Thursday, June 7, 2012

France - The World's Most Popular Destination

When thinking about the world's most popular tourist destination, would you plum for the USA? Or perhaps Spain or Mexico? You may be surprised to learn that for the last 20 years, the most visited country in the world by tourists from all four corners of the globe is indeed France, and for many good reasons. 

It takes more than sun and surf to sustain a country as a world leader in tourism. It needs a place that has everything, from great beach holidays with fantastic weather, to world class skiing and stunning inland holidays, with lake districts and a countryside, loved and envied throughout the world. Not to mention some of the most renowned cities, full of history, culture and art, all of which are wrapped around unbeatable food and wine as a way of life. 

It is such a vast array of choice that France has to offer, that the first thought for a property buyer must be in which location to look for their new home. As you might expect prices do vary quite a lot, but it really is possible to find a great value for your money in France. 

In the north, you will find the flatlands circled round the beautiful town of Lille and the English Channel. This part of France has still retained some of the feel of its neighboring countries Belgium and Holland. The quaint atmosphere is ideal for people who enjoy a wonderfully simple pace of life, coupled with beautiful surroundings, culture and great architecture. It is still possible to find a two bed apartment from €114,000 and a four bed from €170.000 or even lower. Having said that, property prices vary according to type and can go for much higher. 

The western part of France looks onto the passionate and rugged Atlantic coast line and as such is renowned for wonderful beaches and quaint fishing towns. In Brittanyyou will find many of these towns strewn along the coast as well as the renowned historic town of Lorient, which prides itself on its fishing port, 

beach and yearly Celtic music festival. There is also, St Malo, with its famous walled-in town, not to forget the regions capital Rennes with its wonderful Saturday market. 

Like most of France (outside of Paris), it is possible to snap up old run down country farm houses and hamlets for as little as €11,500 in the west. This is a real possibility for anyone with building skills or someone looking for a project where they could source local tradesmen to bring a property back to life. However, as fairytale as this can seem, if this suits your interests, it would be wise to do a full inventory of planning permissions that would need to be done in order to bring the property up to living standards and the cost and time involved. Also, if you would need the help of local builders, make sure that you find a firm that is widely respected within the community, and get firm quotes before you hire anyone. 

If building is not your stock in trade then you can expect to find two bed country properties for as little as €45,500 upwards. For just €85,500 you can find a detached stone and slate three bed property with a large garden.

If you are looking for a country property at a great price then this is an area to consider. For €125,000 a buyer can find really spectacular properties that would cost four or five times that in the UK. 
A good choice for retirees who have equity in their property and could swap for a country house in western France, freeing up funds for living well in retirement. To the east we have the regions of BurgundyFranche ComteLorraine and Alsace, home to the European center city of Strasbourg. 

Many other beautiful cities worth mentioning here are the three thousand year old city of Metz with its incredible Saint-Stephen cathedral. The cities of Nancy and Dijon, the capital of the Burgundy region famed for its large number of churches and cathedral’s and its Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

Dijon also holds its international and gastronomic fair every year. This is a major event for food lovers with more than five hundred exhibitors and two hundred thousand visitors every year. Surely a real draw for any food lover thinking of living in France and with all this wonderful food, its no surprise to learn that this is also a part of France well loved for its wine, including delicious Pinot Noirs and full bodied Chardonnays. 

The east of France is set around rolling hills and incredible natural habitat and its good to know that there are also fantastic properties to be found here for very good prices. Renovations and rebuilds from €11,500 upwards and very fine smaller properties, ready to live-in from as little as €85,500. Three and four bedroom detached country properties can be found for as little as €114,000. Prices in the cities vary depending on street location, but again for those who are looking for city life, apartments can be found for competitive prices. This is an area full of natural beauty and well worth a look for anyone wishing to invest in a slice of France. 

The same can be said for the centre of France and this area is considered by many to be a hidden gem. Attracting less visitors, the centre is generally quieter than the coastal areas, but never the less is full of world class landscape, mythical castles and idyllic towns. The city of Tours rates as one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Property in the centre can be sourced for great prices and is another real option for those looking for French homes without the fanfare. 

If great weather and beaches is what you are after, then we go south, Alpes-Cote d’Azur offers two bed apartments from €114,000 depending on where you are looking. Worth a mention is the stunning Antibes with its forty eight beaches along 25km of coastline, but expect to pay a premium for ‘sun tax’ to live in such a stunning part of the world. Having said that, bargains can be found in such a large region. The province is full of pleasant villages, good food and history dating back to Roman times. With its wild romantic feel, its rich history, wonderful climate and beaches, it is no surprise that when the French seek sun, sand and surf this is where they holiday. 

Alternatively, if skiing is your passion, then buying a ski chalet could be a great investment. France offers world class skiing in the Alps and like all French real estate, fantastic rental returns for investors. With other surrounding ski countries such as Austria having heavy restrictions on the purchase of ski homes, France is still the number one choice with investors and for great prices there is a abundance of slope side properties just waiting for renovation. 

The city of Paris as you may expect has property at a premium. Having said that, there truly is no other city in the world that can match Paris for food, art, history and sheer beauty and although a small studio could set you back €180,000, this is still a sound investment as central Paris is and always will be on the up and up. Again, ‘buying to let’ could stand to make a very good income, as holiday makers travel from around the world to visit this city. 

With so many property types and amazing locations to choose from in France, it really is not surprising why France is indeed the world's number one tourist destination. 

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