Beautiful Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, tips for a visit

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In 1982, the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages in France) was founded in France. The French association aims to preserve and protect small picturesque villages in the country. It is also hoped that this will attract tourists to lesser-known regions in France. Villages that have secured a spot on the list possess cultural, historical and architectural heritage. Meanwhile, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France has become a prestigious label for the selected villages. Tourists from all over the world flock to the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France villages in search of an authentic and lesser-known French experience.

When will a village be added to the list?

To be included in the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France list, a village must meet certain criteria. Only one in five applications seems to be approved, thanks to the strict 27 eligibility criteria. For example, no more than 2,000 inhabitants may live there and the village must possess significant architectural or natural heritage. The selected villages often have well-preserved historical buildings such as castles, churches or traditional houses. In addition, the location can be special. Or there is a unique, cultural atmosphere in the village. And so there are many other criteria.

How many villages are on the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France list?

At the moment, more than 170 villages are included in the list Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (summer 2023). These villages are scattered throughout France, making it possible to visit one of the most beautiful villages in France in almost every region.

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France villages that I have visited myself

In the meantime I have already been able to visit several Les Plus Beaux Villages de France villages. Each one of them has something special, of course they are on this list for a reason. Villages always stand out, of course. Villages that really do something to you, that you often think back to. In this article a summary of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France villages that I have already explored.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Alpes-De-Haute-Provence

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a charming village in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, in the south of France. The village is located at the foot of a limestone cliff. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is known for its beauty, rich history and traditional crafts.

One of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie’s most notable features is its location at the entrance of the Gorges du Verdon, a breathtaking gorge also known as the Grand Canyon of Europe. The area offers spectacular landscapes with steep cliffs, turquoise colored rivers and lush green valleys. Partly because of this, the area is truly a paradise for nature lovers and active people.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie itself is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, medieval houses and charming little squares. It is dominated by the Église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, a Romanesque church from the 12th century. In the center you will find an old aqueduct, Chapelle Ste Anne (8th century), several fountains and old city walls. A stroll through the streets of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a pleasure in itself. In addition to the beautiful places mentioned above, you will see flowery facades and traditional shops in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has been an important center for the production of pottery for centuries. In the village there are still several shops where local artisans sell their handmade ceramics. The restaurants in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie have cozy terraces and serve local Provencal dishes.

High on a cliff, the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir overlooks the village. This chapel, built in the 12th century on a foundation of a 5th century temple, can be reached by climbing 262 stone steps.

Moustiers Sainte Marie Les Plus Beaux Villages de France -

Gordes, Vaucluse

Beautiful Gordes is located in Vaucluse, in the south of France. It is located on a hilltop and attracts many tourists every year for its picturesque charm, local architecture and beautiful views. The village is known for its stone houses built closely together, creating narrow streets and alleys. It is wonderful to stroll through these streets and soak up the authentic atmosphere of the village. Many of the houses in Gordes are made of local limestone and have specific, traditional roof tiles.

One of the most striking sights in Gordes is Château de Gordes, which towers high above the village. The castle dates back to the 11th century and offers views over the surrounding valley and the Luberon countryside. The castle houses the Musée du Château de Gordes (Pol Mara Musée), which houses a collection of contemporary works of art. There are several medieval places to admire in the village. Think of a general washing place, a medieval entrance gate, cellars where craftsmen worked and an old water tap.

Roussillon, Vaucluse

The red-colored Roussillon is a special village in the Vaucluse department, in the south of France. It is known for its striking ocher cliffs and colorful landscape. Roussillon’s unique colors are due to the ocher that is abundant in the region. Ocher is a natural dye that is extracted from clay and is rich in different shades of yellow, orange and red. The ocher mines of Roussillon were an important source of income for the village in the past.

Roussillon itself has narrow cobbled streets, old stone houses with colorful shutters and a vibrant arts community. There are plenty of galleries, studios and craft shops where visitors can browse local arts and crafts. Since everything in Roussillon is built with stones from the region, the entire village is colored red, pink and orange. Roussillon has a number of historical attractions such as the Gothic church Église Saint-Michel and the town hall Mairie de Roussillon.

One of the highlights of a visit to Roussillon is Sentier des Ocres, also known as the ocher trail. This hiking trail is located in the ocher mines, which gives you a spectacular view of the red-colored cliffs while walking. The ideal place for nature lovers, photographers and hikers. It is reminiscent of several parks in the United States, such as Bryce Canyon.

Ménerbes, Vaucluse

Ménerbes is the third Les Plus Beaux Villages de France village in Vaucluse that I visit. The village has a special location on an elongated hilltop. Ménerbes has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times, but it became most famous in the Middle Ages when it was an important stronghold during the wars between the Counts of Toulouse and the Pope of Avignon. The village has preserved its medieval character well. It has many narrow cobbled streets, hidden passages, old buildings and charming squares.

Well-known sights in Ménerbes include the Gothic church Église Saint-Luc, the Tour de l’Horloge (bell tower), Porte Saint Sauveur (medieval gateway) the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin (truffle and winemaking museum) Abbaye St-Hilaire (13th century Carmelite convent) and the Musée du Tire-bouchon (corkscrew museum).

