20 Feb 23

The Most Beautiful Villages of France

Sam McCrow Camino

When you’re walking the French countryside on Le Puy Camino, sooner or later you will come across a village that is L’un des plus beaux villages de France – one of the most beautiful villages in France.

These lively flower-bedecked villages ooze history in their medieval cobbled streets and picturesque squares. There’s fabulous treasures and religious masterpieces, magnificently preserved houses and centuries-old arched bridges. The impressive cathedrals and abbeys are a sight to behold, and myths and legends abound. 

The ‘most beautiful’ label is awarded to only a select few French villages that meet a mountain of criteria. So what makes a village one of France’s most beautiful and who decides?

In 1981, Mayor Charles Ceyrac from the beautiful little village of Collonges-la-Rouge in Corrèze conceived the idea to promote the charm and character of small French villages after reading a book entitled ‘The Most Beautiful Villages in France’. It was a time when many of the younger generation were leaving the small villages they grew up in to find work in larger towns. Despite their historic monuments and charming back streets, many villages were unable to provide an economic foundation able to support the current and future generations.

Ceyrac wanted to unite forces and passions to protect and promote the remarkable heritage and offer an alternative to rural desertification. He contacted all 100 mayors of the book’s 100 villages. Sixty six mayors signed up to his project and The Most Beautiful Villages in France Association was born. 

So far, 172 villages have made the official list (there are about 30,000 villages in France!). 

The Le Puy Camino is characterised by its many beautiful villages (some official, others unofficial – Moissac, Cahors and Montcuq to name a few), which is why this route is so cherished. Here are the official most beautiful villages of France that you’ll come across on the Full Length Le Puy Camino. 

Auvillar (Tarn-et-Garonne)
Pink bricks and panoramic views

You’ll fall under the spell of Auvillar when you wander its cobbled streets. Cross the door of the imposing 17th-century clock tower and you will be delighted to discover the main square, which is superb with its unusual circular corn exchange, standing on Tuscan columns, and its ancient timber-framed arcade houses. Not far away is a panoramic viewpoint, offering a beautiful view of the Garonne and the valley.

You’ll fall under the spell of Auvillar when you wander its cobbled streets

Conques (Aveyron)
Jewel of Romanesque art

When you descend from the austere and wild Aubrac plateau towards the Lot valley you’ll arrive at Conques – a superb and bewitching medieval village. Its abbey-church with its splendid tympanum remains one of the most important centres of art and spirituality. This village became one of the main stops on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route from Puy en Velay when the relics of Sainte Foy were brought here from Agen in 883. 

Estaing (Aveyron)
Gothic bridge and famous castle

The narrow streets of the picture-postcard medieval village of Estaing have hardly changed over the centuries. The village is distinguished by its 11th-century castle, which was built by the illustrious Estaing family. It mixes Romanesque, gothic and renaissance styles and is open to the public in summer. The famous Gothic stone bridge that straddles the Lot is popular with pilgrims and classified as World Heritage. 


Lauzerte (Tarn-et-Garonne)
Houses of nobles and notables

The charming village of Lauzerte dominates the surrounding valleys and hills of the Quercy Blanc from its lofty position atop a spur of land. It has one of the best preserved bastide village centres in the region. Many of the shops and cafes have traditional wrought iron signs representing their trade, which adds to the authentic medieval feel. The side streets that radiate off from the square also contain a large number of attractive medieval houses.

La Romieu (Gers)
Gothic cloister and legends of cats

This lovely village was founded at the end of the 11th century by a German monk returning from a pilgrimage to Rome. Its collegiate church of Saint-Pierre, classified as a World Heritage Site, is an architectural gem and the setting for a large chapel, a charming Gothic cloister and a double-spiral staircase that allows you to climb the 33m of the bell tower. The legend of Angelina’s cats gives the village a unique charm.

Saint Côme-d’Olt (Aveyron)
Famed flamboyant bell tower

The alluring village of Saint Côme-d’Olt is located at the foot of the Aubrac in the fertile Lot valley. The picturesque village is known for the 16th-century church, built in flamboyant Gothic style, that is surmounted by an original twisted bell tower, which rises 45m. The city was fashioned around the ancient ramparts which have become the exterior facades of the houses. The heart of the village has kept its medieval character and will carry you back in time.


There are also other ‘most beautiful villages’ associations based on the French model, including the Most Beautiful Villages of Japan and I Borghi piu Belli d’Italia


Le Puy Camino (France)


See the official website: The Most Beautiful Villages in France

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