1. Locronan, Brittany
A historic hemp-weaving village, Locronan is known as after Saint Ronan, the Irish hermit who based it within the center ages. Within the 15th century, the dukes of Brittany poured cash into constructing the placing Gothic church. Go to the Chapelle du Pénity, which homes Saint Ronan’s tomb.
Throughout the Renaissance, the village grew to become well-known for its weaving business, offering canvas sails for the East India Firm and the French navy (go to the Musée d’Artwork et d’Histoire). The East India Firm’s places of work nonetheless stand on the village sq., in addition to 17th-century retailers’ dwellings. Locronan is usually used as a movie location: A Very Lengthy Engagement (with Audrey Tautou and Jodie Foster) was shot right here, as was Roman Polanski’s Tess.
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The 16th-century Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle has stained-glass home windows by 20th-century painter Alfred Manessier. A sacred path on the hillside attracts pilgrims, there are nice views from Locronan mountain, and the Nevet woods have pretty walks.Eat Au Coin du Feu has two programs from €13.50; Breton crêpes are a speciality – attempt Chez Annie simply up the road.Keep Within the countryside a kilometre away, Mme Camus is a five-room B&B with doubles from €60.
2. Rochefort-en-Terre, Brittany

{Photograph}: Reinhold Tscherwitschke/Alamy
Midway between the Gulf of Morbihan and Merlin’s Forêt de Brocéliande, this medieval village was as soon as a roche fort (stronghold), controlling commerce routes because of its place on a rocky outcrop above deep valleys. Traces of its affluent historical past (additionally linked to slate mining) will be seen within the higher village, with its lined market, 12th-century church, medieval citadel, 19th-century chateau, and 16th- and 17th-century mansions.
The city grew to become a favorite with artists early final century, because of US portraitist Alfred Klots, who purchased the citadel and began a convention of floral window bins that continues right this moment. Occasions embrace summer time concert events and a medieval truthful.Eat Dine on native produce (and purchase it) at À l’heure de l’Apéro ( – the seafood platter is a speciality.Keep Le Pélican, an inn relationship from the 16th century, has doubles from €80 B&B and a superb restaurant
3. Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Normandy

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On the Sarthe river within the Mancelles Alps, the village was based by Saint Céneri, an Italian monk who constructed a monastery right here within the seventh century. It was later burned by the Normans, however the 11th-century church on the positioning stays, its saddleback roof and tower rising from the timber. Inside, 12th-century murals have lately been restored.
Fairly homes across the church and alongside the river have been preserved, as has a beautiful 15th-century chapel. The village has charmed many well-known painters, together with Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin, and charcoal portraits of artists and villagers, sketched by candlelight, are on show on the Auberge des Soeurs Moisy (now a museum), which they frequented. River canoeing and visits to the gardens at La Mansonière are really useful.Eat Auberges des Peintres, a reasonably restaurant within the centre, serves snails and creme brulee (two-course menu €16).Keep A riverside cottage with an outside pool 3km away, La Cassine sleeps 4 from €105 an evening.
4. Montrésor, Loire Valley

{Photograph}: Tuul & Bruno Morandi/Getty Pictures
On a riverbank an hour from Excursions, Montrésor is a fairytale village with a wealthy historical past. The stays of an 11th-century fortress are seen, however it’s the spectacular Renaissance castlethat dominates. The church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste homes an Annunciation by Philippe de Champaigne (1602–1674). In 1849, Xavier Branicki, a Polish depend and pal of Napoleon III, restored the citadel and stuffed it with artwork: sculptures by Pierre Vaneau, plus Italian Renaissance and Dutch work.
Branicki gave his title to one of many streets, whose homes are partly lower into the rock behind. The wool market, the Halle de Cardeux, has been restored as a cultural centre and exhibition area. The 16th-century Logis du Chancelier, which has a watchtower, homes the city corridor. A riverside stroll, Balcons de l’Indrois, offers fantastic views of the village, and its Jardinier Bridge was constructed by Gustav Eiffel’s workshop. Eat The principle place to eat is pleasant Café de la Ville, which does staples similar to entrecôte-frites (€19.90) and croque-monsieur.Keep Le Moulin de Montrésor is a transformed 19th-century mill with an outside pool and antique-filled doubles from €80 B&B.
5. Pesmes, Burgundy

