Presidential Property Locations

Presidential Property Locations

Where do presidents go to relax and unwind? Leah Rottier reveals some of the magnificent retreats where the great and the good have put their feet up…

Some of us may dream of a second home in glorious Antibes, waking up to fresh croissants with a view of the glistening Mediterranean on the horizon… or of curling up in front of a crackling fire in a chalet in Courchevel after an energetic day of skiing on the finest slopes, But where do French presidents go to relax and escape the stress of running the country? And which part of France do they call their ‘second home’?

Since 1968, the Fort of Brégançon has been one of two official retreats at the disposal of the French president. This magnificent home on an islet off the Mediterranean coast is a sun-worshipper’s dream and an idyllic haven of beauty and nature. But it has long been targeted by paparazzi eager to catch a glimpse of a French president and his family basking in the Riviera sun, so many presidents choose to have another option up their sleeve when they want to escape the bustle of Paris and the headaches of the Elysée.


Emmanuel Macron, Photo: Shutterstock

At just one hour’s drive from Calais along the Côte d’Opale (Opal Coast), it’s easy to see why this small town is such a big draw for both English and French tourists alike. With a population of around 4,500, it’s astonishing to think that in summer, this lively town welcomes over 250,000 visitors to its chic boutiques and busy markets. This includes the current president Emmanuel Macron and his wife, who have a spectacular second home (Villa Monéjan) here.

Le Touquet is a throwback to an era of glorious seaside weekend breaks with its vast expanse of soft, golden sands and Belle Époque houses. You can stroll through the narrow streets of upmarket boutiques, wander through outdoor markets sampling the fresh produce and hot crêpes, or experience the splendour of an indoor market every Saturday in an amazing Art Deco- inspired building.

For those who prefer a more energetic break, there are tennis courts, mini golf and 18-hole golf courses in Le Touquet and its surrounding area. Two centres along the beach rent out everything from kayaks and canoes to paddleboards and sailing dinghies, so you can try every water sport imaginable.

For those with energy left to spare, there are always the 274 steps of the magnificent La Canche lighthouse to climb. On a bright day, you can see England from the top of this 57m structure.

Le Touquet is also a great spot for everything cultural, giving you lots of options for days and nights out on your sunny holidays here. In June, sway along to the magnificent pianists at Les Pianos Folies Festival, and in August, head to the golden sands for the annual Music Beach Festival. The activities here are year- round, with Les Nuits Baroques entertaining the residents throughout winter with delights such as opera, ballet and theatre pieces, including Molière’s beloved plays.

Unfortunately, the small town with everything comes at a price. Buying a second home in Le Touquet is not for bargain hunters! Expect to pay around €300,000 for a very small one-bedroom apartment (approximately 30m³) in the centre of town, with prices rising to over €500,000 for an apartment of the same size with a balcony and sea view.

Anne-Frédérique Lemesre of AFTim Immobilier in Le Touquet credits the mild climate and proximity to Paris and Lille for the town’s popularity. She adds that most house purchases are by residents of these big cities looking for a quieter, seaside holiday home in Le Touquet, with a view to retiring here later in life. “It’s a touristy town with everything from horse riding to windsurfing, the sea and the forest, but with a great family feel to it. It’s also very safe. Il fait bonne vivre!” she says, laughing. And she’s right – it really does seem like a great place to live.


Lises_tomb-of-GOSal-De-Gaulle, Photo: Shutterstock

Tucked away in the peaceful Haute-Marne countryside is a small village with a very famous ex- president. With a population of approximately 800 inhabitants, Colombey-les- Deux-Églises was the second home of General de Gaulle, the third-longest-serving president of the French Fifth Republic. Charles de Gaulle purchased ‘La Boisserie’ here in 1934 and visited often while serving his country, regularly spending weekends and holidays in the tranquil surrounding mix of forests and farmland.

It is said that de Gaulle was inspired by the peaceful setting to write his presidential speeches and even his memoirs here. After passing away in his library in 1970, he was buried in the village and his former home is now a listed building, with several rooms open to the public. You can take a tour of the living room, dining room and even the library – which looks onto de Gaulle’s former office, then take a stroll around the vast park surrounding this stunning abode.

Tourists flock to Colombey- les-Deux-Églises Deux-Eglisest to admire the nature, to visit La Boisserie and the Charles de Gaulle memorial, and to stand in awe of the Cross of Lorraine, an imposing 44m-high structure towering over the village – an enduring symbol of Free France from the Second World War. If you’re looking for a peaceful department with small towns and friendly villages, where locals take their time meandering through the weekly markets, and elderly residents chat over a leisurely game of boules, then Haute- Marne is the perfect spot.

The préfecture of the department is Chaumont, less than 30 minutes from Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. Here, the rolling hills and lush valleys are framed by an enormous viaduct, 600m long, with 50 arches measuring up to 50m high each. This impressive architectural feat dates back to the 19th century and provides a spectacular view of the Suize valley, as well as illuminated displays to enchant.

