Travel France | Charming Villages of France

The Most Charming Villages in France

October 14, 2022

France is home to a variety of different villages, each with their own charm and captivating history. Each village boasts its own distinct regional food and wines as well as architecture, meaning, you can be sure to find a new experience that you would have never thought of in each of these beautiful villages. 

Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel

MOUSTIERS SAINTE-MARIE, ALPES-DE-HAUTE-PROVENCE

This beautiful medieval potter’s village – located atop the entrance to the spectacular Gorges du Verdon canyon – the perfect place to scoop up some famed faience ceramics wrapped in beautiful delicate arabesques of birds and flowers, however the attraction of this beautiful destination doesn’t stop here. 

The town is divided in two by the Adou river, with steep cobbled paths criss-crossing little stone bridges and limestone cliffs that glow a bright pink during the sunset.  

Take the opportunity to swim in the nearby emerald-green Lac de Sainte-Croix and afterwards, enjoy a Haute Provencal lunch at the bucolic, Ducasse-owned country inn La Bastide de Moustiers. 

Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
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Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel

VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-MER, COTE D’AZUR

Located on a bend on the coastal road, this once-sleepy fishing village with its apricot and lemon-colored houses neatly placed against the curve of a shimmering blue sea, has managed to keep its authenticity without the trappings of nearby tourist towns. 

With bobbing wooden boats and an imposing trapezoid-shaped 16th-century stone Citadel, travelers will easily fall in love with the village as they wander through the backstreets to the rue obscure, a dark and mysterious medieval vaulted passageway.

Sip an apéro at the quayside Welcome Hotel, then make your way over to the pink 14th-century chapel that was decorated by the breathtaking frescoes of Jean Cocteau.

If you love the water then head to La Darse port, where you can take part in diving, sailing, rowing and boat restoration on a lovely pebbly beach. 

Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
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Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel

PLOUMANC’H, BRITTANY

You don’t have to be a mystic to become enraptured by the ubiquitous pink granite boulders, piled helter-skelter along the shore, casting a glow on the untamed seascape of Ploumanac’h, a miniature fishing port on Brittany’s Côtes d’Armor. 

Pack your walking shoes for a hike around the GR34 footpath that winds its way around the coast, past the duty-rose Men Ruz lighthouse at the entrance to the Channel. 

Further on, in the adjacent village of Perros-Guirec, fuel up on freshly caught roast lobster or grilled octopus at Castel Beau Site, a waterside restaurant with a dream view of the neo-Gothic Costaérès castle on the tiny island opposite. 

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SAINT-SATURNIN PUY-DU-DÔME, AUVERGNE

A countryside abound with royal stories, mixed with a flower-lined village of narrow cobblestoned streets with Renaissance fountains, amazing Romanesque churches and a splendidly restored 14th-century moated castle, built on the fief of the de La Tour d’Auvergne dynasty that can be traced back to 1281. 

Visit the dungeon where Reine Margot was briefly imprisoned while enjoying a stay at the castle, which is also a charming five-room guest house where Charles IX and his mother Catherine de’ Medici once slept. 

Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
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BARFLEUR, NORMANDY

Situated on the northeast coast of Normandy’s Cotentin Peninsula travelers will come across the quaint yet very picturesque fishing village of Barfleur. 

With only 700 residents calling the village home, the location has an authentic feel and is largely untouched by mass tourism. Though small, the village offers plenty of activities and is worth a detour if you’re in the area passing by to or from Cherbourg, only 28 km to the north. 

The village of Barfleur has been named a Plus Beaux Village de France, one of France’s most beautiful villages. 

As you walk down the cobbled streets you will quickly see why so many travelers have fallen in love with the village. Charming white shuttered granite houses interspersed with inviting restaurants and creperies that line the quay, what more is there to ask for? 

