Paris has its fashion houses and the Eiffel Tower and the Cote d’Azur has its beaches, but what about the hidden charms the rest of France has to offer?
Mapping the historical, architectural and natural riches across the country, The Official Guide To The Most Beautiful Villages Of France is a delightful escape route for armchair travellers, and an invaluable guide for anyone heading across the channel to visit our Gallic cousins.
To put you in the driving seat, here are some of our favourites…
A yachting and fishing village with a rich naval history, this Normandy village was a leading port in the Middle Ages and still raises the sails.
It’s worth the climb to see the Church of St Nicholas, which sits on a rocky promontory. Alongside humble fisherman’s cottages and grey granite houses, pretty fishing boats line the harbour and the local speciality is freshly caught mussels and oysters.
Situated along the famous Alsace wine route where festivals take place every October to celebrate the harvest, Hunawihr is a member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association.
Along with its churches, exotic butterfly garden, wildlife park and charming places to stay, riesling, gewürztraminer, sylvaner and pinot noir are the wines to try.
You can be spoilt for choice in the stunning Loire Valley, but travel an hour south-east of Tours and Montresor will delight with its 15th century Renaissance castle filled with works of art and the wool market, which recalls life in bygone days.
Wander down to the river Indrois and the footbridge (built by the Eiffel’s workshop) which provides a perfect photo opportunity with wonderful views of the village.
High in the hills above Provence lies the fragrant village of Tourtour, with vineyards to the south and lavender to the north. Built around an old castle, there are lots of alleyways and vaulted passageways to explore, with pretty squares dotted with fountains and terrace cafés where you can sit in the leafy shade of the olive trees.
There’s an olive mill and fossil museum and the church has magnificent views of inland Provence and the Mediterranean.
Perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Dordogne valley, this well-preserved medieval town is famous for its creamy stone walls, fortified gates, turrets and towers.
The Domme caves are a maze of tunnels that run beneath the bastide where you can see impressive stalactite formations and at the end of the tour, take the panoramic elevator for remarkable views of the rural landscape.