Visiting Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

Do you dream of visiting rural France with its winding hillside roads, trickling streams, and half-timbered buildings? If this sounds like your idea of heaven, then Les Plus Beaux Villages de France will make the perfect destinations. From Minerve to Lagrasse, visitors will enjoy picturesque scenery, incredible architecture, and stunning landscapes.

What is Les Plus Beaux Villages de France?

Founded in 1982, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France translates into English as ‘The Most Beautiful Villages of France’. The collective promotes French rural villages for tourism, based on their cultural heritage and integration into the landscapes that surround them. Membership to the association has increased tourism in these rural places by as much as 50%!

How many member towns and villages are there in Les Plus Beaux Villages de France?

There are many small towns and villages on the list of recognised members of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, including Vézelay, Sancerre and Noyers-sur-Serein. The total number of towns and villages on the list is now 174.


Our Pick of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

It would take us a long time to cover all 174 member towns and villages in one article, so we’re going to highlight just some of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The villages and towns in this article can be visited aboard a European Waterways cruise.


With its turreted medieval château, Châteauneuf-en-Auxois is a magnificent addition to Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Visible from miles away, those meandering along the Burgundy Canal can enjoy the sight of the town on its rocky hilltop, surrounded by French countryside.

Owned by the Dukes of Burgundy and many other wealthy families, Château de Châteauneuf can still be visited today. Visitors can enjoy the medieval architecture and collections, and view the Burgundy hills from the highest part of the town of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois.

Visit Châteauneuf-en-Auxois aboard L’Impressionniste


Another fortified hilltop town listed as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This Burgundian location is filled with medieval features, winding streets, and a church with Gothic architecture. Known for being the main location for filming the 2001 movie, Chocolat, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain has a reputation for its confectionery.

When you visit Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, don’t miss an opportunity to stop in at the abbey-turned-sweet-shop, Les Anis de Flavigny. Famous for its traditional recipe of tiny, sugar-coated aniseed bon bons, it’s a must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Visit Flavigny-sur-Ozerain aboard La Belle Epoque

Flavigny sur Ozerain


Another of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, and renowned as a filming location, is Noyers-sur-Serein. With two renaissance châteaux, cobbled streets, a lively market and village squares lined with half-timbered houses, it really is like walking into a history book. Built around the banks of the River Serein, this Burgundian town is an excellent destination if you’re looking for picture-perfect France at its medieval best.

In addition to wandering around the medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein, don’t miss an opportunity to embark on a short drive to Château d’Ancy-le-Franc in all its majesty. With grey, slate roofs, and white hewn stone, this French château shows off the best of Renaissance French architecture.

Visit Noyers-sur-Serein aboard La Belle Epoque 


Built on a hill in the middle of sprawling rural France, Vézelay is a beautiful town that’s stooped in history from before the crusades to the present day. As a member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, the town started life as a monastery which was built to protect the remains of Mary Magdalene. Now, both the eleventh-century Basilica and the town that was built around it are listed UNESCO heritage sites.

Visitors to Vézelay should climb the steep cobbled streets to see the Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene at the top of the hill. Make sure you don’t miss the shells beneath your feet, that were laid there by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Visit Vézelay aboard L’Art de Vivre



At the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in a picturesque valley, lies the tiny commune of Lagrasse. Having been a member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France since 1986, it is known for its rich culture and heritage, food markets and arts and crafts. Built near the banks of the River Orbieu, Lagrasse boasts attractive bridges and medieval town walls.

Home to the seventh century Benedictine monastery, Lagrasse Abbey, visitors can enjoy the medieval architecture galore. With more than 16 protected monuments, including the abbey and medieval city itself, Lagrasse is ideal for history lovers.

Visit Lagrasse aboard a Canal du Midi cruise

The eighth century village of Lagrasse


Known as the home of Minervois wine, Minerve is located in the Occitanie region of southern France. Sat atop a gorge above the River Cesse, Minerve is known as a village that offered refuge to the Cathars of Beziers after they were driven from their home and massacred during the Albigensian Crusade of the 1200s. Following a siege, Minerve sacrificed 140 Cathars that were consequently burned at the stake by the invading crusader army for not converting to Catholicism.

Today, visitors to Minerve can walk the historic streets, view the exceptionally impressive ancient bridge that arches over the gorge, and taste the Minervois wine that the region is so famous for.

Visit Minerve aboard hotel barge Enchanté

Minerve, affectionately known as the most beautiful village in France


Also situated in the Occitanie region is Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, Auvillar. Having been classed as a ‘beautiful village’ since 1994, this Gallo-Roman town first started out as a settlement on a rocky outcrop. On the route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the town saw a rise in visitors in medieval times.

Famous for its pottery industry and for the preparation of feathers for use in calligraphy, visitors can now enjoy the architecture from prosperous, medieval Auvillar. Not to miss are the harbour, the clock tower, and the Church of St Peter.

Visit Auvillar aboard hotel barge Rosa in Gascony

Auvillar, France


With its rich Roman and Celtic history, Sancerre is one of the more recent additions to the list of members of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Home to an Augustinian abbey that was founded in the 1000s and with its own château and ramparts, Sancerre’s medieval architecture is highly impressive. Having played a big role in history during the Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion, and in the French Revolution, Sancerre has seen much violence. However, today it looks idyllic and restful.

Famed for its cultivation of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir grapes, visitors should take a trip to some of the wine houses; the Maisons des Sancerre. There’s also a ruined church, a sixteenth century bell tower, and the remaining tower of the château to explore in Sancerre.

Visit Sancerre aboard hotel barge Renaissance

Sancerre and Loire Wine Region

Visit Les Plus Beaux de Villages

So, there you have it, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France as visited on European Waterways barges. If you’re interested in joining us and visiting some of these beautiful villages in France, then why not order a free copy of our brochure or perhaps have a no-obligation chat with a member of our team via our Contact Form.

L'Impressionniste barge cruising

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