Want to discover the most beautiful towns in France? You’ve come to the right place!
France is the most visited country in the world and Paris is the most popular place to visit but that’s not the only place you should see. If you really want to understand what France is all about, you need to explore these beautiful french towns.France is a country of traditions and authenticity. The variety of landscapes is incredible. When it comes to small towns in France, it’s no different!
In the north, you will discover beautiful German-style towns and in the south, you can feel the Mediterranean influences.
There are all sorts of incredible places. In this article, you will discover the prettiest small towns in France!
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Table of Contents
Beautiful Small Towns in South of France
Let’s start off this list with Southern France. Known for its beautiful beaches and the luxurious French Riviera, the south of France is a paradise for people who love discovering small towns.
In this section, we tell you exactly where to find the most beautiful small towns in the South of France.
Gruissan is a cute small town located on the Mediterranean coast, in the Natural park of the Narbonnaise.
It started as a fishing village and has since grown into a pretty seaside resort.
Gruissan is split in two part: the old town (that’s the prettiest part!) and Gruissan Plage (the seaside resort).
While you can choose to spend a lot of time on the beach, make sure to visit the town itself. It’s very picturesque and such a great example of what a typical Languedoc seaside town is like.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Gruissan:
- Explore Gruissan village. Gruissan is a rare example of ‘village portuaire en circulade’ meaning circular port town. It is, as the name suggest, built as a circle. All the streets lead to the tower that is located in the centre.
- Go up to the Tour Barberousse. This old tower is located up the hill in the centre of the old town. It boasts fantastic views of the Mediterraneean sea and the Etang de Gruissan.
- Le salin de l’île Saint-Martin. This salt marsh is located near the town centre. You can actually see it from the Tower but it’s also something you can visit. There is an entrance fee but it’s very interesting.
- Water sports. If you head to Gruissan Plage, you’ll find a plethora of water activities including windsurf, boating and parasailing.
WHERE TO STAY: La Maison de Gruissan is a super cute bed and breakfast located in the old town.
If you are looking for a beautiful seaside town on the French Riviera, look no further! Villefranche-sur-Mer will be the perfect place to visit.
Crystal-clear water, beautiful beaches, seafood restaurants, colourful houses… it truly has it all!
Villefranche is ideally located between Nice and Monaco, making it an excellent day trip if you are staying at one of these locations.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Villefranche-sur-Mer:
- Exploring the Old Town. The vieille ville is the perfect place to go for a stroll. Here you will find many cute and narrow streets featuring colourful houses. It kind of looks like the Cinque Terre in Italy!
- Going to the Port de la Darse. This old harbour is full of historic buildings and monuments. It was initially built to fight pirates.
- Going to the beach. There are several beautiful beaches in Villefranche-sur-mer so if you’d like to relax for a bit and enjoy the water waters of the Mediterraneean sea, grab your towel and go! The best one is the plage des Marinières.
WHERE TO STAY: Villefranche Sur Mer One Bed is a beautiful apartment rental with sea views and very close to the main attractions.
Located in the Lot, Figeac is one of France’s best-kept secrets. This small French town was the birthplace of Champollion, who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.
As you roam around town, you will discover beautiful medieval architecture and cute little cafes.
Here are a few examples of things to do in Figeac:
- Discovering the oldest building in Figeac. If you head to Place Champollion, you will see a small tobacco shop next to the pharmacy. This is the oldest building in town. It’s over 800 years old and features beautiful medieval architecture.
- Visiting the Champollion Museum. Located in Place Champollion, the Champollion Museum is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about Egypt and its history. It explains exactly how Champollion managed to decipher the hieroglyphs. It’s also a great thing to do with children as it’s very interactive. There even is a mummy!
- Taking beautiful photos with the giant Rosetta Stone. Unfortunately, France wasn’t able to keep the Rosetta Stone. If you want to see the original one, you will need to visit the British Museum in London. However, as it didn’t seem fair that Figeac wouldn’t have it, the town decided to build a giant version of it. You can find it in the “Place des écritures”, just behind the museum. It’s huge and a great place to take beautiful photos.
