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Photo of the village of Gordes France taken from above. The village is visible on the left and countryside on the right. Gordes is considered one of the best places to visit in the south of France!

25+ Prettiest Small Towns in France (+ Map!)

France

While Paris is magnificent, Strasbourg is charming, and Nice is a summertime delight, there’s no doubt that exploring some of the incredibly beautiful small towns of France can definitely enhance your trip to the country–and this guide aims to round up some of the loveliest of them all!

We teamed up with a couple of dozen other travel writers for this post, asking them to contribute their favorite French village to this guide. The results vary wildly, touching all corners of the country and giving an excellent overview of where to find some of the best small towns in France to explore.

Whether you’re looking for a Provencal beauty located near lavender fields, a charming Alsatian town to explore during Christmas, an idyllic spot along the coast of Normandy, or something else entirely, these small French towns bound to have something to offer.

Kate in a blue skirt in Goult, France. There's a stone building with blue shutters to her left, and she's facing away from the camera. Goult is one of the best places to visit in the south of France.

Adorable Small Villages in Northeast France

Kaysersberg

From Jacquie of Flashpacking Family

Kaysersberg in Alsace may be small but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most famous villages in France. It is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France and in 2017 it was voted Village préféré des Français.

It earns its status as one of Alsace’s fairytale villages with its colorful, timber-framed houses that are seen throughout the region. But what makes Kaysersberg a little more special than its enchanting neighbors, Eguisheim and Riquewihr, is that it is much less busy. Add to this the beautiful River Weiss running through the center of the village, the 800-year-old Kaysersberg Castle looking down from above and rolling green hills clad in vines surrounding the village.

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Make sure to take the steps up to the top of the castle for beautiful views over the village and the surrounding countryside or drive up into the vines just outside of Kaysersberg for even more impressive views.

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Kaysersberg is situated at an equal distance between Strasbourg and Basel and would make an excellent weekend getaway from Paris.

Kaysersberg France in Alsace with colorful buildings on either side of a flowing river. Kaysersberg is one of the prettiest small towns in France

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois

From Kerri of Beer and Croissants

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is located in the heart of the Burgundy wine-producing region. Its position high on a hill in the Auxois Valley made it the perfect spot for one of the area’s strategic fortresses, the Châteauneuf Castle.   

Today the castle is the main reason why visitors are attracted to this small town.  With a resident population of under 100, it is quintessentially French with its narrow, cobbled laneways lined with the houses of a bygone era.  Many of these medieval buildings from the 14th-century still exist, some of which have been turned into small art galleries or gourmet food stores selling locally produced items.  It is perfect for spending a few hours just walking around.  In the summertime, many of the houses are adorned with beautiful flowers and ivy.

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The northern entrance to the town is where one of the original gates to this former walled town can be seen.  The gate is also a marker for the access point to one of the best views over the valley.  Follow the signs to Pont de Vue and La Croix de Mission to find the lookout.

If you can’t get enough of this town, consider also going to the nearby town of Vandenesse-en-Auxois.  Located right on the Bourgogne Canal, it offers a majestic view of the fairytale castle from ground level.

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Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is easily accessible by vehicle from two of Burgundy’s most prominent cities, Dijon and Beaune.  The short distance takes around 45 minutes from either location and as such makes for a perfect road trip in the Burgundy region.

Châteauneuf-en-Auxois as seen from above, with the fortress prominent in the photo and the village spilling out to the left
Photo provided by Kerri of Beer and Croissants. Reused with permission.

Riquewihr

From Josie of Josie Wanders

The village of Riquewihr in the Alsace region of France is truly adorable. The walled town center is filled with traditional half-timbered houses that are painted in all colors of the rainbow.  In spring and summer, they are covered in wisteria and other vines and it’s such a romantic place to just sit and enjoy.

Being in the Alsace region, Riquewihr is nestled in amongst wineries, and tasting some of the local wines can be done right on the main street. There’s also plenty of locally produced food too. Look out for delicious bakeries, cheese shops, and small goods.

There is a small museum located in town, and one section of the medieval walls can be accessed to explore, but just wandering the streets is captivating enough for a relaxed visit. If you stay overnight, look out for the nightly light show at the upper gate of the town.

Riquewihr is also located on the Grand Crus, the Alsace wine trail so it is a great location for a hike amongst the vineyards if you are looking for a more active visit.

