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 The towns and cities of France

See also: main tourist cities of France

The main towns and cities of France


Page index  
Table 1: the forty largest metro areas Table 2: other urban zones with over 100,000 inhabitants Table 3: other communes with over 50,000 inhabitants

Updated 2017
A note on classification: By any system of measurement, Paris is the biggest city in France. That much is clear; but after that, classifying French towns and cities in order of size is an art, rather than a science, since the results depend very much on the criteria used. Different French statistical data use different  yardsticks, and "cities" can be classed in several different ways, notably by "urban area" (aire urbaine) , by "urban unit" (unité urbaine), or by borough (commune).

These terms are defined as follows:
"Urban area"  - A metropolitan area, i.e. the whole area which can be viewed as a coherent economic/employment unit.
"Urban unit" - The "conurbation", the densely populated heart of that area,  or "agglomération".
"Commune" - A borough, the basic unit of local administration in France, with its municipal council.

To make a comparison with London, "Greater London" would be an urban area, the "London postal area" would be an urban unit, and the "City of London" would be a commune.

Table 1 :  

Main French cities classed by population of metropolitan area

Latest figures from the INSEE, French national statistical office (Figures for 2012) .
All rankings refer to cities in Metropolitan France (i.e. France-in-Europe, excluding overseas departments and territories).

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The 42 biggest cities in France, ranked by metropolitan area . Regional capital cities are indicated in bold.
Column D shows the population of the "urban unit" at the heart of each area, i.e. the city and its contiguous suburbs. If classed by the population of their urban units, the order of the "biggest cities" in France is slightly different.
A B C D E
Rank City Population Metropolitan area or urban area Population
by urban unit or conurbation
Region
1 Paris* 12,341,418 10,550,350 Ile de France
2 Lyon*  2,214,068 1,584,738 Rhône- Alpes
3 Marseille* –
Aix-en-
Provence
 1,727,070 1,565,879 Provence-
Alpes-Côte d'Azur
4 Toulouse  1,270,760 906,457 Midi-
Pyrénées
5 Lille
Roubaix–
Tourcoing
 1,166,452 1,024,075 Nord-
Pas-de-Calais
6 Bordeaux  1,158,431 863,391 Aquitaine
7 Nice  1,004,914 943,695 Provence-
Alpes-Côte d'Azur
8 Nantes  897,713 606,640 Pays de la Loire
9 Strasbourg  768,868 454,475 Alsace
10 Rennes  690,467 318,127 Brittany
11 Grenoble  679,863 504,734 Rhône -Alpes
12 Rouen  658,285 465,879 Normandy
13 Toulon  611,237 561,155 Provence-
Alpes-Côte d'Azur
14 Montpellier  569,956 406,891 Languedoc-
Roussillon
15 Douai–Lens  540,981 506,097 Nord-
Pas-de-Calais
16 Avignon  515,536 445,501 Provence-
Alpes-Côte d'Azur
17 Saint Etienne  512,830 371,937 Rhône-Alpes
18 Tours  483,743 349,427 Centre
19 Clermont-
Ferrand
 469,922 262,911 Auvergne
20 Nancy  434,479 284,974 Lorraine
21 Orléans  423,123 271,550 Centre
22 Caen  406,633 197,114 Normandy
23 Angers  403,675 218,657 Pays de la Loire
24 Metz  389,700 287,274 Lorraine
25 Dijon  377,590 238,576 Burgundy
26 Béthune  368,633 353,926 Nord-Pas-de-Calais
27 Valenciennes  368,094 334,653 Nord-­Pas-de-Calais
28 Le Mans  344,893 209,598 Pays de la Loire
29 Reims  317,311 210,311 Champagne-
Ardenne
30 Brest  314,844 199,016 Brittany
31 Perpignan  309,962 195,679 Languedoc-
Roussillon
32 Amiens  293,671 162,141 Picardy
33 Le Havre  290,890 238,421 Normandy
34 Bayonne  288,359 230,850 Aquitaine
35 Mulhouse  284,739   245,797 Alsace
36 Limoges  282,971 184,624 Limousin
37 Nîmes  259,348 180,449 Languedoc-
Roussillon
38 Dunkerque  257,773 181,553 Nord-Pas-de-Calais
39 Poitiers  255,831 128,180 Poitou-
Charentes
40 Besançon  246,841 134,585 Franche-Comté
41 Pau 240 857 196,561 Aquitaine
42 Annecy 221,111 159,761 Rhône-Alpes
Rank City Population Metropolitan area or urban area Population
by urban zone or conurbation
Region

