Do you love Burgundy but can’t decide where to live in this beautiful region? Discover the Saône-et-Loire department and all the great things it has to offer for expats.
If you are someone who loves a good glass of wine, a culinary experience, lovely nature and vineyards, small villages where you get the impression the time standing still, culture and history, Saône-et-Loire might just be the perfect place to settle down.
Saône-et-Loire is a beautiful part of France and is centrally located, meaning it has good connections throughout the country and the rest of Europe. It has a good climate, rolling countryside, and hundreds of villages with nice restaurants, terraces and weekly markets.
Here’s a list of things you need to know about living in Saône-et-Loire before you move.
Living in Saône-et-Loire means easy access to large cities
There are six large cities in the department: Mâcon, Chalon-sur-Saône, Paray-le-Monial, Montceau-les-Mines, Le Creusot, and Autun. Importantly, it means city amenities and conveniences are never too far away.
The most attractive are perhaps Mâcon, Chalon-sur-Saône, and Autun. They have a lot of history to discover, great shops, still retain the warmth and cosiness of a village and, once again, lovely restaurants. Yes, you have to like food and wine when you live here otherwise it’s just a shame!
Mild and moderate climate is bliss
One of the best things about living in Saône-et-Loire is that the climate is so pleasant.
We still have our seasons, so yes, it does get colder in the winter and it does get warmer in the summer, but it’s never too much compared to other regions in France.
In the winter, it can freeze and, if you are lucky, you might see some snowflakes, but it doesn’t happen often.
The summer is just perfect, with nice and warm temperatures during the day, but the best thing is that the nights cool down.
So, even if you have a house with no air-conditioning, you just have to open your windows in the evening and nice fresh air will cool down your house. If you buy an old house with thick stone walls, you won’t even feel the heat during the day.
You will love spring the best! The temperatures during the day are between 20 and 25 degrees, dropping down to a pleasant cool in the evening. You also can’t ignore how beautiful nature is during this period. Everything is green and blooming, and of course, the vines start growing.
Loneliness is not an option
Burgundy in general, and Saône-et-Loire in particular, is developing as one of the favourite spots in France for expats.
There are a lot of nationalities here: English, American, Dutch, Danish, Belgium and Swiss. And expats always manage to find each other!
There are quite a lot of Burgundy Facebook groups where expats can get to know each other.
The easiest way to make friends, however, is to just go and have a drink in the local bar. Or even better, introduce yourself at the local bakery and you will soon be given a list of other foreigners living nearby.
Brilliantly located in France
Living in Saône-et-Loire means being in a perfect spot for easy travel everywhere you would like to go.
The highway from north to south passes by. You can take the TGV (France’s intercity high-speed rail service) in two cities, Mâcon and Le Creusot, and be in the centre of Paris in 90 minutes.
The nearest airport is Lyon, which is only an hour’s drive. However, the drive to Geneva airport is certainly worth the extra time.
Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Luxembourg are four hour’s drive away.
And if you want some warmer temperatures during a winter weekend, it will take you only four to five hours to get to the south of France.
Public transport might be a letdown though
It is important to know that public transport might not be as developed as you are used to at home.
In small villages in the countryside, there isn’t even public transport and you will first have to drive to get to a bus or train station.
But this highlights one of the most important points about living in Saône-et-Loire, you really do need a car!
The only exception would be if you decide to live in a bigger city, but otherwise, it is quite impossible to live without a car parked in front of your house.
Food culture is important
Fancy a local breakfast? Here is your croissant and pain au chocolat with a cup of coffee and that’s about it. The French love their sweet breakfast, so don’t expect ham, cheese or a nice boiled egg.
Lunch is an important meal here – cafes and restaurants open for lunch between 12 and 2 and then shut until the next important meal, dinner.
Don’t count on getting dinner before 7 pm, and even at this time, you might find yourself alone in a restaurant, as locals won’t start arriving until 8 pm.
Meals cannot be rushed!
When you start making French friends, and they invite you to come and have a drink or meal at their place, don’t ever think it will be a quick affair.
First of all, there are two ‘apéro’ (aperitif) moments in a day, there can be one before lunch and one before dinner. The apéro can easily take about two hours before you even start to eat!
So, if you are invited for a Sunday lunch, don’t expect to be back at home before 6 pm.
It’s customary to bring something when you are invited, a nice bottle of wine or a Crémant de Bourgogne is always a good way to go, or you can make your own dessert.
And now about the food itself
Ok, so this is the real reason why we all want to live here: the food and the wine.
For starters, there are lots of restaurants here. Only really tiny villages don’t have one, but otherwise, you can find restaurants everywhere. They range from very affordable simple cafes to high-end Michelin star restaurants.
You will find plenty of inexpensive (read cheap) restaurants here. They usually offer a ‘menu du jour’, which means that for about €13 you have a starter, main course and dessert or cheese.
If you are lucky, they also throw in a glass of wine and a cup of coffee for the same price.