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Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
Charming villages, The Most Charming Villages in France, Bespoke travel
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SARE, PYRÉNÉES-ATLANTIQUES

Fans of Pelota will easily fall in love with this picturesque little Basque hamlet located at the foot of the Rhume and the Axuria mountains, only nine miles inland from the Atlantic coast. 

With several open-air courts (with the largest sitting opposite the town hall), you can watch locals play in the streets while nibbling on a delicious black-cherry and custard-filled Gâteau Basque – there’s even a museum dedicated to the cake. 

The white farmhouses, trimmed with pretty red and green shutters, and the fortified church of Saint-Martin with its three rows of carved-oak balconies are must-sees, but do make time for walks in the surrounding countryside to prehistoric grottos and fields of grazing pottocks (Basque ponies). 

Loving Provence? Check out our Curated Journey – A Taste of Provence where we take you to Gordes, Aix en Provence, St Remy and more.

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DOMME, DORDOGNE

On a cliff high above the Dordogne valley, this fortified village not only has stupendous views but also boasts a rich storied past, beginning in the 14th-century with the imprisoned Templars (look out for the still-visible prison graffiti etched in the rampart walls) and the turbulent Hundred Years’ War between France and England. 

Journey through the buildings lining the streets, described back then to be caves, made up of a vast network of tunnels under the main square filled with drippy stalactites and stalagmites. 

Alsom make sure not to leave without tasting the local pride and joy – homemade foie gras, semi-cooked, smoked or pan-fried, and jazzed up with spices, apricots or figs – at Restaurants Cabanoix et Châtaignes.

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PIGNA, CORSICA

Only thirty minutes inland from Calvi, the road snakes up through the Nervia Valley to this tiny village renowned for its traditional handmade crafts going back to the Middle Ages, with a cluster of rectangular blue-shuttered, honey-hued stone houses. 

Wander along narrow paths where cats snooze on windowsills, then take the labyrinthine stairs to a shady café terrace to admire the vistas across the surrounding olive groves and the shimmering Bay of Algajola. 

TravelTip: Music lovers may want to pick up handmade shepherd’s flutes and wind-up toys that play ancient Corsican melodies. 

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MENERBES, PROVENCE

This superb village in the Luberon easily cracks the list of most beautiful villages in France. Built atop a hill, the village is surrounded by the spectacular countryside. 

When visiting Menerbes for the first time, you will notice that the village has a rich history that has been well-preserved throughout the centuries. The Dolmen de la Pitchoune (unique to the Vaucluse) shows that Menerbes has been inhabited since prehistoric times. 

Fun Fact: Archaeological findings have uncovered the remains of villas and an ancient cemetery that date all the way back to Roman times. 

During the 16th century, when Menerbes was the capital of the Protestant movement, a citadel was built during the 12th and 16th century that can still be admired today. This dramatic past comes to life as you explore the magnificent old houses, which certainly lends character to the old Menerbes. 

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KAYSERSBERG, ALSACE

A favorite among our guests, the little city is home to some of the most picturesque half-timbered houses of the Renaissance in Alsace in its entirely pedestrian walking center. 

The town of Kaysersberg and its viticulture are dominated by the castle ruins, which only consists now of a beautiful round tower. The view from its peak offers a panoramic experience of the city, the valley of the Weiss, the vineyards, the plain of Alsace, and beyond, the Black Forest in Germany. 

Travel Tip: When traveling to this charming little village, it is essential to visit the towers of the medieval rampart. 

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LAUTREC, TARN

Lautrec is a village located in the quiet countryside of the Tarn department (Midi-Pyrenees region) just south of Albi and east of Toulouse. 

Lautrec has been regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and is known to be the home village of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec’s family, although he himself was born in Albi. 

Start your exploration of Lautrec in the central square in the higher part of Lautrec, surrounded by half-timbered buildings and ground level arcades built of wood. Some of the highlights you will encounter along the cobbled streets include the 14th – 16th century Collegial Church of Saint-Remy with its impressive altar and organ and part of the 15th century market halls. 

 

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