30 of the most charming small towns in France

france most beautiful villages

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Are you a romantic?

Then head to the charming small towns in France. They will make your spirit soar.

From the half timbered villages of Normandy and Alsace to the turquoise shuttered buildings in Brittany, or the medieval towns of the Dordogne there is a picturesque village waiting for you.

With so many gorgeous places to see in France, we asked travel writers and photographers from across the world to choose their favourites.

But I should warn you. Once you have had a taste of these beautiful towns and villages in France, you wont rest until you have seen them all.

Towns and villages in northern France

Le Mont St Michel

mont st michel - one of the most beautiful villages in france

You never forget the first time you see Mont St Michel rising above the bay where Normandy and Brittany meet. The island town is one of the most beautiful places in France.

The town is built on an 83-meter high cliff of pure granite and has been an important site for pilgrims for well over 1000 years. In the 8th century the Archangel Michael is said to have appeared and ordered a monastery be built on top of the rock. Today the Benedictine Abbey dominates the skyline, topped with a statue of the angel.

To get to Mont St Michel you take a shuttle bus or horse drawn carriage from the main car park over a mile away. You can also walk there when the tide is low. Make sure to go with a guide as the tides turn quickly and are treacherous.

Once you are there, climb the many steps and cobbled streets until you reach the Abbey. Enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and seascape before exploring the medieval town below.

Try the delicious local seafood dishes at one of the many historic auberges (inns) or the famous omelettes at La Mere Poulard. You can even stay overnight at the charming Auberge Saint Pierre.

If ever there was a town that could be described as magical, this is it. Discovering this part of France has been a highlight of my travels so far but you can also visit Mont St Michel on a day tour from Paris.

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Giverny

giverny - most beautiful places in france

By Rachael from Bee Anything but Boring

Giverny is an adorable French town located in the northern region of France. It is easily accessible as a day trip from Paris, reachable in about an hour via car or train.

The French impressionist painter Claude Monet lived here most of his life and was the first artist to create his subjects in real life before painting them.

There are two contrasting yet complimentary gardens that you can visit; the flower garden and the Japanese water garden. As soon as you arrive, you will feel as though you’ve walked straight into one of Monet’s paintings.

Half a million people visit the gardens every year to experience the home and work place of this great artist. In addition to the gardens, you can visit the actual house that Monet lived in. And guess what, it’s pink!

It is important to note that the gardens are closed in the winter months, so when you visit Giverny be sure to time it properly. My recommendation is to visit in the spring when the flowers are blooming!

For more information about day trips to Giverny from Paris click here

Bayeux

bayeux - medieval towns in france

By Chris from Explore Now or Never

Adorable medieval Bayeux makes a perfect base for visiting the D-Day beaches of Normandy, strolling along the sweet Aure river, and dipping into the famous Bayeux Cathedral.

Be sure to also stop into the Bayeux Museum to see the incredible Bayeux tapestry while you’re there. It’s Art History 101 up close and personal: The intricately embroidered tapestry is as long as a football field and depicts the events leading up to the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066.

For a room with a view and a sumptuous breakfast of local French pastries, consider staying at this Airbnb just across from the cathedral in the center of the village.

For a memorable Normand meal, make a reservation at quaint and authentic L’Assiette Normande, just up the street.

The perfect meal features seafood fresh from the Normandy coast and capped with a shot of Calvados, Normandy’s local brandy.

Recommended hotel: Villa Lara hotel – small luxury boutique hotel opposite the Cathedral – click here for more details

Étretat

etretat - best towns to visit in france

The busy town of Étretat in Normandy boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in northern France.

Sitting on a pebbled shoreline, the town has magnificent views of the Côte d’Albâtre (Alabaster Coast) with its huge rock formations jutting out to sea.

Walk up to the pretty Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde chapel and along the clifftops for stunning views of the chalk coastline and out across the English Channel.

The town itself has a quaint collection of half timbered buildings and an impressive market hall Le Vieux Marché which was used as a military hospital during the Second World War.

A highlight of any visit to this part of France is the delicious seafood. Make sure to try the moules frites and local cider at one of the many bistrots in town. We recommend cosy La Flotille.

