Filled with great museums, art and food, France is one of my favourite countries in Europe. I’ve been to Paris many times, but haven’t really had a chance to explore much the rest of the country. That’s why I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers to help me compile a list of the most beautiful small towns in France. And here it is.
Beautiful small towns in France
There are so many beautiful small towns in France, it could be hard to choose which one to visit. That’s why we tried to pick some from all the different parts of the country.
*Read more: Would you like to explore some of the places related to life and work of Vincent van Gogh in France?
One of the most beautiful small towns in France is definitely Laon. And it’s going to surprise you the moment you step into it. The old city centre is situated high on top of a hill. The charming town has a stunning cathedral built back in the 12th century. And it’s mostly famous for it today. However, this small beautiful French town has so much more to offer.
Besides that, Laon has tons of cute alleys to wander in, and once in them, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back to history. To make it even more attractive, one of them has a whole bunch of colourful umbrellas in the sky, reflecting all the colours of the rainbow on the street. So, even when it rains, Laon remains colourful.
*How to get there: Laon is located some 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Paris. You can easily reach it by car or by train. There is a railway station located in the new part of town. Laon is also close to the beautiful Château de Chantilly, and it can make a nice day trip from there.
Manouk from Groetjes uit Verweggistan
The little town of Amboise is located alongside the river Loire, right in the heart of the Loire Valley. It’s the region that’s world-famous for its beautiful castles. So, it’s not surprising the highlight that beautiful small French town is Château d’Amboise.
The origins of the castle are leading back to the 9th century. Later on, it became the royal residence, but that’s not all! No one less than Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years in Amboise, and is said to be buried on the castle grounds.
While the castle is worth visiting, do take the time to stroll the narrow alleys and admire the old city, as well. Or just take a coffee at the café at the Tea House Bigot and take in the atmosphere.
Friday market at Amboise is also worth visiting. Besides having some amazing local products, it’s also an excellent place to buy some local wine – Loire Valley is a renowned wine region, as well.
*How to get there: You can easily visit Amboise on a day tour from Paris. You can get on your own there by train. Or join some of the organised group tours from Paris.
Lena from Salut from Paris
When you visit Eguisheim in France, it will immediately remind you on a cute little town from the ‘Beauty and the Beast’. With all the colourful timber beamed buildings and cobbled streets, it couldn’t be any more picturesque. And it’s without a doubt one of the most beautiful small towns in France.
It’s located about a 30-minute cycle ride away from Colmar, making a day trip there one of the top things to do while in Colmar. It’s becoming especially charming during the Easter when nearly every house is decorated with cute little wicker baskets, yellow chicks and pastel-coloured eggs.
You can still feel so well the Middle Ages while there. It’s centre is marked by the old square, surrounded by two concentric streets. It’s actually quite popular among the French people themselves. It was voted as the favourite French village (Village préféré des Français) in 2013.
*How to get there: Eguisheim is located in the French region of Alsace, close to the border with Germany and Switzerland. The nearest bigger town is Strasbourg.
Victoria from Bridges and Balloons
Senlis is a beautiful small French town near Paris. If you’d like to visit some beautiful small towns in France while visiting its capital, you definitely need to see Senlis. And it can be combined with a visit to Château of Chantilly.
Despite its small size Senlis has an important place in the history of France. The assembly to choose the new king after the death of King Louis V took place in Senlis, and it was Hugh Capet, lord of Senlis, who became the first king of House of Capet in 987. By that, this beautiful small French town became a royal city. Visitors can still see the royal palace in Senlis, home of the first kings of the Capet dynasty. The current castle dates to the 12th century and was built under Louis VII of France.
Other interesting sights in Senlis are the Gothic cathedral, located in front of the Royal Palace. Former St. Vincent Abbey founded in 1065 by Queen Anne of Kyiv, remains from the Roman times, and some historic houses are also sights that shouldn’t be missed in this beautiful small town in France.
