Moving to Paris from the UK

Paris

Our rating

4 out of 5

  • Affordability 3 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 3 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 1 out of 5

  • Property affordability 1 out of 5

  • Climate 5 out of 5

  • Environment quality 3 out of 5

No place in the world epitomises elegance and style more than Paris. The French capital city is Europe’s beating heart, famous for its tree-lined boulevards, café culture and romantic atmosphere. With a population of around 2.27 million, the “City of Light” has always been a hit with tourists, bursting with beautiful buildings and sensational cuisine. As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea”.

If you’re thinking of moving to Paris, we’d like to compliment you on your classy tastes. The city is great for expats and it’s easy to speak English over there. In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know about moving to and living in Paris, from shipping costs and property to all things cultural. Prendre plaisir!

Eiffel Tower in Paris

The iconic Eiffel Tower gleaming in the Parisian sunlight

A little bit of history

Paris didn’t always look so rosy. In 1852, Napoleon III decided to make his city look more like London, so he hired a certain Georges-Eugène Haussmann to rip up the city and start all over again. Before the 17-year project, Paris was cramped, filthy and full of slums, but it was transformed into the modern metropolis it is now. After clearing the slums (and destroying some 12,000 buildings) Hausmann built long, wide avenues, beautiful new buildings, spacious grassy parks and a proper sewage system. If it wasn’t for this huge overhaul, Paris probably wouldn’t seem so appealing today.

Cost of moving to Paris

Travelling light is nice, but there are some things that you just can’t leave behind. We assume you’d like some of your furniture to come with you. Check out the current shipping costs from London to the Port of Le Havre (your container will then go by truck and/or train to Paris).

Container sizeAverage rate
20ft container£758
40ft container£1,004

These prices are based on the port-to-port delivery of a container of household goods worth £40,000 (or $55,000), although they are excluding add-ons such as basic insurance cover, professional packing and door-to-door delivery. The majority of our suppliers tend to include these extra services in their prices, so there will be some difference between their quotes and the rates listed here. Source: WorldFreightRates.com.

Check out our page on international container shipping costs for more information. We’ve also got stacks of great tips on how to move abroad cheaply.

Who lives in Paris?

We’ve already mentioned that Paris contains about 2.27 million people – which is fairly small for a capital city – but if you expand things out to the entire metropolitan area then the population is closer to 12 million. That’s more like it!

According to the 2011 French census, around 20.3% of people living in Paris were born outside France, so you won’t be the only expat over there.

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Job hunting

Unless you’re retiring or have loads of money, you’ll need to find work in Paris. Fortunately, it’s one of the ten Global Power Cities, which means it’s a big player in loads of major industries, so  you shouldn’t be short of opportunities over there.

Anybody coming to Paris from outside the EU must get their hands on a French work visa, and the best way to do this is to get a job there. Once you’ve found a company that want you, they will help you hugely with the visa process. You can learn more on our page about visas for France.

Big, global job-hunting websites are a great place to start, such as Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. You should also check out France-based websites like The Local (for English language jobs), Keljob and Cadre Emploi.

To boost your chances of getting hired over there, try learning a bit of French. It’s not essentiel to many Parisian jobs but it will certainly give you an added avantage.

Climate

The weather in Paris is generally fairly temperate, so things rarely get too extreme. You’ll get nice ‘n’ sunny summers, frosty winters and some lovely spells in between.

Spring (March to May): Paris in bloom might be the best Paris of them all. Everywhere warms up a bit, places get more colourful and the air feels fresher. Temperatures reach a high of around 12°C in March but they start hitting 20°C by May.

Summer (June to August): Everything gets a lot busier as all the tourists flood into the city. The Seine glitters in the sunlight and it barely rains. Temperatures range between 13°C (at night) and 25°C (in the day), although now and again it can hit 30°C+.

Autumn (September to November): The leafy boulevards turn golden brown and it starts to cool down a little. Tourists start to disappear and everyone has a bit more space. The temperature is all over the place, with daily highs ranging from 8°C to 17°C.

Winter (December to February): Paris starts to look more magical and you can see your breath in the air. Christmas along the Champs-Élysées is delightfully festive. Temperatures can reach 8°C in the daytime but they tend to drop to freezing at night. Light dustings of snow aren’t out of the question.

The Champs-Elysee

Traffic heading down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Getting around the city

Paris just couldn’t be the tourist-friendly city it is today without having several reliable ways of getting around. Obviously the first option is always good, old-fashioned walking, which is the nicest (and cheapest) way to enjoy the city. The Parisian pavements were literally built for walking, and you can’t beat a romantic wander along the Left Bank (or La Rive Gauche).  

If you’re after something a bit more nippy but equally eco-friendly, hop on one of the grey Velib bikes that are located all over the city. The Velib app can also help you find the nearest bike stations, so you’ll never be stranded on two feet for long.