Recommended hotel:  Dormy House – charming hotel with spectacular views of the coastline – click here for more information

Sainte-Mère-Église

towns in normandy france

By Stephanie from Sofia Adventures

Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy is a very special town to visit, especially at the beginning of June. This was the first town to be liberated by the Allies in the early hours of D-Day.

During the days around the anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, the town comes alive with people from all over the world coming to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day. It’s especially wonderful to meet the D-Day Veterans who come year after year.

There are parties and barbeques in the street, and you can stop at the church to see a mannequin posing as John Steele, who famously got stuck on the church during the invasion and hung there for hours avoiding detection by the Nazis.

The town is beautiful to visit year-round as well, as Normandy is a lovely part of the country and the town is situated in the countryside with rolling hills and farmland in between the small villages.

Click here for more information on Normandy beaches tours

Arromanches-les-Bains

Normandy beaches towns - arromanches les bains

By Kris from Nomad by Trade

Arromanches-les-Bains is a beautiful seaside town on the Normandy shore.

This area of coastline is better known by its D-Day codename: Gold Beach, which was assigned to the British sector.

After the Allies had taken control of the area, they used an ingenious system of breakwaters and floating docks that were towed across the English Channel to create a false harbor to offload troops and supplies.

Wreckage from this monumental effort still remains on the beach and is visible far out into the water.

At low tide, visitors can walk along the sand to get up close to these concrete and steel reminders of a time when this idyllic French beach town was the site of one of the most important battles of WWII.

A museum right along the shore documents the events of D-Day and beyond for those interested in more history.

As it’s centrally located among the D-Day beaches, Arromanches-les-Bains makes the perfect base for history buffs exploring the area.

The Hotel de la Marine is located right on the seawall and offers rooms overlooking the beach as well as a restaurant with delicious cuisine.

Headed to Paris? Click here to access our popular Paris food guide   

Towns and villages in the south of France

Goult
goult - villages of the luberon valley france

By Nadine from Le Long Weekend

Goult is the unsung hero of the Luberon valley in Provence. A village that punches above its weight in both beauty and historical significance.

Yet it somehow often gets overlooked by visitors to the region. Situated not far from the Luberon heavyweights such as Gordes and Roussillon, Goult most definitely deserves a detour.

A petite village, Goult has a surprisingly large population of over 1,000 residents who help keep the spirit of the village alive and lovingly restored.

The village houses are an attraction in themselves, with their beautifully rustic appearance, window boxes and pastel coloured shutters.

There are signs within the village directing you to all of the key sights. Don’t miss the magical reconstituted Jerusalem Mill and the unique heritage area that is the Conservatoire des Terrasses de Cultures de Goult – a 5ha garden tucked away behind the mill where you’ll find evidence of ancient farming techniques.

Goult is an excellent place to base yourself if you’re touring the Luberon, and has many boutique B&Bs and holiday villas to relax in.

There’s a small but curated collection of eateries, and if you’re after a quick bite, don’t go past the pizzeria opposite the Café de la Poste. You can even get one delivered to the café and dine al fresco!

Recommended hotel: La Grande Verrière – beautiful country hotel surrounded by lavender bushes – click here for more details 

St. Paul De Vence

st paul de vence - towns near nice france

By Noel from Travel Photo Discovery

St. Paul De Vence is one of those small hilltop villages that just oozes charm, art and fantastic views from above to the countryside below.

Just under an hour bus ride from Nice, the small hilltop village has cobblestone streets, stone buildings housing cool art studios, galleries and restaurants with views to the beautiful landscape below.

This is a fantastic town to explore when you want to get away from the big crowds in Nice and a fantastic escape to this charming little village.

A bus ride to St. Paul De Vence is probably the easiest way to get there without having to deal with the difficult parking in the area.

You can easily catch a bus from the main square and central train station to get the village, just make sure you also check the return bus rides posted on the bus signs before you start exploring.