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Riquewihr is less than one hour from Strasbourg or twenty minutes from Colmar, so is a perfect day trip from either of these larger cities.

Kate Storm spinning in front of a clock tower in Riquewihr, one of the best day trips in Alsace!

Lovely Northwestern Small Towns in France

Etretat

From Claire of ZigZag On Earth

Etretat is one of the most beautiful places in Normandy and in France overall.

This small French town, surrounded by impressive white cliffs, has inspired many artists through the centuries, including Claude Monet.

In Etretat, you will appreciate the typical brick houses from the region and a few more ancient ones. But what makes Etretat special is the surrounding nature.

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It is located in a valley ending with a beach, and some of the best things to do are to walk to the top of the cliffs on both sides for some of the most magnificent views of the 80-meter-high cliffs made of white chalk, visit the famous sea stack called l’Aiguille Creuse (meaning hollow needle), and check out several arches including Manneporte, which stretches 50 meters high!

Plus, at low tide, you can enjoy those structures with a perspective from below thanks to tunnels dug inside the cliffs.

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Etretat is only a 2h30min drive from Paris. Therefore, it can be visited as a day trip. However, it deserves at least 2 days for you to discover its beauty.

White cliffs of Etretat with bright blue water to the left side of the photo. Etretat is one of the best places to visit in France

Honfleur

From Lee of Stacey of One Trip at a Time

Honfleur, a romantic picturesque little port, is the highlight of a trip along the Normandy coast. Thankfully it escaped the bombs of WWII, so it retains its cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and pretty harbor that is lined with inviting outdoor cafés.

Historically Honfleur is important as it was from here that Samuel de Champlain sailed in the early 1600s to North America and founded Quebec City. More recently it was very popular in the 19th-century as a magnet for artists, such as Boudin and Monet, who propped up their easels to paint the colorful scenes of the Vieux Bassin.

day in Honfleur could include visits to the wooden Ste. Catherine Church with a roof that looks like the upturned hull of a ship, the stone Lieutenance which was once the King’s Lieutenant residence and includes the Porte de Caen (a city gate), or the Musée de la Marine housed in a 14th-century church which traces the history of the port.

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Honfleur is about 2.5 hours from Paris and about 20 minutes from the nearby port city of Le Havre. This makes it both a popular day trip from the capital and for cruise passengers spending a day in port in Le Havre.

Harbor of Honfleur, one of the prettiest small towns in France. a small red boat is in the foreground and a line of buildings in the background
Photo provided by Lee and Stacey of One Trip at a Time. Reused with permission.

Giverny

From Gabrijela of Under Flowery Sky

The picturesque French village of Giverny is an amazing getaway from the busy streets of Paris. Monet’s famous gardens in Giverny will offer you the gift of paintings, of impressionism that rules here. Who wouldn’t like to be caught in such a fantasy?

The train doesn’t go directly to Giverny but to Vernon where the tourist train will await. It’s needed to buy train tickets online much in advance as it’s much cheaper. Tickets for the Monet’s garden can also be purchased online which is advisable because of the long lines.

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Gardens are divided into two sections, one of which includes the house itself immersed into the colorful world of flowers. The popular lake with the bridge and occasional lilies is located on the other side of the road, also known as the Japanese water garden.

Giverny contains also the Museum of Impressionism as well as many galleries around the villages and cute restaurants or bars. Some hiking opportunities are easy to make through the charming countryside leading also to Vernon. Vernon is also a lovely town to roam around.

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Giverny is located about 1.5 hours from Paris via train (or less, depending on the route) and is a popular day trip from the capital.

Famous green footbridge in Monet's garden in Giverney with blooming wisteria stretching over the top of the bridge.

Sainte-Mère-Église

From Stephanie of History Fangirl

Many people come to Normandy to see the D-Day museums, cemeteries, and the beaches of Normandy where the Allied troops began their invasion of France and their onward march towards Germany. However, there are a few villages where important D-Day events took place.

One French village you don’t want to leave off your D-Day itinerary is Sainte-Mère-Église. Located just an hour from Cherbourg, Sainte-Mère-Église played a historic part in Operation Overlord. Because of its location, the Allies expected that the Germans would need to come through here in order to counter their beach attack.