WHERE TO STAY IN FIGEAC: The Best Western Le Pont d’Or is the best place to stay in Figeac. This beautiful hotel is located by the river Célé, a minute walk from the town centre. It overlooks the river and the views are stunning. It’s also very good value for money. Click here to see the latest prices.
Located in the Languedoc, in the heart of the Hérault, Pézenas is one of the most beautiful small towns in the south of France.
Best of all? It’s pretty underrated and a lot of people don’t know about it!
Pézenas used to be the capital of the old region of Languedoc. This makes it a great place to visit if you are interested in history.
You will find beautiful town mansions, cobblestoned streets and houses dating from the Middle Ages.
It’s also a place where Molière (the French version of Shakespeare basically) spent a lot of time.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Pézenas:
- Strolling around town. The glorious past of Pézenas has left a lot of traces and you can find some stunning houses and buildings here. The best way to discover them is to roam around the historic centre. You’ll find many town mansion, called Hôtels particuliers. The most famous ones are the hôtel Lacoste and the hôtel flotte de Sébassan.
- Discovering the local delicacies. Southern France is known for its excellent food but you can find some typical dishes here such as the petit pâté de Pézenas.
- Boby Lapointe Museum. If you have an interest for French movies, you’ll be happy to know that Pézenas is where the famous French actor Boby Lapointe was born. There is a museum entirely dedicated to him.
- Wine tasting. There are a lot of wineries around Pézenas so if you love wine and food-related activities, you will be in for a treat!
WHERE TO STAY: Le Grand Hôtel Molière is ideally located near the historic centre and the bus station of Pézenas. It’s a 3-star hotel offering beautiful rooms. Great value for money!
If you are staying in Bordeaux and want to discover some cute little towns in France, Saint-Émilion will be an excellent option.
This cute village is famous in the entire world for its wineries. Here you will find some of the most delicious French wines!
It only takes 30 minutes to get there from Bordeaux so make sure to add it to your France bucket list!
Here are some ideas of things to do in Saint-Émilion:
- Wine tasting. It would be impossible to visit this town without going to at least one winery. You’ll find many vineyards here and most chateaux offer wine tasting activities. The Château Beau-Séjour Bécot for example is an excellent place for wine tasting.
- Escape Wine at the Chateau Pas de l’Ane. This escape room is entirely dedicated to wine. It takes place in a winery and includes both the actual game and a wine tasting. This is an excellent thing to do if you are travelling with friends. It’s loads of fun!
- Visiting the village. Saint-Émilion is a great place to discover medieval architecture. You will also find loads of cute local shops and cafes. Perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
WHERE TO STAY: Badon Boutique Hotel is a stunning 4-star hotel in Saint-Emilion.
Beautiful Small Towns in Central France
Sarlat is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in France.
Located in the famous Dordogne, it is truly out of a fairytale! If you are into architecture, you will enjoy discovering Sarlat as it features both medieval and Renaissance architecture.
It is so pretty that it’s often chosen as a filming location. Film directors love the place! So much so that it is, in fact, the third most-filmed location in France.
Most of these productions are French but there are also international movies that were filmed there. The most famous one is “Jacquou Le Croquant”.
Here are a few examples of things to do in Sarlat:
- Go on a wine tour in the Dordogne Valley. The Dordogne is known for its incredible food and drinks. Going on a wine tour is an excellent thing to do in the area. Especially if you are a foodie! Click here to see the latest prices.
- Visiting Lascaux Cave. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most incredible things to see in Dordogne. It features prehistoric paintings. Click here to see the latest prices.
- Visiting a truffle farm. The Périgord (another name for Dordogne) is known for its truffles. If that’s something you are interested in, make sure to visit a farm. It’s a very authentic experience. The farmers will explain to you how they find the truffles and how they make products. You usually get to taste some as well!
- Taking a day tour to Beynac. This beautiful village is an excellent destination for a day trip. You will love roaming around the centre and visiting the castle. The castle was used as a filming location for one of France’s favourite movies, Les Visiteurs. Click here to see the latest prices.
WHERE TO STAY IN SARLAT: Le Clos de la Canéda is a stunning B&B near Sarlat. It’s very picturesque and they serve a delicious breakfast. See latest prices here.