Of course, you have no choice in the menu, so you can’t be picky. You will be surrounded by sweaty ‘artisans’ (working men that take their lunch break here) and don’t expect a romantic and cosy atmosphere; they love their fluorescent lights in these places.
Although simple, the food is great and it’s actually cheaper to go out for lunch every day than stay in and cook for yourself.
The more ‘haut de gamme’ restaurants offer a higher quality of food and wine, and often more ambience and cosiness.
You can use the Michelin guide to find these places.
The restaurants with the L’Assiette Michelin, or Michelin Plate, next to them are great. They have a really good quality of food, good service (but not too uptight), good wines and affordable prices.
Then there are the Bib Gourmand Michelin restaurants, these ones have the best price/quality ratio and the fixed menu prices do not exceed €35 for a starter, main course and dessert.
As a treat, you can always get an extraordinary experience in one of the star restaurants. The best advice is to go for lunch on a weekday if you want the most affordable option. Some starred restaurants offer a 3-course menu for lunch on a weekday that will cost you between €35 and €50.
Real estate in Saône-et-Loire
One of the reasons expats choose Burgundy and Saône-et-Loire as their home is that the property prices are quite affordable here. Of course, it depends on the state of the house and the location, but you will almost always find attractively-priced properties on offer.
The prices vary, but don’t be surprised when you see houses for sale starting at €25,000. Such houses are renovation projects. If this is what you want, make sure to collect all the required estimates for the work before signing the official deed of sale, so that you know upfront what it would cost.
A pro tip for finding your perfect property
There’s no centralised portal where you can look at all the properties for sale. So, you have 4 options.
1. Drive around the chosen area looking for properties for sale
It’s not rare for owners to try to sell their houses themselves without involving an estate agent. Very often, the only advertising they have for their property is a sign in the window. You have to drive around to find them.
2. Go to a real estate agent
Real estate agents only sell the properties they have on their books, which can be quite limited and doesn’t give you a chance to look at everything that’s for sale in the region.
3. See what notary offices offer
Properties can be sold through notary offices. The deal is the same as with estate agents – you will only see what they have at the moment.
4. Hire a property consultant
You can hire a specialist to do all the research for you. This is what I do. I help expats find the home of their dreams.
I do the search, all the preparations, make a shortlist for you, and then assist with the purchase to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. After the purchase, if you wish, I can assist you with connecting utilities such as water and electricity.
Things to look out for when buying a property
Old and charming might mean a lot of work
If you are fond of old houses, you are in the right place. You will find plenty of them here, it’s part of the local charm.
However, be prepared to deal with the issues that commonly come with the old housing stock. Single glazed windows are still found often in older houses, they might have no isolation, no central heating, and a roof that has to be replaced.
Often, older properties in smaller towns and villages are not connected to the sewage system. Instead, they have septic tanks. These tanks can be located outside, or inside – anywhere possible.
After the new law the government introduced, there’s a big chance that you will have to replace your tank within one year of purchasing the house. Depending on the size and amount of work involved, you will be looking at somewhere between €5,000 and €15,000 for this.
Heating systems in old French houses can also be very different to what you are used to back in your home country. Sometimes it’s just a fireplace or single electric heaters.
Central heating systems in older properties are usually powered by electricity, gas or oil. The oil ones are often very dated and need replacing.
Don’t let all of this scare you off! French artisans know very well how to do this kind of work – your task is to budget everything properly in advance.
Talk with the locals and expats before choosing your home
It is definitely worth talking with locals and expats before choosing a village to live in.
It’s easy to be charmed by a cute village with lots of history, but only the locals can tell you all the pros and cons of living there.
This raises an important point: do check if there is a bakery or a corner shop nearby. You might think that driving a little for your bread and milk every morning is not a bother, but the time will come when you realise it is. Having a shop within walking distance makes your life so much easier!
You can find more information on the property purchase process in our Complete Guide To Buying A Property In France.
A final word on living in Saône-et-Loire
The reason so many expats choose to live in Burgundy is obvious: it’s a beautiful part of France that’s easy to fall in love with. Saône-et-Loire, however, is the true heart of it. It gives you a unique feeling of peace and calm while being well-connected with the modern world.
No matter where in Burgundy you choose to live, if you have questions or need assistance with property purchase and relocation, let me know. I will gladly help you.
Other popular expat destinations in France to consider:
- What It’s Like Living In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France As An Expat
- Living In Vannes, France As An Expat: The Pros And Cons
- The Ultimate Guide To Living In Normandy As An Expat
- What’s It Like Living In Brittany As An Expat
- What’s It Like Living In Provence, France As An Expat
You might find helpful:
- Living in France – a complete guide to living in France: the pros and cons, where to live, visas and residency, formalities, paperwork, etc.
- The Best Places to Live in France – a detailed overview of France’s most popular locations for expats.
- Healthcare In France For Expats – how to access public healthcare in France, the French health insurance system, top-up and private health cover in France, etc.
- See our complete France country guide archive.
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