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Where to live in the French Riviera of the north

Pastel coloured beach huts on an almost empty beach at Berck-sur-Mer northern France

Fabulous beaches, an historic past and chic towns. If you’re looking to live in France and work in the UK – welcome to the French Riviera of the north…

The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is world famous for good reason. But there’s another Riviera in France that is far easier to reach for both British buyers and Parisians. It’s one that has much to offer in its own right says Liz Rowlinson…

Opal Coast AKA The French Riviera of the north

The nearest part of France to the UK, the Northern Riviera – or Côte d’ Opale – offers  layers of history, from prehistory to the two  world wars, including the Great War. Added to this are over 120km of beautiful fine sandy beaches, chic seaside towns and, at times, even better weather than it’s glitzier southern counterpart.

“This is a fabulous area. Popular with French, British and Belgian home buyers, because of its proximity to both the UK and northern European cities,” says Tim Sage, Leggett’s coordinator for the area. “It’s easy to reach by ferry or Le Shuttle for the British. And many commute back to the UK weekly. Plus it’s much more affordable than other French coastal areas, including the Charente-Maritime and the Côte d’Azur.”

Eurostar’s Calais Frethun to St Pancras International London train takes just 56 minutes. Eurotunnel from Calais to Ashford takes 35 minutes. And two ferry companies operate from Calais and Dunkirk. This makes Pas de Calais a commutable destination for those who work in London or south east England.

Holiday rental potential for homes in northern France

With buoyant tourism due to the historic locations – the battle sites of Agincourt and later World War One, the Commonwealth War Cemeteries, and rocket launch sites – it can also be good for holiday rentals. Plus there’s a full range of outdoor activities.

Popular places

Pretty cobbled street lined with bars and restaurants in the old town of Boulogne, northern France

So where are the popular spots  for  buyers? Starting  at the Belgian border – the Riviera spans from there to Berck-sur- Mer in the Pas-de-Calais department – the stretch between Dunkirk and Calais is popular with French buyers, yet less so with the British.

“For some reason there’s a perception that it’s not the ‘real France’, perhaps because of its very proximity,” he says. “Yet, nearby Gravelines and Loon-Plage are popular with the French, with great properties at a great price,” says Tim.

Seaside resorts, golf courses and fishing villages

Stone fort in the English Channel off the coast of northern France

British interest picks up at the delightful seaside resort of Wimereux on the Côte d’Opale with its Belle Epoque villas and beach huts. The  steep cliffs of the nearby Deux Caps – Gris Nez and Blanc Nez – offer beautiful beaches backed by dunes and conifers.

The  beautiful old fortified city of Boulogne-Sur-Mer is next up (or rather down the coast). It’s popular with British and French buyers for its good value. apartments, town houses and older properties area available at seriously tempting prices.

Golfers gravitate towards Hardelot-Plage, south of Boulogne, because of its championship golf course. British buyers love the fact you can buy a golf apartment for around €110,000.

Man on empty sandy beach on a sunny day

Whilst the Côte d’Azur has Cannes, the northern coast has Le Touquet. The palm trees add to its glamorous image, ever since the likes of Noel Coward, Winston Churchill and Edward and Mrs Simpson holidayed there back in the 1920’s and 30’s. Indeed,  it’s an alluring mélange of French and English. With Parisians in love with its refinement too, it’s full name is Le Touquet-Paris Plage.

Homes in Le Touquet are pricey, reflecting it’s popularity, facilities and reputation. But head across the bridge for better value Étaples – a traditional fishing  port village with fishermen’s houses from €80,000. Visit the  wonderful fish restaurants and you may be smitten.

Last but not least is Berck-Plage, or Berck-sur-Mer, a great year-round location. It has fabulous beaches and a world class kite festival. Apartments and homes are affordable (downright cheap compared to the UK). The former fishing village also offers the delicious dish Berckoise Caudière, a kind of bouillabaisse of the Channel. Who needs to head all the way to Marseille? The French Riviera of the north awaits…

See Tim’s property portfolio in Pas de Calais

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