These villages will delight with their fairy-tale castles, medieval architecture and captivating scenery.
The French countryside offers some of the most enchanting and picturesque towns and villages in all of Europe. Historically significant and culturally rich, they each have unique architecture and beauty. Many of them also have the distinction of being named to the list of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (The Most Beautiful Villages of France). From the coastline of Normandy to southern France to the eastern towns that border Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, these 10 destinations are sure to entice you to make plans to visit.
Located less than 52 miles southwest of Avignon, Aigues-Mortes sits at the convergence of two canals in the marshes of the Camargue. The medieval locale stands out for its 13th-century fortified walls that surround the town. Walk along these beautifully preserved rampart walls to properly take in the history of Aigues-Mortes. Then, visit the tower of Constance, which was used as a prison for Protestants during the Reformation. From here, you can see the maze of streets and squares below while eyeing centuries-old salt marshes that lie just beyond town.
This charming town with a decidedly Flemish appearance is located just 7 miles from France’s northeastern border with Belgium. Cassel sits atop Mont Cassel hill at 584 feet above sea level, offering views of the beautiful Flanders plain below. While in town, indulge in Flemish specialties like fries and mussels, waffles and Flemish beef stew, then visit the Notre-Dame de la Crypte collegiate church, which was built in the 10th century. For accommodations, consider reserving a room at Châtellerie de Schoebeque, a lovely historic hotel and former château.
Sitting along the Vienne River, the medieval town of Chinon is one of the prettiest in the Loire Valley. Chinon is best known for its wine and for being the birthplace of Richard the Lionheart, the former king of England. The impressive Chateau de Chinon, the town’s star attraction, is composed of three former fortresses that took hundreds of years to build, beginning in 954. The tower at Fort Coudray was also where Joan of Arc was once held captive. Take a break from your history tour to sip local vintages of chenin blanc before retreating to your regal accommodation at the Château de Marçay.
The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny dominates the landscape of this medieval town in the Burgundy region of France. The abbey was the largest in western Christendom until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Take a tour of the monastery remains and former palace of Abbot Jean de Bourbon, now an art museum. As for accommodations, plan to stay at Château d’Igé in the heart of the Mâconnais wine region. Built in 1235, this picturesque castle, located less than 8 miles southeast of Cluny, is situated in a park with an orchard, a rose garden and ancient trees.
This quaint French village situated in the Reims Mountain vineyards can be found about 90 miles northeast of Paris. Hautvillers produces wine, though it’s best known as the birthplace of Champagne. This is where Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon perfected the Champagne winemaking process used today. While here, taste exceptional Champagnes from producers such as Joseph Desruets. Then, grab lunch paired with more Champagne at the charming Au 26. You can even take a bottle or two home with you from the on-site wine shop.
This picturesque village in the Alsace region of northeastern France is one of the stops along the Alsatian Wine Route. Kaysersberg offers a storybook-like setting; cobblestone streets, stone bridges and colorful half-timbered houses are the norm here. What’s more, the village is surrounded by scenic vineyards and rolling hills. While strolling through town, try the Alsatian wines and local specialties, including foie gras and kouglof, a sweet raisin brioche.
This more than 2,000-year-old Brittany village has earned accolades for its breathtaking setting. Originally a religious hub for the Celts, who considered the village to be sacred, Locronan later became a hub for manufacturing cloth for sailboats. Now, the village boasts art galleries, the Place de l’Église town square and can’t-miss sights like the Church of St. Ronan and the Museum of Art and History of Locronan.
Take the scenic drive 37 miles southeast of Avignon to explore the picturesque walled village of Lourmarin. Start your visit with a trip to Château de Lourmarin, a Renaissance-style castle that was the first of its kind to be constructed in Provence. The complex dates back to the late 15th century and is open year-round. After visiting the château, wander along Lourmarin’s winding streets and admire its enchanting architecture. For an authentic crepe, dine at La Louche à Beurre, which sits just outside the village.
Located in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France, Megève is a popular ski destination by Mont Blanc in the Alps. It’s also a great vacation spot on warmer days thanks to its plentiful outdoor activities, shops and acclaimed dining venues. For an exceptional stay, book a room or suite at Flocons de Sel, an elegant chalet-style Relais & Châteaux property nestled in the mountains above Megève. Set aside time to relax at the hotel’s spa before reserving a table at the property’s three-star Michelin restaurant.
Considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, Pérouges is located about 25 miles northeast of Lyon. This fortified ancient town sits perched on a hill overlooking the Ain valley in Rhône-Alpes. Wander the labyrinthine cobblestone streets, pass the town’s half-timbered houses and explore the Place du Tilleul, which features the 200-year-old tree of liberty, a symbol of the French Revolution. For a real treat, try the local galette, a buttery brioche pastry. You’ll also want to save time for a meal and a stay within the rampart walls at Hostellerie de Pérouges.