If you’re planning a trip to France and are in search of the perfect place to visit, look no further than this comprehensive listing of charming villages that lie along the beautiful French countryside.
“24 Gorgeous Villages to Visit in France”
France has a reputation for being a country of great culture and beauty, and it's not difficult to see why. There are so many things to do in France—it can be hard to narrow down your choices. But don't worry, I've done the legwork for you!
Here is a list of stunning places and regions to visit in France. They are all picturesque and charming and will leave you feeling inspired, no matter what you're looking for in your vacation.
France has some of the most beautiful villages in the world. It's also home to some of the world's most famous cities—and now, it's time for you to discover what they are and why they are worth visiting.
1. AIGUÈZE, MEDIEVAL AND SOUTHERN
When you travel the world and live a digital nomad lifestyle you start to realize that there are a lot of beautiful places that you want to visit, and often it is very difficult to make time to do so. It can be quite easy to fall into the trap of wanting to visit somewhere new every single day as it feels like there is so much to see and do. However, for us traveling with a dog meant that we have to be very selective about where we decide to travel.
It was so special for us to be able to visit this little paradise. The weather was great, and we decided to give ourselves a break from working. It was really a good decision because we found a lot of inspiration in this little piece of paradise.
The small town of Aiguèze is filled with beautiful streets lined with pretty cobbled stones and a few stunning stone buildings and houses that are covered in colourful flowers and herbs with rounded roof tiles. As you walk around the lovely streets you will notice La P'tite Boulange, a souvenir shop, flea market, shop of local products and more. The town really does exude a welcoming feel to it, making it feel like a small village rather than a tourist trap.
Aiguèze is a fantastic place to visit. The surrounding countryside is quite breathtaking. We were particularly impressed by the spectacular view of the Gorges de l'Ardèche. The town has a quaint, rustic, and authentic charm. It has a beautiful old town and many interesting sights to see and experience.
After a long day of driving, we decided to relax and enjoy a day of leisurely riding around the beautiful countryside surrounding us. We found a lovely spot in one of the oldest bastide villages of the Basque Country. The main street is a wide avenue lined with impressive half-timbered houses with beautiful cut stone facades. The houses are perfectly aligned on either side of the street which is lined with old half-timbered houses .
The village was designed as a place of reception, accommodation and supplies for pilgrims on the way to Compostela.
It is located only a few kilometers from Espelette and Sare and is well known for its white wines, olives, truffles and sausages. The pastoral forest covers an area of 431 hectares and is a classified as a mountain area. It is home to deer, hares, wild boars, rabbits and migratory birds. There are many hiking trails and paths. One can walk from Ainhoa to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and then continue to Prouvins.
3. Angles-sur-Anglin 15,000 years of history
Angles-sur-Anglin is an enchanting little village surrounded by magnificent panoramic views and an abundance of beautiful architecture. We had the pleasure of visiting the area with the most recent addition to the collection of museums and historical sites: Angles-sur-l’Anglin castle and its exhibition on the Middle Ages and the Magdalenians.
We also visited a quaint museum at the foot of the cliffs, that has some unique items, including a replica of the frieze of the Magdalenian era. The main museum, in the castle, is full of artefacts from the medieval period, and a collection of furniture dating back to the 18th century.
One of the highlights of our visit was the opportunity to visit the local artisans, who made the cross-stitch embroidery known as “Jours d’Angles”. They are famous for their intricate and colourful work, done by hand. We learned a lot about the history of this type of work, the techniques used and the materials used. This embroidery is also known as a “Criquetière”, which means “little snail” in French, as the stitches resemble snail’s shells.
The museum also has an interesting collection of musical instruments, with a violin, a guitar and an accordion, that have been played by musicians since the 19th century. It was a real treat to listen to the musicians as they played.
We also had the pleasure of attending the village festival, a traditional feast on August 26th. This was a great way to discover more about Angles-sur-l’Anglin and its history. There were lots of activities, including a medieval fair, a jousting tournament and a fun dog show.
There was also a medieval market and craft fair where
4. Ansouis A castle facing the Grand Luberon
The village of Ansouis sits in the Luberon region which is one of the most picturesque regions in the south of France. It's a lovely place to visit, particularly as it is set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Aigues valley and the Luberon mountains beyond. The village itself is a perfect example of a medieval Provençal village and boasts an impressive castle built in the 17th century that looks down over the surrounding valley. The views from here are amazing and you can wander around the village to take in all the pretty houses, the church, the old houses and the pretty gardens and patios. It's also a good starting point for visiting some of the nearby attractions including the Roman ruins of Cucuron, the famous Château de Villeneuve, and the picturesque town of Villelaure which sits below the castle.
