in Bordeaux than in London, which is a great trade-off considering the quality of the local cuisine.
However, grocery prices, particularly for meat and imported fruit, can be up to 79% higher in Bordeaux. But this price increase is easily offset by the money you save on property, utilities, and eating out.
Renting vs buying a property in Bordeaux
Generally speaking, buying is a better option in Bordeaux because the prices are low enough for you to get quite a nice property for your money.
What’s more, property is always a good financial investment, particularly if you’re willing to put in a bit of work to modernise it.
However, renting can make sense if you’re unsure where in the area you’d like to settle down permanently.
You have greater legal protection in unfurnished properties that are your main residence than in furnished ones, although short-term furnished rentals are a good way to check out the main areas before you buy.
- Renting A Property In France – all you need to know about the process and tenants' and landlords' rights and obligations;
- A Complete Guide To Buying A Property In France – all the information you need to make your property purchase in France safe and as stress-free as possible.
Where to live near Bordeaux
While city living has plenty of advantages, it might not be specifically what you’re after. If that’s the case, then living in a nearby town offers all the benefits of a city but without living in its heart. Here are some of the best towns and villages to live in near Bordeaux.
Arcachon is located 55km from the city and was a popular weekend destination for 19th-century city dwellers. As a result, it has plenty of beautiful buildings, its own wealth of local amenities, and a much quieter lifestyle than the city itself.
The town of Langon is built on the banks of the Garonne and is located 50km from Bordeaux. It’s further inland than the city, so you’ll have the benefits of living in a port region but with slightly warmer climates. It’s also located among a number of vineyards, so there’s plenty of wine tasting on offer.
This village can trace its history back to Roman occupation and is often considered one of the most picturesque villages in all of France. It’s only 35km away from Bordeaux and is also near the Dordogne border, which gives you access to a completely different area of France.
This medieval walled town still boasts much of its ancient heritage and hosts one of the best markets in the region every Saturday. It’s found off the main road between Bordeaux and the Dordogne, so gives you good access to both.
Best areas in Bordeaux for retirees
La Bastide is the former industrial centre of Bordeaux and is centrally located. However, it’s ideal for avoiding the main bustle of the city while still being close to all the amenities you might need. It’s also where you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, which are perfect for an afternoon stroll.
Chartrons is found just across the river from La Bastide and is full of restaurants and antique shops. It’s seen lots of renovation in recent years, so much of the property on offer is completely modernised. In fact, you’ll hardly have to leave Chartrons because everything you need is in walking distance.
Cauderan is found in the west of Bordeaux and is a completely residential area that’s family orientated. It used to be home to many of the city’s wealthy inhabitants, which is evident in the architecture. On top of this, you’ll also find 28 hectares of green space, giving you plenty of opportunities to stay active.
Areas to avoid in Bordeaux
While there’s nowhere truly undesirable in Bordeaux, not all areas are suited to a retirement lifestyle. If you’re looking for somewhere to settle down, consider giving these parts a miss.
Gare Saint-Jean is one of the main nightlife centres of the city and is also a big tourist hotspot. On top of this, it’s also home to the city’s main train station, meaning you likely won’t get a moment’s peace in this area.
Saint Pierre is the heart of the old town, and while this sounds inviting, it also draws in a lot of tourists. If history and culture are your things, you’d be better off living in a local neighbourhood and travelling to the area.
Healthcare in Bordeaux
Like the rest of France, Bordeaux has world-leading healthcare. If you’re not a permanent French resident then you’ll benefit from private health insurance, but the region has a good range of public and private services.
The city has a number of excellent hospitals, including the Hôpital Saint-Andre and the Hôpital Pellegrin. Many have emergency departments, so you won’t have any issues if something goes wrong.
Whether you use the public services, go private or use your international health insurance, you’ll be registered at a local surgery. The city has plenty of these and there are no problems with waiting lists. These services also grant you eligibility to dental and other secondary healthcare services.
Hospitals have English-speaking staff, as do many of the local surgeries, which is obviously a big advantage. The main health board in Bordeaux is the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Bordeaux, whose website you can find here. They cover almost all the healthcare services you could need.
- Healthcare In France For Expats – learn how to qualify and register for public healthcare and what options you have if you need a private health insurance.
Living in Bordeaux – summary
Both the city and region of Bordeaux offer plenty to expats looking to retire in France. Its biggest draw is probably the excellent food and wine, which, when combined with the low cost of living, makes this an attractive retirement destination.
You shouldn’t find any real language barriers, as English is fairly common both in the city and the smaller local towns. That said, learning some French will take you far.
In all, Bordeaux is a great place to live. There are large expat communities to help you settle in, and if you do plenty of research before you go it won’t be difficult to find the perfect location for your needs.