The Paris Métro is famous for being one of the best city subways in the world. It’s quick, easy to use and there are over 300 stations serviced by 16 lines. Not everyone has the time (or inclination) to stroll everywhere, so the Métro is here to make life easier.

Finally, there’s the bus. It’s a slower version of the Métro but you don’t have to travel underground like a mole. The buses are also great for sightseeing (if you can get a window seat).

Healthcare

France has really nailed its healthcare system. Back in 2000, it was named the best in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO). That was quite a while ago, but it’s the last time the WHO have looked into it.

The majority of everyone’s healthcare costs are covered by a compulsory, state-controlled social security system known as L’Assurance Maladie. This is funded by a combination of things, such as employer payroll taxes (50%) and income tax (35%). The income tax (sécurité sociale) rates for 2018 can be found here, e.g. if you’re earning between £8592 and £23,731 per year (or €9,807 and €27,086 per year) then you’ll pay 14% in sécurité sociale.

By global standards, L’Assurance Maladie is pretty generous. It covers 70% of doctor/dentist fees, 80% of hospital fees and sometimes up to 100% of medicine fees. Most people choose to take out private health insurance (l’assurance complémentaire) to help cover the remaining costs.

In 2016, some legislation called the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) stepped in to make things much better for foreigners in France. People used to have to wait for five years before they could properly access the French healthcare system, but now you just need to have been a resident in France for three months (and stay inside France for at least 183 days per year). Easy.

Cost of living

Paris ain’t cheap. In the Economist’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report from 2018, the French capital came second, just behind Singapore. You can’t say they weren’t thorough; the study considered no less than 160 factors, ranging from average rental rates to food and drink prices. Check out the table below for an idea of typical living costs in Paris, sourced from Numbeo.

According to Emolument.com, the average annual salary in Paris is £45,378 (or $59,000). 

ThingAverage cost
Monthly pass for public transport£66.57
Monthly gym subscription£44.64
One litre of petrol£1.35
Mid-range bottle of wine£6.21
Regular cappuccino£2.90
Domestic beer (half-litre draught)£5.33
Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant£48.82

Property market

You’re going to need a roof over your tête in Paris, but some roofs are a little more expensive than others. It all depends on which district of the city you’re in; Paris is divided into exactly 20 parts – known as arrondissements – and they each have their own unique identity. This is funky: the arrondissements are numbered in a clockwise spiral, starting in the centre of the city.

According to TheLocal.fr, in 2017 the average price per m2 in Paris was £7,926 (or €8,942). If it’s just renting you’re after, RENTCafe reported in 2017 that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was £1,533 (or $1,730).

Neighbourhoods

So where in Paris are you going to live? This is a difficult decision and the best way to help you decide would be to pay a visit to the city. Have a wander around and see which neighbourhood feels most natural to you. We’ve picked out a few here, just to give you an idea.

The 7th Arrondissement, known as Palais-Bourbon, is one of the most expensive in the city, mainly because a lot of the properties there have a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. You won’t be surprised to learn that the homes here are very nice. If you’re feeling historical, you can also pay a visit to Napoleon Bonaparte’s grave.

The 12th Arrondissement, known as Reuilly, has got much more affordable housing and it’s not too far from the city centre. If you want green space, Reuilly has loads of it; Bois de Vincennes is the biggest park in Paris, complete with lakes, a forest, a zoo and even a Buddhist temple.

The 16th Arrondissement, known as Passy, is a big district located in the southwest of the city. Home to some excellent international schools and lovely houses, Passy is a strong favourite with expats. The houses are some of the most pricey in Paris, but the area is spacious and far away from the noise of the centre. Plus, Rue de Passy is great for boutique shopping.

We go into each of Paris’s arrondissements in a bit more detail here.

Things to do

When it comes to keeping yourself busy, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Paris. The list of things to do in the City of Lights is really quite long, but we’ve picked our favourite four.

See the art

Paris has art coming out of its ears. The city houses a seriously big number of world-famous artworks and they’re spread across some spectacular galleries. Even if you think you’re “not that into art”, you will be once you’ve gone for a gander in Paris. The Louvre is the obvious first calling point, where you’ll find legendary paintings (hello Mona Lisa) and Egyptian sarcophagi. The Musée d’Orsay is just as good, based in the beautiful Belle Époque railway station and home to works by Manet, Monet and Van Gogh.

Explore the architecture

The Parisian buildings are rather nice too. Have a wander through the centre and you won’t really know where to look. Some of the highlights include the gothic spires of Cathédrale Notre Dame, the dazzling domes of the Sacré-Cœur and the glassy roof of the Grand Palais. The Eiffel Tower isn’t bad either.