Located in the Corrèze, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is a bit of hidden gem and if you like to stay away from the crowds, it will be an excellent destination.
You will be at the border with the Lot and very close to the Dordogne and Cantal. This means that there are a lot of places in the area for you to discover.
It is a medieval town which means you’ll find beautiful half-timbered houses and a gorgeous abbey.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne:
- Chapelle des Pénitents. This chapel is ideally located on the edge of the river Dordogne. It is a pretty chapel to discover but the best thing about it is that you can see the reflection in the water. It’s very pretty!
- Roaming around the town centre. Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is a very charming town and you will find cute cafes and bars in the centre. It’s also a great place to grab a bite. The restaurants serve traditional and local dishes.
- Abbatiale Saint-Pierre. This stunning abbey located in the town centre features an impressive tympanum.
- Walking along the river. You can find a walking path along the river Dordogne. It’s very pleasant, especially in summer. Make sure to cross the bridge and go on the other side. You get pretty views of the river and the town.
WHERE TO STAY: Logis Contact Hôtel Le Beaulieu is a stunning hotel within walking distance from the town centre. It’s super cute and excellent value for money.
Located in the northern part of the Cantal, Saint-Flour is one of the most underrated pretty small towns in France.
As a matter of fact, the entire region is completely overlooked by tourists (may them be international visitors or the French themselves!). Yet, it has so much to offer.Saint-Flour is located near the Auvergne volcanoes.
The surrounding landscapes are beautiful and the town itself, with its houses made of basalt, so cute.
Here are a few examples of things to do in Saint-Flour:
- Visiting the cathedral Saint-Pierre de Saint-Flour. This beautiful cathedral is over 600 years old and is an excellent example of gothic architecture. It was made with the basalt produced by the volcanoes.
- Go hiking or skiing on the volcanoes. Yes, France does have volcanoes! None of the volcanoes in continental France are active so that’s not something you should be worried about. Nowadays, they look like mountains. Magical mountains that provide amazing soil and pure water. If you are visiting in winter, make sure to go skiing at the Lioran. It is a rather small ski resort but it’s very pretty. In summer, there are a lot of hiking options including the Puy Mary and the Ridges.
- Visiting the “Musée de la Haute Auvergne”. If you want to learn more about this authentic and traditional region, make sure to visit the museum. It’s located in an old Episcopium and features amazing historical collections.
Technically speaking, Collonges-La-Rouge isn’t a small town but a village. That having been said, it’s way too pretty not to be included!
Collonges-La-Rouge is located in Corrèze, about 30 minutes from Brive. It is known for being the first village getting the label “most beautiful village in France” and being entirely red.
The stone that was used to make the village is red sandstone. It is incredibly unique and beautiful!
Here are some ideas of things to do in Collonges:
- Walking tour. The ‘office de tourisme’ (tourist centre) offers walking tour around the village. It’s pretty affordable (6 euros per person) and is a great way to discover more about the history of Collonges.
- Visiting the castle. The castle of Collonges is incredibly pretty. There is an entry fee but it’s well worth it.
- Discovering the ‘petite rue noire’. Located in the top part of the village, this cute street is quite oddly shaped which makes it very unique.
- The mermaid house and the backwards monk. There are a lot of hidden gems in Collonges and if you can find many scluptures on the houses. These 2 are examples of these hidden scupltures.
Aurillac may not be the most famous French small town on this list but it is the perfect destination for people who love to discover hidden gems and stay away from the crowds.
Aurillac is the capital of the Cantal. It’s ideally located near the volcanoes of the Cantal and many other natural landmarks.
Unlike some of the other towns mentioned in this article, Aurillac is not ruled by tourists. The only time of the year where it gets quite busy in August as it hosts the biggest festival of street theatre in the world.
This means it’s a great place to learn about the local culture and discover the beautiful French landscapes.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Aurillac:
- Gorges de la Jordanne. Located about 15 minutes out of Aurillac, the gorges de la Jordanne are a canyon in which runs the river Jordanne. It’s absolutely stunning and will be a refreshing activity during the hot summer days.
