My Favorite Villages in France

Posted on 12. Jan, 2015 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

After driving from Monaco to Étretat, and from Carcassonne to Lyon, I think I’m allowed to put on the proverbial France expert hat. I’ve seen my fair share of villages, landmarks and open countryside to know which are worth making a detour for - or as we call it, taking the “scenic route”. And although some would argue that France is, as such, one giant postcard, there are some places that I feel took this “picture perfect” notion to another level.

So, where are the most beautiful villages in France?

Riquewihr

Beautiful Villages in France

Riquewihr

Riquewihr was without a doubt the highlight of my Alsace roadtrip a few years ago. Its main street flanked by ancient timber houses colored in all hues of the rainbow, enticing Riesling cellars and delicious foodie delicacies; it’s very hard not to like Riquewihr. I felt like I had stepped in the Disneyland of 16th century Europe, knowing that the village has changed very little since then - nothing short of a miracle, considering most towns in this area of France were badly damaged during World War II.

Salers

Beautiful Villages in France

Salers

Welcome to my beloved Auvergne! Although not the most famous nor the most visited, Auvergne is nonetheless one of the most strikingly beautiful thanks to its volcanoes (yes, there are volcanoes in France!) and its medieval villages like Salers, in the heart of Cantal department. Most buildings are made of Auvergne’s signature black volcanic stone, endemic to the area. Salers being in France, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the food is exceptionally good; its eponymous cheese is to die for, as is the local beef, one of the most sought-after breeds in the country.

Cassis

Beautiful Villages in France

Cassis

I pretty much haven’t stopped talking about Cassis ever since I visited in the summer of 2012. But with its warmly colored buildings, its salty sea breeze, its narrow alleys filled with bright bougainvilleas and its proximity to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Calanques, I think I am more than right to spread the word about this gorgeous town. Watching the sun set behind the high cliffs along the Mediterranean Sea while having dinner by the beach is one of my favorite memories of my time as an expat in France, and I owe it to Cassis.

Hell, I even proclaimed it to be the best village in France - that says something!

Saint-Émilion

Beautiful Villages in France

Saint-Émilion

While my visit to Saint-Émilion was not blessed by Mother Nature, I still enjoyed myself immensely. Saint-Émilion is often regarded as being the finest example of a medieval village run by a wine-based economy - even today, 62% of the village’s activities are connected to wine in one way or another. I simply loved wandering the narrow streets and admiring the architecture (most of the village’s buildings are made out of the endemic yellowish stone once found in the region’s stonepits) hopping from one wine cellar to another and enjoying a nice glass of wine al fresco.

Annecy

Beautiful Villages in France

Annecy

I think I’ve made my love for Annecy pretty obvious by now - I’ve visited half a dozen time so far and I still can’t get enough. From the legendary cheese fondue to the romantic canal in the center of the old town and the turquoise waters of the eponymous lake, Annecy just cannot bore me. Not to mention the fact that there are countless things to do in the region, should you ever want to get to know Rhône-Alpes a bit better. Annecy is simply stunning, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

beautiful villages in france

Saint-Martin-de-Ré

 I’ve left a huge piece of my heart in Ile de Ré, an idyllic island just off the coast of La Rochelle. The town oozes with charm thanks to its laid back atmosphere (it is filled with French people on vacation, and as we all know, French people are always on vacation) and a typical, flavorful seaside cuisine. Mind you, I could’ve picked any village on the tiny island; every single thing about Ile de Ré is absolutely dreamy and deserves to be visited. Between abbey ruins, flower-filled alleys, stunning ocean views, historic lighthouses and fortifications, Ile de Ré is just a giant living postcard waiting to be explored.

Honfleur

Beautiful Villages in France

Honfleur

Honfleur is by no means a “hidden gem”; if the popularity of its picture-perfect streets and colorful port on Pinterest are any indication, about half the planet is planning to visit the town at some point. But that shouldn’t deter visitors from coming to this famous Normandy town, which has inspired countless Impressionist painters including the most famous of all, Claude Monet. And being from Canada, Honfleur was perhaps even more significant for me as it is the town where seafarer Samuel de Champlain started his 1608 voyage that would lead to the foundation of Québec City. Talk about history being made!

What are the most beautiful villages in France in your opinion? Have you visited any that aren’t listed here?

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6 Responses to “My Favorite Villages in France”

  1. Libbie

    12. Jan, 2015

    Like you, I love the Auvergne and Ile de Ré — all the villages on that isle! Conques in the Auvergne may be my favorite of all French villages but I’m also partial to northern Burgundy (called the Yonne region). A time-capsule of a village there is Noyers-sur-Serein. But of course there are thousands of perfect villages in France!

    Libbie

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  2. Bronwyn

    13. Jan, 2015

    Wow! There are some real gems here! The only one I’ve seen so far is Honfleur. We rented a house in Normandy for weeks and toured the area during the summer of 2014. Our three kids adored it- so very different from the Toronto suburbs they are sued to!

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  3. Jennifer

    14. Jan, 2015

    HA! Love that your first one is the exact village I was thinking about when I clicked on your title. All time favourite, but I loved Ribeauvillé and Colmar (although bigger) as well!

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