28 In Sites

“Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”—The Most Beautiful Villages Of France

Gordes, France (J. Chung)

If you want to visit the most beautiful places in France, where do you start? Where are they exactly?  You can start by looking at the list of designated “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”. In each region of France, there are a select number of villages that have been designated the MOST beautiful villages of France. Here are the highlights of each “village de France” that I have visited in each region.

[updated December 9, 2019]

Table of Contents

Where Are The “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”

 Les Plus Beaux Villages de France Designation

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France Designation

There are over 32,000 villages and in 1982 the French government created the list to promote the small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage. While Paris, Bordeaux, and Lyon are grand and have much to see, many visitors often overlook the small towns in France and these are definitely worth a detour.

Every year, I try to visit more of the villages that are considered the most beautiful in France and so far I have visited 33. Initially, I thought many more villages that I had visited would be on the list. Will I visit them all? Who knows, but I’ll certainly have fun trying. [Note: the number that has been designated “the most beautiful villages of France” keep changing as more villages are added. Currently, the “159” is the number published by the organization.] Take a look at some of the small towns in France I’ve visited and I think you’ll agree, they deserve the recognition and they are worth visiting.

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France Criteria

To be designated one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France”, communes must submit an application form, have an on-site evaluation, and meet certain criteria.

Most villages don’t make the list and it’s understandable when you consider the criteria:

  • there must be some rural character with no more than 2,000 inhabitants
  • they must have two national heritage sites
  • there must be an on-site evaluation and
  • the application must have mass support from the town council.

The Most Beautiful Villages In France That I Have Visited

Here are the 33 that I have visited from the list of villages in France.

Auvergne Rhône-Alpes (4)

Pérouges (Department: Ain)

Pérouges, France -The Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Pérouges, France (J. Chung)

When I was heading to Lyon from Switzerland, I had read that Pérouges was on the list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, so I had to drop in. After going through the fortress gates, I came upon many shops with local crafts and foods. Pérouges was built in the 12th century and has retained the medieval atmosphere (and towers) and it is known for its medieval festivals.

Yvoire (Department: Haute-Savoie)

Yvoire, France -Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Yvoire, France (J. Chung)

Yvoire is another medieval town (700 years old) located between Geneva and Evian. If anything stands out in my mind it’s all the flowers and not surprisingly, one of the attractions is the “Garden of Five Senses”. After walking through the fortress gates and along the narrow cobblestone paths and ramparts, you are provided with stunning views of Lake Geneva.

Vogüe (Department: Ardèche)

Vogue, France-Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Vogue, France (J. Chung)

As I drove north from seeing the caves at Aven d’Orgnac, the road began to follow the Ardèche River and past the Viaduct de Vogüe. The scenery of towering rocks on my right slowly changed to a commune of houses built into the rock. This was Vogüe and the Château de Vogüe is now a school run by the sisters St Joseph d’Aubenas.

Balazuc (Department: Ardèche)

Balazuc, France-Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Balazuc, France (J. Chung)

18 km north of Vallon Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche and 9 km south of Vogüe stands Balazuc, a medieval village that seems to be built into the rocks on the cliffs. The 11th century château is now a hotel. At the end of the town there is a bridge that crosses the Ardèche River where you can get excellent views.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (7)

In this region, there are certainly plenty of “plus beaux villages de Provence” (most beautiful villages in Provence). It had the highest number of villages with this designation (especially in the Vaucluse department)—more than any other region I have visited…so far. The best villages in Provence included:

Roussillon (Department: Vaucluse)

Roussillon in Provence, France-Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Roussillon in Provence, France (J. Chung)

I feel most people think of ochre when you mention Roussillon. The ochre pigments in this area are orange and were used in the 18th and 19th century for textiles and paints. Today one can visit the “Sentier des Ocres” (Ochre Path) for a fee. Also nearby is an entire area of hills and valleys with ochre. It is called Le Colorado Provencal and it is worth visiting.

Les Baux-de-Provence (Department: Bouches-du-Rhône)

Les Baux-de-Provence, France-Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Les Baux-de-Provence, France (J. Chung)

While Les Baux-de-Provence town is often considered overrun with tourists, particularly in the high season, it is worth walking through the cobblestone streets and also visiting the Château des Baux de Provence and the nearby Carrières des Lumières.