Thus, in the early morning on June 6, the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions landed here and occupied the town. Paratroopers landed in the town and wrested it from the Germans, holding them off for over a day before reinforcements could come in and assist.

While here make sure to visit the town’s church. This is where American John Steele got his parachute caught on the church. He hung off the church and played dead for hours before being taken by the Germans as a prisoner of war. During D-Day celebrations today, the town decorates the church with a paratrooper in his honor.

Combine This Small Town in France With…

You can easily visit Sainte-Mère-Église from Cherbourg, Bayeaux, or Callais.

Front facade of the church in Sainte-Mère-Église France
Photo provided by Stephanie Craig of History Fangirl. Reused with permission.

Senlis

From Elisa of World in Paris

Senlis is a picturesque small town and one of the easiest day trips from Paris. It is located 50km north of Paris, not far from Château de Chantilly. In fact, it is possible to visit both Château de Chantilly and Senlis on a full-day trip from Paris.

Senlis is a medieval town with a very interesting history. It was the place where Hugh Capet was elected king by his barons in 987 so it became a royal city until the reign of Charles X.

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Visitors to Senlis still can see the remains of the Capets’ palace and other constructions related to them. From medieval times there’s also Notre Dame, the town’s gothic cathedral built in the 12th century, and the winding cobbled streets named after medieval trades. These streets are lined with mansions mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries along with some beautiful houses.

Senlis is a great place for a leisurely stroll to admire its rich heritage, perhaps with a break in a cafe-terrace for a drink in the sun. The town also has 3 small but interesting museums about history, art, and archaeology.

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Senlis is easily visited as a day trip from Paris.

Classic French building with shutters in Senlis France with greenery to the left

Mont Saint-Michel

This tiny island is one of the most popular villages in France, and its sheer beauty, impressive history, and unique location make it easy to see why.

Located on a small tidal island where the Cousenon River spills into the Atlantic Ocean, once upon a time, part of Mont Saint-Michel’s fortification came from the fact that it could only be accessed at low tide!

Today, access to the small island is available year-round, where visitors eagerly explore the charming village and historical abbey.

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Mont Saint-Michel is most easily accessed by car, though you can arrive by train as well. The village makes an excellent overnight trip from Paris.

Mont St. Michel in northern France with its reflection showing in the water in the bottom half of the photo

Beautiful Small Towns in Southeastern France

Villefranche-sur-Mer

From Veronika of Travel Geekery

Villefranche-sur-Mer is a picturesque seaside village located on the outskirts of Nice on the French Riviera. It’s a popular weekend getaway for Nice residents since it features a lot nicer pebble beaches.

The village is laid back and relatively quiet. The historical center is a maze of narrow winding streets that open up to little charming squares. On one of them, the impressive St. Michael’s church stands. A nearby chapel of St. Elisabeth has a wonderfully painted front façade.

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For the best views of Villefranche Bay, head to the Villefranche Citadel, which now houses several museums. From its gardens, you’ll be able to see the beautiful seafront. Sometimes, monumental cruise ships anchor in Villefranche Bay, since the water is deep even quite close to the shore. It’s a unique sight!

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You can easily visit Villefranche on a day trip from Nice since it’s located only a 15-minute ride away. 

Villefranche-sur-Mer as seen from across the water with sailboats and water in the foreground. Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the prettiest villages in France

Annecy

With its winding canals, colorful architecture, incredible food scene, and perfect location just south of Geneva and next door to Lake Annecy, the charming village of Annecy is definitely one of the best small towns in France.

While you’re there, be sure to visit the Chateau d’Annecy and beautiful Lake Annecy–you can even rent a paddleboat to enjoy the lake during the summer.

You’ll also want to make time for snapping photos of Annecy’s most iconic view at the Palais de l’Isle, wandering aimlessly through the Vielle Ville, and lots of long, lingering meals!

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Annecy’s delicious Alpine cuisine features plenty of delicious French cheese: definitely don’t leave town without trying a raclette and a tartiflette.

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You can visit Annecy on a day trip to Geneva, but spending at least one night in town will definitely enhance your experience. If possible, plan your visit for a Tuesday, Friday, or Sunday, as these are Annecy’s market days!

Chateau d'Annecy as seen from between blooming tulips over a canal. Annecy is one of the best small towns in France.

