Top 10 Villages To Visit In France
These lovely, medieval villages are ideal homes for exploring rural France, from a storybook fortification in the Loire to a clifftop stronghold in Provence.
1- Eguisheim, Haut-Rhin
On the Alsatian Wine Route, rolling vine-carpeted hills surround the charming village of Eguisheim. Its concentric small alleys adorned with colorful half-timbered houses and gorgeous floral blossoms curl like a snail’s shell around a medieval castle, while pointed gables, tithe courtyards, and pretty ancient fountains contribute to the fairytale atmosphere.
This Wine Trail town is one of the most picturesque in France, with streets formed in concentric circles all around its castle. It’s enjoyable to stroll through the tiny paved alleys lined with gorgeous ancient half-timbered buildings with geranium-bedecked wooden windows and balconies. The central square, with its fountain, Eguisheim castle, and colorful Saint-Léon-IX chapel, is equally lovely. The Eguisheim Keeps, the Hohlandsbourg castle, and the Pflixbourg keeps are all located in the surrounding area of Eguisheim.
The community comes alive in August with its stork festival and wine growers festival.
2- Rochefort-en-Terre, Brittany
As a Roche fort (stronghold), this medieval settlement controlled trade routes thanks to its location on an outcrop of rock above deep valleys. The village is located between the Gulf of Morbihan and Merlin’s Forêt de Brocéliande. In the upper village, with its covered market, 12th-century church, medieval castle, 19th-century chateau, and 16th- and 17th-century homes, traces of its affluent history (also tied to slate mining) can be observed.
Alfred Klots, a portraitist from the United States, bought the castle and created a tradition of flower window boxes that continues to this day. Summer concerts and a medieval fair are among the upcoming events.
3- PLOUMANC’H, BRITTANY
Pink granite rocks litter the shores of Ploumanc’h, a tiny fishing port on Brittany’s Côtes d’Armor, and they’re not just for mystics. Walk the GR34 route, which snakes its way around the coast and past the dusty-rose Men Ruz lighthouse at the entrance to the Channel, if you have your walking shoes with you. You may also refuel in the nearby village of Perros-Guirrec at Castel Beau Site, where you can enjoy freshly caught lobster or grilled octopus with a view of the neo-gothic Costaérès castle on the tiny island across.
4- SAINT-SATURNIN PUY-DU-DOME, AUVERGNE
In this lush region, the history of the de La Tour d’Auvergne dynasty is woven into the landscape, so history buffs should not miss a visit to this flower-lined village of narrow cobblestoned streets with Renaissance fountains, an impressive Romanesque church, and a beautifully restored 14th-century moated castle. Stay in the castle, which is also a beautiful five-room guesthouse where Charles IX and his mother Catherine de’ Medici formerly stayed, and see the dungeon where Reine Margot was briefly imprisoned.
5- BARFLEUR, NORMANDY
Wild mussels fresh from the sea may be found in this historic Norman fishing community on the north-eastern corner of the Cotentin peninsula (the very first port in the Anglo-Norman realm), which is noted for its juicy Barfleur blondes kind. Afterward, go through the village and gaze up: the charming granite and schist-roofed houses are decorated with traditional red-clay glazed pottery of birds and animals. The village is located about a half-drive hours from the airport.
6- SEILLANS, VAR
To find Seillans, you’ll need to travel to the quiet backwoods near Grasse, where the town is perched on the edge of an imposing cliff overlooking a valley long known for its fragrant fields of perfume-making flowers. With its steep cobbled alleyways leading to a medieval castle and the 11th-century church of Saint Léger, it’s no wonder that Robert Doisneau and Max Ernst, along with his wife Dorothea Tanning, made it their favorite refuge for 12 years. You can see their work at the Maison Waldberg, and then have lunch on the plane-tree-shaded plaza of the Hotel des Deux Rocs, close to a bubbling fountain, with rosemary-spiked duck and vanilla île flottante.
7- SARE, PYRENNEES-ATLANTIQUES
If you’re like pelota, you’ll love this charming small Basque hamlet nestled at the foot of both the Rhune and Axuria mountains, just nine miles from the Atlantic coast. It’s possible to watch locals bounce and smash the ball against the wall while munching on a wonderful black-cherry and custard-filled Gâteau Basque – the cake has its own museum. Be sure not to miss out on the white farmhouses with red and green trim or St. Martin’s Church, which boasts three rows of carved-oak balcony towers. Take a stroll around the countryside and you’ll see prehistoric grottos as well as fields of cows and sheep.
8- DOMME, DORDOGNE
There are still visible prison graffiti engraved into the walls of the ramparts of this fortified settlement perched high above the Dordogne valley, which dates back to the 14th century and the Hundred Year’s War between France and England. There is a massive network of tunnels under the main square replete with drippy stalactites and stalagmites that can be explored. Never leave without trying a piece of the local delicacy, handcrafted foie gras that has been semi-cooked, smoked, or panfried and spiced with apricots and figs.
9- PIGNA, CORSICA
From Calvi, it takes around 30 minutes to reach this tiny village, which is known for its traditional handmade products dating back to the Middle Ages and is characterized by a cluster of rectangular blue-shuttered stone homes. You can stroll along narrow passageways where cats slumber on window sills and then descend the labyrinthine steps to a shady café terrace where you can take in views of the neighboring olive groves and the glistening Bay of Algajola from the shade. Wind-up toys with historic Corsican tunes can be purchased by music aficionados.
10- MENERBES, PROVENCE
In the past, this postcard-perfect village was overrun by busloads of Peter Mayle-obsessed Provence fans armed with cameras. There’s a prehistoric dolmen, a Gothic-meets-Romanesque 16th-century abbey, Sainte-Hilaire, as well as rows of meticulously restored aristocratic houses, including Dora Maar’s former home, now a foundation and residence for Anselm Kiefer.
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