Recommended hotel: Hôtel La Grande Bastide – gorgeous small country hotel with swimming pool and panoramic views – click here for more information 

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

saint remy - beautiful towns in provence

By Janis and Gary from Our World for You

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a small picturesque town, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France. Perhaps sometimes overlooked as there are so many beautiful towns and cities on its doorstep. However, for us, we loved it, for its history, charming tree-lined streets, pale ochre buildings and its delightful cafes and restaurants.

It makes a great base for a few nights to explore the Provence region, either head out amongst the olive groves and discover the surrounding hilltop towns or grab yourself a baguette and a cake from the local patisserie and enjoy whiling away the sunshine on a balmy October evening.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is where Vincent van Gogh painted his famous masterpiece “The Starry Night”, and for the history buffs amongst us, it is home to the ruins of the Roman city of Glanum.

What’s not to love?

The Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

Villeneuve les Avignon - south of france villages

By Sherrie from Travel by a Sherrie Affair

The Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is a medieval village located right outside the gates of the city Avignon in Provence France. It is not a large village, only 7 square miles but lots to explore.

This little village if perfect for anyone wanting to be able to roam without too many tourists at one time.

There are hotels ranging from very low in price to a moderately higher rate. If you have ever wanted to stay in a 5-star hotel the Hôtel Le Prieuré would be a worth-while choice.

This lovely hotel is reasonable with large rooms and wisteria gardens for you to relax in. The restaurant located in the hotel has a very good reputation for endless delicious food (try the 9 course dinner) and is first class in atmosphere.

There are many sights to see within walking distance. Wisteria grows over many of the doors making your walk a sweet-smelling photo opportunity every step.

The Benedictine abbey in the village has the Gardens of the Abbey Saint-André. Peaceful and a wonderful place to take a moment to yourself. Monks cell and frescos on the walls may be seen at the Chartreuse Notre-Dame-du-val-de-Bénédiction.

The medieval Tower of Philippe le Bel you can climb and view the Rhone river. The most popular sight to visit is Fort Saint-Andre. It requires a little hike but so worth the trip to see the views of the French countryside.

Villefranche Sur Mer

Villefranche sur mer - south of france towns

By Diana from Diana’s Healthy Living

Villefranche Sur Mer is a charming fishing village located on Cote d’Azur (the South of France). It is located about 30 minutes outside of Nice, France and nestled between Nice and Monaco making day trips a breeze. There is so much to do such as visiting the gorgeous pink castle,

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, also called villa Île-de-France, a French seaside villa located at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera, Chapelle de Saint Pierre des Pecheurs, Fort du Mont Alban, Old Harbour, Le Jardin exotique d’Eze, day trips to Nice or Monaco or you can simply choose to relax by the beach sipping a coffee and enjoying a wonderful French croissant.

I would recommend dining at one of the family-owned restaurants, such as Le Ser, located off the main strip where you will find prices to be a lot more reasonable.

Be sure to stay at the Welcome Hotel in Villefrancce Sur Mer as it is located right on the Riviera with wonderful views and makes their patio makes the perfect spot for people watching.

Valensole

valensole - small towns in france

By Kristin from Be My Travel Muse

I just love Valensole and the Provence region of France in general, especially in late June through July during the lavender bloom.

My best advice is to rent a car and a villa on AirBnB – both of which are surprisingly affordable in Provence – and do a road trip around to the Senaque Abbey, Sault, and everything in between. It’s so dreamy!

Eze

eze - south of france countryside villages

By Maria from Tigrest travel blog 

Eze village is a tiny hilltop town on the Cote d’Azur. The main attraction is the town itself with its narrow cobblestoned streets, beautiful gardens, galleries and coffee shops. Eze village is also famous for its botanical garden with exotic plants.

Besides walking around the old town, you can take a 2-hour hike down to the Eze-sur-Mer beach. The hike is spectacular! Lot’s of fantastic photo opportunities and amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea, crystal clear turquoise blue water, cliffs and small yachts scattered across the bay.

When you get hungry, you will find plenty of small restaurants serving local deliciacies ad French cuisine. Make sure to try escargot or roast duck.

Staying in Eze overnight is possible in one of town’s small hotels, such as Château Eza, Hôtel le Cap Estel or La Gascogne-Hôtel du Golfe if you are on a budget. However, I recommend staying in Nice and visiting Eze on a day trip.