{Photograph}: Heinz Linke/Getty Pictures
A historic village on the Ognon river, picturesque Pesmes is approached by way of an avenue of 100-year-old aircraft timber, its 17th-century citadel mirrored within the calm waters. Coveted within the center ages for its strategic place between Grey on the River Saône and regional capital Dole, it was by turns Frankish, Germanic, Burgundian and Spanish, earlier than changing into French within the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715).
The village bears witness to this wealthy previous: winemakers’ homes line the stone streets, and the 13th-century church of Saint-Hilaire has a formidable bell tower with a multicoloured tiled roof. There’s additionally a ruined citadel and two medieval gateways. The 17th-century forge, operational till 1993, is now a museum.Eat Les Jardins Gourmands has a riverside terrace, and a €25 four-course menu.Keep Household-owned Hôtel de France within the village centre has an honest restaurant and doubles for €50 (breakfast €6).
6. Château-Chalon, Jura

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Overlooking vineyards within the Seille valley, Château-Chalon grew up round a Benedictine abbey. The Romanesque church of Saint-Pierre and the ruined preserve of a citadel are highlights. The streets are lined with winemakers’ homes, the place the Savagnin grape is used to make vin jaune and the Maison de la Haute-Seille homes an interactive museum on wine. The outdated cheese manufacturing facility has excursions explaining how unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese comté is made. The previous college will be visited too.
Past the village are strolling and biking trails by means of vineyards and fairly countryside. There are additionally gourmand walks and several other festivals in the summertime, with a sound and lightweight present in July.Eat Auberge du Roc is the one restaurant within the village, however the meals is sweet. Trout and hen (round €16) are staples, and the views are superb.Keep La Tour Charlemagne has a pool and 4 rooms in a 17th-century tower from €100 B&B.
7. Riquewihr, Alsace

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Identified for its fragrant wines and distinctive Alsatian structure, Riquewihr is a placing village 65km from Strasbourg. Its slender streets are lined with 16th-century half-timbered homes with carved window-frames and flower-decked balconies . A few of the store indicators are the work of Jean-Jacques “Hansi” Waltz (1873–1951), an Alsatian illustrator and caricaturist, and there’s a museum of his artwork. For native historical past, try the Musée du Dolder in its 13th-century tower (nice views). Close by are the Thieves Tower museum, with dungeons and torture chamber, and the Maison de Vigneron, with outdated winemaking tools. From the village, observe the Grands Crus wine path on foot or by bike.Eat The Saint Nicolas resort’s restaurant Manala serves native fare similar to pork on choucroute (€17).Keep The 16th-century Resort de la Couronne has beamed doubles from €67.50 (breakfast from €6).
8. Domme, Dordogne

A gate within the medieval fortifications of Domme. {Photograph}: Getty Pictures
On a cliff excessive above the Dordogne, Domme has distinctive views over the encircling countryside. Some of the stunning bastides (fortified villages) in south-west France, it has a turbulent historical past. Ramparts, fortified gates and towers – which served as prisons, first for the Templars within the early 14th century, then for French and English troopers throughout the hundred years conflict – nonetheless stand.
An entrance to caves used for shelter throughout occasions of bother lies below the primary sq., Place de la Halle – the 450-metre community of tunnels will be explored, and a glass-fronted carry takes you up the cliff face to avenue stage afterwards. High-quality homes line the streets, just like the 13th-century Maison du Batteur de Monnaie and the previous courthouse. The Belvedere de la Barre is a superb viewpoint, and Château de Monfort, La Roque-Gageac village and the Jardins de Marqueyssac are amongst points of interest close by. Eat Le Restaurant Cabanoix & Chataîgnes gives seasonal specialities utilizing native produce from duck breast to home made paté (three-course market menu €17).Keep L’Esplanade (, a family-run resort and restaurant, has a terrace with stunning views of the valley and doubles from €80.
9. Estaing, Languedoc

