The biggest cities in France by population

Posted by Josh on 16th Nov 2023 in the blog in the french culture category

While France is deservedly famous for its rustic vineyards and unparalleled countryside charm, its cities have an immense amount to offer, for tourists and locals alike. As of 2023, more than 80% of the country’s 68 million inhabitants live in urban environments - a number which is steadily increasing.
Of course, as with anywhere else in the world, some cities are larger than others. Read on to discover France’s ten largest cities.

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Paris (2.2 million people)

It won’t surprise you to learn that Paris leads the list, with a population of over 2 million. That said, it’s only the 10th largest city in Europe. Istanbul, the largest, has nearly 16 million inhabitants!

However, Paris is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and thanks to the millions of visitors who flock to the city every year, it often feels much busier than its population figures suggest. It is also home to eight of France’s top ten universities.

Parisians have a reputation for stuffiness and hauteur, but the city is so big that anyone who visits is bound to meet all sorts of characters. Full to the brim with bistros, art galleries, museums and cute cafes, it goes without saying that Paris is a must-visit for any Francophile.

Marseille (862,000 people)

This city on the French Riviera has a bit of everything: stunning scenery, vibrant nightlife, great food and a gorgeous coastline. It’s little wonder it’s France’s second-most populous city.

Lyon (513,000 people)

This picturesque city in eastern France boasts more than half a million inhabitants, and is particularly well known for its food. Quenelles, salade lyonnaise and coussins de Lyon are just some of the fabulous dishes that originate from here.

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Toulouse (472,000 people)

Also known as La Ville Rose, owing to the bright terracotta bricks from which many of its buildings are made, Toulouse is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Home to some of the most charming streets and structures in all of France, the city also boasts a number of natural wonders, with the river Garonne running through it. If you ever find yourself in the south of France, make sure to pay this city a visit!

Nice (343,000 people)

Nice is another idyllic coastal city. Though it’s smaller than some of the other cities on this list, humans have been living here for over 400,000 years! Alongside the art galleries and museums, the quaint Old Town is a must-see, as well as the annual Carnival.

Nantes (303,000 people)

Though it’s the sixth largest city in France, Nantes avoids the hustle and bustle of other cities by being home to lots of large, open spaces, parks and other natural features.

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Montpellier (278,000 people)

Montpellier recently overtook Strasbourg in terms of population, and it’s no surprise why people want to move here. Montpellier is not just a beautiful urban environment, it’s also one of the most affordable cities in which to live in France.

Strasbourg (277,000 people)

This picturesque city is in the Alsace region of France. Alsace was once a part of Germany, hence why Strasbourg has a German-sounding name, and why it has a more Teutonic feel than most French cities – from the timber buildings to its famous Christmas markets.

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Bordeaux (250,000 people)

Famous around the world for its wine, Bordeaux also has a lot more to offer, both to tourists and the quarter of a million people who live there. A trip to the modern art museum or a stroll through the Marché des Capucins are just two examples of the many things you can do in Bordeaux.

Lille (233,000 people)

Rounding off the list is Lille. Situated near the Belgian border, this very old city is a blend of French and Flemish culture, replete with charming markets and early modern architecture.

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