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Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France) is a designation given to French villages, with populations of less than 2000, that are preserving their cultural and historical heritage. France is brimming with beauty and history and the current 161 Plus Beaux Villages de France are worth adding to any itinerary on your travels. Who wouldn’t want to visit beguiling ancient French villages hanging to clifftops or tucked away in lush valleys?
Over time, I have visited 16 of les plus beaux villages de France. These villages in France are all unique and have the ability to enthral. Be ready to be transported to another time in history when you visit a plus beau village de France.
Here are 16 of les plus beaux villages de France. Where will you go first?
16 Of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: The Ultimate Guide
1. Beynac-et-Cazenac, La Dordogne
Beynac-et-Cazenac, one of the most beautiful villages in the Dordogne, clings to the cliffside and brims with tranquil French charm. No wonder it is one of les plus beaux villages de France. Shuttered windows on the honey-coloured buildings face the steep and slender cobbled streets. The church of Ste. Marie balances on one peak of the limestone bluff while the Château de Beynac is perched on another. The Château de Beynac majestically stands guard over Beynac-et-Cazenac. Its existence is a reminder of the Hundred Year’s War between France and England.
2. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Carennac, Le Lot
Cross the tiny footbridge to enter Carennac and marvel at the views over the Dordogne Valley. Artists often set up their easels in this lush and peaceful location. The minuscule French village of Carennac is a jumble of houses centred around the 11th-century Romanesque church. The Church of Saint Pierre de Carennac and its ornately carved tympanum are worth visiting along with the château. Wander through the quiet streets of Carennac. Not much is happening here in this Plus Beau Village de France and that is indeed a huge part of its charm.
3. Conques, Aveyron
Dropping down into the Lot Valley, medieval Conques is tucked away, small in size yet mighty in spirit. Modern-day pilgrims armed with their trekking poles straggle along the road leading to Conques, a reminder that Conques has been on the pilgrim’s route for centuries. With the remains of Sainte Foy brought to Conques in 883, this plus beau village de France became one of the main stops on the Saint-Jacques de Compestelle pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s over one thousand kilometres from Conques to Santiago de Compestela. Now that’s a pilgrimage. Monks today still welcome pilgrims at the Romanesque Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy.
It has hit its mark as one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France but aside from the parking lots and souvenir shops, entering Conques is like stepping back in time. There is a tranquil reverence here that can’t be missed. I left, inspired to follow in the pilgrim’s footsteps one day and return to Conques for a longer stay.
4. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn
Cordes-sur-Ciel, perched on a rocky outcrop, seems to float in the sky. Built in 1222 by one of the Counts of Toulouse, a trip to this plus beau village de France will sweep you back a few centuries.
Take your time as you stroll up the steep hill to Cordes-sur-Ciel. Alternately, take the tourist train from Place de la Bouteillerie from May 1 to September 30.
This Plus Beau Village de France is a place to wander and meander. Take your time. The views of the countryside are breathtaking and the winding cobbled lanes are full of interesting facades. The fortified gates, ramparts, and stone half-timbered homes will have you pondering life in medieval times!
The French voted Cordes-sur-Ciel as one of their favourite villages in 2014. It’s no wonder! Come and discover the magic of this plus beau village de France.
5. Domme, La Dordogne
Enter the walled town of Domme through its fortified gate and nod your head in accordance to its designation as one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The scent of roses, the clank of pétanque balls, tiny cobbled streets lined with ancient homes and expansive views over the lush Dordogne Valley make this picturesque village de France a worthwhile stop. No wonder it was a fortified town, perched on this hill no one could approach unsuspectingly. Today, life in Domme appears to the casual visitor to have remained unchanged for centuries.
6. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Gordes, Provence
A popular hilltown in the Luberon region of Provence, Gordes rises out of the rock face looking out over the valley below. Wander her twisting streets and marvel at the fact that in the 1960s Gordes had been mostly deserted but now is one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Reimagined and renovated to its medieval glory, Gordes today is worth a short visit. The best views of this village de France are from below. Look for the road sign with the viewpoint icon and pull off. Even by mid-June, finding a parking spot here is a bit of a challenge, but ever so worth the effort.