Roussillon

From Hanna of Solar Powered Blonde

Roussillon is one of the most beautiful towns in Provence. Perched on a hilltop, it has a very famous main square, Place de la Mairie, surrounded by many streets to wander along.

The main square has the signature red brick of Roussillon. The red bricks come from the Ochre deposits in the earth.

There are lots of lovely things to do in Roussillon! Follow the Ochre Trail starting from the edge of the town through orange and red cliffs either side. There are plenty of lovely cafes and some great viewpoints around Roussillon. Be sure to stop at a cafe right on the edge of the hilltop for the best views, and a Croque Monsieur! There are also a few art galleries for art lovers. Spend a few hours wandering around and stopping for lunch. 

Moustiers Sainte Marie is around 1.5 hours from Roussillon and well worth the trip. Also a quaint town, and this time perched right on the side of a cliff. Moustiers Sainte Marie is a very unique town due to its placement on the cliff and the river that splits the town in two, with a small bridge to cross over. 

Combine This Small Town in France With…

Roussillon is located in the Luberon Valley of Provence and is easy to combine with a day in other popular Provencal towns like Gordes and Bonnieux.

Photo of a blonde woman in a white dress standing in front of colorful red and yellow buildings in Roussillon
Photo provided by Hanna of Solar Powered Blonde. Reused with permission.

Eze

From Angela of Where Angie Wanders

The charming village of Eze is a hidden gem along the French Riviera. This medieval hilltop village is fascinating to visit with its cobbled streets, artisan shops, and charming cafes and restaurants.  

Eze is like something from a fairy-tale with tiny doors and baby-blue window shutters offering protection from the intense sunshine. Beautiful flowering plants trail down centuries-old stone walls and cafes offer stunning patio areas to enjoy refreshments.

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The village is perched at the top of a very steep hill so be sure to wear flat shoes for your ascent to the top. When you reach the summit, the 360-degree views are worth the climb and the botanical gardens perched there are definitely worth a visit.

On your descent stop off at the 5-star Chateau Eze to enjoy a coffee or maybe lunch on their veranda. The view from the hotel is almost as breath-taking as those at the summit.

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Eze is an excellent day trip from Nice by train in under 1 hour or alternatively by car in 25 minutes. Both methods will take you along the stunning coastline of the Cote D’Azur before your arrival in Eze.

View of Eze from above, with a French flag visible above the village and the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Eze is one of the best small towns in France.
Photo provided by Angela of Where Angie Wanders. Reused with permission.

Oppède Le Vieux

From Nadine of Le Long Weekend

Unlike many other villages in Provence, Oppède le Vieux has somehow managed to stay under the tourist radar and has remained wonderfully authentic, both in its appearance and in its daily rhythm.

Wandering through the stone-clad streets is like stepping back in time, to a place less hurried and steeped in mystique.

Wander up towards the ancient castle ruins and you’ll find entire houses enveloped by nature, left to decay beautifully on the side of the old stone staircase. The 12th century Notre-Dame d’Alidon chapel still stands intact, though, and it cuts a striking figure against the agrarian backdrop.

In the center of the village, you’ll find just two eateries and a couple of guesthouses, meaning life here is never bustling. But visit on a Saturday morning when the petite market takes place and you’ll find a convivial mood takes over the town.

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Oppède le Vieux makes an easy day trip from the cultural city of Avignon, which sits less than an hour to the west. It’s a fabulous place to visit on a tour of the Luberon Valley.

Oppede le Vieux as seen along a small pathway with stone fences on both sides. Oppede le Vieux is one of the prettiest French villages.
Photo provided by Nadine of Le Long Weekend. Reused with permission.

Tignes

From Skye of Skye Travels

High in the French Alps and on the border of Italy is the quaint skiing village of Tignes. This village hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics freestyle skiing and the European Winter X Games in 2010 and 2011.

The valley is surrounded by ski slopes which pull in quite a big local and international crowd each year, even though the village itself only has a population of 2,000.

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If you visit during the summer, you can go mountain biking down any of the dozens of mountain trails. If you have a bit more time, Tignes is located on the GR 5 Alpine Trail and you can hike part of it and spend a night in a refuge.

It’s also worth taking a walk down to Lac de Chervil. In WWII, the French built a dam on the valley, creating a reservoir and flooding the original village. If you bring your diving gear, you can see the eerie remains of the buildings.

