In 1982 an independent association was created to list France’s most beautiful villages and promote picturesque French villages of quality heritage.
Today, the list for ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ includes 159 locations with strict criteria to be designated one of the chosen few from over 30,000 communes:
- there must be some rural character with no more than 2,000 inhabitants
- they must have two national heritage sites
- there must be an on-site evaluation and
- the application must have mass support from the town council.
One of the major principles of the association is the protection of historical and cultural heritage. Labelled villages must show a real strategy to preserve and promote their heritage.
Naturally, this means there’s no great rush for the towns to implement modern conveniences that international tourists usually demand such as internet cafés or multiplex cinemas and shopping malls. Instead, you’ll find local markets, historic monuments and traditional festivals.
Many of the villages are located off the beaten track so they are a great base for exploring rural France.
I had the pleasure of contributing my opinion about Gassin, a town in the Var department, in a blog post about the most beautiful villages in France curated by Phoebe Thomas. Phoebe runs a gite on the Côte d’Azur called Lou Messugo and she is a great source of travel advice for visitors to this region!
While this year has been a rollercoaster for travel planning, take a look at the roundup of suggestions from travel bloggers on which villages are worth visiting in the future. You can read Phoebe’s post here: https://loumessugo.com/plus-beaux-villages-france/?unapproved=18576&moderation-hash=29e2bfc96773fd323eccda168f5e801d#comment-18576