Porquerolles

porquerolles - villages on the cote d'azur

By Daisy from Dais Like These

Ile de Porquerolles is a small island located off the Côte d’Azur, with just one small village, aptly named Porquerolles.

Accessible only via passenger ferry, this beautiful island is just along the coast from the glitzy and popular tourist towns that you would normally associate with the area, but it couldn’t be more different.

Strict planning regulations mean that this little island has managed to create the perfect balance of pure holiday vibes with preserved nature and beauty – think beautiful beaches, bike rides and boat trips!

Accommodation on the island is limited, and if you are lucky enough to be able to stay after the last boat leaves at 7pm, you are treated to being able to see the village in a whole different light.

For a taste of luxury, the famous hotel Le Mas du Langustier is located at one end of the island, alternatively there are a small selection of hotels, B&Bs and holiday apartments in the village.

For such a small village, there are a great selection of restaurants, mainly around village square, but for beach side dining head to Le Restaurant La Plage D’Argent where, if fish is your thing, you are presented with the catch of the day on a platter to choose from.

Gassin

gassin provence - three capes hike

By Jessie from Jessie on a Journey

If you like wine, Gassin, a commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region’s Var Department that’s an easy day trip from Cannes or St. Tropez, is a must.

Here you’ll drive or cycle past endless rows of syrah, grenache, rolle and ugni blanc, numerous wineries (domaines) dotting the landscape.

Recommendation: Stop into Domaine Bertaud Belieu for a 10-wine tasting experience — for free, as this is France (and not the USA).

The property dates back to 1340, and today showcases 160 acres of vines and gorgeous old world architecture. Hey, there’s a reason Leonardo DiCaprio chooses this as the venue for his foundation’s annual gala every year.

Once you’re done with the wine, drive 20 minutes to Plage de Gigaro (Gigaro Beach) to swim or to the hike the gorgeous Les 3 Caps (the Three Capes).

Towns and villages in south west France

Rocamadour

rocamadour - best small towns in france

An important stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, Rocamadour is a spectacular village perched on a cliff over the river Alzou.

The village’s one main street winds up a steep hill until you reach the 216 stairs that take you to a tiny square and the eight religious sites that put the town on the map.

One of these is the statue of the Black Madonna in Chapelle Notre Dame that was visited by many kings and queens of France.

At the very top, L’Hospitalet was the final stop for pilgrims and offers stunning views of the valley below.

The village is very small with few amenities so head to the hills for lunch. At Le Belvedere you can enjoy some of delicious local goats cheese while you gaze out at one of the most beautiful towns in France.

Sarlat-la-Caneda

sarlat-la-caneda - best villages in dordogne

By Lena from Travel Monkey

This gorgeous medieval town in Dordogne department of South-Western France is next in line in becoming a proclaimed UNESCO World heritage site.

If you wish to travel back in time and experience authentic Europe more than 700 years ago, Sarlat-la-Caneda is where you have to go. Some Hollywood producers felt the same way, which brought a few movie productions representing the Mediaeval age to be filmed exactly here.

With very little car activity, Sarlat-la-Caneda is an easily walkable city, offering you a maze of little stone streets where you can get lost discovering the most amazing restaurants that will serve you great local food.

Many places, like Restaurant l’Entrepôte in particular, will offer elegant dishes made of fresh local produce, such as duck, foie gras, and a selection of cheese.

When it comes to places to stay, Hotel de la Pagézie, for example, will combine the medieval feel with great views and a splash of luxury by offering access to the pool.

Bergerac

bergerac - medieval village france

By Kylie from Our Overseas Adventures

Bergerac in South West of France is a gorgeous place to visit – think quaint riverside town, beautiful half-timbered buildings with cobbled streets, and a thriving Saturday market.

A must do is taking a trip on a traditional gabares boat up the river to admire the local scenery, and check out the statue of Cyrano de Bergerac!

If you’re a food and wine lover it’s perfect because there are many shops and restaurants showcasing the local duck specialities – in particular, confit du canard and foie gras.