- Strolling around the city centre. Aurillac city centre is pretty small which means you can easily get around on foot. You will discover many beautiful buildings dating from the middle ages as well as cute fountains and local shops.
- Museum des Volcans. Aurillac is surrounded by volcanoes so it’s only normal that you would find a museum dedicated to them. The Museum des Volcans is a great place to visit for both adults and kids.
WHERE TO STAY: The Hotel des Carmes is ideally located in the city centre near the Place du Square and the main shopping streets. You will find many restaurants and cafes around.
The hotel itself is beautiful and has 3 stars. It’s one of the best-rated hotels in Aurillac. Click here to see prices.
You probably never heard of Cluny but yet, this beautiful french town used to be one of the most important ones in the world!
It’s home to the Cluny Abbey which used to be the biggest basilica in the world up until St Peter’s Basilica was built.
Regardless of the fascinating historical background, Cluny is an excellent place to visit. The town itself is so pretty and there are loads to do!
Here are a few examples of things to do in Cluny:
- Visiting the Cluny Abbey. Although it used to be the biggest in the world, it is far from being the case now. Most of the Abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution but you can still visit it and catch a glimpse of what it used to look like. There are 3D reconstructions available and the cloisters are amazingly pretty!
- Visiting the Cheese tower (“Tour des fromages”). Make sure to go up to the top of the tower. From there, you will uncover beautiful views over the town and surroundings.
- Self-walking tour. If you head to the visitor centre, they will give you itineraries for 3 interesting self-walking tours including Notre-Dame quarter, Saint-Mayeul quarter and Saint-Marcel quarter.
WHERE TO STAY IN CLUNY: Art’Hotel & SPA Le Potin Gourmand is a beautiful and authentic hotel in Cluny. You will love having dinner in the garden. So pretty! Click here to see the latest prices.
Located in Haute-Loire, le Puy-en-Velay is one of the most beautiful towns in Auvergne.
It’s particularly famous for being a gateway to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail and while there are a lot of pilgrims going there, it’s also a great destination for visitors who are looking for an authentic experience.
Le Puy-en-Velay is a super cute town and here traditions and local delicacies are important.
As it’s located in Auvergne, you will also have access to the volcanoes populating the region.
It’s also a great place to discover the Loire River in a different way. Most tourist rush the Loire Valley region to see the castles but the Loire River goes as far as the Puy and that’s here that you can really see its true beauty.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Le Puy-en-Velay:
- Notre-Dame-de-France statue. This is one of the most impressive landmarks in France. This statue of the Virgin Mary is unique on many levels. Firstly, it’s located on top of a volcanic rock, the Rocher Corneille. Secondly, Mary is carrying Jesus on her right arm which is pretty unusual. It is an impressive statue as it’s over 500 metres high!
- Puy de Lumières. From May to September, the town organises a festival of lights showing incredible light illusions on the Rocher Corneille and around the rest of the town. It’s incredibly pretty!
- Notre-Dame-du-Puy Cathedral. Located in the town centre, this stunning cathedral is a UNESCO site.
- Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Rock. This one is another majestic rock in Le Puy-en-Velay. You can hike up to the top where you’ll discover a stunning chapel, Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe.
WHERE TO STAY: Le gîte du Bessat is a cute B&B near the Cathedral, the statue and the town centre.
Beautiful Small Towns in Northern France
Now is time to discover the most charming small towns in Northern France. This includes places in Brittany, Alsace, Normandy and plenty more!
Located on the coast of Normany, Étretat may be a very small town in France but it’s still one of the most famous ones!
It is particularly known for its impressive white chalf cliffs. They feature 3 natural arches as well as a pointy one called the Needle (l’aiguille).
Another reason why this town is particularly famous is its connection with Arsène Lupin, the Gentleman Burglar.
Yes, that’s right! Maurice Leblanc used to live here, in a house called Le Clos Lupin Villa.
