France. Most people think of Paris and why wouldn’t you? It is a beautiful city. But there is so much to France than the big cities.
If you board a train or hire a car and escape the big cities you will discover some of the most beautiful towns in France. From the North to the South of France you will discover many picturesque towns and villages.
Many of these small towns in France are largely undiscovered and are listed on France’s 157 “les plus beaux villages” (the most beautiful villages) and are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Visiting some of these towns will make you feel as though you have stepped back in time in a fairytale. There is something so romantic about wandering down old cobble lanes, passing stone cottages that are covered with geraniums and views of old historic castles.
This list will have you veering away from the most instagrammable spots in Paris and switching the best hotels in Paris with views of the Eiffel Tower for romantic stone cottages.
Hey There……there is a very good chance that this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
10 most beautiful towns in France
Collonges-la-Rouge has been labelled by man as the most beautiful village in France. In 1942, the entire town was classified as a historic monument.
Unlike many other towns and villages in France, you will not find any half timber houses in Collonges-la-Rouge, instead you will find Red Rust Stone buildings. Collonges-la-Rouge is home to many stately manners, castles and tiny cottages.
Your visit should begin on the main street, Rue de la Barrière. The mismatch buildings will make you feel as though you’re in the stone version of the Shambles in York, England.
Along your stroll you will find the House of the Mermaid and the breathtaking Town Hall. The House of the Mermaid is typical of the architecture in the area, with a slate roof, a welcoming balcony and flowers covering the façade.
When staying in small towns there is nothing better than staying in the heart of the town. Capturing magical views from your room and enjoy the simple life of a small town really enhances your visit. The Hotel Le Relais St jacques, is the perfect place to enjoy the town. When all of the tourists have left for the day you have the streets to yourself and you can enjoy the atmosphere and the town truly has to offer. Book directly with Booking.com or check out the latest rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.
Normandy is filled with stunning towns and Gerberoy is no exception. It is perfect to for a weekend trip or a day trip from Pairs. Filled with half timber houses and over flowing flower boxes, it truly is like you have stepped back in time.
The Gardens of Sidaner is a three level Italianate garden with beautiful views over Gerberoy. The gardens are filled with roses and wisteria, it is a must when you are in Gerberoy.
One of the best things to do in Gerberoy is to explore the quaint squares and streets. You will easily fill your day by walking around the streets and snapping 100s of photos but there are also many galleries and museums to keep your busy.
This beautiful small town in France is filled with eateries serving amazing French food. One of the best restaurants to grab some lunch is Les Remparts.
If you wish to stay in Gerberoy I highly recommend Le Logis de Gerberoy. The B&B is stunning and located right in the middle of town. Your host, Cecille, will make you feel right at home the moment you enter the B&B. Enjoy breakfast in the morning before exploring the picture perfect town and return to the B&B for the most amazing home cooked meal, it will rival any of the the restaurants in Pairs. Book with Airbnb or check out TripAdvisor for more reviews and the latest rates.
If you think you have heard the name Auvers-sur-Oise some where before you probably have. The legendary painter, Vincent Van Gogh, spent the last 70 days of his life painting 70 paintings of Auvers-sur-Oise.
The quint town of Auvers-sur-Oise, is located on Oise river and surrounded by wheat fields. Despite being located on 30km from Paris, this wee town is filled with its own culture, charm and history.
During your visit to Auvers-sur-Oise you have plenty to admire, take a stroll in the gardens of Château d’Auvers and admire the beautiful gardens. Come prepared and wear appropriate footwear, the ground can be quite uneven.
Of course, you visit would not be complete without a stop at Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption. The church is immediately recognizable as it was immortalized in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. While you are on the Van Gogh trail, you will find his final resting place in the towns cemetery.
It is easy to access Auvers-sur-Oise in the summer months. Direct trains run from Paris Gare du Nord to Auvers-sur-Oise on weekends and bank holidays from April to November, departing Paris at 9.38am and leaving Auvers at 6.25pm.
At other times or during the off season there are non-direct trains running from Paris Saint Lazare and other RER stations. Find out more information here.
If you would prefer to stay the night (or two) in Auvers-sur-Oise, you can’t go passed Hotel des Iris. This gorgeous boutique hotel is located right in the center of town. Each morning at the 4 star hotel you are welcome with a continental breakfast. Enjoy a stroll in the garden to rewind after sight seeing for the day. Book directly with booking.com or check out the latest rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.
Bayeux is a beautiful town on the Aure river in the Normandy region of France. It is also the site of the Norman invasion of France in 1066 and WWII’s D-Day landings of 1944.