Gordes (Department: Vaucluse)

Gordes, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Gordes, France (J. Chung)

I have a fondness for Gordes because it was the first town (outside of Paris) that I had ever stayed as a young person. While significant development (and money) have been invested in the village, making it an expensive place to stay, I still consider it to be the Most Beautiful Hilltop Village in Provence

Lourmarin (Department: Vaucluse)

Lourmarin, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Lourmarin, France (J. Chung)

Lourmarin is the town that writer Peter Maybe finally decided to live in after being hounded by tourists in Menerbes. It might be considered a high-priced village as there are many art galleries and (expensive) shops, but the architecture and Château de Lourmarin continue to make it a very popular place to visit in the Vaucluse.

Menerbes (Department: Vaucluse)

Menerbes, France -Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Menerbes, France (J. Chung)

The village of Menerbes sits on a hill overlooking the Luberon countryside. It is similar to Gordes as there are many winding cobblestone paths so it’s fun just explore the town and head upwards to the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin (Truffle and Wine).

Ansouis (Department: Vaucluse)

Ansouis, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Ansouis, France (J. Chung)

After having visited Lourmarin, I headed 10 km east to the very sleepy town of Ansouis. I was there on a Tuesday afternoon in June and I only bumped into two people. I came upon a closed art studio and Chateau d’Ansouis which has a collection of tapestries from the 17th and 18th century. The town does have a number of boutiques and art galleries but I guess I’ll have to visit again when things are open.

Venasque (Department: Vaucluse)

Venasque, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung) (J. Chung)

Venasque, France (J. Chung)

Here is another village perched high on a hill. I came upon Venasque during a drive between the Abbey de Senanque and Bonnieux. The three Saracen towers of Venasque’s original fortress still remain as well as the chapel of Saint-Siffrein, which is a very old religious site known for its baptistry.

Grand Est (3)

Mittelbergheim (Department: Bas-Rhin)

Mittelbergheim, France -Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Mittelbergheim, France (J. Chung)

Mittelbergheim is surrounded by vineyards which produce excellent Alsatian wine. The last weekend in July is their Fête du Vin which not only celebrates wine but also local culture.

Eguisheim (Department: Haut-Rhin)

Eguisheim, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Eguisheim, France (J. Chung)

Eguisheim has the added distinction of being the winner of the Favourite Village Of The French in 2013. A visit is not complete without a tasting at one of the famous Alsatian wineries. I had (and purchased) some lovely wines at Leon Beyer but what I most enjoyed was walking through the old town.

Riquewihr (Department: Haut-Rhin)

Riquewihr in the Alsace, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Riquewihr in the Alsace, France (J. Chung)

Like Eguisheim, Riquewihr has an old town with lots of half-timbered buildings, cobbled streets, and another famous winery, Hugel et Fils.

Nouvelle-Aquitaine (6)

La Roque-Gageac (Department: Dordogne)

La Roque Gageac, France -Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

La Roque Gageac, France (J. Chung)

As you drive toward La Roque-Gageac, the hilltop town certainly impresses. When you wander throughout the town, don’t miss the walkway which provides excellent views of the Dordogne River.

Beynac-et-Cazenac (Department: Dordogne)

Beynac-et-Cazenac-Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Beynac-et-Cazenac (J. Chung)

Château de Beynac is an imposing site at the top of Beynac-et-Cazenac and was in the perfect position for a fortress in the 12th century. Along with La Roque-Gageac, it is a popular place to rent kayaks as the village is on the banks of the Dordogne River.

Limeuil (Department: Dordogne)

View from Jardins des Limeuil -Most Beautiful Villages of France (J. Chung)

View from Jardins des Limeuil (J. Chung)

This medieval village sits high above two rivers—the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère Rivers. It was a strategic position, during many different wars and attacks and today it has a lovely garden and park. I was especially impressed by the activities that were set up for children (and adults) to learn about the plants and nature.