5. Apremont-sur-Allier An extraordinary garden
The Château is surrounded by a beautiful floral park. In addition to roses, the park is planted with thousands of flowers from around the world including rare palms from the Americas and Asia. And it also contains a large orchidarium! The gardens, which were planted around the end of the nineteenth century, have been maintained by the descendants of Eugène Schneider, the ironmaster from Le Creusot (Saone-et-Loire), who between the First and Second World Wars, decided to renovate the village. He had buildings not corresponding to the style of the site destroyed and replaced by groups of houses built in the local medieval style.
The park which is one of the main tourist attractions of the region. It is located in Berry, near the confluence of the Loire and Allier rivers, and is the most visited park in the region.
In the French countryside near the town of Saint-Genest-Champel, lies a wonderful engineering marvel, The round lock. Built by Napoleon, and can now be visited by travelers passing through on their way to the village of Apremont. It would rotate boats to facilitate movement. Today it is abandoned. As is, it is the only one in existence of its size in France.
6. Arlempdes First castle in the Loire in the land of volcanoes
We found the castle to be quite impressive – especially for the first castle built in the Loire Valley. We were able to walk up the hill to the ruins.
The first stop is Blagnac, a village with an old tower, which serves as a refuge for bikers. When biking it is the best place to begin your trip because it will be easier to find the path to Arlempdes, and will give you a good opportunity to take some awesome pictures. The village is also the departure point for those who wish to visit the castle and the natural sites of the area, such as the Parc naturel régional de l'Allier.
The path towards the castle is quite spectacular. A bit narrow and steep, you will go through the forest of the Loire Valley, the villages of Bessières and Saint-Sauveur, and finally reach Arlempdes. This is an ideal place to see the magnificent views that surround the castle. Arlempdes was built on the edge of the volcano where you can see the remains of the castle of Chastenac, destroyed by a landslide in the 16th century. It is a unique sight, and certainly worth a stop.
If you decide to drive which is the more practical, and will allow you to go through a beautiful landscape. You will first go to Givry and the castle of Sancerre, then you will go to the village of Cernon-sur-Loire, and finally reach Arlempdes. This is a longer but more direct path.
7. Ars-en-Ré Sun, salt and sea
If you are looking to spend some time in the salt marshes, this is a great place to visit. You can go through the salt marsh and the Fier d'Ars to reach the beach called “La Conche”. You can drive to the lighthouse and check out the whales. Renting a bike and cycling to the beach is much more enjoyable than walking the road and we recommend it. The village of Fier d'Ars is located at the western end of the island and is known by the bell tower of its church, which was a landmark for navigators. 60 salt workers still exploit the marshes of the Fiers d'Ars, which were born from the salt marshes in the 11th century. The village is classified as one of the “most beautiful villages in France” due to the charm of its small white houses with green shutters, and its paved alleys flowering with hollyhocks.
The Romanesque and Gothic church is the heart of Ars and it is steeped in history. The construction dates back to the seventh century. The entrance to the bay and the access channel to the port are served by the belfry, which is surmounted by a black and white bell tower at 40 meters.
The 800 hectare bay is a popular destination for fishermen, hikers and boaters, it offers a sailing school and a large complex of vases and sandbanks for fishing.
8. Aubeterre-sur-Dronne Between Charente and Périgord
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is a charming village between Angoulême and Périgueux which sits on a cliff overlooking the Dronne river. The city also has a lovely Gothic church called the Church of Saint John. Built in 1136, it is said to be the largest underground church in Europe. The castle and the ramparts of the city walls, as well as the Dronne river itself, are worth exploring.
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is an ideal destination for a weekend break: beautiful Charente countryside with its medieval villages and its numerous vineyards, but also the charm of a city where shops and boutiques can be found in addition to many artisanal workshops.
9. Autoire Petit Versailles
We first came across this wonderful spot during a day trip we took. We spent a couple of hours there and found it to be truly magical. I am not sure if it was due to the fact that the weather was perfect but we fell in love with the place. It is so tranquil, with all the surrounding nature. There are also some great views from the top of the waterfall.
It is definitely worth the drive down to see this magical spot!
The main street of the village is a charming cobbled road lined with pretty stone houses, half-timbered facades, turrets and dovecotes.
Le Château des Anglais dates back to the 16th century. It is a large and massive construction leaning against the limestone cliffs and overlooking the village. It has a fortified gate, two towers, and a moat. There is also a small pretty chapel. The village has a unique charm.
10. AUVILLAR, A PORT ON THE GARONNE
In the morning we set off to visit the local market of Auvillar, a beautiful and very friendly village situated on the banks of the river Garonne.