The area is famous for its reds and Monbazillac wine in particular, a sweet dessert style white wine. Our favourite restaurant is L’Imparfait – traditional style bistro dining amongst a 12th-century cloistered dining room (the amuse bouche alone is to die for!).

We love to stay on the outskirts of Bergerac in the gorgeous gites at Domaine de Pémontier.

Saint-Émilion

saint emilion - best wine villages in france

By Amber from With Husband in Tow

Bordeaux is on the west coast of France, and has one of the longest, and most prestigious of wine histories. The region includes the city of Bordeaux, and includes over 50 wine appellations, or wine regions, surrounding the city.

It’s the largest wine producing area of France. It’s possible to learn about Bordeaux wines within the
city, but just a quick train ride away is Saint-Émilion.

From the train station it’s about a ten minute walk into the village. Just outside of the petite station it seems like another world.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see, each housing a centuries old stone house. It’s romantic, and very French.

The village hosts numerous wine shops where it’s possible to taste the famous Bordeaux wines in Saint-Émilion.

But, there are also a handful of wineries, or Chateaux, within walking distance of the village. For a taste of local
cuisine, try Chai Pascal, of course, with a bottle of Bordeaux!

Carcassonne

carcassonne - best places to see in france

Since before Roman times, Carcassonne was an important settlement in the Languedoc region. These days the medieval fortress is one of the largest and best preserved medieval towns in Europe and an important UNESCO world heritage site.

The citadel’s 53 beautiful turrets and towers look out over a series of moats, drawbridges and pretty cobbled streets below. Almost impossibly beautiful, this castle is said to have inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

You can spend a day wandering the small town, between the castle walls and taking in the views over the valley and the river Aude from the ramparts. Make sure your camera battery is charged, there are endless photo opportunities.

Visit the Château Comptal museum to learn about the history of the town and its fortifications before having lunch in one of the many cafes.

If you like, you can even stay inside the city walls. We enjoyed our time at the atmospheric Best Western Le Donjon.

Verteuil-sur-Charente

Verteuil-sur-Charente - picturesque villages in southwest France

By Hannah from Hannah Henderson Travel

The fairy tale village of Verteuil-sur-Charente is situated near Ruffec in the Charente region of France.

Presided over by a grand château, Verteuil is a picture postcard town set amongst the sunflower fields and pastures of the area. You can take guided tours of the château in the summer months.

The best way to experience the ambiance of the village is to have lunch at Moulin de Vertueil, the old mill on the river. It still mills its own flour, and the resulting brioche is beyond soft and delicious.

Serving traditional French food on two terraces, the restaurant at the Moulin affords fabulous views both up and down the Charente river, and up towards the château.

There are two parking areas conveniently located both in the centre of the village, and at the edge of town towards the D26 road.

If you don’t mind missing the château tour, I recommend a visiting Verteuil-sur-Charente on a week day, so you can enjoy the fairy tale without too many other tourists!

Headed to Paris? Click here to access our popular Paris food guide   

Towns and villages in central France

Auvers-sur-Oise

Auvers sur Oise - towns near paris

By Elisa from World in Paris

Auvers-sur-Oise is one of the best day trips from Paris, located only 30km north of the capital.

Auvers was home of some Impressionist painters who found in this cute and peaceful town their source of inspiration.

But Auvers’ most famous guest was Vincent Van Gogh, who spent his last two months of life in the town’s Little inn and where he painted 70 works!

His most famous paintings in Auvers are the Church of Auvers, the Town Hall that he could see from his room and some village scenes.

Today, Auvers is a place of pilgrimage for Van Gogh’s fans who want to visit the room where he died, the town’s church or the cemetery where he is buried.

Also, it is nice to walk the Impressionist Trail, linking a number of views which figured in the paintings of the Impressionist artists.

A good place to eat local food is Auberge Ravoux, the small inn where Vincent lived. A nice place to stay in Auvers is Chez Angelina, a lovely old cottage atmosphere located in the historic center.

Amboise

amboise - chateau towns in france

By Andrzej from Wanderlust Storytellers

Amboise is one of those beautiful French towns that you fall in love with in an instant. This small town in the central France’s Loire Valley was home to King Charles the VIII and even to the great Leonardo da Vinci himself.

