One word – variety. And France has heaps of it. This beguiling country is both sleepy and captivating with snippets to satisfy everyone.
It’s near impossible to imagine France without thinking of the Eiffel Tower sparkling in Paris or the famous golden sands of the French Riviera. But France has oh so much more than meets the eye.
With that in mind, we wanted to share our favourite towns and villages in the country which will hopefully add an extra layer for you to explore on your next villa holiday in France. Not only are these towns and villages easy on the eye, but they’re all totally unique from each other. So whatever your taste, you’ll find something new.
This picturesque village in the south of France occupies a splendid position high above the Dordogne River. Honey-coloured streets, warm welcoming locals and pretty views to match – need we say more?
Oliver’s tips: One thing you should know before visiting is that this village has an intriguing cave system that sits underneath the main square. These caves were used to shelter locals during the war, but today, it’s open for tourists and residents alike to admire the beautiful formations.
At the end of your visit, a lift will take you to a remarkable viewpoint overlooking the Dordogne valley. It’s a special sight for sure, and like many visitors, you won’t help but fall head over heels for Domme.
Colourful and bursting with life, it’s hard to remember that Honfleur was originally built with the sole purpose of trading. As the years have progressed, this seaside town is now famed for attracting impressionist painters. You can see the art up close among the museums and modern galleries dotted around the town.
Oliver’s tips: Honfleur is both cultural and wealthy – a fact magnified by the yachts surrounding Vieux Bassin (the heart of the port), and the rows upon rows of high-rise homes packed tightly together.
Moving with the tide, this town is now dedicated to tourism so you can choose from an enticing selection of arty hotels, shops, restaurants, and more.
Oh, this pink granite coast is a budding photographer’s delight. The colours of blush pink perfectly complement the sound of the waves gently crashing on the rocks. You’ll seldom find this sight anywhere else in the world. This quaint seaside village is the definition of calm.
Oliver’s tips: Families and nomads should aim to tick this hidden gem of their bucket lists – beaches for days, heavenly coastal walks, and bird watching are within arms reach, making it one of the most beautiful villages in France. But please don’t visit expecting the high life – even during midsummer, Ploumanac’h remains a pleasantly sleepy little place.
Towards the east of the Loire Valley, you’ll find the medieval town of Chartres. Visitors from all over the world first stop off at Chartres Cathedral. Apart from its sheer size, the entrance doorways will make anyone stop in their tracks.
Oliver’s tips: The arches are decorated with ornate carvings which are best admired through a pair of binoculars – especially to see the nooks and crannies of the stonework. Inside, the stained glass windows take centre stage.
When it’s time to escape the hustle, pick up a baguette filled with saucisson (usually with sliced gherkins and a dollop of mustard) and head over to the park near the Eure River.
On the banks of the Herault gorg, you’ll find St-Guilhem-le-Désert. With a Medieval personality, the village is surrounded by cliffs and oak trees. Beautiful views will be everywhere you turn in this UNESCO gem.
Oliver’s tips: With a little exploration, you’ll find the amber stone houses that have stood the test of time – Renaissance-style windows, an ancient tower, and of course the grand focus, Abbaye de Gellone. The church is so beautiful, but above all, you can feel the history through the walls.
Like other French religious buildings, the Abbey was vandalised by Protestants during the Reformation. But it still remains intact, further adding to its charm.
Fourcés is a small bastide town most notable for its round central ‘square’. Years ago, the square was occupied by a castle but all that’s left now is tree-shaded green. Those visiting this beautiful town come to admire the architecture and the half-timbered houses – trust us, they won’t disappoint.
Oliver’s tips: Summers here are divine, you can expect an abundance of markets and local entertainment to take place in the town – so make sure to bag yourself some tasty local produce. The inhabitants are as happy as ever, and although this small town relies on tourism, there isn’t a grey cloud in sight!
At the heart of the French Riviera is the gorgeous St. Tropez. Famed in songs and notorious spray tans, you’ll quickly learn why this is one of the most famous resorts in Europe and a popular town in France. The Med is truly bluer here, so top up your tan, join the locals in a game of boules, or explore the cobblestone streets.
Oliver’s tips: We don’t need to sell this seaside town; if you’re after days spent poolside, an eclectic mix of shopping and historical charms, then this is the place for you. And if you’re dying to experience a taste of the high life, you can celeb-spot on popular Nikki Beach.
A little north from the glitz and glamour of Cannes, is the world’s capital of perfume, Grasse. Home to around 30 makers, tourists looking for a whiff of something good can enjoy multiple factory tours. Even the most delicate noses will love the smells that perforate the town – a scent that long lingers even after you’ve left.
Oliver’s tips: Make sure to bring back some jasmine soaps, violet body sprays, and freshly scented perfume to remind you of your travels.
If you’re looking to experience the scenery of a bygone time, L’Isle sur la Sorgue is one of those places that one has to see. The ebb of greenery and the reflection of the water shining from the several canals is simply superb.
Oliver’s tips: Known as the ‘island city’, antique lovers and art collectors will be gifted with more than 300 secondhand shops meaning you’re more than guaranteed to leave with a steal! The antique fairs during Easter have gained a worldwide reputation, so much so that more than 500 antique dealers come to show off their gems.
Oliver’s tips: Vézelay is a major site of Christendom and often visitors will climb the hill to the church as a rite of passage. This charming hilltop village is also home to many writers and artists that have long found inspiration here.
Oliver’s tips: This ancient-turned-trendy town is great for families, couples, and friends looking to get away for a few days – four days should be enough to see everything. You won’t fail to spot the colourful half-timbered houses – they’re the legacy of the town, and so beautiful to look at.
Oliver’s tips: Chamonix is great for skiers, hikers, thrill-seekers, and anyone with a love for picturesque views. The talk about this French town being extreme is true, especially as a sports oasis. But if you haven’t got the adrenaline pumping through your veins, don’t worry – many come to admire the views, the shopping, and the gastronomic atmosphere.
Oliver’s tips: Everything has such refined detail, it almost doesn’t look real. You won’t be the only one admiring this old town beauty – rumour has it, Colmar was the inspiration behind Belle’s village in Beauty and the Beast. Pretty cool eh!
Oliver’s tips: Once you set foot in Roussillon, you’ll instantly be taken by its atmosphere and charm. You can hike, or hire a mountain bike to see the village up close. On your travels, stop to take a look at the arts and crafts, galleries, restaurants, or any ongoing festivals (usually in the summer months).
Oliver’s tips: Don’t fail to visit the Garden of Five Senses. This garden will tickle all your senses as you get lost in thousands of flowers, fruits and mazes. Enter at your own pace for an amazing sensory experience. Yvoire was originally a fishing village, not surprising given how close it is to Lake Geneva.
Take a look at our vast France travel guide, covering everything you’ll ever need to know about the country. Exploring regions, essential phrases, where to eat and things to do – you really can’t go wrong. And, if you’re looking for a cosy abode to match, check out our portfolio of villas and chateaux to rent in France. Contact our concierge team for any special extras to make a memorable holiday to France and talk to them for some local knowledge and tips too.
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