With its excellence in selling itself, the French encourage visitors to enjoy some of France’s most elegant and photogenic villages. Highlighting villages with populations of less than 2000 people that boast at least two historic monuments or sites and striking architecture, unique culture or natural beauty, an initial book published in the early 1980s led to an association of around 150 villages that proudly call themselves The Most Beautiful Villages in France. Sprinkled throughout the country and highlighted by the above logo, here are ten personal favourites from those that I have visited over the years in this most enchanting of European countries.
Bordering the sparkling beauty of Lac Léman (as the French call Lake Geneva), this medieval fishing village with its stone houses and wooden balconies glisten in geranium and wisteria blooms in summer. Whether wandering its narrow streets spotting signs of its ancient castle its 700 years of history, paddling the shores in a tiny canoe or enjoying the colour of the Garden of Five Senses, Yvoire is a wonderful diversion heading towards Switzerland.
Experiencing Rousillon has two contrasting feels – the narrow paths, archways and roughened walls of the historic village (over 1000 years old) and the other-worldly trail through the golden yellows, burnt oranges and flame reds of the largest ochre deposits in Europe. The area is sprinkled with painters and their easels enjoying the rich colours and strange shapes of the historically-valued clay fields or the towering bell tower and expressive town squares.
Surrounded by its World Heritage-listed defensive walls and shaped like a boomerang, the tiny town offers its best panorama from Fort Liberia. Boasting delicate formations in its neighbouring limestone cave, the town is the launching pad for the superb Pyreneean rail journey on the Little Yellow Train.
More of France’s most beautiful villages can be found here.