We walked around the old port (the entrance is free of charge) and saw the boats of the past, with their high masts and large sails. The town has a unique history. The oldest part of the city is known for its beautiful Romanesque and Gothic buildings. In the middle ages, Auvillar was famous for the richness of its cloth. Its fairs, which have been going on since the 14th century, attract up to 100,000 visitors. We spent the afternoon at the Musée du Vieil Auvillar, a museum dedicated to boat building and earthenware production. The museum is housed in the 17th century grain mill, one of the largest and most beautiful grain mills in France.
We left Auvillar in the evening to ride along the river to the castle. The road follows the Garonne and takes us through many picturesque villages, such as Saint-Symphorien, Moulis, Saint-Léger-sur-Garonne, Tarn, Cazals, and Rives.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat and a drink and to stretch our legs before riding the rest of the way to the castle. The castle is on a hill overlooking the river Garonne and is an excellent place to watch the sunset. We sat down on the patio and had lovely glass of wine, watching the sun disappear over the hills to the west. The castle was built by the Viscounts of the Middle Ages to defend the region. It was built at the end
If Auvillar was famous for its earthenware production, a rarer and probably lesser-known work contributed to the influence and economic prosperity of the village in the 18th century: that of the transformation of writing goose feathers, also presented at the Old Auvillar Museum. Favored by the importance of poultry farming in the region, this production took its particularity from the fact that only a few feathers held sufficient quality on each wing to be used in calligraphy. At the height of the activity, several hundred thousand goose feathers were processed in Auvillar and then exported to Spain.
11. Balazuc Medieval stopover and nature throughout the Ardèche
If you are looking to make a stopover on your way to somewhere else, it is definitely worth stopping over in Balazuc It is one of the most beautiful villages in France and a great place to explore.
The Ardèche river runs right through the village and there are many places to explore along its banks. The local market is held every Friday and Saturday morning. You will find some of the best fresh fruit and vegetables in the region.
We also found that if you are travelling by bike it is really easy to get around the village.
The villages surrounding the Ardèche are beautiful. A good place to start is Balazuc which is a great stopover between Avignon and Orange if you are driving. This is a charming village with a medieval castle, a Romanesque church, shops, craft stores, restaurants and a lot of history. We spent the night there after a very long day on our bikes. It was such a wonderful experience to be able to stop and visit such a place that was so peaceful and beautiful, and we loved the fact that we could see the Ardèche valley from the castle.
One of the most beautiful towns in the Ardèche region in France, the medieval village of Balazuc sits high up on a cliff overlooking the river Ardèche. It is a charming town steeped in history and with a fantastic setting and atmosphere. The cobbled streets are covered in flowers in the spring and the whole place smells of fresh bread from the local bakery
We spent one full day in Balazuc. It was a fantastic day to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just relax in the beautiful surroundings. The weather was amazing, the castle, the museum and the church were all beautiful, and the people we met along the way were friendly and very helpful.
The castle was built in the 14th century, and it is still inhabited by the descendants of the “Lords of Balazuc”. We were given a tour of the castle and learnt all about its history. We got to see the dungeons, a secret passage, a well-kept garden and the chapel. It is fascinating to see the castle from this angle and see how far back it goes into the mountain. The view is absolutely breathtaking.
12. Barfleur the Pearl of Val de Saire
Barfleur is a small town located near Le Havre, about two hours south of Paris and about three hours from London. We were only able to spend about a day and a half here but it was certainly an enjoyable experience. The port is home to the oldest pottery shop in France as well as several historic sites and museums. There are also a number of interesting restaurants to choose from. We recommend trying Le Comptoir de la Presqu’ïle – one of our favorite places to eat in France and where we enjoyed some of the most delicious fresh seafood!
Barfleur has a beautiful historic centre and a great atmosphere, making it an ideal base for a relaxing break.
13. Bargème On the summits of the Var
The village of Bargemme was named after the nearby Castle. We enjoyed visiting this amazing place with our friends Dell & Arron and were fortunate to be there on a weekend with a warm sunny weather. Our plan was to hike up the mountain to the Castle and explore the area. We stopped at the top for some stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains. There are some beautiful little towns and villages along the way with old stone houses, and we got to see many olive groves in the surrounding mountains.
We stopped at several locations to get an idea of the best route to take down from the mountain top. As we made our way down the hillside, we came across several small villages that were worth exploring as well. The weather was quite windy when we started out so it was very helpful to have someone who knew the best route down from the mountain top.
