Welcome to the FrenchEntrée guide to the French region of Aquitaine and its property scene. Here you will find information on Aquitaine’s transport and access, climate, an introduction to the region and a look at the Aquitaine property prices and expert tips on buying in the region.
Départements: Dordogne (24), Gironde (33), Landes (40), Lot-et-Garonne (47), Pyrénées-Atlantique (64)
ABOUT THE REGION
The word “Aquitaine” is of Latin origin and means “land of water”. The ocean, countless lakes and three huge rivers tell us that the Romans’ impression of the region is equally valid today. With its long and rich history, many will be familiar with place names such as Biarritz, St.Emilion and Arcachon, or have probably consumed its most famous exports, wine and foie gras.
Aquitaine is a very diverse area, located in the South West of France, belonging to the larger Aquitaine, Limousin et Poitou-Charentes region following the territorial reform of 2016, with the regional capital located in Bordeaux. Aquitaine as such extends from the Pointe de Grave in the north to the Spanish border in the south, with the Pyrénées Atlantique coastline, which name gives it the incomparable contrast of the sea and the mountains. Aquitaine is also a wine region par excellence and home of some classics like Margaux, Medoc, Sauterne and Saint Emilion. The local specialties like Truffles and Foie Gras and traditional recipes won’t disappoint you! Its local cooking is famous even in France for its variety and quality!
Aquitaine offers a wonderful lifestyle and great value for money in terms of property. It is a large area, varied both culturally and geographically. Aquitaine – or as the Romans named this beautiful region of France, ‘the country of waters’ – is the most south-westerly region of France with Spain to its South and the Atlantic Ocean to its west, it brings together five departements: the Dordogne, the Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Following the territorial reform of 2016, it is part of the largest region in the country the Grande Région Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes, covering 84 100 Km2 with its administrative seat in Bordeaux, and has an abundance of beautiful varied landscapes and natural spaces such as mountains, lakes, forests and an amazing coastline of long sandy beaches along its western border. The sunny and temperate climate also makes the area a favourite for those who want to live a more tranquil lifestyle surrounded by the beauty of such natural diversity.
The Dordogne (24) is one of favourite areas amongst the British – many have settled there and many others holiday there year after year. This is a region of green hills, winding rivers and dense forests untainted by modern industrialization. At every turn you encounter charming villages of stone houses where each hilltop reveals an ancient castle. Famous for its great gastronomy, an abundance of fruit, walnuts, truffles and mushrooms grow here and geese are raised to produce foie gras. Some of the best-known towns in the region are Brive-la-Gaillarde, Sarlat-la-Caneda, Perigueux and Bergerac.
The Gironde (33) is famous for its wines, especially red wines, often a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, most of which are grown near Bordeaux making it the number one wine-producing area of France. St Emilion, one of its most famous towns whose vineyards have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site will also delight you with its amazing underground monuments and its medieval town. However, Gironde is not only about wine. Immense dunes, such as the dune of Pilat, which towers at 107m, are found scattered along the coast and offer a magnificent vista of the ocean and a huge pine forest. The Bassin d’Arcachon with its oyster parks and its cabanes tchanquées (huts on stilts) is one of my favourite places to visit. For nature lovers, the coastal zone has many ornithological reserves too.
The Landes (40) is particularly well known for its forest, la Forêt des Landes, which is the largest forest in Europe and covers 67% of the area. It also has miles of beaches, which have been safeguarded from excessive development and as such are great favourites for summer tourism especially because they offer superb surfing conditions. Hossegor, Biscarrosse, Seignosse, Cap Breton, Mimizan and Lacanau host the surfing world championship trials each year. You will be seduced by the Landes diverse cultural heritage, fantastic cuisine, lovely seaside resorts and beautiful scenery.
The Lot-et-Garonne (47) is the smallest department in the Aquitaine and has been described as “A blessed little corner of south-west France made up of gently rolling hills, fields of corn and sunflowers, winding roads empty of cars and pretty little towns and villages, where people always have time to talk to you”. It is best known for its famous prunes of Agen. The countryside is full of orchards and tobacco fields, which are perfect for long country walks. The area is criss-crossed by a network of inland waterways where you can hire a boat and spend leisurely afternoons.
The Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64) form a natural border with Spain, extending from the ocean in Béarn and passing through the Basque Country. There are many villages and small fishing ports (Bidart, Guéthary, Saint-Jean-Of-Luz) along the coastline and vast beaches. Biarritz has nearby lakes and river and is a fantastic beach and fishing town. It is all at once understated and cosmopolitan, but with this duality come high property prices. As one travels to the east to tall peaks (Peak of Anie, 2504 m) the landscape becomes of course more dramatic. The Basque traditions are there to see in the traditional wood-panelled houses.
Transport and access to Aquitaine
A89: Clermont-Ferrand Bordeaux
A large number of regional, national and international airlines offer daily services in and out of the following airports in Aquitaine.
Bordeaux is just three hours from Paris Montparnasse by TGV. Paris Austerlitz to Bayonne and Biarritz takes five hours, while local TER regional rail networks are also very good.
Climate in Aquitaine
Aquitaine enjoys warm and sunny summers but with more moderate, less stifling temperatures experienced in the far south of France or Côte d’Azur. Coastal regions are a little cooler in high summer than inland areas such as Gascony, with Atlantic weather fronts occasionally bringing welcome relief. Autumn is a lovely time to visit – wine harvest time! – while you can also expect fairly mild winters.
THE PROPERTY SCENE IN AQUITAINE
But what about property prices in this beautiful area? As a general rule, prices are higher the closer you get to the coast and around the main urban hubs, and start to taper down as you move inland.
We asked estate agents in the area for their impressions as they are on the front-line of any changes in the property market and have invaluable direct local knowledge. They find that the property budget for a foreign buyer in the Dordogne on averages is around €200K, while in the Lot et Garonne it is lower, at around €180K, evidence of the variations found in average prices from one department to the other, and even the wide variations within the same department depending on location.
Their advice is to go a holiday and check out the area before going house hunting, if possible at different times of year. They emphasise the importance of staying realistic with expectations in relation to the budget – a big stone house with a large garden tends to be hard to find in walking distance of the boulangerie and shops. Finally, their top tip is to remain flexible if the agent wants to show you a property that might not have been on the wish-list prepared ahead of time on the internet. Otherwise you might be missing out on a superb opportunity!
•With thanks to our partner agencies in the area
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