Today, most of the architecture in Senlis downtown is from the 16th century, and it is very pleasant to stroll around the town, with its winding cobbled streets. Some of these streets still have their medieval names, especially the ones around the old market.
*How to get there: Senlis is located some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Paris, and you can easily visit it on a day trip from there.
Elisa from World in Paris
Another beautiful small town in France is Annecy. It’s colourful, friendly, and just overall stunning. There are many reasons for visiting Annecy and falling in love with it. Its cute medieval houses, beautiful canals, clean and alpine air, or the proximity to a gorgeous, pristine lake.
Strolling around the narrow streets of the old town will bring you back to some past time. Although the old town is small, there are many sights that shouldn’t be missed there. Be sure to visit Palais de L´Isle, one of the main attractions in Annecy. However, make a stop at Château d’Annecy, as well.
Annecy is also known as the Venice of the Alps, and you’ll immediately understand why while crossing many of its small bridges. Beautiful lake Annecy is just a stone throw away from the old town. It’s set against the Alps, making the whole scenery just perfect. While there, you can enjoy some water sports, do a boat tour or just stroll around the lake and enjoy the view.
*How to get there: Annecy is located in the southeastern part of France. You can get there on a direct train from Paris. However, if you prefer to fly, the closest airports are in Chambery, Lyon, Turin and Milan.
Arzo from Arzo Travels
Château-Chalon is a pretty small town in Jura, French region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. It is one of the few towns in the region with the label “most beautiful village of France”. Plus, it has the regional label “characterful village”. So, if you are doing a road trip in the Jura you cannot miss it!
Château-Chalon has a picturesque setting, perched on the edge of a cliff and watching over the entrance to its neighbouring blind valleys. It is also surrounded by vineyards producing a special wine named Vin Jaune.
A great time of the year to visit this beautiful small town in France is during the autumn. Colours of the valley are amazing during that time, and many harvest festivals are taking place in the neighbouring villages. Also, the waterfalls located in the area usually work full power with the October rains.
Château-Chalon is just a handful of stone houses, pretty squares and a couple of belvederes with fantastic views. The town church is very pretty and the old school, today a museum, has been kept just like it was in the 1930s.
For those who want to spend a night in Château-Chalon, there is le Relais des Abbesses, a unique historic building in the centre of the town.
*How to get there: You can easily access Château-Chalon from Geneva. So, the best is to fly there and rent a car and drive to Château-Chalon then.
Norbert from France Bucket List
The small French town of Bonifacio is situated on the southern coast of Corsica island. Although part of France, the town has a distinctly Italian feel, with Sardinia being a mere 12 kilometres away.
The town is made up of two very contrasting parts. The original medieval citadel of Bonifacio sits on a limestone cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. While there is the town’s modern harbour below it on the other side.
The harbour of Bonifacio is filled with yachts and lined with restaurants. The modern boats contrast sharply with the citadel above, but the overall effect is very picturesque. The old town, reached by many steps or by a tourist train (car parking is very limited) is a warren of narrow streets filled with shops, restaurants and several churches. Stone buttresses arch over the alleyways seemingly preventing the buildings from toppling onto each other such is their age.
There are countless beaches close to Bonifacio and a popular day trip from the town is to the beautiful archipelago of the Lavezzi Islands.
*How to get there: Corsica can be reached by ferry from mainland France and Italy or by flight. The nearest airport to Bonifacio is Figari.
Annabel from Smudged Postcard
Carcassonne is a beautiful small medieval town in the south of France. It’s fortification walls stretch for more than three kilometres and are punctuated by 52 towers. Heavily restored in the 19th century, the walls are a bit more fairy-tale-like than what they would have been in medieval times. But if you overlook the historical inaccuracies, it’s easy to feel like you have stepped back in time as soon as you walk through the Narbonnaise Gate, the main entrance to the walled town.
You can walk around most of the medieval city for free. Still, it’s worth paying the 10 euros entry fee to visit the Count’s Castle, a Cathar stronghold that was besieged and captured by crusaders in 1209.