The Castle of Bargemme is a huge complex dating back to the 12th century. The castle is built on a rock and is protected by a drawbridge on one side and a moat on the other side. When we arrived, the gates were open, but they closed at dusk. So we got to see the inside for about 15 minutes before it closed.
14. Baume-les-Messieurs Imperial of nature
The Baume imperial nature reserve has been classified as a natural heritage site. The magnificent nature of the site can only be appreciated on foot or by climbing the cliffs. As such we recommend hiring a local guide. We visited Baume-les-Messieurs in the company of our guide Sabine.
The Caves of Baume are spectacular!
Located 120 meters underground, the caves are a set of rooms sometimes 80 meters high.
During the visit, you will be charmed by the enchantment of the stalactites, stalagmites, rivers and underground lakes, as well as by the play of light and the musical atmosphere. These caves are also the kingdom of bats and blind shrimps.
A source called “Le Dard” springs from the caves in a cascade of tuffs where a diversified fauna lives.
15. Belcastel Stone kingdom in Aveyron
On our second trip this year we decided to spend some of our time in the beautiful town of Belcastel – a stone kingdom set in a quiet valley Located on the banks of the Aveyron. We rode up to Belcastel through many small villages, past vineyards, and fields. The road became dirt and then asphalt as we passed through more small villages, and finally reached the town of Belcastel. We found a charming Gite that was in Compliance with COVID19 health instructions. It had an exceptional view of the castle and the Aveyron valley.
Upon reaching the centre of the town we went straight to the castle. The castle was once a fortress, but has now been restored and is open to the public. Inside there were many furnished rooms, chapels and several contemporary art galleries.
We found the best view of the castle from the top of a small hill a few hundred metres from the castle. It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed our lunch on the terrace at the restaurant Chez Anna.
In the afternoon we decided to take a walk along the river towards the castle and the church. On the way we discovered another little stone village along the river that had a great view of the castle and surrounding mountains. We stopped and ate a picnic in a nearby field of sunflowers. We were surprised to find the field on the edge of the valley was surrounded by trees, and so the entire scene was enveloped in a wonderful canopy of green.
16. BELVÈS: HISTORY IN THE PÉRIGORD NOIR
The medieval town of Belvès in Périgord Noir is an amazing place to visit if you are looking for something that is a little bit different and exciting. It has an atmosphere all of its own and is a very special place to visit. The reason why we love this place so much is that it is a true living history museum. The city has been preserved in a very unique way and there are still many old buildings and even a few stone bridges left.
The town is nestled in the foothills of the Black Mountains and surrounded by vineyards, fields and orchards. There are many quaint little villages and a medieval castle as well as a church. The architecture is stunning and the people are very friendly. The town is surrounded by beautiful forests and rolling hills. You can also hike through the surrounding countryside on many trails that are available to you.
17. Beuvron-en-Auge: The taste of Normandy
In this small corner of Normandy, in the middle of apple orchards and vineyards, cider makers are at work in their ancient buildings. The orchards, are the pride and joy of Beuvron-en-Auge.
The Normandy cider tradition in Beuvron-en-Auge has been handed down for generations, a tradition that has a unique identity in France. It is a place of charm and history. A small community, proud of its Normandy culture. Its main activity, the cider making, is not only the pride of the town but is also an important part of the local economy.
Beuvron-en-Auge has a unique character, which makes it a great destination. The old half-timbered houses, the orchards, the ancient streets, the local cider makers… Beuvron-en-Auge has a unique character, which makes it a great destination. The small village of Beuvron-en-Auge is one of the most beautiful villages in the region.
18. Beynac and Cazenac: Two villages for a castle
Beynac and Cazenac are beautiful villages in the Dordogne, and it is just 10km from Sarlat. Situated on the banks of the river Dordogne, these beautiful villages have been transformed into a picturesque destination and offers an impressive collection of medieval houses with slate roofs and blonde facades. The first thing you notice as you walk along the road is a massive castle set on the hill
You can take a stroll along the village port. It was used until the 19th century to house small ships that transported goods to Bordeaux. this is the place to go if you want to go on an excursion on the river!
Embark on board the Beynac boats to follow in the footsteps of the gabariers of the time…
19. Blesle: Benedictine footprint in Haute-Loire
A small community nestled in the hills of the Auvergne region in France, Blesle is just one of those places that you wish you had discovered earlier. Located in the heart of the Loire Valley, Blesle is nestled between two magnificent and contrasting landscapes. It is the perfect place to unwind and relax, to live a simple, healthy life, and to be inspired.
