The 20 Most Beautiful Villages in France You Need to Visit
The term Les Plus Beaux Villages de France literally translates as the most beautiful villages in France. That really is saying something considering there are so many beautiful French villages.
But the tiny villages that gain this elite title are truly magical. And as well as being beautiful, they capture the history and the essence of their region.
With the help of some other fabulous travel bloggers, we’ve picked 20 of the most beautiful villages in France.
So, look beyond the tourist attractions in Paris and get out and explore the rest of the country. We think don’t think you will be disappointed.
History of the Most Beautiful Villages in France
The Plus Beaux Villages de France is an association that was set up in 1982 to protect the rich heritage of certain unique villages in France and to promote tourism. Despite the name, the classification ‘Plus Beaux Village’ is not based on how beautiful the village is (although this seems to be an unwritten requirement). There are three main criteria that must be met to qualify as a Plus Beaux Village.
- The population must total no more than 2000 inhabitants.
- There must be at least 2 national heritage sites.
- The application must have the support of the local council.
20 most beautiful villages in France map
The 159 villages are dotted all over France so wherever you are, there will be one near you to visit. The regions with the most beautiful villages in France are the Dordogne, Aveyron, Vaucluse and Lot. Check the official website for a list of all 159 Plus Beaux Villages de France,
Many of the villages are in the most beautiful places in France in spectacular French countryside and so as well as visiting the village, there will usually be a wealth of things to do in the local area.
Plus Beaux Villages in Alpes de Haute-Provence
Moustiers Sainte Marie
Moustiers Sainte Marie is one of the original Plus Beaux Villages de France. It has an elevated position in the Verdon Natural Regional Park overlooking the beautiful turquoise Lac de Sainte Croix. The village is a labyrinth of narrow streets with a number of interesting churches. Be sure to check out the locally produced ceramics (faïence).
There’s plenty to see and do in the area, particularly if you’re into adventure and water sports. If you’re there in the summer months (mid-June to mid-July), you should visit the beautiful lavender and sunflower fields that are around nearby Valensole.
For more information on what to see and do, see the Moustiers Sainte Marie tourism site.
Plus Beaux Villages in Ariège
Camon is a tiny little fortified village nicknamed ‘Little Carcassonne’. Pop into the tourist office for a guided tour of the ramparts, church and Benedictine abbey. You may need to book in advance out of season. It is magical at sunset when the golden light catches the ramparts and this is when there are no tourists, just those staying in the village.
Mirepoix is worth checking out, especially on market day (Monday morning) and if you love sunflowers, you’ll be in for a treat in the summer months with lots of sunflower fields in the local area.
Plus Beaux Villages in Charente Maritime
A beautiful little village with a port on the dreamy holiday island of Ile de Re. Whitewashed houses with faded blue and green shutters line the narrow streets that lead to the port. Walk along the harbour wall towards the lighthouse for views back over the village.
Make sure to stop in at Saint Martin de Ré, a busy port town. You’ll be greeted by shaggy donkeys guarding the fortified walls. Walk along the walls from the Citadelle to the lighthouse and then to the port where you’ll find the glitzy side of Ile de Ré with high-end shops and restaurants.
Ars en Ré
Ars en Ré is a quiet little whitewashed village with a small port nestled next to the salt marshlands with abundant birdlife. The unique steeple (resembling a rocket) of Saint-Etienne church built in the 15th-century can be seen from miles away and is used by sailors to navigate.
Ile de Ré is easily (and probably best) explored by bike. There are many (completely flat and vehicle-free) cycling tracks all over the island. Make sure to check out the tourist site for things to see and do in Ile de Ré.
Plus Beaux Villages in the Dordogne
La Roque Gageac
Sandwiched between the banks of the Dordogne and towering limestone cliffs, this once busy port is now busy with canoeists and holidaymakers taking leisurely cruises on a Gabarre, a traditional flat-bottomed boat of the Dordogne.
The main sites to see in the Manoir de la Tarde and the Château de la Malartrie which you will see wandering around the narrow backstreets. The best time to visit La Roque-Gageac is at sunset when the honey-coloured stone of the buildings and the limestone cliffs takes on a golden glow.
For more information on visiting La Roque-Gageac, check the Sarlat-Perigord Noir tourism site where you’ll also find information on booking a gabarre cruise.
Beynac et Cazenac
Perched on the edge of the Dordogne, Beynac-et-Cazenac is a little bigger than La Roque and it has one of the best castles in France at the top of the village. The cobbled pathways taking you up to the castle are very steep (and very slippery if wet), but you will be treated to fabulous views over the Dordogne from the top.
The Loire is famous for its Châteaux but the Dordogne also has its fair share. It’s known as the land of 1001 castles.
Mid June – mid September is market day on Monday and where you’ll get free parking. Otherwise, parking in peak season is a scramble. There is a large field just on the outskirts of the village, but the queues for the ticket machine can get very long.