* Note: Most of the larger metropolitan areas,  particularly those with over 500,000 inhabitants, contain more than one town (commune) with over 80,000 inhabitants. The Paris urban area, for instance, contains a number of large communes. Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, is included in the Lyon metro area and urban zone, even though the commune ranks 27th in its own right when French "communes" are ranked by population.


Table 2
Other towns/cities in metropolitan France with an urban zone (conurbation - unité urbaine) of over 100,000 inhabitants, ranked by population or urban zone.
Rank City Population of
the urban unit
Region Departments
43 Chambéry 181,553 Rhône-Alpes 73 - Savoie
44 (Geneva) Annemasse 165,963 Rhône- Alpes 74 Haute Savoie
45 Saint-Nazaire 148,141 Pays de la Loire 44-Loire Atlantique
46 Troyes 133,286 Champagne-
Ardenne
11 - Aube
47 Valence 127,537 Rhône-Alpes 26 - Drôme
48 Thionville 132,585 Lorraine 57 Meurthe et Moselle
49 La Rochelle 126,435 Poitou-
Charentes
16 - Charente Maritime
50 Lorient 114,607 Brittany 56 - Morbihan
51 Maubeuge 112,369 Nord-
Pas-de-Calais
59 - Nord
52 Angoulême 108,818 Poitou-
Charentes
17 - Charente
53 Montbéliard 107,990 Franche-Comté 25 - Doubs




Table 3
Other towns in metropolitan France with a commune (borough) of over 50,000 inhabitants.
This table only lists those boroughs of over 50,000 inhabitants that are not already included in a metropolitan area or an urban zone listed in the two tables above.
Hence the gaps in the ranking, which are taken by large communes that are essentially suburbs, and as such already included (though not mentioned by name) in  the urban areas or urban zones listed in tables 1 and 2.
The classification by "commune" is only meaningful for country towns where a single commune accounts for the bulk of the "town". For larger urban zones, the commune population figures can be very misleading. The fact that "Paris intra muros" has 2.12 million inhabitants is of little relevance, hardly more than the fact that the population of the "City of London" in 2009 is a little over 8,000 inhabitants.

Rank City or town Popul­ation 2010
(commune)
Region Department(s)
63 Antibes 74,120 Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur Alpes Maritimes
64 Calais 73,636 Nord Pas de Calais Pas de  Calais
66 Cannes 73,234 Provence  Alpes Côte d'Azur Alpes  Maritimes
67 Béziers 70,955 Languedoc  Roussillon Hérault
71 Bourges 66,381 Centre Cher
68 Colmar 67,615 Alsace Haut Rhin
73 Ajaccio 65,542 Corsica Corse  du Sud
77 Quimper 63,550 Brittany Finistère
78 Valence 63,405 Rhône  Alpes Drôme
91 Niort 57,325 Poitou  Charentes Deux Sèvres
94 Montauban 56,271 Midi Pyrénées Tarn et  Garonne
95 St Quentin 55,978 Picardy Aisne
98 Beauvais 54,711 Picardy Oise
102 Cholet 54,098 Pays de la Loire Maine et Loire
108 La Roche sur Yon 52,664 Pays de la Loire Vendée
109 Arles 52,661 Provence  Alpes  Côte d'Azur Bouches du Rhône
111 Vannes 52,515 Brittany Morbihan
114 Fréjus 51,039 Provence  Alpes Côte d'Azur Alpes Maritimes
118 Grasse 51,036 Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur Alpes Maritimes
119 Laval 50,940 Pays de la Loire Mayenne
121 Evreux 50,537 Upper Normandy Eure
117 Narbonne 51,039 Languedoc  Roussillon Aude
122 Annecy 50,379 Rhône Alpes Haute Savoie
123 Belfort 50,078 Franche  Comté Territoire de Belfort

Population data from the French National Statistical Office, the INSEE.

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