Many locals and tourists visit Bayeux to see the famed Bayeux tapestry which is housed in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. The tapestry (how many times can I say tapestry?) depicts William the Conquers invasion in 1066.
However, there is more to this beautiful French town than the tapestry. Bayeux is a fairytale town, filled with honey coloured stone cottages that all have black slate roofs. Each cottage has gorgeous flower boxes that are filled with bright coloured flowers that spill into the laneways.
Located in the heart of Bayeux is Notre-Dame Cathedral of Bayeux, you’ll have a hard time missing the gothic style cathedral is it looms over the town. Not only is the cathedral a site to behold with its stunning architecture but inside it is filled with local history.
A stroll through the gorgeous botanic gardens is a must. The gardens date back to the 19th century and span over 6 acres. The gardens are free to access and are a great place to enjoy the peace quiet of nature.
If the history of WWII interests you then Bayeux really is the town for you. Located near the Landing Beaches (Gold Beach is the closest), there are many museums and historical sites that take you back to D-Day.
With history dating back to 1066 and the beautiful sites of this fairytale French town, I recommend staying a couple of days. Château de Bellefontaine is a 18th century mansion and only an 800 meter walk to the Cathedral. The mansion is set within a lovely park complete with 200 year old trees and a pond for you to enjoy. Each guest can enjoy a buffet breakfast each morning and there is a restaurant on site for dinner in the evening. Book directly through booking.com or check out the latest rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.
Ophelie, Limitless Secrets
Riquewihr in Alsace is one of the most beautiful towns in France! You will find this village in the North East of France, close to the border with Germany. Riquewihr is quite special as it looks like a fairy tale town! You will love it at first sight!
The first reason is because of its location on a hill surrounded by vineyards. The second reason is because of its charming Old Town. The cobbled streets and the colorful half-timbered houses create a pleasant environment. Fun fact, Riquewihr inspired Disney for the decor of the “Beauty and the Beast”
Another good reason why you should visit Riquewihr is for the Christmas Market. In winter for the holidays the town gets even more magical! That’s why Riquewihr is officially one of the “most beautiful villages in France”.
The best way to get to Riquewihr is by car as the village is quite remote. But you can also take a bus from the nearby city of Colmar. It takes around 30 min to get there.
If you want to take beautiful photos in Riquewihr, I recommend being there early in the morning. In fact, this town is very touristy and quite small, so it gets packed quickly.
One of the best things to do in Riquewihr is to wander in the Old Town. You will be able to enjoy the colors and the beauty of the half-timbered houses. Then you can visit the Musée du Dodler. It’s great if you want to know more about the history of Riquewihr and the area.
Besides some sightseeing you have to try the local cuisine! The Alsace region is famous for its gastronomy and its white wines. You can try for example the bretzels, the flammekueche, and the kugelhopf.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Riquewihr, you can take a look at the Best Western Hotel & SPA Le Schoenenbourg. This 3-star hotel offers free private parking and has an indoor and an outdoor pool. Book directly with Booking.com or check out the latest rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.
Maartje & Sebastiaan, Tidy Minds
Ribeauville is one of the most charming towns to visit in France, known for its charming streets and historic architecture. It’s one of the most photogenic places in the country and it should definitely be on your France itinerary.
It’s one of the highlights of the Alsace area, located in the northern part of France close to the German border. As this area has been fought over by France and Germany for centuries, you’ll find many German references in this French area, like street names and cuisine. Ribeauville is one of the towns in the area with a French-sounding name, but villages like Riquewihr – known for a similar architecture – would make you guess you’ve crossed the border.
Ribeauville is known as one of the most beautiful towns in France and probably the inspiration for the village in Beauty and the Beast. It has the same cobble-stoned streets, half-timbered houses and colorful facades as you see in the Disney film. Wandering around the charming streets is the best way to explore the small town.
If you’re in for a more active way to see Ribeauville, you might want to hike to the castle ruins on the hill next to the town. Château Saint Ulrich, Château Girsberg and Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre are all located on the same hill. When climbing up, you’ll first reach Saint Ulrich and Girsberg, offering stunning views of Ribeauville and the vineyards in the area. If you still have enough energy, you can continue hiking up to see Haut-Ribeaupierre as well.
Ribeauville is a great base to explore the many vineyards in the Alsace or more of these cobble-stoned villages. Hôtel De La Tour is a former vineyard and is located in the middle of the medieval town. A lovely breakfast is included in your rate and there are many restaurants nearby to enjoy a French meal. Book directly with Booking.com or check out TripAdvisor for the latest rates and reviews.
