Paris and its suburbs: Where to live with a family

Moving with a family to Paris's suburbs? We explore expat life, transport, parks, bilingual schools and more. Yvelines, Hauts de Seine and beyond.
Paris and its suburbs: Where to live with a family
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There comes a point in every Parisian’s life when he or she starts to wonder: Should they maybe move out of Paris, and into the suburbs?

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.

Comparing Life in the Suburbs

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). As you can imagine, the cost of living in Paris will be higher than in the suburbs.

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

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 criteria on the following:

  • 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)

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

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

French Public Schools – What is the Brévet?

One of the main criteria for most families with children is schooling. And to judge schooling in an area, I’m using the benchmark that most French parents use, which is brévet scores.

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.

At this point, I should add a big *asterick to the French Public school data presented below.

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.

☞ READ MORE: Demystifying the French Education System

The reason I’ve not chosen the High School Bac diploma 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. Each arrondisement has its positives and negatives. 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%. (The French brevet was cancelled in 2020 due to health risks.) 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, there are several in Paris (see below per arrondissement). The ones that are best known are Balzac in the 17th, Jeanine Manual and Camille Sée in the 15th, Montaigne in the 6th and EIB in the 8th. As I understand it, none of them are particularly easy 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.

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 1er – 75001

  • Population (rounded): 8300
  • RER: A
  • Greenery distinctions: Jardin des Tuileries
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 95 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): None
  • Notable Landmarks: Louvre Museum, Pont Neuf bridge, Conciegerie prison where Marie-Antoinette spent her last days, Chatelet Metro RER Station.
  • Comments from locals: Lots of tourists and street noise. One woman that she loves her arrondissement, but worries about the lack of green space for her child: “4th floor walk up. Pollution. Lack of bedroom her child, as they are in a studio. It’s a difficult decision between more transport and isolation and less space but everything at doorstep.”

Paris 2eme – 75002

  • Population (rounded): 20000
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 89 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Lab School of Paris (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Rue Etienne Marcel and Rue Montorgueil, two lovely and lively streets at the heart of Paris.
  • Comments from locals: Two people commented that there were too many tourists.

Paris 3eme – 75003

  • Population (rounded): 34000
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 94 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Ecole Massillon (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: The Heart of the Marais. Also beautiful squares such as Places des Vosges and Place de la Republique.

Paris 4eme – 75004

  • Population (rounded): 27000
  • RER: B
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 93 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): None
  • Notable Landmarks: Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cité, Paris’s Hotel de Ville (townhall), and Centre Pompidou Modern Art Museum.
  • Comments from locals: Extremely happy to be so close to the canal and in the center of the city.

Paris 5eme – 75005

  • Population (rounded): 59000
  • RER: B
  • Greenery distinctions: Jardin des Plantes
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 96 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Collège Sévigné Secondary School (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Heart of the Latin Quarter and La Sorbonne. The lively Rue Mouffetard and Place Contrescape.
  • Comments from locals: One woman commented that they were very happy with where they lived, but didn’t care for the trash on the street. Another commented that they found the bars/restos in the area not very interesting.

Paris 6eme – 75006

  • Population (rounded): 40000
  • RER: B
  • Greenery distinctions: Jardin du Luxembourg
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 90 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): École Alsacienne (Private), Collège-Lycée Montaigne
  • Notable Landmarks: The exclusive Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, one of the most fashionable and expensive addresses in Paris.

Paris 7eme – 75007

  • Population (rounded): 52000
  • RER: C
  • Greenery distinctions: Champs de Mars
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 97 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Lennen Bilingual School (Private) , Cours Fides (Private), Ellipse Montessori Academy (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Eiffel Tower, Musée D’Orsay, Bon Marché luxury department store, Les Invalides military complex where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried.
  • Comments from locals: Would like more small, green park space. Champ de Mars feels crowded and dusty. Les Invalides isn’t too family-friendly either except for picnics. Neighborhood feels safe and has great options for food shopping. It’s the best place for raising kids, family friendly, green, calm, safe. Dislikes: Too many tourists

Paris 8eme – 75008

  • Population (rounded): 36000
  • RER: A
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Monceau
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 97 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Hattemer (Private) , Eurecole (Private) – college , EIB Monceau (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Place de la Concorde and the start of the Champs Elysées. Palais Elysées, the residence of the President of France, Grand Palais and Petit Palais exhibition place. Also the exclusive Avenue Montaigne shopping area.
  • Comments from locals: A lot of tourists around the Champs Elysées
  • Transilien: Y

Paris 9eme – 75009

  • Population (rounded): 59000
  • RER: A, E
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 93 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Wi School Elementary (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Opera Garnier and the large department shops of Galerie Lafayette and Printemps. Also close to Gare Saint Lazare, a major metro, RER and Transillien public transport hub.
  • Comments from locals: No parks