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Although Tignes is on the very edge of France, you can reach it from Lyon in 3 hours or Chambery in 2 hours.

Village of Tignes France in the left of the photo, with most of the image including a mountain lakes and mountains on the right side of the photo. This image is of Tignes in summer.
Photo provided by Skye of Skye Travels. Reused with permission.

Cassis

From Stella Jane of Around the World in 24 Hours

Cassis is one of the most adorable and charming villages in Provence, an area that is world-famous for its charming villages. There are so many enjoyable things to do in Cassis, from relaxing on the beach to rambling around the tiny streets taking in the architecture and quaint fountains. One of the prettiest buildings in Cassis is the City Hall, known as the Hotel de Ville in French. 

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The most famous thing to do in Cassis is pick up a tour boat in the harbor and take a ride around the gorgeous Calanques of Provence. These Calanques are intricate inlets made out of limestone scattered around the coast of Provence. You absolutely must see them on your visit to the region!

After your boat trip, kick back with a relaxing drink in one of the cafes right on Cassis’s harbor. Just don’t order a creme de cassis, which has no connection to Cassis the town. Try a glass of local rose instead. 

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Cassis makes an excellent day trip from Marseille as it is less than an hour’s drive away.

Woman in floral dress standing in front of Port Miou near Cassis Provence France

Chamonix

From Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life

Chamonix is a lovely little alpine town situated at the junction of France, Italy, and Switzerland. The majority of Chamonix sits in a narrow valley at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps and all of Western Europe.

Because of its location, Chamonix has become a haven for skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts and was actually the site of the first-ever Winter Olympics in 1924. However, it’s in the summer when Chamonix really shines. There is a long list of things to do in Chamonix in the summer but you’ll find outdoor adventures like hiking, trail running, paragliding, and climbing at the top.

Down in the town you can stroll the beautiful streets with views of the Alps on all sides of you. You can enjoy alpine classics like fondue and raclette, a staple of the Savoie region of France where Chamonix is located. You can ride an old mountain train to Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier, and even go inside it. But the most popular Chamonix activity is riding the world’s highest vertical ascent cable car to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, a 12,605-foot peak with incredible views of the Mont Blanc massif. 

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At just an hour away, Chamonix is easily visited from Geneva, Switzerland. You can also reach Chamonix from Paris in about 3 hours.

Photo of a canal in Chamonix in summer, with blooming pink flowers in the foreground and a snow-capped mountain in the background. Chamonix is one of the best small towns in France.
Photo provided by Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life. Reused with permission.

Goult

Tucked into a quiet corner of Provence’s Luberon Valley, not far from more popular spots like Gordes and Bonnieux, sits the adorable, charming French town of Goult.

Goult gets far fewer tourists than its more famous neighbors, and while there is very little to do in town (this is a place much more about the atmosphere than a checklist of touristic highlights), it is stunningly beautiful, an incredibly relaxing place to visit, and an ideal spot for savoring a slow afternoon in France.

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If you would like to see Goult at its busiest, plan your visit for a Thursday to enjoy Goult’s phenomenal weekly market.

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Goult is an easy addition to a Luberon Valley itinerary and is located about a 15-minute drive from Bonnieux and a 20-minute drive from Gordes.

Kate Storm walking down a narrow street in Goult during our France road trip. There's a pink building to her left and she's wearing a long blue skirt.

Gordes

From Ann of The Road is Life

Gordes is without a doubt one of the prettiest and most popular little villages to visit in France. Located in the beautiful Luberon Valley of Provence, this little hilltop village is truly like a scene from a fairy tale. Wandering through the narrow alleys and side streets of the village is one of the best things to do. Around each corner, you will find cute cafes, bakeries, little shops, and stunning viewpoints that look out over the valley below.

Every Tuesday morning, the town center of Gordes comes to life with the weekly market. Colorful stalls are set up through the streets selling fresh produce, clothing, jewelry, lavender sachets, delicious cheese, olives and so much more! If you happen to be in Gordes on a Tuesday, you really cannot miss out on the Gordes market!

Another must-do is seeing the Gordes town viewpoint at sunrise or sunset. The view of the village lit up in the most beautiful lighting of the day is truly a magical sight.

Combine This Small Town in France With…

Visiting Gordes makes an excellent day trip option from Avignon or Marseille, being just over a one hour drive from both cities.

