Living In Vannes, France As An Expat: The Pros And Cons

Choosing where to live in Brittany? We might have found just the place for you. Read our guide to discover what life in Vannes is like.

Often referred to as the pearl of Brittany or the pearl of the Gulf, Vannes is one of Brittany’s most overlooked towns. Hiding in southern Brittany, it doesn’t get the same attention as the towns on the north coast, but this medieval walled town is all the more charming for flying under the radar. 

Interested to know what living in Vannes is like? Let’s talk about it.

Is living in Vannes a good lifestyle?

Okay, so Vannes doesn’t exactly fly under the radar. It’s still very popular with tourists and expats, and has a hectic summer season.

Living in Vannes
Vannes Town Hall

But in comparison to other Brittany destinations (Rennes, Saint-Malo, Brest, Etc), it is slightly quieter and offers a traditional Brittany welcome. 

As expected, life in Vannes revolves around the sea and being outside. From the stunning beaches to the port, inland river and seafood, the sea dominates life in Vannes.

If you’re looking to move somewhere you can reconnect with nature, Vannes is for you. 

Water sports and hiking are popular activities, usually closely followed by fresh seafood and a trip to the pub for some local cider.

Like most of Brittany, people living in Vannes spend a healthy amount of time outdoors and enjoy a hearty amount of local cuisine. 

Vannes is less glamorous than other large towns in the north of France, so if you’re looking for a luxurious, high fashion hub of activity, you might want to look somewhere like the French Riviera or even consider living in Paris for that matter.

As a university town, Vannes is full of young people for most of the year, which keeps it busy and exciting during the off-season. 

The pros and cons of living in Vannes

Looking for a simple breakdown of life in Vannes? Of course, we could spend hours discussing the ins and outs of every aspect of Vannes; as a large town in France, it offers a lot.

Living in Vannes
The old laundry building in Vannes.

However, these are the primary reasons people love Vannes and a few reasons some people choose to live elsewhere. 

The pros of living in Vannes

1. The food

The crepes, cider and seafood are remarkable. Brittany, in general, has fantastic local, fresh food, and Vannes is no exception. 

2. Steeped in history

Vannes is packed full of history. There will always be something to explore from the walled town centre to the lodgings famous writers staying in town in recent years. 

3. Amazing nature

Stepping outside of the town, you’ll find you’re immediately surrounded by stunning fields and hills of the Brittany coastline. Walking and biking trails are literally everywhere. The scenery is so beautiful it’s worth moving to Vannes just for the views. 

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4. All the modern amenities you need

Vannes is a modern French town, and as such, you’ll never run out of places to eat, visit and things to do. Vannes is very connected, and life here isn’t hard. 

The cons of living in Vannes

1. Rent and property prices

House prices can be a little higher here than in the rest of the region.

Living in Vannes
Conleau beach, Vannes, Gulf of Morbihan.

2. It can get loud

As a university town, Vannes has plenty of students and student nightlife. This could be a pro for many people, but some wish it was quieter in some areas. 

3. Tourist destination

Vannes comes with the double-negative of tourists: packed in summer and many empty properties in winter. Some businesses open just in summer, so deep winter can feel a bit dead. 

4. Not ‘summer all year round’

Some people think moving to France automatically means sunny weather. Vannes is sufficiently far north and coastal that it gets its fair share of wind and rain. 

How much does it cost to live in Vannes?

Vannes generally has fewer full-time expats than the rest of Brittany, and part of the reason for this is that house prices are slightly higher.

Living in Vannes
Vannes port and marina.

Although you don’t need to be a millionaire to live in and around Vannes, you can definitely find cheaper places in Brittany. 

In downtown Vannes, you can find an apartment with two bedrooms to rent for around €800.

If you’re looking to buy, you’ll be looking at approximately €200,000.

You can find cheaper, and there are certainly plenty of university-student flats, but these generally come with quality compromises.

In the north of the town, you’ll find more affordable properties, but chances are your neighbours will be students. 

If you’re looking for a house with outside space outside of the city centre, it’ll set you back around €400,000 as a minimum. More expensive areas nearby on the coast are peppered with huge houses costing upwards of €2million. 

However, once you’ve found somewhere to live, the cost of living in Vannes isn’t too high.

The warm and sometimes very wet climate means plenty of local produce is sold in weekly markets for very cheap. You can get kilos of fresh fruit and veg for less than €1. 

Although Vannes is sometimes overlooked, it’s still a significant town in France, and as such, necessities such as gym membership, internet, white goods, schooling and healthcare are all reasonably affordable.