A short drive from Gordes, beaux village of Provence, is the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. This Cistercian abbey was founded in 1148 and still, today is home to monks. Tucked in an isolated and protected valley, the lavender fields were not yet in full bloom the third week of June.
7. La Flotte, Ile de Ré, Nouvelle Aquitaine
Head on over to La Flotte on Ile de Ré where this most charming of French villages will have you slowing right down to island time. Explore the tiny streets lined with shuttered houses and hollyhocks, sit by the sea and savour oysters, walk the pathways by the sea and rent a bike to go exploring. La Flotte, the oldest village on the island, thoroughly lives up to its designation as one of the most beautiful villages of France.
8. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: La Roque Gageac, La Dordogne
Tucked between a huge cliff that protects it from the north wind, and the Dordogne River, it is no surprise that La Roque Gageac is one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The buildings built of warm yellow stone stretch out along the river and climb their way up the cliffside. Follow the cobbled lanes through town (think… all uphill!) and enjoy an ice cream while pondering the thought that cave dwellers lived here in the 10th century.
Take a boat ride down the Dordogne and picture the flat-bottomed wooden boats called “les gabarres” that used to take barrels of wine and other goods down the river to Bordeaux.
I kept thinking Johnny Depp was going to step off a boat in La Roque Gageac. Remember the romantic and passionate movie “Chocolat?” Little did I know that a few kilometres down the river, Beynac-et-Cazenac, another of the most beautiful villages of France, was used as one of the locations in the film.
9. Lavardin, Loir-et-Cher
Lavardin is the only village in the department of Loir-et-Cher to hold the designation of one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
And beautiful it is.
The ruined chateau standing on the hill watching over the village is impressive. It’s the perfect place to let your imagination wander. Why is it in ruins? Who built it? How beautiful was it in its glory days?
Photographers will be in heaven.
The Romanesque church of Saint-Genest is a treasure not to be missed. Although the main door is locked shut on the day I am there, nudging the smaller side entrance door is rewarded with access to the interior. Ancient colourful frescoes (“fresques” in French) cover the church walls. Take in the magnificent Biblical scenes and peruse the pamphlet that explains the mural paintings. They are astonishing works of art. Covered up for years, these frescoes were painted between the 12th and 15th centuries. When medieval paintings fell out of favour, they were covered over with plaster. What a delight that they were discovered in the 20th century. Read the full article on Lavardin.
10. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Locronan, Brittany
Locronan has no trouble living up to its designation of one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Cobbled streets, stone houses, and hydrangeas in hues of violet and pink easily charm any visitor. This plus beaux village de France is a place to flâner. Discover the dog watching over the cemetery, uncover the village’s story of Saint-Ronan, and stroll to the 15th-century Chapel Notre-Dame de Bonne Nouvelle (of good news). There are plenty of artisanal boutiques to visit and don’t forget the essential while in Brittany – to have a galette and cider.
Locronan, one of the most beautiful villages of France, is an ideal itinerary stop when on a road trip through the department of Finistère in Brittany. Read this article all about Locronan.
11. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Nestled into the mountainside, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has been protected for years by the star that is suspended over it on a wire strung between two mountain peaks. There are multiple stories explaining this star but the most popular legend states that the Knight of Blacas placed the star there as a symbol of gratitude for returning safely from the Crusades. YES – the Crusades. This is an age-old legend.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie certainly lives up to its designation as one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France and its nickname the “Etoile de Provence” (the Star of Provence). The waterfall rushes through the centre of this French village, the Chappelle Notre-Dame-de- Beauvoir clings to the cliff above town (do the hike up) and their famous faïences (fine glazed earthenware) graces store windows.
Stay overnight in this village de France and use Moustiers-Sainte-Marie as a base for visiting the nearby Gorges du Verdon.
12. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Najac, Aveyron
Visiting Najac is a bit like stepping into a fairytale. At first sight, it is clear that Najac would be chosen to be on the list of les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The houses of this most captivating French village stretch out along the ridge with the fortress at one end keeping guard. It’s not hard to imagine knights in shining armour and Richard the Lionhearted signing a treaty. It is a serene view from the top of the tower surrounded by cliffs and the Aveyron river below.
On both my visits to Najac (once in the winter and once in the spring) it was difficult to find any food. Bring a picnic or eat before arriving.
13. Roussillon, Provence
With its shades of yellow, red and orange, Roussillon was a complete surprise. I had no idea that this entire village de France was built from ochreous earth. The warmth of the colours translates into a French village that is inviting and full of cafés and souvenir shops. With the strains of live music, it is the perfect place to relax and savour lavender ice cream. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France? Of course, Roussillon is on the list.
Don’t miss the Sentier des Ocres (Ochre Trail) where two pathways lead through the ochre landscapes amongst groves of pine trees. It’s otherworldly. The two pathways, (entry fee is €3) one a 30-minute walk and the other 50 minutes, are guaranteed to ignite your imagination, because really – what planet did you land on?! White shoes? They might not be so white when you leave. No contest here. Clearly one of the most beautiful villages of France.
14. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Normandy
It’s not hard to imagine why Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei is classified as one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Stand on the historic four-arched bridge which spans the River Sarthe, and marvel at the ancient stone houses perched along the river. Explore the cobbled streets and make your way to the 11th-century Romanesque church full of impressive frescoes that date from the 12th and 14th centuries. In remarkably good shape, the frescoes were covered over for 200 years. Stroll down the country lane to the 15th-century stone chapel standing alone in a field. Perhaps you should bring your paintbrush. Artists Corbet and Courbet, to name just two, loved to capture this bucolic landscape on canvas.
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei is situated in an area called the Mancelles-Alps of Normandy but is remarkably close to La Sarthe. Add this plus beau village de France to your bucket list for a stroll, a hike, a cycle or a tranquil step back in time.
15. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Le Lot
Tiny medieval, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie took my breath away. No wonder it was voted “The Favourite Village of the French” in 2012. Perched overlooking the Vallée du Lot (the Lot Valley), the half-timbered homes with their terracotta roofs cascade down the cliffside. Winding pedestrian-only streets add to the absolute delight that is Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Witness magnificent views from the chateau ruins and visit the 16th-century Gothic church. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a very popular summer day-trip destination but in mid-May the crowds are sparse.
There are many artisan shops and restaurants in this obvious choice for one of les plus beaux villages de France. Lunch at Le Cantou on Rue de la Pelissaria was one of the best meals I had on my entire trip. Maybe it was the hake on tagliatelle with ink squid juice in a wine sauce that had me in seventh heaven or possibly the outstanding lemon tart!
Don’t rush your visit to this most beautiful village de France, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.
16. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: Veules-les-Roses, Normandy
On my first trip to Normandy, the beauty of the landscapes was an undeniable pleasure. White cliffs soar over the Atlantic Ocean, expansive beaches wait to be explored, French villages charm, history is palpable and of course, oyster shacks await their fans and aim to convert the uninitiated. I got my oyster initiation on the shores of Normandy.
Veules-les-Roses, in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy, is a quaint village de France full of roses, just as its name hints. There are all types and glorious shades of roses climbing up façades and along fences. My favourite, the Pierre de Ronsard roses, were plentiful.
Follow the pathway along the River Veules which passes by the vestiges of ancient mills or relax on the pebbly beach with soaring cliffs in the distance.
Once a favourite place for Victor Hugo to visit in the 19th century, Veules-les-Roses also played a role in the Battle of the Somme. It’s no surprise that Veules-les-Roses ranks right up there as one of the most beautiful villages of France.
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France live completely up to their charm and uniqueness. After visiting these 16 most beautiful villages of France, I will certainly go out of my way to visit the other 147 plus beaux villages!
Which of these 16 Plus Beaux Villages de France, would you visit first?