Saint-Fleuret Church in Estaing. {Photograph}: Jaubert French Assortment/Alamy
On the banks of the River Lot, Estaing is dominated by its 11th-century citadel. Constructed by the illustrious Estaing household (former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing acquired it in 2005), it mixes Romanesque, gothic and renaissance types and is open to the general public in summer time. The village is on the Camino de Santiago, and its 16th-century bridge is Unesco-listed. Its slender streets have hardly modified over the centuries.
In summer time, there’s a son et lumière present on Wednesdays; a Nuit Lumière competition on 15 August sees the village lit by candles; and there’s a medieval weekend in September. With mountains, rivers and gorges close by, Estaing is an effective base, and there are mountain climbing trails from the village.Eat Brasserie du Château overlooks the river and serves good native fare (trout or steak, say), with three programs from €30.Keep Auberge Saint-Fleuret has a restaurant, pool, backyard and 14 doubles from €112 (breakfast €9).
10. Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye, Rhone Valley

{Photograph}: Olivier Guardian/Alamy
In rolling countryside near the Vercors massif, the abbey of Saint-Antoine watches over the village that bears its title. The abbey was based within the 13th century to deal with the relics of Saint Anthony of Egypt, and pilgrims flocked right here searching for a remedy for Saint Anthony’s hearth, a symptom of fungal poisoning. It’s a formidable constructing, with remarkably preserved murals, Aubusson tapestries, wooden panelling and a 17th-century organ.
The medieval backyard is one other spotlight, and a museum shows liturgical garments and surgical devices. On the foot of the abbey is a maze of alleys with medieval and Renaissance buildings, resulting in outdated retailers with half-timbered facades and a lined market. The village hosts a summer time sacred music competition and a medieval competition in August, amongst others.Eat Subtle Auberge de l’Abbaye has set lunches from €26; and resort Chez Camille has an off-the-cuff restaurant with menus from €15.Keep L’Antonin is a pleasant guesthouse in a 16th-century constructing with backyard, sauna and doubles from €67 B&B.
11. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pyrenees

{Photograph}: Mattia Giovanni Argentieri/Getty Pictures/EyeEm
Within the foothills of the Pyrenees, 30 minutes from Biarritz, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a well-liked cease on the Camino de Santiago. The king of Navarre constructed a fortress on a hill above the Nive river within the 12th century, and the village grew round it. Saint-Jean grew to become a thriving industrial centre, a army stronghold and non secular website. Its historical past will be seen in its structure: the 17th-century citadel; the 13th-century ramparts; rue d’Espagne, lined with artisans’ and merchants’ homes; and the gothic Nôtre-Dame du Bout du Pont. The 14th-century jail is a museum. Eat Café Ttipia is in a beautiful riverside spot, with seasonal specialities (from €12) and classics like steak-frites.Keep A fairly resort and restaurant close to the river, Hôtel des Remparts has doubles from €70 (breakfast €8).
12. La Romieu, Gers

La Maison D’Aux resort.
Taking its title from the Gascon phrase roumiou, or pilgrimage, the village was based on the finish of the 11th century by Albert, a monk getting back from a pilgrimage to Rome. It gained better significance within the 15th century when the church of Saint Pierre was established. This constructing, Unesco-listed since 1998, has an octagonal bell tower and restored frescoes. The village is fairly with its arcaded sq. and Les Jardins de Coursiana, a botanical backyard open from April to October. The countryside lends itself to mountain climbing, mountain biking and caving. Eat L’Étape d’Angéline serves regional delicacies with a menu du terroir together with snails, duck and veal for €21. It additionally has 5 visitor rooms from €64 B&B.Keep La Maison D’Aux has simply two visitor rooms (from €95 B&B) in an 18th-century home with a pool.
13. Auvillar, Tarn-et-Garonne

The round cornmarket in Auvillar. {Photograph}: Adam Eastland/Alamy
One other cease on the Camino de Santiago, Auvillar, on the banks of the Garonne, bears traces of its non secular and buying and selling historical past. The round lined market, inbuilt 1824, is the one one in all its variety in south-west France (there’s an important Sunday farmers’ market). It’s on a triangular major sq. flanked by half-timbered and red-brick mansions, and the village partitions embrace a particular clock tower above the primary gateway into the village within the fortified partitions (inside is a small museum).
A former Benedictine priory, the church of Saint-Pierre has a baroque altar. Auvillar was as soon as an inland port, and the chapel devoted to Saint Catherine, the patron saint of mariners, will be visited additional up the riverbank (try the frescoes). There are nice views throughout the Garonne from a grassy plateau the place a citadel as soon as stood. Auvillar can also be recognized for pottery, and a group of earthenware will be seen on the Musée de la Faïence off the sq..Eat Cosy Le Petit Palais has outside tables and home-cooked meals. The 2-course lunch is sweet worth at €13. Keep Resort L’Horloge subsequent to the bell tower, is a restaurant that holds a weekly natural market and a resort with 10 snug rooms from €62 room-only.
14. Bruniquel, Tarn-et-Garonne