*How to get there: Carcassonne is most easily accessible from the southern French city of Toulouse. Trains are quicker than the bus, with the fastest trains taking just 42 minutes. High-speed trains from more far-flung destinations like Marseille and Lyon also stop at Carcassonne, so it’s quite easy to reach. It’s also extremely popular with daytrippers, so stay overnight and get up very early in the morning to stroll the narrow streets in peace before the tourists arrive.
Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Colmar is a beautiful small town in France you should definitely visit. Narrow cobblestone streets run past rows of pastel-coloured half-timbered houses which look like they belong on the pages of a fairytale. They are filled with colourful flowers spilling out of shuttered windows and onto the streets below. Despite being small, the town also has two huge 13th-century churches, including impressive Gothic Saint Martin.
While the best things to do in Colmar is to admire the picture-perfect buildings which almost don’t feel real, you can also make the most of the number of restaurants in the town which serve tasty local French dishes. Colmar is also on the Alsace Wine Route, meaning there’s plenty of spots to enjoy a glass or two of local wine produced in the surrounding vineyards. You can even take a day trip out the wineries themselves.
For those who are a fan of European Christmas markets, Colmar makes a great winter destination, with a charming local market and twinkling lights consuming the majority of the town during December.
*How to get there: Colmar is located in Alsace region, in the northeastern part of France, close to the border with Germany and Switzerland. You can easily reach it from Strasbourg, Basel or Stuttgart.
Emily from London City Calling
St. Jean Pied de Port
St. Jean Pied de Port is a beautiful small town in France. It’s filled with narrow cobbled streets, old houses built of thick stone walls, wooden bridges, and charming cafes. Early morning is the best time to explore it because it is when the whole town gets infused by the aroma of freshly baked croissants and coffee.
The highlight of St. Jean is the 17th-century fortress that sits on the top of the hill overlooking the town. Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont, a 14th-century Gothic church, is another popular sight to visit there.
The town is a starting point of the Camino Frances one of the most popular pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The total distance of the route from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago is about 760 kilometres (around 472 miles).
The surrounding area is truly beautiful, with emerald green hills, small farms, vineyards and the Pyrenees mountains in the background. Despite its small size, this beautiful small town in France is a place you should definitely visit.
*How to get there: St. Jean Pied de Port is located in the Pyrenees close to the Spanish border. The easiest way of getting there is by taking a train or a bus from Paris to Bayonne. You can take a direct train to St. Jean from there.
Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
Cassis offers the best of both worlds for visitors to France. It both epitomizes the charm of a typical Provençal village, while also offering the seaside appeal of the Côte d’Azur.
The perfect weekend break destination, there are plenty of things to do in Cassis to keep you occupied over two–three days, or even more! Sample the town’s unique AOC wines, go hiking in the Calanques, take a boat tour, or relax on one of the many beaches.
The old town itself will keep you entertained with its quaint buildings and beautiful historical attractions. Shop up a storm in the charming boutiques and get lost in the maze of cobbled streets. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, you can relax into one of the port-side eateries to sample the region’s finest cuisine. Or gather some goodies from the local farmer’s market to picnic with a view of the Château de Cassis.
*How to get there: The closest airport is in Marseilles. You can then easily travel from there to Cassis by train.
Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Brantome is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Dordogne. It has been described as the “Venice of the Dordogne” thanks to its waterways and glass making industry.
The architecture of the town is a mixture of medieval and renaissance, with 8th-century Brantome Abbey and caves alongside the river, as well as many renaissance buildings throughout the town. Next to the abbey, you’ll also find lots of caves that have been turned into shops selling glass and other local specialities.
Taking a boat tour or hiring a canoe to paddle along the river is one of the most popular things to do in Brantome. As well as visit the Grand Jardin and the Jardins Tranquille.