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (Department: Dordogne)

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle -Most Beautiful Villages Of France (J. Chung)

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (J. Chung)

To me, the town of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle is all about the restored, medieval castle of Château de Castelneaud sits high above the Dordogne River and it is definitely worth a visit. The interior and exterior are not only immense, but creatively decorated with artifacts from the period as well as displays about its history. From this vantage point one can see the town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, La Roque Gageac, and Les Milandes.

Domme (Department: Dordogne)

Domme, France-Most Beautiful Villages of France (J. Chung)

Domme, France (J. Chung)

The village of Domme is yet another that sits on a cliff. There are exceptional views of the Dordogne Valley and the medieval town is surrounded by fortress walls making it a bastide or fortress. The Knight Templars were imprisoned here in the 1300s.

Ars-en-Ré (Department: Charente-Maritime)

Ars-en-Re, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Ars-en-Re, France (J. Chung)

On the northwest part of Ile-de-Ré lies the small village of Ars-en-Ré. As I rode my bike to the Baleines lighthouse at the end, I passed by salt marshes and salt farms. The village has a fairly large harbour and the main focal point is the church, Église Catholique Saint-Etienne.

Midi-Pyrénées (3)

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (Department: Lot)

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France-Most Beautiful Villages of France (J. Chung)

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France (J. Chung)

This photo is probably my favourite of all the Plus Beaux Villages. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a medieval village overlooking the Lot River and it is extremely popular. Just look at it! According to the Lot tourism board, the town has 13 historic monuments. But as a result, it is over run with tourists so if you want to visit, get there early or late in the day.

Autoire (Department: Lot)

Autoire, France -Most Beautiful Villages of France (J. Chung)(J. Chung)

Autoire, France (J. Chung)

I subscribe to National Geographic Traveler Magazine and they often feature parts of France that are not always well known. When I saw a picture of Autoire, I had to visit the town and take a photo just like in the magazine. It is located right near the Dordogne border and is 68 km east of Sarlat.

Carennac (Department: Lot)

Carennac, France -Most Beautiful Villages of France (J. Chung)

Carennac, France (J. Chung)

This is another town highlighted by National Geographic Traveler Magazine and I had to see it. It was a bit busier than Autoire and there were a few restaurants open. 11th and 12-century structures have remained including the Church of St Pierre which is the focal point of the center’s courtyard.

There are some picturesque places to visit in northern France where many of these towns in Brittany and Normandy had narrow streets, stone and half-timber houses.

Brittany (2)

Saint-Suliac (Department: Ille-et-Vilaine)

Saint-Suliac, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Saint-Suliac, France (J. Chung)

Located south of St. Malo, Saint-Suliac slopes down towards the Rance River and on a cloudy day in late May it was pretty empty but it was a pretty village. If you do visit, try to go on a sunny, warm day. It will be even more attractive than it already is.

Rochefort-en-Terre (Department: Morbihan)

Rochefort-en-Terre, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Rochefort-en-Terre, France (J. Chung)

In 2016 Rochefort-en-Terre gained another accolade: Favourite Village Of The French  and it’s understandable why. It really is a beautiful village and I quite liked visiting the “main strip”—- lots of shops with local products, a tourist office, and restaurants, The Parc du Chateau de Rochefort-en-Terre wasn’t open but the grounds were lovely to walk through.

Normandy (2)

Veules-les-Roses (Department: Seine-Maritime)

Champs Elyesee at Veules-les-Roses-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Champs Elyesee at Veules-les-Roses (J. Chung)

Veules-les-Roses is a small town on the Alabaster coast located between Etretat and Dieppe. It has thatched roof houses, half-timbered houses and LOTS of roses everywhere. Hence the name which also refers to the Veules River which runs through the town. There are 3 restored watermills and one of the main attractions is the beach, making the town a popular vacation spot.

Beuvron-en-Auge (Department: Calvados)

Beuvron-en-Auge, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Beuvron-en-Auge, France (J. Chung)

Half-timbered buildings populate this very pretty and quiet village that is located 30 km east of Caen. The main attraction is certainly the main square and street.