For more on visiting Beynac et Cazenac, see the tourism website.
Plus Beaux Villages in Haut Rhin
Eguisheim is a real-life Disney village in Alsace. In fact, it is said that the movie set of Beauty and the Beast was based on this village. The small fairy tale town in Alsace is packed full of cute and colourful timber-framed houses that are synonymous with the Alsace region.
There is a huge car park just on the outskirts of town from where you can pick up the tourist train if you don’t want to walk. We decided to walk because there are so many little backstreets to explore.
Although most people will be visiting these villages in the summer months, it is also worth considering that towns and villages in Alsace have some superb Christmas markets, such as Colmar and Strasbourg, which are not to be missed.
Neighbouring Riquewihr is just as spectacular with the same colourful houses. It is one of the few towns in the area not to have been too badly damaged in World War II. The Dolder Tower (the original 13th-century defensive gate ) is particularly impressive and here you’ll find the Dolder Museum where you can learn about the history of the town.
Riquewihr is on the wine route in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards and is well known for its Riesling production which is another a great reason to visit.
If you’re in this area, you shouldn’t miss visiting Kayersberg which was actually our favourite, even though it isn’t a Plus Beaux village! Also worth visiting is the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg which is close by.
Plus Beaux Villages in Haute Savoie
This medieval fishing village along with its 14th-century castle sits on the shores Lake Geneva with its crystal clear waters. As well as being a Plus Beaux Village, it’s also classed as a ‘village fleuri’ due to its streets being adorned with colourful flowers.
You must visit the Garden of Five Senses in the centre of the village where your senses will be well and truly awakened. You are invited to smell, touch, look, listen and even taste the plants in various gardens with lovely activities for the family, including a maze.
Plus Beaux Villages in Lot
Autoire is a small village with a fairy tale air to it as you approach with its Rapunzel-style turrets. In fact, it is nicknamed the ‘Petit Versailles’. There are some narrow streets leading up and behind the village from where you can get lovely views over the brown tiled rooftops.
On the way to Autoire you can stop off at the Autoire waterfall, the largest waterfall in the Dordogne at 30 m high. Loubressac is also a Plus Beaux Village and only 5 km from Autoire so you should make a stop there too. See next entry for more information on Loubressac.
Cadennac is also in the region but we missed out on this one as it was 40 degrees and we had a swim in the Dordogne to cool down instead. There’s a great swimming spot at Le Port de Gluges where the D840 crosses the river. You can also hire canoes here if you’re looking to go canoeing on the Dordogne.
Loubressac is perched high up on a hill and can be seen in the distance as you approach from Autoire. The drive up to the village is along a slightly hair-raising, winding road but it’s worth the effort. The views from the village out across the countryside are stunning.
Must visit Gouffre de Padirac and Rocamadour – a medieval village of huge religious importance (famous for its Black Madonna) clinging impossibly to a vertical cliff. The views from the church at the top are incredible, but not for the faint-hearted!
Plus Beaux Villages in Manche
Barfleur (Submitted by Joanna from The World in My Pocket)
Barfleur is one of the most beautiful villages in Normandy, without a doubt. Houses made of stone with pretty lavender pots at their windows, narrow roads and secluded beaches make Barfleur a fantastic destination if you are looking for some peace and quiet in Normandy.
The village is famous for the mussels harvested here, especially the local ‘Blonde de Barfleur’ which is only found here and is special because of its golden shell color. The restaurants in the village all serve it whilst in season.
Barfleur also has a beautiful harbour which used to be the largest in Normandy during the 13th century. It’s hard to imagine that now thinking of the nearby port of Cherbourg.
Plus Beaux Villages in Oise
Gerberoy is the closest Plus Beaux Village to Calais (220 km) and would be just about doable on a day trip and perfect for a weekend break. The little village is characterised by medieval timber-framed houses and cobblestone lanes.
Its symbol is the rose and you’ll see them everywhere, especially at Les Jardins Henri Le Sidaner (a French painter) where you can take a guided tour. Every year on the third weekend in June there is a rose festival in Gerberoy.
Plus Beaux Villages in Pyrénées-Atlantiques
La Bastide Clairence
La Bastide Clairence is a typical Basque village with its white timber-framed houses and predominantly red shutters. There’s a small village square with a few restaurants and arts and crafts shops. The small church (Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assomption) is quite unassuming from the outside but inside you’ll find three floors of dark wooden galleries on each side with a striking dark green ceiling. One of the highlights of the village is a small shop just across from the church selling delicious macarons.
It’s very close to the famous town of Espelette which, although not a Plus Beaux Village, is definitely worth visiting. It’s where they hang out their chilli peppers (a local speciality) on the houses to dry. If you’re visiting the area on a hot day, pop to Itxassou after Espelette for a swim in the Nive river. You can access the river at 1026 route d’Errobi -RD249- Quartier Errobi Maison Errobia, 64250 Itxassou, France.