FUN FACT: Étretat was recently featured in the French Netflix show Lupin starring Omar Sy.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Étretat:
- Soaking up the views of the white cliffs. The Normany coast is famous for its white cliffs but they are particularly pretty in Etretat as they have an usual shape. They are arches! For this reason, they were the object of famous paintings (including by Claude Monet). There are several view points and walks you can take to take a closer look at the cliffs and this should be the first thing to do in Étretat.
- Walking along the promenade. Every seaside town has a promenade and Étretat is no exception. While you walk along the promenade, you’ll get to see the beautiful cliffs as well as the beach and see.
- Visiting the Étretat Gardens. If you like to see unique sights, this will be the perfect place. The Étretat Gardens are a great example of landscaping and you can find many scupltures. Art and nature at the same time!
Located in Brittany, Honfleur is known for being one of the most flowery towns in France. If you love colourful places with loads of flowers, you are in for a treat! It’s very picturesque and the port is absolutely stunning!
Here are a few examples of things to do in Honfleur:
- Visiting the churches. Honfleur is home to 3 beautiful churches: Sainte-Catherine church, Saint-Léornard church and Note-Dame-de-Grâce chapel. They are between 400 and 900 years old! Perfect for history lovers!
- Roaming around the “Vieux Bassin”. This quarter is part of the old port and features incredible houses on top of the colourful port. If you are into art, you may recognise it. It was featured in famous paintings of Courbet, Boudin and Monet.
- Visiting the historic centre. The historic centre and Enclos quarter used to be surrounded by walls, it is a beautiful place to explore. The houses are beautiful and there are flowers everywhere!
WHERE TO STAY IN HONFLEUR: Ibis Style Honfleur is an excellent hotel located in the historic centre. It will be a great base to start exploring the town. See latest prices here.
If you are looking for a fairytale town in France, this is as good as it gets! Located in Alsace (near the German border), Riquewhir has it all.
Cobblestoned streets, half-timbered winemakers’ shops and tasting rooms, colourful houses… it’s truly beautiful!
It’s very easy to get there for Colmar. If you have a car, it’s only 20 minutes drive. Alternatively, you can take a bus or go on a day tour from Colmar. See prices here.
Here are a few examples of things to do in Riquewhir:
- Roaming around town. This may sound obvious but it truly is the best thing to do in Riquewhir. The town centre is beautiful and just walking around, getting lost in the small streets is an amazing thing! You will discover the Upper Door and the beautiful Town Hall. If you are interested in learning more, you may also opt for a walking tour.
- Discovering the Tower Museum of Thieves. This is one of the most noticeable landmarks in Riquewhir. It used to be a tower but it has since been reconverted into a museum.
- The Hansi Museum. If you want to discover more about the history of Alsace, this is the best place to do so! Not only is the museum very interesting but it’s also stunning! You will love taking photos there!
WHERE TO STAY IN RIQUEWHIR: The Best Western Hotel & SPA Le Schoenenbourg is an amazing place to stay in Riquewhir. The hotel is beautiful and even has a pool! It’s also reasonably priced. Click here to see the latest prices.
If you are looking for a beautiful medieval town in Brittany, Dinan will be the perfect destination!
Located in the Côtes-d’Armor, Dinan is one of the best preserved medieval town in France. Here you’ll find a beautiful 3km-long wall, half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets as well as a stunning port.
Here are some ideas of things to do in Dinan:
- Strolling around the old town. The historic centre is a great place to discover amazing examples of medieval architecture. The Place des Merciers boasts stunning half-timbered houses. The streets around are also worth exploring as they are very pretty and colourful.
- Soaking up the views. If you head to the Tour de l’horloge (Clock tower), you’ll discover incredible views of the town and the surroundings.
- Visiting the basilica Saint-Sauveur. France is home to beautiful churches and basilicas and Dinan is no exception. Located only a short walk from the historic centre, the basilica Saint-Sauveur is a stunning building dating from the Middle Ages. It also boasts beautiful views of the river Rance.
- Eating seafood. If you love seafood, you will be in for a treat in Dinan. There are many seaside restaurants that serve delicious dishes and boasts amazing views.
WHERE TO STAY: The ibis Styles Dinan Centre Ville is a beautiful hotel ideally located in the Old town. From there you can reach all the main attractions on foot.
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