There are plenty of places to see in and around this beautiful town. Whilst staying in Amboise we would recommend visiting Leonardo’s former home at Chateau du Clos Luce, where you can see some of the masterpieces up close.

On top of that, you cannot miss out on checking out the famous Chateau d’Amboise, where you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb. This town is also known for its quirky restaurants, amazing chocolateries and for its picturesque surroundings.

Amboise, as I mentioned before, is located in the heart of Loire Valley, which has strong historical links to the French Royal Family.

Have you ever seen the beauty and the architectural marvel of French castles? Then this is your chance! Loire Valley Chateaus are some of the world most beautiful castles ever built.

To list a few, you must make your way to see the stunning Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau and Chateau de Chaumont.

Here you will be able to walk in the footsteps of the kings and queens, and the experience is truly extraordinary! Make sure to have your camera handy!

Vendôme

vendome - towns in the loire valley

By Wendy from World Wide Wendy
This small town is situated about 150 km southwest of Paris in the Loire valley and is paradise for those who love history.

Vendôme has numerous historic buildings and you can find many remains of the old city walls. Above the old town you will find the feudal castle surrounded by a six acre park from where you can enjoy magnificent views.

Along the river you will find charming houses and little bridges. The perfect place for a romantic stroll.

L’Abbaye de la Trinité, an abbey church with a special gothic style facade, is absolutely worth a visit. Many Saint-Martin square houses have been preserved and there are many nice shops in the Rue du Change

During the summer you can take a boat trip on the Loire.

To discover the city well, there are two hiking routes, ‘Au coeur de la ville’ and ‘Flânerie vers le Château’ .
While you are there, you can visit some of the gorgeous castles of the Loire.

If you are looking for a good restaurant I can recommend Pertica.

Vézelay

Vezelay - most beautiful towns in france

By Elaine & Dave from The Whole World is a Playground

The beautiful hilltop village of Vézelay in Burgundy is one of our favourite places we’ve visited in France.

Visible from miles around as you approach due to its hilltop location, this enchanting, historic town oozes French charm.

The town itself and the Basilica of St Magdalene are designated on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Simply strolling through the town is part of the experience, taking in the shops that line the old streets selling everything from trinkets to local cheeses.

While it’s a steep climb up through the village to the Basilica, the views from the old abbey gardens of the surrounding landscape dotted with vineyards are really breathtaking.

The Basilica itself is truly stunning and on entering through the inner doors the view of the roof inside will leave you speechless.

If you’re more adventurous you can take a sunrise or sunset balloon ride with France Montgolfières which floats through Burgundy and over Vézelay and the surrounding countryside!

 

Towns and villages in eastern France

Colmar

colmar france - popular towns in france

By Jaime from Jaime Says – Purposefully Quiet Travel

Colmar is a gorgeous village about an hour away from Strasbourg in Alsace, France.

Main attractions are the gorgeous streets of the city, especially those around Petite Venise. Translated as “Little Venice,” this area of the city has a charming canal surrounded by beautiful Christmas markets in the winter, and gorgeous flowers in the spring and summer.

Much of Colmar’s history is enmeshed with the change of the ownership of the region. Less than 25 km from the German border, Colmar has bounced back and forth between German and French ownership over the last thousand years.

The German influence is seen in the buildings as well as the food. Sauerkraut, steins of beer, pretzels, and breaded pork schnitzels are popular delicacies. I enjoyed eating at Le Comptoir De Georges and Schwendi Café.

While not a large village, consider a stay near the canal. Maison Martin Jund, Hotel Saint Martin, and Hotel Quatorze are popular.

My recommendation would be to spend 48 hours in Colmar, one full day touring the city on your own, and one taking a food and wine tour with a local company like L’Alsaciette.

Chamonix

chamonix - best towns in france

By Angie from Changing Pages

Chamonix is an out door town with the imposing Mont Blanc massif as its stunning backdrop.

In winter the mountains are blanketed in snow and it becomes a destination for those who seek their thrills on skis.

