Chilhac, in the Auvergne
discover, off the main tourist trails
and small towns in France proudly promote themselves as one of the "most beautiful villages
"; but this is just the tip of the
a label that
villages can apply for ... at a price.
on the other hand, litterally thousands
of beautiful villages in France, and they can be found in all regions;
but for many smaller villages, the
cost and hassle involved in getting labeled as a "Plus
beau village de France
" is too great. So
while the same 150 officially beautiful villages get listed in
all the brochures,
there are plenty more very beautiful
villages in France that rarely get a mention except by local tourist
offices with local knowledge.
Besides, since almost every regional tourist
website, and many others too, vaunt the charms of the same villages
villages de France" label, these villages tend to
attract hordes of visitors at
weekends and in holiday periods, and can become patent illustrations of
the often-ignored maxim that "Tourism
is like seasoning on food. Some can make an improvement, a little more
can make it perfect. A lot ruins it ....."
About-France.com helps you discover other
beautiful villages – the parts of
France that most tourists never reach.....
villages without crowds..... an original selection
There is no official list of the most beautiful undiscovered villages
in France; that would be a contradiction in terms. By definition, there
is no such thing as an "undiscovered village"... But About-France.com
presents a growing - but very incomplete - list of some of the most
beautiful unspoilt villages in France, that have not
overrun by tourists.
These villages do not have any official "most
beautiful village in France" label; but they are beautiful traditional
villages, with plenty of character.
Maybe they can't afford the official label; maybe they just don't get
enough tourists to
make it worthwhile.... In some cases they are just off the beaten
track, and rather inaccessible to tour buses. But whatever the reason,
the traditional French villages and small towns listed below are all
worth a visit, and
all have something, in addition to their character, to make them worth
Compared to the tourist hotspots of the
most popular "plus beaux villages de France", these villages are
deserted. Just the
village, and a few tourists looking -
like you perhaps - for authentic French villages off the tourist trail.
How big is a
There is no formal definition of what constitutes a village.
France, places with up to about 1500 inhabitants often call themselves
villages; another word used for compact historic villages is "bourg"; villages
that are "bourgs" would normally be considered in English as
small towns. For slightly larger places, with more
amenities, see Best small towns
original list of beautiful
This list is different from the usual
lists of best villages. None of the following are classed as "most beautiful
villages in France"
- though all of them are as fine as, and often more
attractive and more authentic, than some of those that are.
Help expand this list: About-France.com welcomes
suggestions from readers (Contact)
large Alsace wine growing village, quite popular, but less crowded than
the highly visited "most beautiful villages" of Riquewihr or Eguisheim
south of Bergerac
village, on a circular plan, in the countryside south of Bergerac. 17th
century church, old stone and half-timbered houses. Popular sunday
Lot et Garonne
Villeneuve sur Lot
former royal bastide town is perched on a hilltop overlooking the
valley of the Boudouyssou. The almost perfectly preserved bourg is surrounded
by its ramparts; it has a small central square, and an interesting
belfry with a lunar clock.
village, remarkable basalt organ rocks, small top quality
Paleontological museum, river swimming, campsite, kayaking. Beautiful
area off the beaten track
fortress village, on a hilltop overlooking the Burgundy canal. Close to
Saône et Loire
"mediaeval" hilltop village in south Burgundy, with castle and
romanesque church with frescoes. The village is classed as a historic
island village in the tidal estuary of the ria Etel, linked to mainland
by stone bridge. 12th century chapel.
near Salins les Bains
the river Lison - a vauclusian resurgence - and the
"Taillanderie", historic working scythe-making museum. Attractive hill
Northwest of Montpellier
very pretty small village located in the dry "garrigue" landscape of
inland Languedoc, in the valley of the Buège. Castle.
north of Mende
hilltop village at 1280 metres in the Margeride hills. Attractive
square with cafés, ruined castle and "Calvaire" with views
round. Camping, good hiking area
village in the verdant Creuse
valley; ancient Benedictine abbey, and "Roman" bridge across the
Creuse. Deepest countryside all round.
village with old cobbled streets,
remains of fortifications, and an impressive ruined mediaeval
castle. Beautiful area off the beaten track
of Millau, on a ridge above the Tarn valley. Stupendous views to the
south. Castle (visits in July and August), guided tours, beautiful
stone model of the village, two listed mediaeval churches, priory
attractive village clinging to the steep scarp of a narrow valley.
Spectacular waterfall, museum of rural life, romanesque church,
vineyards close by.
Eulalie de Cernon
a valley on the Larzac, a short distance from the A75 motorway, Sainte
Eulalie is a small fortified village once a bastion of the Knights
Templar. Mediaeval fortifications, narrow streets, less visited than
the nearby La Couvertoirade.
an elevated location beside the Coran valley. XIth century romanesque
village, high up in the hills just behind Menton, and a few kilometres
from the Italian border
Alpes de Haute Provence
old "perched village", in the Monts de Vaucluse. The village is
dominated by its massive round mediaeval castle. Its narrow streets and
houses cling to the hillside below the castle, above a valley with
on ridge at the edge of the Luberon, this delightful village has
wonderful views all around. At one end of the village stands a
mediaeval pilgrimage church, at the other, on a rocky outcrop. the
remains of a castle. the two are linked by a narrow main street and a
small shaded square with a historic fountain.
village amidst the vineyards and olive trees of the Ardèche,
south of Aubenas. Romanesque church, plenty of character.
very picturesque and unspoilt
village perched on a rock in the gorge of the river Eygues. The small
village church has been recently renovated. From the village a 2 km
walk takes you to the remains of the historic Abbaye de
Baudon. From vantage points, admire the valley and the massive
griffon vultures that live on the surrounding crags.
The "Plus beaux villages de France " -
Let's be quite honest; villages and small towns that obtain the
"Plus beaux villages de France" label are generally very attractive
places. Which is why some of them get lots of tourists - far too many
Cordes sur Ciel, near Albi, has the "Plus beaux villages"
Villages like Beynac, Saint Cirq Lapopie, Cordes
Ciel, Conques, Montflanquin, Pérouges, Rocamadour,
Riquewihr, Talmont sur Gironde, and most of the most popular "most
villages in France" are definitely places to avoid
in peak tourist periods, unless you really want to see them and have no
other time to do so. If this is the
case, make sure to choose a weekday, not a weekend.
That being said, overcrowding is a problem that essentially
concerns the most popular plus beaux villages, those that are firmly on
the tourist circuit. Many other "plus beaux villages" are less
affected, as they are less well-known, or more off the beaten track.
Examples that come to mind are Najac, on a rocky spur overlooking the
gorges of the Aveyron (one of 10 plus beaux villages in the Aveyron),
Sainte Suzanne in the Mayenne, or Blesle in the Auvergne.
But for the beautiful villages that are
mentioned on all the tourist
websites and in all the brochures, visiting at peak tourist perionds
and busy weekends is not recommended. About-France.com has a series of
pictures of the village and church at Conques,
with hardly anyone about. But these pictures were taken in February.
Where pretty French villages are concerned, there is definitely
something to be said for seriously off-peak tourism – though
the downside, many of the cafés, craft shops, inns and small
galleries that populate the most popular villages in France are
closed out of season.
Official list of "most beautiful villages"
here to see the map of officially registered Plus
beaux villages de France.
For more ideas
on places to visit in each region, check out the tourist attractions
section on each of the regional pages in the guide to the regions of France.
In the end, it is up to you, the traveller, to
decide for yourself what are the best places in France.