Bayonne with its huge selection of restaurants and shops and a beautiful cathedral should be included in your itinerary. The lush botanic gardens there are worth a visit too and if you have the time, pop over the border to San Sebastian. You’ll have an amazing foodie experience at one (or many) of the Pintxo restaurants and then you can head up Monte Igeldo for incredible views over one of the best city beaches in the world!
Plus Beaux Villages in the Var
Seillans (Submitted by Larch from The Silver Nomad)
Seillans is one of the prettiest hilltop villages in the Var and deserves its place on the list of most beautiful villages in France. Due to the steepness of the hill, the centre of the village is only accessible by foot.
With its winding streets opening out onto small squares, where you can sit and have coffee and watch the world go by, it is easy to lose yourself in its charm.
The medieval village has an 11th Century castle with an original stone archway in the ramparts.The surrealist artist Max Ernst spent his last years in the village and there is a bronze statue to him in Place de la Republique and a museum of his work in Place do Thouron.
Seillans holds an annual pottery market on 15 August in the Place de la Republique which is a great place to pick up some interesting pieces.
Plus Beaux Villages in the Vaucluse
Gordes (Submitted by Elisa from France Bucket List)
Gordes is one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. It is located in the Vaucluse department, near Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey famous for its lavender fields.
Gordes makes for a great day trip from Avignon, the nearest city, together with Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey and the village of Roussillon.The perched village of Gordes is one of the plus beaux villages of France. It is really small but it has a château, beautiful ancient houses, and a couple of pretty squares. There are also a couple of belvederes with awesome views of the vineyards at the foot of the village and the Luberon valley.
For great pictures of the perched village, there are some spots on the road coming from the west where it is possible to stop for a few minutes.
Lourmarin (Submitted by Chris from Explore Now or Never)
Tiny Lourmarin in the southern Luberon is one of the most beautiful villages in Provence. It’s nestled up against three mountain ranges with picturesque meadows, vineyards, olive groves and almond trees aplenty.
The historic village, settled for nearly 1,000 years, is a charming spot to stop for a meal or to stroll the cute cobblestone streets. One of the main attractions here though is the small castle that sits high on a hill just outside the village. Château de Lourmarin, originally a 12th-century fortress, was transformed in the 15th century and then eventually restored to its former glory in 1920. It includes a lovely garden that looks into the village and vineyards below. Plus, you can taste wine at the castle!
While you’re here, visit Albert Camus’ grave in the cemetery and sample the excellent Friday morning market with regional specialities. For those who appreciate less travelled villages in Provence, Lourmarin never disappoints.
Ménerbes (Submitted by Nadine from Le Long Weekend)
Ménerbes is located in the lower Luberon – an enchanting part of France where you’ll find some of the most beautiful villages in Provence. The village is most famous for its associations with the writer Peter Mayle and his best-selling book A Year in Provence. In the book, he recounts tales of his time living in the village, and it’s this fairytale vision that still brings many tourists to the town today.
A morning or afternoon is enough to wander the pretty streets where you’ll find Eglise Saint Luc sitting at the helm and its exceptional view over the valley below. Later you can browse the boutiques for lavender-scented goodies and local art.
Roussillon (Submitted by Erin from Erin at Large)
The first thing you’ll notice on approaching Roussillon are the striking red soil and rocks. The Provençal people mined the surrounding area for ochre, used in paints and dyes, from the 1700s up until 1930. Shades of yellow, orange and red dominate the village buildings, even now.
Situated on top of red cliffs, this small village is very beautiful, but easily overrun by tourists. Come early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the rush. There are only a few small restaurants and a couple cafes, so it’s best to eat before or after your visit. The shops offer small pots of local powdered ochre pigment, so you can recreate these warm colours for yourself at home.
Plus Beaux Villages in the Vendée
Vouvant (Submitted by Jude from Minitraveltribe)
Vouvant is a beautiful medieval village in the Vendeé area. It is made up of pretty winding alleys and has impressive medieval town walls. Once outside the town walls there is a pretty river where you can have a pleasant stroll.
There is a small children’s playground by the river which is always a welcome distraction for the kids, as well as a fitness course including monkey bars. Back in the village centre there is a small main square with a lovely restaurant for lunch.
Don’t miss the Melusine tower next to the village car park. Pay a small fee at the tourist office to get the key to the tower (In itself this is exciting for children!). Climb the steep stone steps to get a fantastic view of surrounding countryside.
Tips for visiting the Plus Beaux Villages de France
As with most of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, they are small, historic and are best visited on foot. Being points of touristic interest, they can be quite busy. Arrive early or late, park in the car parks outside of town and walk in.
Always pop into the churches, no matter how unassuming they may look from the outside.
There will usually be small, independent shops where you can buy local specialities. These are definitely worth checking out.
Check ahead whether they have a market day as it is fun to see the village come alive
We hope that you enjoy visiting Les Plus Beaux Village de France as much as we do. Do you have a favourite? Let us know in the comments!