- the thematic guide to France
selection of some of the many beautiful villages in France, which are
not usuallycrowded out with
tourists. And also some of those that are......
Chilhac, in the Auvergne
villages to discover, off the main tourist trails
villages and small towns in France proudly promote themselves as one of
the "most beautiful
villages in France
"; but this is just the tip of the
iceberg, a label that villages can apply for ... at a price.
There are, on the other hand, litterally thousands
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
brochure and website, and many others too, vaunt the charms of the same
villages with the "Plus beaux 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
villages – the parts of France that most tourists never
Beautiful villages without crowds..... an original
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
been 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 visiting.
Compared to the tourist hotspots of the
most popular "plus beaux villages de France", these villages are relatively
deserted. Just the village, and a few tourists looking - like you
perhaps - for authentic French villages off the tourist trail.
How big is a village?
There is no formal definition of what constitutes
a village. In 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
|Region / Department
|A large Alsace wine growing village, quite popular, but
less crowded than the highly visited "most beautiful villages" of
Riquewihr or Eguisheim
south of Bergerac
|Ancient village, on a circular plan, in the countryside
south of Bergerac. 17th century church, old stone and half-timbered
houses. Popular sunday market
Lot et Garonne
Villeneuve sur Lot
|The former royal bastide town is perched on a hilltop
overlooking the valley of the Boudouyssou. The almost perfectly
is surrounded by its ramparts; it has a small central square, and an
interesting belfry with a lunar clock.
remarkable basalt organ rocks, small top quality Paleontological
museum, river swimming, campsite, kayaking. Beautiful area off the
|Fine medieval fortress
village, on a hilltop overlooking the Burgundy canal. Close to A6
Saône et Loire
|Small "medieval" hilltop village in south Burgundy,
with castle and romanesque church with frescoes. The village is classed
as a historic monument.
|The artists' village. In the second half of the 19th
artists flocked to Pont Aven. They included Gauguin, 14 of whose works
can be seen in the town's Art Gallery, which tells the story of artists
in Pont Aven. Quayside.
|Little island village in the tidal estuary of the ria
Etel, linked to mainland by stone bridge. 12th century chapel.
near Salins les Bains
|The source of the river
Lison - a vauclusian resurgence - and the "Taillanderie",
historic working scythe-making museum. Attractive hill country.
Northwest of Montpellier
|A very pretty small village located in the dry
"garrigue" landscape of inland Languedoc, in the valley of the Buège.
north of Mende
|Historic hilltop village at 1280 metres in the
Margeride hills. Attractive square with cafés, ruined castle and
"Calvaire" with views all round. Camping, good hiking area
|Small village in the
verdant Creuse valley; ancient Benedictine abbey, and "Roman" bridge
across the Creuse. Deepest countryside all round.
|One of the hilltop
villages of the Pyrenean foothills. Still partly surrounded by walls,
this village is an artists' colony. Lots of galleries and workshops
open July and August, less in other months - but a delightful villageat
any time of year.
|Small village with old
cobbled streets, remains of fortifications, and an impressive
ruined medieval castle. Beautiful area off the beaten track
||West 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 medieval
|Very 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
|In 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. Medieval fortifications, narrow
streets, less visited than the nearby La Couvertoirade.
|Village on an elevated
location beside the Coran valley. XIth century romanesque church
|A perched village, high
up in the hills just behind Menton, and a few kilometres from the
Alpes de Haute Provence
|A beautiful old "perched village", in the Monts de
Vaucluse. The village is dominated by its massive round medieval
castle. Its narrow streets and houses cling to the hillside below the
castle, above a valley with lavender fields.
||Perched on ridge at the edge of the Luberon, this
delightful village has wonderful views all around. At one end of the
village stands a medieval 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.
|Historic village amidst the vineyards and olive trees
of the Ardèche, south of Aubenas. Romanesque church, plenty of
|A 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
The "Plus beaux villages de France " -
Cordes sur Ciel, near Albi, has the "Plus beaux villages"
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 of them.
Villages like Beynac, Saint Cirq Lapopie, Cordes
sur Ciel, Conques, Montflanquin, Pérouges, Rocamadour, Riquewihr,
Talmont sur Gironde, and most of the most popular "most beautiful
villages in France" are definitely places to avoid
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
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
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 on the downside (yet in some ways, for a more authentic experience), 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"
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
. In the end, it is up to you, the traveller,
to decide for yourself what are the best places in France.