Kate in a blue skirt on a ledge overlooking Gordes, one of the best places to visit in the South of France

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is absolutely one of the best small towns in France to visit, featuring colorful streets, a beautiful carousel, an incredible weekly market, and a phenomenal location at the foot of the Alpilles.

The village is perhaps best known for hosting a very famous resident for one year of his life: Vincent Van Gogh lived at the local Saint Paul Monastery for a year, where he painted Starry Night and other masterpieces.

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You can follow Van Gogh’s steps through Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, but even if you’re not interested in art history, this charming town is bound to delight.

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Saint-Rémy-de-Provence can easily be fit into a Provence itinerary that includes other Alpilles villages like Les Baux-de-Provence. 

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St. Remy is a colorful piece of heaven. 💜💛💙 . All the villages of Provence have their charms, but we were especially captivated by beautiful, lively, and artistic St. Remy . Van Gogh once spent a year as a self-admitted patient in an asylum here, but the artistic spirit of the place extends far beyond him: even today, it seems, there is a gallery around every corner in St. Remy . . . . #stremy #stremydeprovence #alpilles #provence #provencal #ig_provence #france #ig_france #franceroadtrip #ilovefrance #discoverfrance #visitfrance #visitprovence #colorfulstreets #sheisnotlost #gltlove #photosinbetween #theprettycities #france🇫🇷 #provencestyle #france_vacations #france_focus_on #traveldeeper #explorefrance #exploreeverything #dametraveler #mytinyatlas #openmyworld #thetravelwomen #traveldreamescape

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Sassenage

From Paul of The Two That Do

Located just 7km northwest of Grenoble in the southeast of France,  the village of Sassenge boasts an enviable position close to the verdant Vercors Natural Park and is one of the best small towns in France to visit.

Sitting dramatically at the base of an imposing cliff adorable Sassenage may be small in stature but it is rich in attractions.

Visitors attracted by the Sassenage Cistern system of caves, charming waterfalls, and the magnificent Sassenage Château. Built between 1662 and 1669 the Château is a magnificent example of 17th-century French architecture and its adjacent 19th Century designed park perfect for evening strolls beneath majestic cedar, walnut, and red maple trees.

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Seemingly like most of rural France Sassenage is also famed for rich gastronomic heritage. Head to Quai du Furon on the banks of Le Furon river in the heart of the ancient village for the most scrumptious steak frites and vin rouge.

With all this splendor and its close proximity to the fabulous Grenoble-Bastille cable car offering unsurpassed views over the Isère region Sassenage is one of those unpretentious and charming villages you will remember forever.

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Sassenage makes a lovely day trip from Grenoble.

Small street in Sassenage France with a small slice of river visible to the right of the photo
Photo provided by Paul of The Two That Do. Reused with permission.

Stunning Small Towns in Central France

Rocamadour

From Hannah of That Adventurer

Rocamadour is a small, beautiful, and unique looking town in the Dordogne Valley region of south-central France. What makes this small French village unique is the way it has been built into the side of a rock face.

Known as the “Sacred City”, Rocamadour is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been an important destination for pilgrims walking the St James’ Way for centuries. On any given day, you’ll likely see pilgrims climbing up the town’s 216 steps on their knees to the Sanctuary and its 8 chapels where they worship the Black Madonna (Vierge Noire).

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As a visitor, you can’t pass up the chance to walk the 216 yourself and admit the beauty of this 12th Century chapel. Although, you can also take the elevator if that sounds better to you! The castle on top of the cliff that was built to protect the Sanctuary below is another must-see as you learn about the history and admire the views.

Nearby, one of the best things to do in the Dordogne Valley, The Padirac Caves, are worth visiting. The largest caves in Europe are so big that you can even enjoy a boat ride along the Lac de la Pluie once inside!

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Rocamadour is 2 hours away from the beautiful city of Toulouse and a 3-hour drive from Bordeaux making it ideal as a day trip or weekend escape from the city!

View of Rocamadour, one of the prettiest villages in France, built into a cliffside

Gorgeous Villages in Southwest France

Bruniquel

From Carolyn of Holidays to Europe

As a member of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (most beautiful villages in France) organization, you’d expect Bruniquel to be adorable – and it certainly is.  This tiny hilltop town is located in the Tarn-et-Garonne department and walking its ancient streets, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time.