Chaumont itself is a lively town with a population of just 23,000 people. While it used to be known predominantly for glove-making, the town is now famous for its International Poster and Graphic Design Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. Tourists are not only charmed by the rambling stone streets and old buildings, but by the amount of greenery. You never have to go far to appreciate nature here – it is everywhere. There are large parks in the town centre, such as Boulingrin and Agathe Roullot, and just a short drive from Chaumont, the Parc National des Forêts begins a lush expanse of 560km² of hiking trails and small rivers, which is home to rare birds, an abundance of wildlife and more than 50 million trees!

The setting is rural and peaceful, and an ideal location for a second home, but there are several large cities within a 200km radius of Colombey-les- Deux-Églises to get your city fix, including Dijon at 130km and Nancy at 140km; Paris is also just 250km away.

Carole Rebelo, an estate agent with IAD (Chaumont), says that the abundance of beautiful wooded areas makes this sector so attractive, and she is now seeing the majority of buyers settle here in primary residences, not second homes. “Housing prices here are still Every affordable, and those who love stone houses and old buildings are delighted with the properties that they find are for sale here,” she says. She adds that she sells a lot of places at less than €100,000 that need partly or fully renovating, and that buyers adore restoring the old stone houses with traditional materials in these small, idyllic villages of Haute-Marne. For those looking to avoid any large DIY projects and purchase a house ready to move into, a three-bedroom house in Chaumont witha large garden will sell for around €200,000, and in the outlying villages you can purchase a traditional stone house with three bedrooms and a good- sized garden for between €100,000 and €160,000. There are definitely some fantastic bargains to pounce on in this wonderful department!

MOUGINS (François Hollande)

Francoise Holland, Photo: Shutterstock

Strolling through the narrow alleyways of this medieval village is like ascending a spiral staircase that unearths hidden delights at each turn. On a lazy summer afternoon, there is nothing better than discovering the charming corners of this photogenic hillside village and its vistas of olive, pine and cypress trees.

Long before François Hollande bought a property here in 2007 (with his former partner and fellow politician, Ségolène Royal), Mougins was already a familiar retreat for many famous faces, including Christian Dior, Winston Churchill and Yves Saint Laurent. Charmed by its beauty, light and magnificent scenery, Pablo Picasso settled here in 1961 and stayed until his death in 1973. Other artists, including Francis Picabia and Jean Cocteau, came to this tiny village for their inspiration, along with famous singers, such as Edith Piaf.

Mougins is located high above sea level, with a warm Mediterranean climate, and easy access to the luxurious surrounding towns. Nestled between the turquoise sea and the majestic mountains, the coastal towns of Cannes and Antibes are just 10km and 15km away respectively, and the fragrant town of Grasse is just a 15-minute drive in the opposite direction. With all the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera on its doorstop, it’s easy to see why this village is loved by so many, including a former French president.

Mougins, Photo: shutterstock

Perhaps the thriving gastronomy scene also plays an important part in its popularity. In 1969, the legendary chef Roger Vergé opened a restaurant here and his first Michelin star came just a year later. Other stars also followed rapidly and his success soon put Mougins firmly on the gastronomical map. In 2006, the mayor of Mougins created an international festival of gastronomy, Les Etoiles de Mougins, in homage to Roger Vergé and for one weekend every year, the village hosts top chefs and those passionate about great food. The streets. come alive with workshops and sampling sessions.

With the sunny location and impossibly beautiful surroundings, it’s only to be expected that houses here are in high demand, and mingling with presidents, famous chefs and celebrities comes with a hefty price tag! While prices in Mougins haven’t yet reached the €10,000/m² that you’ll pay, on average, in Cannes, they are still high. A small, one-bedroom apartment in the centre of Mougins will set you back around €300,000 and you can expect to pay between €600,000 and €650,000 for a bungalow of approximately 80m² with a small garden. Anthony Bani, an estate agent with IAD in the Cannes/ Mougins sector, rates “la douceur de vie” as the main reason for Mougins’ popularity. “Mougins has everything, including exceptional gastronomy. It’s close to the Italian border, as well as the beaches of Cannes, which are golden and sandy, unlike the pebbly beaches along the coast in Nice!” he says. “It’s a popular area for second homes, and also for investors who can rent out their studios and apartments for the conventions, conferences and festivals, which are hugely popular here.”

With an enviable climate and a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle, it’s easy to see why ex-presidents, artists and celebrities alike have flocked to this idyllic location for almost a century – and continue to do so today.

The unique mix of legal, financial and tax advice along with in-depth location guides, inspiring real life stories, the best properties on the market, entertaining regular pages and the latest property news and market reports makes French Property News magazine a must-buy publication for anyone serious about buying and owning a property in France.


Lead photo credit : Le Touquet, Photo: shutterstock

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