{Photograph}: Tor Eigeland/Alamy
Excessive on a rocky outcrop above the Aveyron and Vère rivers sits Bruniquel and its two medieval castles, surrounded by wooded countryside. It was a stronghold of the counts of Toulouse, and also you enter by way of gateways within the defensive partitions. The flower-filled village has outdated stone buildings and steep cobbled paths resulting in the central Place de L’Horloge. The sound of bells from the belfry provides to the sense that little has modified over the centuries. Moreover the castles, highlights embrace wood Maison Belaygue and Maison Payrol, constructed within the 13th century by monks and later dwelling to the village governors.Eat Taverne du Temps is a wine bar and restaurant with a comfortable beamed inside and spacious terrace.Keep Within the centre of the village, five-bed L’Etape du Château has homecooked meals and a small sauna and spa, with doubles from €80.
15. Lautrec, Tarn

{Photograph}: DoloresGiraldez/Getty Pictures
Painter Toulouse-Lautrec’s household got here from this medieval village in Tarn’s Pays de Cocagne. A citadel as soon as stood on the high of the hill; now marked by a cross. Some ramparts stay, however the historic centre, with its half-timbered homes and lined market corridor, is the primary attraction, with a standard market on Fridays.
The 14th-century Eglise Collégiale Saint-Rémy, the Benedictine convent which grew to become the city corridor after the French Revolution, and 17th-century La Salette windmill are must-sees, whereas a botanical path takes in panoramic views. The clogmaker’s workshop is price a go to too. Lautrec is the centre of pink garlic farming, and there are common garlic markets.Eat Guide forward for a desk at Auberge Le Garde Pile a standard restaurant in a beamed, 300-year-old constructing – attempt the pink garlic soup.Keep Simply exterior the village, Cadalen is a good looking 14th-century home with 4 visitor rooms (doubles from €115) crammed with vintage furnishings.
16. Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Languedoc

{Photograph}: Jaubert French Assortment/Alamy
On the backside of a gorge 20 miles north-west of Montpellier, tiny Saint-Guilhem clusters round its abbey, one of many best examples of Romanesque structure within the area. Within the center ages it was a stopping place on the Camino di Santiago, the place Crusaders and pilgrims got here to venerate a “piece of the True Cross”. Little stays of the Ninth-century abbey, however the current 11th-century constructing is a Unesco world heritage website. The principle Place de la Liberté, with its 150-year-old aircraft tree, 18th-century lined market and fountains, is magical for lazy evenings on cafe terraces. Homes have conventional pantiled roofs and Romanesque home windows. Summer time brings concert events and outside theatre. Walks embrace Les Fenestrettes, a 10km mule path alongside the Gellone valley.Eat Sur le Chemin de Compostelle (+33 4 99 63 93 71) serves conventional fare similar to coquilles St-Jacques and duck breast in a vaulted medieval room (three programs €25).Keep La Taverne de L’Escuelle within the centre has six pretty rooms (doubles from €65 room-only) with stone partitions and flooring, and a restaurant (its pizzas are good).
17. Gordes, Provence

{Photograph}: ArtMarie/Getty Pictures
On a hilltop within the Monts de Vaucluse, surrounded by holm oaks, wheat fields and vines, Gordes is a typical Provençal village close to the Luberon massif, an hour from Avignon. The slender streets are lined with stone homes, and the village’s charms have appealed to artists together with André Lhote and Marc Chagall.
Exhibitions by artists who’ve lived listed below are held within the 16th-century citadel. Close by points of interest embrace 12th-century Abbaye de Sénanque (an important instance of Cistercian structure); the Moulin des Bouillons, an historic olive oil mill; the Musée du Vitrail, which tells the stained glass story; and Bories village, a museum of drystone dwellings. There are summer time festivals and concert events, and mountain-biking and trails in Luberon nationwide park.Eat L’Artégal is a family-run restaurant recognized for its Landaise salad with duck (set lunch €28).Keep In gardens two miles from the village, Hôtel Carcarille has a pool and doubles from €74 room-only.
18. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Provençal Alps