One of the most beautiful towns in France is Menton. It is located on the French Riviera in the southern part of France. One of the largest French cities nearby is Nice. From there you can get to Menton by train in about 40 minutes. Another large city nearby is Monaco, which is beautiful and filled with many perfect Instagrammable places.
One of the highlights of Menton is the beach. This is a very relaxing place where you can swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides that, there are lots of restaurants at the beach, which is very pleasant for a day at the beach.
Menton is well-known for the botanical gardens in the town. A great botanical garden is Jardin Botanique Exotique de Menton and you can find here lots of exotic plants that are wonderful to see. Another great thing about Menton is the large number of colorful houses in the town. These are gorgeous and very beautiful to see.
From the beach of Menton, you can see some of the most beautiful ones! Moreover, the beach is one of the best photo spots in the town.
A great activity in Menton is to walk through all the little streets and see what local life in the town is like.
One of the best places to stay in Menton is Hôtel Vacances Bleues Royal Westminster. The three star hotel is located in magnificent 19th century Belle Epoque style palace. The hotel is situated in a gorgeous park and provides beautiful sea views. Book directly with Booking.com or check TripAdvisor for the latest rates and reviews.
Elisa, World in Paris
Provins is one of the most picturesque small towns near Paris. It is located 90km south-east of the French capital and very easy to reach by train. From Provins’ train station is just a 10-min walk to the old town.
Provins is one of the most interesting medieval towns in France and also one of the best-preserved. In medieval times, it was under the protection of the Counts of Champagne and an important fair town. Merchants from all the corners of Europe came to Provins to sell their best products; that’s how Provins became a prosperous town.
Provins is surrounded by medieval walls, and it has a rich heritage, mostly from medieval times. Visitors in Provins can admire the imposing Cesar Tower, the Grange aux Dimes (today a museum), and a beautiful collection of well-preserved half-timbered houses.
Most of the houses in the old town have a semi-buried story, and all these spaces are connected by a network of underground galleries. Today, it is possible to explore a part of this underground Provins with a guided tour, and the visit is fascinating.
For a unique stay in Provins, book at the Demeure des Bains. This beautiful 12th century building full of history has five spacious rooms, most of them with garden views. Book directly with Booking.com or check out TripAdvisor for the latest rates and reviews.
Elisa, France Bucket List
Èze is one of the prettiest towns in Southern France. This medieval town built on the top of a hill 425m above the sea, is located in the French Riviera, between Nice and Monaco. Èze is world known for its scenic streets and squares, picturesque architecture, and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Èze is very small, and it will only take you a few hours to see everything. Most people visit Èze on a day trip from Nice or Monaco, but it is worth considering spending one night on site. In the afternoon, when the day crowds are gone, you will have the town almost for yourself, and it is truly magical.
The list of main things to do in Èze includes the Exotic Garden, Notre Dame de l’Assomption Church, and the Nietzche trail that links the hilltop village with Èze-sur-Mer by the sea.
There’s also the Galimard perfume store-museum at the gates of the village. This is a subsidiary of its parent company in Grasse, and soap and cosmetics are local specialties.
For a unique stay in Èze, book at La Chèvre d’Or. This luxury hotel has the best location in Èze, with lovely rooms and incredible views. Its restaurant is the ideal place for a sunset drink or a romantic dinner with a view. Book directly at Booking.com or check out TripAdvisor for the latest rates and reviews.
What do you think are the most beautiful towns in France? Let me know in the comments below!
My BEST Travel Resources
Here are my favourite travel resources for planning travel like a pro
Accommodation: I always use booking.com (I love their price match and flexible cancellation policies) or Airbnb (if I want a little more space) to book trip. If you prefer hostels, I suggest Hostelworld.
If you are new to Airbnb you can get an awesome discount using this link
Travel Insurance: After a few hairy moments on my travels, I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance. It may seem like a big cost now, but if the worst happens, it will save you a lot of money and heartache. I personally use World Nomads (and love them!), but I recommend that you do some research to find the insurance company that suits your needs.
Tours: While I prefer to travel independently, I do love doing some tours once I’m in a destination. It is a great way to find out history, hidden gems, taste local food and get a local insight into your destination. I always use Viator to book my tours.
Car Hire: Planning an epic road trip across the US or through Europe, or anywhere! Check out Europcar, they are my go to for car hire all over the world!
Luggage Storage: Some times when we are travelling our check in and check out times don’t match with our departure times so we have to put our luggage into storage. Stasher Luggage Storage is the biggest Luggage Storage Network across the UK, France and Germany