Paris 10eme – 75010

  • Population (rounded): 91000
  • RER: B, E
  • Greenery distinctions: Canal Saint Martin
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 79 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): La Canopée (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Beautiful and lively Canal Saint-Martin. Gare du Nord (Eurostar trains to the UK) and Gare de l’Est (high-speed trains to Alsace and Germany) stations.
  • Comments from locals: Two families commented that it was too busy and dirty
  • Transilien: Y

Paris 11eme – 75011

  • Population (rounded): 147000
  • RER: A
  • Greenery distinctions: Canal Saint Martin
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 91 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): None
  • Notable Landmarks: Place de la Bastille, the heart of the French Revolution. Rue de Lappe and Quartier Obercampf are two very lively neighborhoods for restaurants and bars.
  • Comments from locals: The parks are too small. Would prefer to have a park the size of Butte Chaumont park within easy walking distance. Can be very quiet on Sundays. Lively bars and clubs on friday and saturday nights.

Paris 12eme – 75012

  • Population (rounded): 141000
  • RER: A
  • Greenery distinctions: Bois de Vincennes, Coulée Vert
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 83 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Cours Moliere (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Familial area of Coulée Vert (a 5km long elevated park on top of a train track) and outdoor mall Bercy Village. Large transport hub of Gare de Lyon, which houses high-speed TGV trains going to the South of France.
  • Comments from locals: No pubs / bars with music
  • Transilien: Y
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 13eme – 75013

  • Population (rounded): 181000
  • RER: C
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Kellermann & Parc de Choisy
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 82 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): None
  • Notable Landmarks: Cute village of Buttes aux Cailles and Gobelins area. Also notable for tall (rather ugly) residential skyscrapers.
  • Comments from locals: Love the neighborhood, almost nothing to complain about. One family commented that where they live there is no there is no metro nearby (closest is 16 min walk).
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 14eme – 75014

  • Population (rounded): 137000
  • RER: B
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Montsouris
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 91 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Collège Sévigné Primary School(Private), L’Ecole Aujourd’hui (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Entrance to the Catacombs of Paris.
  • Comments from locals: Tiny apartment and parks always packed. The lack of green space and pollution. Otherwise fantastic neighborhood. Another family commented that If they didn’t have kids they would find it a bit boring but it’s perfect for kids.
  • Transilien: Y
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 15eme – 75015

  • Population (rounded): 233000
  • RER: C
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Georges-Brassens and Parc André Citroën
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 91 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Ecole Jeannine Manuel (Private) , Collège Camille Sée, EIB – The Victor Hugo Schoo( Private) , Bilingual International School of Paris (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Many businesses in and around Montparnasse Tower. Mini Statue of Liberty given by the U.S. to France, located on the Pont de Grenelle bridge that crosses the Seine River
  • Comments from locals: One woman commented: Could be more activities for the kids under 4 but efforts are made. Another commented: Dull, conservative, no real sense of community, congested with cars, poor air quality and loud traffic (louder than central Paris), lacks the ‘Paris feel’. Despite disliking the 15th, they stayed because they made good friends, obtained a place in the public creche, and were leaving Paris after 3 years anyway. Another person commented: Too residential, not that centrally located.
  • Transilien: Y
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 16eme – 75016

Paris 17eme – 75017

Paris 18eme – 75018

  • Population (rounded): 195000
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 81 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): None
  • Notable Landmarks: The famous Montmartre. Moulin Rouge, Pigalle and Sacré Coeur Cathedral.
  • Comments from locals: “Certain parts of Montmartre are quite hilly, Julie C notes that it is not always clean, and some areas a mere 10 minutes away can be sketchy at night. But she loves her neighborhood. Another woman commented that she wishes she could buy here but they can’t afford it so we will have to move eventually. A 3rd family commented that it is sometimes dirty.”
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 19eme – 75019

  • Population (rounded): 186000
  • RER: E
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Buttes Chaumont and Parc de la Villette
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 77 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Living School (Private)
  • Notable Landmarks: Beautiful waterway of Canal d’Ourcq, Rosa Bonheur bar in Buttes Chaumont, Cité des Sciences in Parc de la Villette.
  • Tramway: Y

Paris 20eme – 75020

  • Population (rounded): 195000
  • Greenery distinctions: Parc Belleville
  • French Public School – Brevet Avg: 84 %
  • Bilingual Schools (Primary & higher): Collège Maurice Ravel
  • Notable Landmarks: Père Lachaise cemetery
  • Comments from locals: “Would be happy to have more good restaurants and cafés . But there are great playgrounds and library nearby.
  • Dislikes: Rubbish, noise.”
  • Tramway: Y

Moving outside of the city

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

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☞ READ MORE: Household items you will own if you live in Paris

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!

Good luck and à bientôt!

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Paris and its suburbs: Where to live with a family

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