Your active lifestyle in France, whatever your age
France isn’t just about great food and wine, lush landscapes and rich culture. It’s also a sporty and active nation with the world’s greatest sporting event – the Olympics – on the way in 2024. A move there, even in retirement, offers the opportunity to try new sports and take up active hobbies.
Did you know, France has 9,000 tennis clubs compared to the UK’s 2,500? Well, they did invent the sport. More generally, the French climate and longer hours of sunshine all help. There is more space than the UK and the French government has invested heavily in sporting infrastructure.
So with the 2024 Olympics on the way, French sport is gearing up for an exciting few years. For anyone moving to France, or buying a holiday home here, sports and hobbies are a great way to meet new people and make friends.
If you are coming to live in France and already have a particular sport or pastime that you love, you’ll soon find like-minded folk. If you’re taking the opportunity to find a new activity, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From the high-energy of running events, surfing and off-piste skiing, to a quiet game of boule in the village square, there’s no excuse for being bored.
Anyone is welcome to join in, so give it a try. Here are a few of our favourite sports and leisure pastimes in France.
You don’t need to go to Hawaii to ride big waves. There are great surfing options along the French coast from Brittany to Biarritz.
Don’t think that surfing is all about the kids. A survey of UK surfers found that there are as many surfers over the age of 45 as there under the age of 24 and the sport is attracting more women too. They have been encouraged by holiday companies offering women-only surf lessons, while improvements in wetsuit technology mean no-one need to be cold in the water any more.
Where to surf then? The best spots are probably along the Côte d’Argent (Silver coast), from in Landes and Biarritz. The western coast of Brittany, from Quimper to Quiberon is also excellent.
Other popuar options are of course stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, kite-surfing or just good old yachting. There is no shortage of marina spaces in France and you can sail via the Canal du Midi from Bay of Biscay to Mediterranean.
France’s skiing resorts are second to none. In terms of variety of terrain, quality of facilities and snowfall, they offer everything you could hope for, and they’re even within driving distance of the Channel ports.
They’re not cheap though. For a ski-in, ski-out chalet high enough to guarantee snow, you’ll normally need at least €400,000, even in the cheaper resorts. On the plus side, you do get four seasons of fun, with walking, mountaineering and paragliding all popular pastimes in the Alps in summer. Read our guide to 10 great French ski resorts.
Also consider buying near the mountains, rather than in them. France has a terrific road and rail infrastructure, so you can buy in a nearby village and drive up when you fancy some skiing.
On the water
In the springtime, the melted snow comes rushing down from the mountains, freezing cold but really clean. Most French rivers have kayaking centres, or just do without the boat and try “canyoning”. French rivers being cleaner than those most of us are used to, river swimming is a popular outdoor activity. You’ll often see inland lidos too, where you can dive down among the reeds and frogs. Just remember – many ban shorts-style trunks so you’ll have to opt for speedoes!
Both river and sea fishing are popular leisure pursuits in France. France caters for all types of fishing, with a vast variety of rivers, lakes and coastal waters in which to fish. Carp fishing is popular and available to all, so many keen anglers may find that they choose their home in France according to its proximity to a local carp fishing lake. Check out some property options near lakes here.
The French love football. With some of the world’s greatest players in its club sides, and with the national team winning (another!) World Cup in 2018, can you blame them? France has invested in its football at grass roots level, literally, with far more all-weather pitches than in the UK. So wherever you live in France, look up the local pitch and you should find a team to join.
Anyone for tennis?
Tennis is also extremely popular in France, with the best clay court players in the world converging on the Roland Garros courts in Paris in springtime. As mentioned, France has over 9,000 tennis clubs, so you’ll never be short of a partner or a nearby court.
You can’t talk about sports in France without mentioning cycling. Every year after the Tour de France, you are likely to see endless serious cyclists taking to the roads all over the country. The first Tour de France was held in 1903 – each race lasts for three gruelling weeks, with the participants having to cross some treacherous terrain.
But you don’t need to leave it to the pros. A popular pastime is to ride the same course the day before (or after). France has around 21,000 kilometres of cycle paths, compared to the UK’s 14,000. It also has some outstanding long distance trails, such as Eurovelo 1, which travels 1,200km down the entire west coast of the country.
Wherever you are in France, there are leisure and cultural activities for your family to enjoy. As well as visiting the beautiful countryside and coastline of France, there are outdoor zoos where you cycle from pen to pen, water parks and kayaking centres.
Buying a property in France is extremely exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking: in what ways is the process different to the UK, how do you cope with the language difference, what fees should you expect and just who is the notaire? That’s why we’ve put together our France Buying Guide, to help you through the process, step by step.
Written by experts, it covers every stage of buying, from viewing to contracts and fees. Get your copy of the French Property Guide by simply filling in the form below.