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Although Vannes doesn’t have as much to offer as larger cities, you can still choose between different gyms, plenty of major brand stores and a decent number of bars and restaurants. 

If you do plan on enjoying an active social life eating out, you’ll find good local food, and a bottle of local cider will only cost you €20 per person.

A fancy three-course dinner to celebrate your new life in Vannes will only be €50-60. Cheers! 

Things to know before you go

If Vannes sounds like your kind of place, then here are a few things to consider before you take the plunge. 

Living in Vannez
Medieval houses in Vannes.

Since Vannes has retained its old-fashioned French charm, it’s very popular with tourists. This means that you’ll hear more English than French during the summer months, and streets and restaurants will be flooded with tourists – mainly Brits. 

If you’re concerned about the standard of your French, Vannes is the perfect place to go. The town is twinned with Fareham in Hampshire, so many locals speak English fluently. Of course, the locals will be more welcoming if you try to speak French. 

Seafood and cider are a considerable amount of the local cuisine in the area, so if you’re not a massive fan of both, look elsewhere or bring your own food. 

Although its location makes it slightly protected, Vannes is still coastal and therefore, winter is windy. You’ll need a coat with a hood, not an umbrella. 

Many people choose to walk or bike around Vannes instead of driving due to the windy, narrow streets; chances are you need to buy comfortable shoes for walking or a smaller car. 

Vannes has plenty of tourist jobs, and seasonal work is easy to find. Of course, more and more people are working remotely nowadays so if you plan on working, you won’t find it hard to get a job. 

Tuesday and Saturday are market days in Place des Lices. It’s always bustling but a great place to shop, chat and meet people. It’s an excellent way to get in touch with local culture. 

Expats in Vannes

As we’ve said, Vannes is sometimes overlooked by expats who prefer the central hub of Rennes or the picturesque villages of Saint-Malo.

However, that doesn’t mean you won’t find an active expat community in the area. Vannes has plenty of second homes, many of which belong to Parisians who enjoy a weekend by the sea. 

While most second homes belong to the French, you’ll find plenty of Brits with second homes in the area. You’ll also find a fair share of expats.

On Facebook, you’ll find dedicated groups of expats for everything from knitting groups, book clubs, and foodies to water sports, sailing and gardeners. Groups here are very welcoming, and you’re sure to meet plenty of like-minded people. 

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You can also find expats gathering in local pubs, at the open-air markets and in cafes. Just walking around the town centre on a Saturday morning in Spring and you’ll overhear plenty of conversations in English. 

Generally, you’ll find the expatriates very willing to help out and point you in the direction of translators, English-speaking lawyers and who to speak to about your healthcare card.

As a last resort, you could contact the mayor, who will undoubtedly know who’s who. 

The final word on living in Vannes

Life in Brittany is always going to be good. Good food, good company, and stunning scenery mean you’d be hard-pressed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. 

Usually overlooked by expats, Vannes has a lot to offer, and there are thousands of reasons why it’s popular with tourists in the summer. Unlike some other areas, the university means that Vannes stays busy year-round, making it an excellent home for anyone who wants to get involved in local life and culture. 

As a final word of warning, it’s best to think about how you plan to stay fit and active before you arrive. The local cuisine is exceptional, and you either need a good hobby or be prepared to buy a larger clothes size. 

You might find useful:

  • Living in France – a complete guide to living in France: the pros and cons, the best places to live in France, formalities, and paperwork, etc.
  • Healthcare In France For Expats – how to access public healthcare in France, French health insurance system, top-up and private health cover in France, etc.
  • The Best Places to Live in France – a detailed overview of France’s most popular locations for expats.
  • Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below and we will do our best to help.
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Emily Derrick

Now based in France, Emily is a freelance writer from the UK with a passion for travel. Her love for adventuring was sparked during her time living and travelling in Canada as well as multiple trips across Europe.

Emily always takes the scenic route to get to the heart of a country and when she isn't writing, she can be found outside with her two dogs Hugo and Suzette.

Website: Emily Derrick

Articles: 16

2 Comments

  1. Hi, again, Emily! We found another excellent, delightful and informative article by you! Thank you for the introduction to Vannes! We did not know about this town and we will definitely consider it! We love college towns and the energy of young people, and we are very used to living in towns that thrive when tourists visit! Thanks again! We will continue here on this website and continue to look for more well-written articles from you!

    Best,
    Kate and Will, Puppeteers
    Edgar Wibble Puppets (currently USA)

  2. Hi Kate and Will,

    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Vannes is definitely somewhere for you to consider if you plan to live in Brittany. It has a great balance of a busy summer with tourists and then permanent residence all year round thanks to the university.

    If you have more questions; please just ask!
    Emily

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