The Blesle markets are a great place to find a wide variety of local products and artisanal creations. The items are reasonably priced. The best thing about these markets is that you can meet the producers and craftsmen. We spent time chatting with the owner of a local boulangerie and she shared her knowledge and we were able to get to know each other better. The APABM has organized Blesle's summer country markets every Friday in July-August, as well as the Blesle Christmas market and weekly markets every Friday evening.
Blesle has a lot of charm and a lot of history. It's a small village but there is a lot to do. In fact, it is the perfect place to just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.
20. Bonneval-sur-Arc The mountain on a human scale
Bonneval is a beautiful mountain town that sits at the base of the Vanoise Massif.
This was our first time going to a ski resort in France, we've been to a few in the states but nothing like this. I have to say that the experience was incredible. The setting is truly stunning. We had not been skiing in quite some time, so this was a perfect opportunity to get back into it. It was a long day of skiing, (and boy did we feel it) but the scenery along the way makes it well worth the effort.
We met some really nice people at the resort, from a variety of different countries, we also met an American Couple James and Demaris, they want to move to France now that thier daughters are both grown and married so we shared our experience and some advice. The locals were also friendly and very welcoming.
We will definitely be going back in the summer to do some hiking and biking. And we will most definitely be coming back in the winter to ski!
21. Brouage: Fortified city in the heart of the Charente marsh
The first village that really caught our attention was Brouage in the Charente region of south-west France. The village is surrounded by the Charente marsh and sits on an island in the gulf of Saintonge. There are a number of reasons why this city was chosen as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Firstly there are the ramparts of more than 2km that surround the entire city and give it a very strong medieval look. Then there are the ramparts that protect the city from the Atlantic ocean.
There are also the ramparts of the fortifications of Vauban, built by the great military engineer to defend the city against attack. This fortress has been maintained since the 17th century and is still used today to guard against terrorists and pirates. Next there is the oyster port which gives Brouage a unique history. It is an example of the ability of cities to reinvent themselves and survive in times of war and peace. Finally there is the fact that Brouage has retained a lot of its original buildings including a church, a fortification tower, a prison, a castle, many homes and the ancient port.
The first time we visited Brouage was on a Saturday afternoon when the streets were crowded with people visiting the shops. In the middle of this bustling market we found a small restaurant where we could get a drink and eat some of the freshest oysters we've ever had while taking in the atmosphere of the place.
22. Brousse-le-Château At the confluence of the Tarn and the Alrance
Located in the Aveyron region, Brousse-le-Château is a town rich in history and heritage. The river Tarn flows into the River Alance, which in turn flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Château was originally built in the 16th century. The Château's main attraction is its view over the town and the River Alance.
We went to the town square, where we met a woman who was working in the post office. We chatted for a while she was very happy to share the history of her town with us, and even offered to take us on a walking tour of the town. We took her up on the offer, and it was such a fantastic experience. It was a great day out, and a beautiful walk through the countryside. We highly recommend visiting Brousse-le-Château. It is a beautiful town with a lot to offer, including a fantastic history and heritage.
23. Bruniquel Castle Festival
The Bruniquel castle festival is a yearly event held every summer since 1997. The castles host many permanent and temporary exhibitions. In addition to the castle, there is a park, theatre, and shops selling local products and crafts. But In my opinion the most interesting thing about Bruniquel, is the secret cave that was discovered by a teenager near the village, he found a tiny hole and spent 3 years digging out a passage that led to a large room 350 meters from the entrance, this spacious cavity contains an
archaeological treasure. On the ground, hundreds of shattered stalagmites were arranged in circles by Neanderthals, as evidenced by a carbon-14 dating to at least 176,500 years ago, they have also determined that the Neanderthals were also burning fires in there. They still have a lot of unanswered questions… But what they do know is that outside Bruniquel Cave, the earliest, unambiguous human constructions are just 20,000 years old. Most of these are ruins—collapsed collections of mammoth bones and deer antlers. By comparison, the Bruniquel stalagmite rings are well-preserved and far more ancient. The cave is closed to the public for its preservation, but the cave could become accessible in a few years thanks to an interpretation center. Until then curious minds will have to make due with the documentary “Neanderthal, the Mystery of the Bruniquel Cave”
24. Camon The roses of the fortress
The village lies in the heart of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Europe.Since it is a small town of 150 inhabitants, it is easy to get around the whole village in one day. This is definitely a must-see in the summer season when all the roses bloom, 400 types of roses!
The Camon Rose Festival is a must-see event, the highlight of the village's calendar. Every year, in late April, the Camon Rose Festival has something to delight the eye of every visitor. The festival offers visitors the chance to admire the 400,000 roses, to chat with the local population, enjoy the gourmet and floral market, concerts in the church, exhibitions and to discover the charm of the village.