Best Cities in France

The Best Cities In France For American Entrepreneurs

Learn about the top locations for American entrepreneur’s to start up a business in France!

The Best Cities In France For American Entrepreneurs

France is the world’s sixth largest economy and the most popular tourist destination in the world. The country is astonishingly beautiful and has a rich cultural history that continues to attract visitors from all over the world. But what does the country have to offer for ambitious American entrepreneurs eager to expand into the heart of the European economy?

While most have understandably heard of Paris, each city has its own unique appeal, particularly when it comes to doing business. To help guide you through some of the major cities and what each has to offer new businesses, we’ve put together our very own Tour de France. Cycling shorts are optional.


Lyon is the third largest city in France and is regularly ranked as one of the best places to live in Europe. Famed for its beauty and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Lyon is renowned for its cuisine and is commonly referred to as the culinary capital of France.

Its entrepreneurial beginnings can be traced back to the silk trade in the 19th Century that laid the early foundations for the cities vibrant economy. To this day Lyon continues to attract businesses and in a report carried out by the magazine L’Expansion-L’Entreprise, it found Lyon as the number one “Business Friendly” city in France outside of Paris.

There’s an exciting startup community in Lyon with a number of award-winning incubators that have helped support the growth of these new ventures. The Novacité innovation business centre supports approximately 150 business projects a year and has over a 90% success rate.

One of the most interesting areas for startups in Lyon, isn’t actually in Lyon. The city of Grenoble is about an hour away and was viewed as a pioneering cluster for urban hipsters and entrepreneurs long before Silicon Valley.

The government has funded a number of schemes to bring academia, research and industry together resulting in world-renowned expertise in Micro and Nano-Technology. Grenoble is a community that’s committed to the long-term success of technological innovation and rather than creating the next Facebook, the area is most likely to produce the next IBM or Microsoft.

Facts about Lyon

  • The area of Lyon has the second largest digital hub in the country with over 4,000 digital companies
  • 900 foreign-owned companies
  • 82 headquarters and administrative offices for companies that have over 1,000 employees


  • Banking
  • Virology
  • Chemical environmental (clean & eco-technologies)
  • Urban transport
  • Digital entertainment: video games, cinema, audio-visual, animation, interactive multimedia
  • Technical textiles & flexible materials


Regular high-speed train links put it just two hours from Paris and its international airport makes Lyon a European air transport hub.


Marseilles is the second largest city in France and one of the major centre’s for trade and industry. The port offers a natural location for anyone interested in exporting goods throughout Europe and to North Africa.

The city has undergone a steady evolution over recent years away from light manufacturing to the High-Tec service industry.

Situated on the French Riviera, Marseilles is a culturally diverse city with many of its residents originally arriving from Italy, Spain, North Africa and Turkey. The cities willingness to accept change makes it an extremely friendly option for American expats, welcoming overseas visitors both professionally and socially.

Every year the city hosts the Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event designed to provide networking and educational opportunities for both technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.

A popular holiday destination a large proportion of local businesses (90% of all businesses are SME’s) cater for tourism, providing a number of opportunities in women’s clothing, local services, health, fitness, beauty, wellness and restaurants.

However if you are looking to start a business in Marseille, you may also want to consider catering for the local market that can help during the quieter, winter months.


  • Tourism
  • Electronics
  • Data processing
  • Telecommunications
  • Biomedicine


The high-speed train (TGV) can reach Lyon in an hour and Paris in three.


Nantes is internationally recognised for its quality of life. Neither too big not too small, the city has a rich cultural offering and popular among the artistic and creative communities. Its proximity to the ocean and the hundreds of urban parks scattered throughout the city makes Nantes a beautiful place to both live and work.

In 2013 Nantes was awarded the title of “European Green Capital” by the European Commission. It efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, encourage biodiversity and the high quality of its public transport system has provided a natural home for eco-friendly businesses.

It’s also quickly becoming one of the most active place in France for emerging startups. Many of the largest brands in the world host their branded “startup incubator” events in Nantes each year, proving a networking environment for a wealth of talented individuals.

Some of the reasons why Nantes has become popular with the startup community include:

  • Popular in the press with a number of dedicated startup magazines talking about the latest innovations and news.
  • A number of cost effective work environments for emerging startups including Cantine, Company Campus, EupToYou, Hub Creatic, Le 43, Karting, Quartier de la Création and the Cantine v2 project.
  • The great university, design schools and development courses provides a steady pipeline of creative talent.
  • A history of success with 10 successful digital companies in the past 10 years (4Mod, iAdvize, Lengow, MyScript, Ateliers Rosemood,, Mstream, Intuiti, Obéo, Clever Cloud, DoYouBuzz & Bringr)


  • Fashion
  • Creative services (design, theatre, visual arts)
  • Architecture
  • Publishing
  • Multi-media


Nantes has excellent local transport and the “greenest” city in France encourages the use of cycling. It’s just over 2 hours on the train to Paris.


Where would any list be without mentioning Paris! The home of haute couture Paris has been at the forefront of the fashion industry for decades. The words “made in Paris” have become synonymous with some of the most luxurious brands in the world.

But it’s not the only booming industry in the capital, after years of negative press condemning the excessive bureaucracy and red tape associated with starting a business; there are signs that things are starting to change.

Facing a public revolt of sorts in 2012, Paris lawmakers made a number of changes to legislation and company formation requirements that were designed to make Paris a more attractive proposition for startups.

Following these changes and using Silicon Valley as an example, in 2016 Paris will become home to the world’s largest digital business hub. Located in the Halle Freyssinet building in the heart of the city, the 33,000 square meters of space will provide the ideal location, state of the art facilities and a space that encourages collaboration for the next generation of ambitious entrepreneurs.

Paris has plans to be one of the best places in the world for entrepreneurs and is growing in confidence thanks to its impressive track record.

  • Neolane have sold their business to Adobe for €600 million.
  • Paris is ranked in the world’s top eight innovation clusters (MIT Technology Review).
  • Advertising platform Criteo is currently valued at $1.5bn on the US Nasdaq
  • Mobile phone network Iliad is valued at €9.1 billion.


Similar to all major cities, most industries can be found Paris, but key sectors include:

  • Machinery
  • Chemicals
  • Automobiles
  • Aircraft
  • Electronics
  • Textiles
  • Food processing
  • Tourism


The Eurostar from Paris to London takes 2 hours 20 minutes.

This post was written by Euro Start Entreprises. Helping entrepreneurs with company formation and incorporation in France, UK, US, Europe and the Emirates.

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