Bruniquel’s main attractions, its two castles, sit side by side at the top of the town, overlooking a thickly-treed valley below.  Dating from the 12th century, the ‘Old’ Castle, is open to visitors who can explore a number of rooms including the old kitchen and dungeon, and a 20-meter-long Renaissance style viewing gallery.  The ‘New’ Castle is home to a museum that displays prehistoric artifacts that were found in nearby caves. 

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The village’s cobbled narrow streets are lined with immaculately kept houses. Their ancient stone facades feature typically French blue-shuttered windows and are covered with vines. Look out for the pretty belfry and the medieval arched gateways as you stroll the quiet alleys. 

Apart from a couple of galleries and restaurants, there’s very little commerce in Bruniquel, and that indeed is part of its charm. 

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Bruniquel makes the perfect day trip from Toulouse as it’s just an hour’s drive away.

Bruniquel France as seen from above with its castle prominently features in the bottom right of the photo

Carcassone

From Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan

If you’re looking for a small town in France that looks like it jumped right out of the pages of a fairytale book, Carcassonne is hard to beat.

Perched strategically high up on a hill, this location has been fortified and occupied ever since Roman times, but it’s the medieval incarnation of Carcassonne that makes it such a rewarding destination today.

However, the town walls and the 52 towers that punctuate it were heavily restored in the 19th century, and in some aspects, it now represents what people then imagined a medieval town to look like, rather than what it actually looked like in its medieval heyday.

Nevertheless, wandering the cobblestone streets of the fortified Cité and gazing up at the pointed slate roofs of the towers certainly feels like stepping back in time. You can wander around most of the Cité for free, but it’s worth paying the 9.50 euro admission fee to enter the Count’s Castle, known as the “Château Comtal” in French.

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Carcassonne is easily visited as a day trip from Toulouse, although it’s a good idea to stay overnight so you can see it in the early morning and evening without the crowds of daytrippers.

Carsaconne France, with the fortress visible on the left side of the photo and the village below it on the right

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

From Pauline of Beeloved City

If you are looking for a beautiful and historic village in southwest France, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie will be perfect for you!

This medieval village is perched on the edge of a cliff, a bit like Rocamadour, and offers both wonderful architecture and views over the river Lot. It was awarded as one of the “most beautiful villages in France”.

You can wander around the narrow streets and discover what an authentic french village is really like. 

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Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is home to a lot of artists and you will find a few local galleries. Feel free to walk in and enjoy the art pieces. 

It’s also a great place to get a nice meal. Food in the southwest is very traditional. If you never had foie gras, that would be a good place to try it. A cassoulet or confit de canard would also be a good option. And of course, let’s not forget the cheese! You can opt for a cabecou (round-shaped goat cheese).

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Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a popular day trip from Toulouse. Ideally, you will need to rent a car but you can also choose to go on a tour.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie as seen from across the valley. One of the most beautiful villages in France.
Photo provided by Kerri of Beer and Croissants. Reused with permission.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

From Alya and Campbell of Stingy Nomads

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is one of the loveliest small towns in France and is located a mere 8 kilometers from the border with Spain. The history of the town dates back to 1177. For centuries the town was an important point on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

St. Jean is located at the foothill of the pass over the Pyrenees that connects France and Spain. Thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe stopped here on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Now the Camino Frances, one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in Europe, starts here. 

Pilgrimage is not the only reason tourists come to St. Jean. It’s a picturesque town in the Pyrenees, surrounded by the emerald fields and lush green forest. There are plenty of historical sites to see here such as the Citadel, the Medieval Wall surrounding the town, Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont,  a 14th-century Gothic church.

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St. Jean is a great place to spend a day wandering around the narrow cobbled streets, enjoying lunch or coffee with a freshly-baked croissant at one of the restaurants, exploring the Citadel, and buying souvenirs. 

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Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port can be visited as a day trip from Biarritz/Bayonne. There is a direct daily train to St.Jean from Bayonne. The journey takes 1 hour 20 minutes. 

Map of the Best Small Towns in France

2 photos one on top of the other: Giverny's garden and the harbor of cassis. Black and pink text on a white background reads "25 unforgettable french villages plus map to find them"

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Kate has been traveling the world full-time for more than 3 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

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