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (1)

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois, France (J. Chung)

What I most remember about his town is ending our day’s bike ride heading up a steep incline to the town which sits high on a hill.  Unfortunately, my friend’s bike chain seized and she fell off her bike. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt. After dinner, we went for a walk through the town that has the fortress, Château de Châteauneuf, which overlooks the Côte d’Or region.

Occitanie (5)

Aiguèze (Department: Gard)

Aigueze, France -Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Aigueze, France (J. Chung)

Aiguèze is very close to the Ardèche border and is considered to be the entrance to the Ardèche Gorges. I had a lovely lunch at Restaurant La Bouchon and afterward walked among the ruins of the 12th-century chateau. From the fortress, you can look down upon the Ardèche River and get panoramic views of the area.

Villefranche-de-Conflent (Department: Pyrénées-Orientales)

Villefranche de Conflent-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Villefranche de Conflent (J. Chung)

This is another fortified town that switched hands between the French Spanish throughout its long history. It has retained its medieval “look” even though there are numerous shops and restaurants. The fortress walls still remain. The village is also one of the main stops for the “Little Yellow Train”. In the town one can take the tunnel to see Fort Liberia, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Camon (Department: Ariège)

I enjoyed strolling around Camon which is celebrated for its rose bushes. Each year in May there is an annual Rose Festival and it is often called the “Little Carcassonne” due to its resemblance. It is a fortified village that surrounds a Benedictine Abbey. Unfortunately, the Abbey is private so one cannot visit it.

Evol (Department: Pyrénées-Orientales)

Evol, France-Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (J. Chung)

Evol, France (J. Chung)

In the Eastern Pyrenees lies the medieval mountain village of Evol which is a commune of the village of Olette. Most striking are the houses. Many have shale (schist) walls and are covered with slate. The feudal castle of Château d’Évol was built in 1260 and much still remains.

Eus (Department: Pyrénées-Orientales)

Eus, France-One Of The Most Beautiful Villages In France (J. Chung)

Eus, France-One Of The Most Beautiful Villages In France (J. Chung)

On my way from Prades to Villefranche-de-Conflent in early June, I decided to stop off at Eus. It is a hillside village with very steep cobblestone paths. But it does provide excellent views of the countryside and at the top is Eglise Saint-Vincent-d’En-Haut. It was incredibly windy and maybe it was just the day or perhaps it’s always like this because of the position of the town in the mountains. Just be forewarned.

So, yes, I NEED to go back and conquer the remaining 126 towns. I have a lot of work to do.

Which of the 159 have you been to?

Map Of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France-My Visits

Pin to your favourite board on Pinterest

Designated Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

You Might Also Like

28 Comments

  • Reply
    Jill Browne
    September 18, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    I would be thrilled to see any of these beautiful French villages.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 7:18 am

      I’m glad there’s so many….makes my travel planning easier!

  • Reply
    Josie
    September 19, 2016 at 3:56 am

    Hi Jan,
    No failure here! To have visited 17 of these dreamy little places in France is quite an accomplishment. It’s a good quest to have, too, I think — to return and visit more.
    Starting November 15th, Conrad and I are house sitting for a month in the village of Lurcey-Levis. (I looked it up and unfortunately it’s not on the list of 155.) But nevertheless, we will have the great opportunity to venture out over the course of the month and poke around in many tiny, dreamy villages.
    I’ll keep the link to the list of 155!
    Thanks,
    Josie

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Lucky you! Hopefully there will be a village or two near by to visit.

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    September 19, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Oh gosh – these villages of France are beautiful! It’s interesting: as a Brit, I really haven’t spent much time exploring France, preferring to go further afield. I will have to remedy that as soon as possible.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 7:19 am

      Definitely hop over!!

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    September 19, 2016 at 8:06 am

    What a sweet quest. I have done a little roadtripping around the France countryside so I may have driven through or visited some of the villages. Not on purpose, though.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Those are fun trips too!

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    September 19, 2016 at 8:22 am

    I read through the list and only one of these little villages sounded familiar to me. How do you remember the names of all these little places? It would be great fun, though, to make that a goal of a nice long driving trip around France: to visit all of them!

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Thank goodness I’ve kept every one of my journals from my trips to France. My pictures have helped me remember too!

