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The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Southern France

The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Southern France

story by: Tom Ricketts

Established in 1982, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, or as we’re going to call it, The Most Beautiful Villages of France was set up to promote the small and picturesque villages of France. To qualify for membership, the villages must have quality heritage, a population of less than 2000, and contain at least two national heritage sites. Today the number of members sits at around 150, so it’s rather unlikely you’ll get to see all of them. To help you see the best of the lot, our Europe experts have picked some of their favourites for you to check out…

This small village lies about two hours north of Montpellier on the edge of the Cévennes National Park. It’s said that Enimie, the daughter of a king, had become of marriageable age but prayed to god to avoid it. Shortly afterwards she caught leprosy which of course, was not the most envious quality her suitors were looking for. Her father took her to bath in the river where the town now lies and was miraculously cured. However upon returning home, she once again contracted the disease and the process had to be repeated. After coming home the second time, she again contracted leprosy and so it was decided she should live by the river permanently, and thus the town was founded. The gorgeous town is built on the hillsides around the river and has the ruins of two monasteries to be explored. Nearby Cévennes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its mountains, plateaus and grasslands.

Gassin and Ramatuelle
Sitting quietly inland from the glitz and glam of Saint Tropez are the delightful villages of Gassin and Ramatuelle. Both villages sit atop a hill with stunning views over the Gulf of Saint Tropez. The views though, were not the reason for their location; they were in fact built so high up as a lookout and deterrent to pirates who once pillaged the coastal towns. Today many restaurants and cafes offer prime vantage points for taking in the views, and the narrow streets of the towns hide many boutiques and galleries. The towns are also known for their beautiful gardens of hydrangeas and jasmine which flower year round.

One side of this town is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking a river canyon, and the other side looks over countryside dotted with small vineyards. So, you could be sitting in ancient church admiring the stunning views with a bottle (or three) of France’s finest… Bliss!

Nicknamed ‘the Village in the Sky of Provence’, this small town is built atop a 635 metre hill with views of the surrounding countryside. This village has it all, a castle, ancient city walls, lavender gardens, and narrow cobblestone streets lined with restaurants and patisseries. The picturesque town also featured prominently in the movie Day of the Jackel.

Les Baux-de-Provence
This village is probably one of the most famous in the region. It sits atop a rocky outcrop with a destroyed castle being the prominent feature. In fact, much of the village has been destroyed over the years and the crumbling facades of houses and castles carved into the cliffs are exactly what brings tourists here. There’s a huge arts and crafts scene in the village and a glut of local galleries. If you’re visiting between April and September, be sure to check out the trebuchet demonstration for a very rare glimpse of these fortress destroying machines in action.

> Read about the Most Beautiful Villages in Dordogne.
> Read about the Most Beautiful Villages in ​Burgundy.

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