Ménerbes is also known for his association with British author Peter Mayle, whose book A Year in Provence is set in and around Ménerbes. The book had worldwide attention and attracted many visitors to Ménerbes. All wanted to experience the described picturesque landscape and charming atmosphere that Mayle had so vividly described.

Lourmarin, Vaucluse

The last Les Plus Beaux Villages de France village in Vaucluse I visited is Lourmarin. Lourmarin is picturesque with many cobbled streets, old houses and a special Provencal atmosphere. You will find cozy cafes, restaurants and boutiques. There is a weekly market where you can buy local produce and there are also several art galleries displaying the work of local artists. Really every corner and every street in Lourmarin is nice!!

Places of interest in Lourmarin include Fontaine de la Place (17th century fountain), La Fontaine Couverte (general wash house), Eglise Saint-André et Saint-Trophime (12th century church), Fontaine aux Trois Masques (1930s fountain ) and Le Beffroi (17th century belfry).

Château de Lourmarin is the main attraction of Lourmarin. The imposing castle dates back to the 15th century and is a combination of medieval and Renaissance architecture. Today, the castle is a cultural center that regularly hosts exhibitions and events. The view from the upper castle over Lourmarin, surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and lavender fields is really beautiful.

Saint-Quirin, Moselle (Grand Est)

In the Moselle department in northeastern France lies the hidden gem of Saint-Quirin. The village, located in the heart of the Vosges, is known for its beautiful location, rich history and cultural heritage. There are 800 people living in Saint-Quirin, so it can feel sleepy at times.

Saint-Quirin is located in a green valley surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests. There is a serene and peaceful atmosphere, which is why nature lovers and hikers in particular know how to find the village. There are several hiking trails and routes that allow visitors to explore the area and enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Saint-Quirin has a fascinating history. Dating back to ancient times, the village has experienced several civilizations and conflicts over the centuries. It is named after Saint Quirinus, a Roman martyr said to be buried in the area.

One of the most famous sights in Saint-Quirin is the Church of Saint Quirinus. This Romanesque church from the 12th century is a testimony to the historical significance of the village. The architecture and fine details are worth exploring for lovers of medieval art and religious heritage. On a hill at the edge of the village stands the small Chapelle-Haute chapel, which can be reached on foot. A little further on is an archaeological (Roman) site, Croix Guillaume. In the middle of the village is Source miraculeuse, a natural spring.

Riquewihr, Haut-Rhin (Elzas)

Perhaps the most famous wine village in Alsace is Riquewihr. Riquewihr is located at the foot of the Vosges Mountains and is surrounded by extensive vineyards, something that undoubtedly adds to the village’s appeal. There are beautiful, well-preserved half-timbered houses in Riquewihr, painted in all kinds of colours.

Riquewihr dates back to the 11th century and has a rich history. During the Middle Ages, Riquewihr was an important trading center along the Alsatian wine route. The narrow cobbled streets, with colorful half-timbered houses and flowery facades give you the feeling that you have traveled back in time.

One of the notable sights in Riquewihr is the 13th century fortified gateway that served as one of the access points to the village. Part of the city wall is still intact. In addition, there are numerous restaurants, shops, wineries and tasting rooms in Riquewihr where you can enjoy famous Alsatian wines. Riquewihr attracts tourists all year round, but it is especially busy during the summer months. Do you want to taste a little more atmosphere at your leisure? Then take some side streets, it’s a lot quieter there!

Hunawihr, Haut-Rhin (Elzas)

Hunawihr is a very small village in Alsace. Like Riquewihr and Eguisheim, it is located in the famous wine region of Alsace, surrounded by extensive vineyards and picturesque landscapes. Hunawihr is known for its traditional Alsatian architecture. Moreover, the village manages to retain its charming atmosphere as it is much less visited than the wine villages of Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Eguisheim and Bergheim.

The most eye-catching sight in Hunawihr is the Church of Saint James (Église mixte Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur de Hunawihr), a beautiful Gothic church from the 15th century on top of a hill. The church has a beautiful interior with fine carvings and beautiful stained glass windows. In the village you will also find Fontaine Sainte Hune, a fountain from the 14th century. Another attraction in Hunawihr is NaturOparC, where they have a protection and breeding program for storks, among other things. If you want to leave the hustle and bustle of the other wine villages behind, Hunawihr is the place to go.

Hunawihr Les Plus Beaux Villages de France -

Eguisheim, Haut-Rhin (Elzas)

Eguisheim is also located in Alsace, near Hunawihr and Riquewihr. Eguisheim is known for its unique architecture, with its colorful half-timbered houses and narrow cobbled streets. Walking through the streets you can experience the charm of the Middle Ages. There is plenty to see in Eguisheim: beautiful half-timbered houses with flowery facades, squares with graceful fountains and narrow cobbled streets.

Château de Saint-Léon-Pfalz is the center of Eguisheim, the houses and streets are built around it. Next to the château you will find Place du Château, with the beautiful Fontaine de Saint-Léon. Around this square are authentic restaurants with cozy terraces where you can enjoy typical dishes from Alsace. If you walk through the streets around the square and the château, you will come across various sights. Think of special half-timbered houses, alleys and even more fountains. Just like in the other wine villages, Eguisheim also offers excellent wine tasting. And that is of course what you should do in Alsace anyway… maybe in every village!

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