While the town is small and could be seen in a day, you could also use it as a base to explore the wider Dordogne region. It’s home to plenty of chateaux, picturesque villages, and regional food including walnuts, truffles, and paté de foie gras.
*How to get there: The closest airports are Bergerac and Limoges. If you’re travelling from Paris, you can reach it by a direct speed TGV train. You can also rent a car there and drive some 500 kilometres from Paris to Brantome. The best way to see the overall area is by car. When visiting Brantome, you can park in a large carpark by the river, close to the canoe hire, and walk into the centre of town.
Sonja from Migrating Miss
Many travellers choose Bayeux as a home base for visiting the Normandy landing sites but make the mistake of not exploring the town. With so many things to do in Bayeux, it’s well worth spending a few days here to soak up all this beautiful small town in France has to offer.
Bayeux’s claim to fame is the historic Bayeux Tapestry, the nearly 70-meter-long embroidery that depicts the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England. The tapestry was constructed in the 11th century and can be viewed in the Tapestry Museum. The colossal Bayeux cathedral, built in the same century, is nearby. The interior is just as ornate and intricate as the Gothic exterior.
In the afternoon, do as the French do and lounge in a tea shop. The vibrant and funky décor of Les Volets Roses (adjacent to the cathedral) is a tea house not to be missed. In the evening, shops spill out onto the bustling sidewalks, and owners mingle with tourists and locals alike. Find time to walk along the Aure River, which runs through town. You’re greeted with lush farmland, wildlife and cottage-style homes as you follow the river away from town.
*How to get there: Bayeux’s compact and quaint old town makes for a perfect weekend getaway. It’s a two-hour direct train ride from Paris and easily reachable via train or bus from other major cities, too.
Elizabeth from Anchored Adventure Blog
Villefranche is a small seaside village just next to Nice. Narrow winding streets create a confusing maze where your only guides will be local cats. But all roads eventually lead onto a picturesque pebble beach.
This beach is way more beautiful than the one in Nice, and so Villefranche is a popular weekend escape for Nice locals. It doesn’t matter that it has rail tracks right behind, it’s still very peaceful.
Once you’re done with walking along the short promenade, going for a dip and perhaps tasting the fantastic cuisine of French Riviera, head out to the Fort du Mont Alban for some sightseeing. You’ll find a Citadel from the 16th century, a whole set of fortifications built around and, what’s more, you’ll have a beautiful view over the harbour from there. Often you can see giant cruise ships anchored there and taking up a significant part of the deep bay.
*How to get there: Villefranche is an ideal day trip from Nice. It takes either an hour-long walk to get to Villefranche or about 20 minutes on a scooter. Trains and buses go there, too.
Veronika from Travel Geekery
It doesn’t take long to understand why Collioure was so popular amongst artists. Over the years, the romantic town of Collioure was a favourite stomping ground for the likes of Matisse, Derain, Picasso and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Located on the Mediterranean coast, a short drive from the Spanish border, Collioure is the perfect picture postcard town with its pastel-coloured houses, clear waters, winding streets and alleys. It is set around a beautiful bay with the backdrop of the medieval castle and the bell tower of 17th-century Notre Dame des Anges.
Highlights include walking along the seafront path, wandering the streets of the historic town, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the world go by in one of the beach front bars. The best spot for an aperitif!
Market days on Wednesdays and Saturdays are not to be missed. The best time to visit it is during shoulder season as the town gets very busy during the summer months and parking can be challenging. Collioure is an easy place to fall in love with and is a must on your French bucket list.
*How to get there: The closest one is Perpignan-Rivesaltes airport. You can get by a taxi or a bus to Collioure from there. Girona and Barcelona airports are quite close, as well. Hop on the Perpicat bus then, and you’ll easily reach Collioure that way.
Gillian from Bucket List France
There are so many beautiful small towns in France you should plan a visit to. I hope this list inspired you to put some of them to your travel bucket list. Have you been to any of these? Would you like to add some must-see beautiful French towns to it? Let me know in the comments below!