In Summer window boxes are packed with trailing geraniums, balconies groan under the weight of blossom, and the streets echo with the sound of walking poles from those who make the pilgrimage here for the Tour du Mont Blanc Trek.

If you are not inclined to either activity, you do not have to stray far to feel alpine soil under your feet. A thrilling cable car to the Aiguille du Midi gives 360° views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.

Or, just find a table at one of the many cafes in town serving typical Alpine dishes. It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful setting to while away the day.

Ribeauvillé

ribeauvillé alsace france - beautiful towns in france

By Sarah from TripGourmets

Ribeauville is a beautifully preserved medieval town in the Alsace region of north-east France.

One of its main attractions are the gorgeous historical buildings, as the city has roots stretching all the way back to the 8th century. As well as traditional beamed buildings, it is also home to two Gothic churches and close to three castles.

The surrounding villages are equally stunning – the neighbouring village of Riquewihr has previously been recognised as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

However, the sights are not the only reason to visit. Ribeauvillé is in the heart of the wine-growing area of Alsace.

There are hundreds of small wine producers in the town and surroundings, some of whom have been making wine for generations.

Touring the Alsace wine route is a wonderful way to spend a day or even longer, enjoying the gorgeous medieval sights over a glass or two of pinot noir, and perhaps staying a few nights in a local wine-producing B&B.

Towns and villages in western France

Pontrieux
Pontrieux - a beautiful village in Brittany

By Annette from A French Collection

Picture perfect Pontrieux is part of the district of Guingamp and is an idyllic village for unwinding and smelling the flowers. It is one of the 22 small towns of character of Brittany and with flowers overflowing from homes and the famous 50 private wash houses it is best explored on foot.

We recommend staying overnight so you can enjoy a night time boat tour along the Trieux River to admire the illuminated washhouses along the river.

After strolling the town square with its ancient half-timbered houses and the historic port, relaxing whilst dining on regional Breton crêpes at the quaint Les Jardins du Trieux along the picturesque river is a must.

The popular La Vapeur du Trieux, a steam train with its period dressed hosts, connects Pontrieux and the beach side town Paimpol through breathtaking scenery and we suggest being camera ready as you won’t want to miss taking photos of this truly beautiful area.

Douarnenez

Douarnenez - charming small towns in brittany france

By Lena from Salut from Paris

Douarnenez, this city by the sea in the far west of France, is the perfect place to experience the classic breton spirit.

The times of the sardine fishery are over but you can still feel the strong link to the maritime life all around town.

To know more about the area, you should not miss the Port-Musée. The boat museum of Douarnenez is not only introducing you to the rich history of the area, you have also the chance to visit several ships that are laying in one of the 4 ports of the town.

The harbours of Douarnenez are not only great to stroll around, but are also the best place to purchase fresh-caught fish and delicious seafood.

When in Douarnenez, make sure to try the Kouign-Amann. This butter and sugar based pastry is famous all over France but it’s origins are leading back to La Boulangerie des Plomarc’h in Dournanez, a bakery that exists until today.

St Gildas – Houat Island

houat island brittany - french coastal towns

By Lisa from Travel Loving Family

If you find yourself in southern Brittany you would be foolish not to pop on a boat over to Houat Island, located northeast of Belle-Île.

This stunning island is just 5 km long by 1 km wide and has some of the most spectacular coastline I have ever seen. You can expect long sweeping beaches with hidden coves and a colourful village overlooking
the fishing boats in the picturesque harbour of St-Gildas.

We booked a ferry with Vedettes L’Angelus. We departed from Port Navalo at 8.30am and returned nearly 11 hours later.

The boat journey is just one hour each way which gives you nine hours to walk along the 10.5 mile coastal foot path (pack your walking boots and refreshments!), explore the village and enjoy refreshments from the village coffee shop.

You can book a guided tour if you would prefer to walk with a local guide to learn more about the island.

There are a few places to eat on Houat island but we found them to be quite expensive so I would recommend
taking a picnic.

If you fancy sailing across on a more traditional boat, check out Krog E Barz which is an old sailing boat. Passengers onboard get to help with the rigging and learn some of the basics of sailing.


