Keystone logo

Beyond Paris: Top 6 Cities to Study in France

No one can deny the many inimitable charms of Paris. It’s not surprising that the City of Lights tops so many lists of France’s best cities for international students. But the allures of this sublime city are no reason to overlook France’s many amazing offerings. Let’s count down several of France’s other extraordinary destinations for international students.

Nov 13, 2015
  • Study Abroad
Beyond Paris: Top 6 Cities to Study in France

No one can deny the many inimitable charms of Paris. It’s not surprising that the City of Lights tops so many lists of France’s best cities for international students. But the allures of this sublime city are no reason to overlook France’s many amazing offerings. Let`s take a closer look at the best cities to study in France.

Facades of Toulouse

1. Toulouse

With a reasonable cost of living, exceptional geographic location with easy access to both the ocean and the mountains; and multiple top-ranked universities, it’s no surprise that France’s fourth biggest city -- dubbed the “Pink City” for its brick-clay colors -- is attractive to so many international students.

An added bonus for history buffs? Toulouse is home to one of the world’s oldest university systems, dating all the way back to the 13th century. And while all of Toulouse’s academic offerings are strong, aerospace enthusiasts have particular incentive to visit: it considered by many to be the epicenter of the European aerospace industry. Indeed, you will find schools such as the National School for Civil Aviation, ENAC, as weel as Polytechnique, INP Toulouse.

Read more about studying in Toulouse.

Grenoble, Frankreich

2. Grenoble

A frequent contender alongside Toulouse as a top international French study destination, Grenoble’s scenery offers enough incentive on is own. Nestled at the base of the French Alps, this alpine city is extraordinarily beautiful with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, and yet with easy access to other premiere destinations, including Paris, Italy and Switzerland. Because of its location, Grenoble also draws a large number of international faculty and staff -- making for a particularly diverse academic community.

Widely considered a terrific place to learn French, Grenoble is also known for it welcoming people, bustling city center, and fine outdoor activities. (Skiers, hikers and bikers will all find plenty to do here.)

Read more about studying in Grenoble.


3. Lille

While lacking the same buzz as French cities like Paris, Toulouse and Grenoble, Lille was recently declared to be “France’s most underrated city.” Located in France’s northern region, Lille has also earned the distinction of being home to the country’s most cheerful people. That might have something to do its unbeatable location, which grants residents access to Brussels in 35 minutes, Paris in an hour, and London in under an hour and a half.

Factor in Lille’s vibrant culture known for its extraordinary architecture and the world-famous Palais des Beaux-Arts museum, and it’s no surprise that more international students are discovering this oft-overlooked destination.

Read more about studying in Lille.

Place du Palais à Bordeaux

4. Bordeaux

Located in France’s stunning Aquitaine region, Bordeaux -- a UNESCO world heritage site -- has been described as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble.” And while wine may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this well-known region, the local libations are just one thing on a very long list of reasons to study in Bordeaux. A strong public transportation system, status as a player on the European technology scene, close proximity to sunny beaches, and popular football and rugby teams are just a few more of Bordeaux’s appeals.

And then there’s Bordeaux’s academic offerings. A commitment to cutting-edge research, multidisciplinary study programs, and exceptional faculty and staff combine to make Bordeaux a prestigious higher education destination. Bordeaux’s commitment to welcoming foreign students is demonstrated by its breadth and depth of international study programs as well as more than 250 partnerships with universities across the globe.

Read more about studying in Bordeaux.

vue aérienne antenne Puy de dome

5. Clermont-Ferrand

While Clermont-Ferrand may look small at first glance, its first impression belies its true status as a bustling international city. Located in the center of France between a chain of extinct volcanos (the “Chaîne des Puys”), Clermont-Ferrand boasts a strong reputation as a university town thanks to not one, not two but three prestigious universities.

Looking for a young, dynamic, student-friendly town? You’ll find it in Clermont-Ferrand, where a full third of the population is under the age of 20. From hiking to nightlight to France’s second-largest film festival, there’s an extraordinary amount to see and do here. And did we mention the region’s famous cheese?

Read more about studying in Clermont-Ferrand.

Lyon view

6. Lyon

Food-lovers need look no further than Lyon, a mecca of French gastronomy. Smaller than Paris, Lyon has all of the amenities of a large, cosmopolitan city, making it a popular destination for foreign students looking for a taste of life in France without the overtly touristy feel of Paris. Just how popular is Lyon? An impressive 13 percent of its student body coming from outside of France. Strong universities, a lower cost of living, ease of transit both within Lyon and to neighboring countries like Switzerland and Italy, and plenty of arts and culture, add up to Lyon’s status as France’s second most popular destination for international study. You will find many renowned engineering schools such as ISARA, ECAM, ITECH, CPE Lyon.

Read more about studying in Lyon.

france 14 rgions+dpartements "6 calques propres"

But the list goes on. Other French study destinations worth a second look for students with an eye on France include Rennes, Strasbourg, Nice, and Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence and Nantes. Not to mention that if you do get a yearning for La Ville Lumière, it’s just a train ride away.

Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

Find a program in these categories