{Photograph}: Alamy
Dramatically positioned on the Adou river on the entrance to the Verdon gorge, Moustiers is a good looking village protected by a golden star (the unique was stated to have been hung by a knight getting back from the Crusades) suspended on a sequence between two cliffs.
A village of stationers, potters and drapers within the center ages, it grew to become well-known within the 17th century after a monk from Faenza, close to Bologna, launched the key of enamelling (tin-glazed earthenware). Though the business disappeared within the 19th century, it has been revitalised, with greater than a dozen studios right this moment, and the Musée de la Faïence subsequent to the city corridor has greater than 400 items.
Stone bridges span the river, in a deep gorge beneath the slender alleys of the historic centre. Highlights embrace the church, with its pre-Roman vault, 14th-century nave and sq. Lombard tower, and the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir, a mix of gothic and Romanesque structure, reached by 262 steps. Moustiers is a energetic place, with common markets and many locations to eat. There are strolling trails within the gorges and round close by Lac de Sainte-Croix.Eat Simply exterior Moustiers, Ferme Sainte-Cécile gives scrumptious Provençal eating (5 programs €39) and nice wine. Within the village, Clérissy on Place Chevalier de Blacas does good pizzas, crêpes and salads.Keep In lush gardens, Resort le Colombier has a pool, views from its terraces and doubles from €72 (breakfast €12).
19. Seillans, Provence

{Photograph}: Norbert Scanella/Alamy
On a hill an hour’s drive from Good, Seillans is a maze of sloping cobbled alleys, vaulted passageways and tiny squares with fountains. Above it stands the medieval citadel and 11th-century church of Saint-Léger. On the sq. on the entrance to the village is Génie de la Bastille, a statue by surrealist artist Max Ernst, who fell in love with Seillans, moved right here along with his spouse, Dorothea Tanning, and performed pétanque with locals on this spot. Artworks by the couple, and by Stanislas Appenzeller, are within the 13th-century Maison Waldberg and will be visited by appointment.
Within the valley beneath, pines, olive groves and vineyards encompass the chapel of Nôtre Dame de l’Ormeau, with its 16th-century carved altarpiece. Village occasions embrace the worldwide Musique-Cordiale competition (9-17 August) and an olive competition on the finish of November.Eat At Chez Hugo, chef Hugo and his brother Stéphane provide a twist on bistro classics, with mains from €15.50. Keep A guesthouse on a former silkworm farm, La Magnanerie de Seillans has rooms, suites and flats, all with kitchens, from €140 B&B. There are views of the foothills of the Alps and the Esterel massif.
20. Sainte-Agnès, Côte d‘Azur

{Photograph}: Alamy
Sitting at 800 metres, half an hour from Good, Sainte-Agnès has views over the Mediterranean from Cap-Martin to the Italian Riviera, and the peaks of the Mercantour nationwide park. A strategic website fought over for hundreds of years, it was initially a fortified Roman camp; the dukes of Savoie constructed a citadel right here within the 12th century (now ruined); and in 1932–38 a fort was dug out of the rock to create essentially the most southerly publish on the Maginot Line.
With its alleys and higgledy-piggledy homes, the village has an genuine appeal. The 16th-century Nôtre-Dame-des-Neiges church has a placing gilded altar. The heritage museum, Espace Tradition et Traditions, can also be price a go to. There’s a procession on St Agnes’s day, 21 January, a lavender competition in July and an October mushroom competition.Eat Above the village, Restaurant Le Righi has nice views and conventional delicacies, similar to home made vegetable tarts (two programs from €15).Keep Le Saint-Yves is a well-liked restaurant with doubles for €53 (breakfast €9), many with nice views.
• That is an edited extract from The Most Stunning Villages of France (Flammarion, £16.95), which can also be accessible at The Guardian Bookshop
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