Stroll down the Champs-Élysées

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is easily one of the most famous roads in the world. Take one walk down it and you’ll see why. Starting at the Place de la Concorde and finishing at the Arc de Triomphe, the avenue is lined with London Plane trees, elegant townhouses, boutique shops and superb restaurants. It’s very wide, very straight and looks great in all weather.

Go down into the catacombs

There’s a lot going on underground. Back in the late 1700s, the Parisian cemeteries were literally overflowing with bodies. Something needed to be done, so they turned to the network of mining tunnels located beneath the city. The remains of more than six million people were moved there, and the tunnels became Les Catacombes. Some of the bones have been arranged into decorative displays, so the whole experience is sort of morbidly beautiful. You can take tours down there, although be careful; the lighting is dim and the floors are slippery.

Where to eat

You can’t really go wrong with the food in Paris; they do French food really well and the international scene is thriving. Here are a few of the best restaurants in the city.

Signature Montmartre, 12 Rue des Trois-Frères

If you’ve always thought that French and Korean food would go well together, some people are already one step ahead of you. Victor, Sukwon and Lim Kim started Signature Montmartre so that they could create French classics with Korean flavours. Located just down the hill from the Sacré-Cœur, this cosy place is one of the most unique fusion restaurants in Paris. It’s moderately priced, the service is excellent and the food is nothing short of unusual. Menu highlights include pork dumplings in mushroom consomme and Korean gnocchi with pesto & razorshells.

Le Vent d’Armor, 25 Quai de la Tournelle

Despite not being by the coast, Paris is famous for its sublime seafood. Head to Le Vent d’Armor and you can get a piece of it without breaking the bank. Another small and simple place, this restaurant serves only the freshest, most delicious fish. Le Vent d’Armor is tucked away along the Left Bank and located just a few minutes walk away from Cathédrale Notre Dame. Options range from octopus salad and crispy crabs with wasabi emulsion to a chocolate mousse with grenadine-soaked oranges.

Il Etait Un Square, 54 Rue Corvisart

This is less sophisticated than your stereotypical Parisian food, but you can’t knock a proper burger and Il Etait Un Square are the masters. This little bistro is effortlessly cool, attracting a very different crowd to the one you might find in a posh restaurant on the Champs-Élysées. They don’t skimp on the quality here; the burger meat has been prepared by artisan butcher Benoît Enicolo and the bread is from local baker Graines de Createurs. Apart from their scrumptious range of burgers, you can also get some splendid steak and salmon tartar. Their tasty falafel burger caters for the veggies.

Nightlife

Paris takes on quite a different vibe at nighttime; the coffee-sipping café culture gives way to something a bit more energetic. See if any of these bars float your boat, or flotte ton bateau.  

Le Comptoir General, 80 Quai de Jemmapes

If you fancy a few Afro-Caribbean vibes during your time in Paris, head on down to Le Comptoir General. Tucked away down a dark corridor along Canal Saint-Martin, this black-and-white-tiled bar is brimming with fun. The DJs play jazzy South American music and funky reggaeton as people dance between rum barrels and colonial sofas. For a breather, you can step outside into the tropical greenhouse garden and sit on a bench. This is as trendy as Paris gets.

Little Red Door, 60 Rue Charlot

Everyone’s got a little bit obsessed with speakeasy bars, and the people of Paris are no exception to this. Located in the heart of the chic Marais quarter, Little Red Door is doing things just right, having been ranked 11th in The World’s 50 Best Bars of 2017. There is actually a little red door on the outside of the bar but it’s too small for humans, so the real entrance is a bit less fun. On the inside there’s soft low lighting, exposed brickwork and a wall of bottled spirits. The fancy cocktail menu has a special theme which changes regularly, with ‘architectural trends’ being the most popular one. The Art Deco cocktail was a sensational mix of Bulleit Rye whiskey, cognac, dates and violet tea.

Le Connétable, 55 Rue des Archives

A smart restaurant in the day, at night Le Connétable transforms into a bustling bar that quickly crowds with people. A live band of local musicians kicks things off at 8pm and by 11pm you won’t believe you’re in a restaurant. Le Connétable doesn’t close until 5am, so it’s great for people who don’t want to go home. If you ever get sick of the in-house band, there’s a piano in the room upstairs that customers are allowed to play.

Expat communities

Moving to a new city can sometimes be a little bit difficile. Have a look at online forums like Internations and ExpatArrivals so you can connect with fellow expats in Paris.

Find out more

If you’re still looking for a bit of extra info about the city, these books will come in handy.

The 500 Hidden Secrets of Paris (2014) by Marie Farman – a detailed rundown of some of the best places in Paris, from bars and cafés to workplaces and concert venues.

New Paris: The People, Places & Ideas Fueling a Movement (2017) by Lindsey Tramuta – a stack of great insights into the fast-evolving worlds of food and design in the capitale.

Paris: Through a Fashion Eye (2017) by Megan Hess – an illustrated guide to all the fashion hotspots of Paris.