Where to live with a family: Paris or the suburbs?
Living in France

Where to live with a family: Paris or the suburbs?

There comes a point in every Parisian’s life when he or she starts to wonder: Should they maybe move out of Paris?

Move out of Paris, you say! Why? The charm, the culture, the museums! If you’ve not read the article on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly side of Paris, you can head over there now. But I can just summarize for you: the noise, the pollution, the tourists!

Alright, it is not the tourists, as much it is the lack of space. Paris is very pricey, and 1 million euros will barely get you 900 square feet in most parts of the city. Trade that in for a 4-bedroom house, with a basement and a backyard. Not to mention the fresh air.

Life beyond the Péripherique

There are no houses in Paris (or if there are, they cost over €20 million). If you need space, you need to look outside the Péripherique. If you are wondering what that is, it is basically a giant highway that surrounds the Paris Métropole, cutting it off from its suburbs. There are public transit lines that cross the Periph’ and some parts are underground, so it is not as dreadful as it sounds. But there is still this physical barrier that is not the most aesthetically pleasing.

There are only 2 million inhabitants of Paris, compared to 10 million, in what became known in 2016 as Grand Paris. Grand Paris is made up of Paris, as well as the suburbs of Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne).

Illustrated map of Grand Paris Area
The Black outline of the Péripherique Highway surrounding the Métropole of Paris

Comparing life in Paris to its Suburbs

Now for any good comparison, you need a benchmark and some facts. Not to mention some qualitative factors and first-hand accounts from the locals. Paris itself is broken down into several areas and arrondissements, so we can base our comparison tool on the following criteria:

  • Transport links with Metro and RER access
  • Greenery distinctions
  • Public schools in the area
  • Bilingual schools in the area (if that is a priority for your family)

Included in the table below, if you expand the cells, are also the approximate population size of each neighborhood, as well as comments from locals.

Zoom in below to see towns and their closest public transit options. Note: the Map and the Comparison Table are best viewed on computer and large tablet.

The large and most popular suburbs for families have been highlighted below.

NOTES:
All information has been provided for entertainment purposes only, and we are not responsible for verifying the accuracy of the figures noted below. Caution: Use at own risk !

1. Brevet scores will vary from classroom to classroom and school to school, and year to year. Calulation is a “rough average” of Public school data, which is subject to interpretation and changes over time.

2. Population Data is from Insee Public Statistics and is subject to change.

3. Metro, RER and other public transport links are based on current state of public transportion (Oct 2019), and not future plans that under construction.

4. Greenery distinctions include “Fleurie” designation by the “Site officiel du Label Villes et Villages Fleuris” and is subject to personal interpretation.

Paris (75) by Arrondissement - Comparison Table

French Public Schools – What is the Brévet?

At this point, I should add a big *asterick to the French Public school data above. The Brévet is the first general exam in the French schooling system, that is given to kids at the end of Collège (Middle school) around 14-15 years old. French people tell me that it means absolutely nothing, you don’t “win” anything if you get your brévet, it is not really a diploma.

And it is not supposed to be a difficult exam. Indeed, many collèges have a 100% pass rate amongst their kids. This is why it is alarming to see certain collèges have a rate below the average, which was 88% as per Education.gouv.

Word of Caution: The quality of the education received will vary from teacher to teacher, classroom to classroom, school to school, and as well as year to year. It is almost impossible to generalize and say this neighborhood is good for schooling, and this one is bad. And if you break it down into preschool maternelle versus high school lycée, the variations in quality will be all over the place.

However, we do need some point of comparison. I focused on the Brevet scores that are at the end of Collège because it is a benchmark among some French parents as to whether that collège is good or not. I know parents who put their kids in private Maternelle at 3 years old, on the theory that it is easier to get in as early as possible, rather than the year right before Collège.

So to have a comparison, I’ve calculated a “rough average” by arrondissement, to give an idea of what it is like. From there, each family needs to do their own “deep dive” into the area and the local schools, to judge for themselves.

The reason I’ve not chosen the High School Bac results instead? The High school Bac success rate will depend on the stream taken (Science, Business, Languages, etc), where one school might be stronger in one field than another. But more than that, I think that as a parent, your 15-year-old will be able to hop on a public bus himself and go to a good high school, while you probably will not feel as comfortable letting your 10-year-old do the same. You will either have to commute with your young child, or put them in the closest school available.

Bilingual Schools

I’ve included bilingual schools on the list because if you are reading this article in English, you are probably interested in a bilingual education. The schools selected will, of course, vary by quality and price, and each parent will have to judge for themselves. (I have no particular knowledge of these schools, my kids are in public school!)

I’ve only included the schools that have at least a Primary School and higher because it seems that every week a new private maternelle opens in Grand Paris, calling itself Bilingual and Montessori, and it is a bit mind-boggling to me.

Best arrondissements in Paris for families

But overall, it is hard to pick a bad neighborhood within Paris, it just depends on what you are looking for. The charm and eclectic nature of the North of Paris, versus the proper bourgeois nature of Saint-Germain des Prés. Much of the decision will depend on where you are working and how long you are prepared for your commute to be.

Schooling is a big priority for any parent, so one thing of note here is that the average 2019 Middle school Brevet rate was 88%. Based on that information, you can see there seems to be some sort of issue going with certain collèges in the 10th, 13th, 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. You will have to look into detail into the schools there.

On the other hand, if you are interested in bilingual schools, the only public bilingual school in Paris is the Lycée Collège International Honoré de Balzac in the 17th arrondissement. As I understand it, it is not the easiest to get into, so be prepared.

In terms of greenery, there are fewer large parks on the Right bank, (no the Cemetary of Montmartre does not count!) But keep in mind that Paris is quite small and walkable. Although there are no parks in the 18th, you can easily walk over to the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th, which is a beautiful open space, depending on where you are.

Moving outside of Paris

Now that we have our Paris as our point of reference, let’s look at the other suburbs around Paris, shall we?

Paris and its Suburbs

Living in the Suburb West of Paris: Hauts de Seine (92)

Working in La Defence and thinking of moving to the Hauts de Seine? Come along as we explore the suburbs of Saint Cloud, Courbevoie, Sevres and more.

Living in the Chic Suburb West of Paris: Yvelines (78)

Bilingual schools, triangle d'or and more, welcome to the Paris west suburb of Yvelines! A favorite for expats moving to Paris and Ile de France.

Living in the Suburbs East of Paris: Val de Marne (94)

Disney Paris, parks, and the RER line A? It is the suburb of Val de Marne. Join us East of Paris, as we look at life outside of Paris.

Living in the Northern Suburbs of Paris: Seine Saint Denis (93)

Should you avoid the North suburbs of Paris? Does Seine-Saint-Denis have a reputation? We cover public transport access, schooling, park space and more.

Well that was a lot of data! As I said before, this is just a starting point. From here each family has to do their own due diligence! If you would like to contribute to our analysis and give your own experience, we would love it if you could fill out a quick 5 minute survey.

Thank you for your contribution and à bientôt!

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