  • Reply
    Noel Morata
    September 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Oh my I’m sorry to say I haven’t visited any of these wonderful villages and hope to do so in the future, fantastic post!

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    September 19, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    I wish you a long and healthy life so you can get to all the beautiful French villages.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 19, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Too funny! I’m going to need all the time I can get!

  • Reply
    Susan Reddel
    September 19, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    I think you’re off to a great start Jan! I feel like I’ve been all over France and yet I couldn’t find any that sounded familiar to me. Guess I need to get the map out and start planning another trip!

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 20, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      For sure. I still have a lot of work (and trips) to do!

  • Reply
    Billie
    September 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Wonderful photos! Just keep checking those beautiful villages off the list on by one.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 20, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you. I know. Lots to see!

  • Reply
    Catherine Sweeney
    September 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Now I feel like a total failure! I’ve never been to any of the designated villages. but I was in the countryside around Gordes, if that counts. 🙂 I must correct this situation and I better get started soon! Lovely round up you’ve given us here.

    • Reply
      Jan
      September 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Well of all places to be near, Gordes is one of the best!

  • Reply
    Paula Markus
    January 31, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I’ve been to a few of the most beautiful villages over the years. My favourite is Montresor, in the Loire Valley. It has a beautiful castle and pond, and is close to many chateaux and other interesting sites around the Loire Valley. The best part for us was staying ( on two separate trips) in a Gites de France called Le Moulin de Montresor. It’s a converted mill that’s now a beautiful B and B – even has a swimming pool. There is a hole cut in the floor of the living area and covered with Plexiglas where you can watch the water rush over the wheels of the mill. Beautiful spot.

    • Reply
      Jan
      January 31, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Thanks for sharing! I’ll try to visit it in my next trip!

  • Reply
    Pierre
    January 31, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Wow you’re so lucky to have visited so many of these beautiful places! Last year we went for the first time in Hunspach (Bas-Rhin) and Bonneval-sur-Arc (Savoie). This year I’m hoping to discover Rodemack (Moselle), Châteauneuf-en-Auxois (Côte d’Or) and Pérouges (Ain) !

    • Reply
      Jan
      January 31, 2019 at 7:15 pm

      I’ll definitely check those out!

  • Reply
    Jane
    January 31, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I am a Francophile as you are so I LOVE reading your posts……and every time my hubby and I travel to France we use the lists of these villages to plan our driving route from place to place. What a treat! I think Gerberoy is maybe my very favorite because it was SO BEAUTIFUL that day we drove into its streets….like a sleepy little postcard. It was gorgeous. We ate an apple strudel in a sidewalk cafe in Beuvron-En-Auge one May afternoon and that was a special afternoon. We fell in love with Gordes and bought an oil painting from there and stayed there on our last trip to France. We also took a Sunday afternoon to drive to Lourmarin last spring which will always be a delightful memory for me……I LOVE THESE VILLAGES!!!!

    • Reply
      Jan
      January 31, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      Thank you for sharing your favourites. I had to look up Gerberoy and I see I could have visited on my way to/from Etretat. I’ll definitely have to check it out. Yes, the villages are so much more quaint (overused word, but really applicable).

  • Reply
    Laura García Tagliani
    December 13, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks, Jan, for your posts! I’ve only been twice to France and visited 6 of the most beautiful villages, 5 in Provence (Gordes, Lourmarin, Les Beaux, Rousillon, Menebes) and one in the Occitanie Region: Minerve. This last one is a very picturesque town, included in the Haut Languedoc Natural Regional Park. The village gets its name after the Roman goddess of wisdom Minerva and is remarkable for its landscape, archaeology and history. It´s about 25 km north from Narbonne. Check:
    https://www.minervois-caroux.com/fr/minerve.html#un-peu-d-histoire-cathare http://www.catharcastles.info/minerve.php;
    http://www.occitanie.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/les-gorges-de-la-cesse-et-du-briant-et-les-causses-a22271.html

    • Reply
      Jan
      December 13, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks for sharing that. I will check those out! I love those Cathar castles and saw a few during my last trip, but didn’t get to Minerve.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.