David James opted for the chance to play first-team football over remaining in the Barclays Premier League in making the surprise move to Bristol City.
The England goalkeeper, who will celebrate his 40th birthday on Sunday, has signed a one-year contract at Ashton Gate with the option of a second year.
James has been expected to find a new club all summer following Portsmouth's relegation from the Premier League last season.
He recently pulled out of transfer talks with Celtic, while Sunderland boss Steve Bruce also expressed an interest in signing him.
However, James has dropped down to the npower Championship to join the Robins and turned his back on top-flight football in a move that could spell the end of his international career.
It remains to be seen whether he will get the chance to add to his 53 England caps but James, who lives in the West Country in Exeter, clearly has revised priorities as he approaches the end of his career.
"I've had offers to stay in the Premier League but it is more important that I play football - which I love - for the right club and be a family man," said James.
"I had a long conversation with the chairman Steve Lansdown yesterday and I liked what he said about the club and his ambition. I know all about the plans for a new stadium and desire to win promotion to the Premier League.
"The club is ambitious and that's what I am. The south-west has not had a club in the Premier League and that needs to change."
James will be paraded at Ashton Gate tomorrow prior to City's pre-season friendly against Blackpool.
Chairman Steve Lansdown was delighted to pull off such a major coup for the club.
He said: "I'm delighted David James has agreed to sign today. My ambition is for this football club to play at the highest level - the Premier League - and in the best surroundings, hence the work on the training ground and new stadium.
"We need good quality players to make that happen and that's why I'm thrilled that David has agreed to come on board."