Five French cities outside Paris for your study-abroad experience

France is a popular destination for international students intent on pursuing higher education, with more than 400,000 international students registered at French higher education institutions in the 2021/2022 academic year alone. Although France’s capital, Paris, might seem like the place to pursue your higher education dreams, you might not find it too ideal if you are on a budget or prefer a slower-paced life.

Fortunately, there are tons of other French cities with a lower cost of living, great cultural and historical sites as well as welcoming locals. In fact, every part of France boasts its unique appeal, depending on what you are looking for.

So, what are some of these cool French cities besides Paris that you can consider studying in? We explore five of them below. Read on for more details!

#1: Lyon

Situated in the southeastern part of France, Lyon is known as the “Capital of Lights” and is the third-largest city in the country renowned for its emphasis on education. Popular schools in this city include Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université de Lyon and the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon.

With its cultural advantages, especially in cuisine, design and art, Lyon has been popular among international students, history buffs and foodies alike looking to discover France’s cultural scene and gastronomy. Moreover, as a culinary city, quality restaurants serving regional Lyonnaise cuisine at more affordable prices compared to Paris bedeck the streets of Lyon. If you are an oenophile, head to nearby Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône to sample exquisite French wines! Furthermore, if you are religious or interested in religious architecture, the iconic Notre-Dame of Fourvière (Our Lady of Fourvière) Basilica, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a sight to behold.

Perched on top of a hill overlooking the city and regarded as the emblem of the city of Lyon, the basilica is a popular pilgrimage and tourist destination, with over 2.5 million pilgrims and visitors visiting annually.

Photo of Notre-Dame of Fourvière Basilica taken from Unsplash

#2: Bordeaux

You cannot miss Bordeaux, a city located in southwestern France, especially if you are an oenophile.

With a plethora of wine-related museums, with La Cité du Vin arguably the most famous of them all in the city, soak in all Bordeaux has to offer At La Cité du Vin, various interactive exhibitions walk you through the history of wine all the way to the vital role wine has in French gastronomy in the contemporary era.

Besides being a magnet for wine tourists and a commercial centre in France, Bordeaux also draws significant numbers of international students as well due to its world-class universities. For instance, the University of Bordeaux has been rated as one of France’s top universities for its educational quality and multidisciplinary programs. If you are into engineering, check out Bordeaux Sciences Agro, a French engineering college, or Bordeaux INP (Polytechnic Institute of Bordeaux) which specializes in technology and engineering courses.

If you are a wine amateur or a connoisseur,learn more about Bordeaux wines at the École du Vin de Bordeaux, or the Bordeaux Wine School.Take a break from your studies from time to time and flâner along the banks of the Garonne River, or stroll along the old town, which sits on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its striking urban architecture.

#3: Toulouse

Nicknamed “Pink City”, owing to the colour of most of its buildings, Toulouse is another city in Southern France where history, culture and art meet at the crossroads. Toulouse’s historical Basilica of Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, containing the remains of medieval theologian and philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, belies the fact that the city is also home to the European headquarters of Airbus, Intel, as well as the Toulouse Space Center —the largest in Europe. If you are a technology student, perhaps Toulouse would be a great place to further your studies, with its array of study options ranging from the University of Toulouse to the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse.

#4: Grenoble

Situated in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region at the base of the French Alps, Grenoble is an alpine city that boasts breathtaking views. Want to try some alpine and small-town living? Or, are you into outdoor sports like biking, hiking, or even skiing? Well, Grenoble could be just right for you.

Also, if you are a computer student, Grenoble would not disappoint as it hosts world-class science and engineering universities, such as the Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA), that attract dynamic students and academic staff from all over the world. Grenoble’s cold climate has not been a major deterrent to tourists and students, as the city’s picturesque charm, delectable French and European cuisine compensate for it all.

#5: Chartres

While not commonly regarded as an educational hub, Chartres, a city in north-central France just about an hour away from Paris by train, is an excellent location for students hoping to study near Paris but escape the latter’s high living costs.

Architecture students would find Chartres appealing, as the city is home to the world-famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame with its intricate rose windows, flying buttresses and towering spires. This Gothic cathedral is regarded as one of the grandest and best-preserved cathedrals in France and Europe as a whole, and is deemed as a chef-d’œuvre in French Gothic art. Additionally, the cathedral has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The High Middle Ages witnessed the Chartres Cathedral setting up the famous School of Chartres, a major hub of French scholarship based in nearby Paris. Thus, if you are an arts student hoping to hone your craft, benefit from the assortment of stained glass techniques and restoration courses at the International Stained Glass Center and Cultural Heritage School located just a stone’s throw away from the majestic Chartres Cathedral.

What is more, head to Paris for a quick getaway and bask in the cornucopia of architecture, art, culture, history and cuisine that France’s capital city has to offer.

Many reasons lure students to study in France, as there’s always something to see, do, eat and drink in each area of this exquisite country. Therefore, with the country’s awe-inspiring cathedrals, tranquil vineyards and world-class institutions, pursuing studies in France provides valuable and well-rounded global perspectives.


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