I hope you enjoyed this trip through the French countryside as much as I did. It is no wonder that so many people dream of starting a new life in these idyllic country towns.

If you fell in love with Paris and then discovered the beauty of France’s cities, then it is definitely time to explore a little further into the charming back roads, hills and French countryside.

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20 thoughts on “30 of the most charming small towns in France

  1. Nili says:

    This will definitely help me in my next visit to France. Thank you. Apart from Paris, I would not have been able to decide where else to visit. Such beautiful towns and villages. #farawayfiles

  2. Annabel says:

    Reading this brings back so many memories of trips to France when I was a child on family holidays and later with my husband on gastronomic trips pre-kids. I love the sound of Porquerolles, I’ll have to add that to my list!

    • Katy Clarke says:

      Travel memories are the best. My favourite ones in France are from a road trip I took with my aunt. We nearly got stuck in the gates at Carcassonne! Thanks for stopping by Annabel

  3. Rachel says:

    How swoony is France?! I feel very lucky to have been able to visit on family holidays growing up, although I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time as I should have!

    I would also recommend Troyes – a beautiful small city with some truly outstanding food and drink options. A great base from which to explore the Champagne region 🙂

  4. Joanne @ Travel Visa UK says:

    Looks like such a beautiful destination with so much fun and exciting things to do. Thanks for sharing your article!

  5. Julie Whitmarsh says:

    Reading through I was amazed at how many of the towns we have visited over the years & it brought back some lovely memories – happily some of them are now on our doorstep & we never tire of visiting them & spending time just enjoying everything they have to offer

  6. California Globetrotter says:

    You’ve just showed me how much I SERIOUSLY need to start exploring France! We keep going East for some reason and now I want to go West! My France bucket list keeps growing and growing and growing and this certainly did not help! haha Pinned! #FarawayFiles

  7. Clare (suitcases and sandcastles) says:

    I’ve been visiting France since I was a little girl so we’re lucky enough to have travelled around quite a bit. The wonderful thing about France is that it’s so big and varied that you can always discover new and special towns and villages. There are quite a few on this list that I’d love to start exploring. #FarawayFiles

  8. Paul says:

    WOW! That’s quite a collection. I have a LOT of ground to cover in France, I think I’ve been to 2 maybe 3 of these places. Such a great list, I’ll have to file this one away – too many to try and tackle in one trip unfortunately.

  9. Angie Vincent says:

    So many gorgeous please to visit here. This is definitely a post to save for future reference. France is so accessible and we love discovering a little bit more of it each time we go. Lots more places to add to our list now! #FarawayFiles

  10. Kat says:

    Awesome compilation, Katy! I had visited only 1 small town in France many years ago – Chamonix, just a stopover for lunch when I was travelling from somewhere in Italy to Zurich. I would love to visit more of these towns such as Bordeaux, Normandy, Bayeux and of course, the impressive Mont St Michel 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  11. Janis says:

    I really enjoyed this post, I have lost count the amount of times we have toured France and there are still so many beautiful places that we have yet to see.

    We’re planning another French road trip for this September, I’ll definitely be using this post for reference. #farawayfiles

  12. Ahila says:

    Delightful post offering a smorgasbord of small towns to visit in France, Katy. I would love to visit Sarlat-La-Caneda and Bergerac someday.

  13. Rhonda Albom says:

    Your list of fabulous towns in France is a good reason to get out of Paris and explore. I visited Carcassone during the summer and although hot and crowded, it was a very interesting area. I opted not to see the medieval jousting tournament (the viewing area was in direct sun with no shade) but there was more than enough history to explore.

  14. daisythebus says:

    This is an interesting resource for those wishing to visit France. Not convinced that Colmar is a “village” (it is a large town / small city), but it is certainly charming, so I’ll let you off this time ;o) #FarawayFiles

  15. Beth says:

    What an excellent resource for seeing France! I have such a limited experience with the country so far, so this really gives me an expanded view of what all there is to experience. I am particularly interested in seeing Mont St. Michel, Giverny and the places connected to the Impressionists. Happy to have this added to my Pinterest for future reference. Thanks for taking the time to work on such a fabulous collab! #FarawayFiles

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