France is a beautiful country, receiving a non-stop string of tourists. There is no shortage of quaint towns and charming villages sprinkled from coast to coast and to the borders with Spain, Italy, and Germany, including mountain gems, coastal pearls, and Corsica Island.
These picturesque towns with a low, charming local population and few tourists will enchant you to become part of the picture-perfect life along the aesthetic winding streets, including cliffhangers. Find a nearby town from this list of ten charmers on your next trip to France for the small-town atmosphere, medieval feel, and mind-boggling views. From nature preserves to Alpine vistas and naked beaches, you will fall in love with the local feel and ability to relax and let go however you like, away from the laidback streets.
Few other towns can boast such a lost-at-sea vibe as Bonifacio, given its seemingly precarious, teetering location on a perilously eroding limestone promontory. The town of only about 1.5 square kilometers overlooks the vast Tyrrhenian Sea, but its jaw-dropping views are not the only thing that makes up Bonifacio's bona fide. The authentic Corsica town is full of charm, with just over 3,000 locals and a restored old center with a fascinating maze of gently buzzing streets and alleyways.
Gawk all you want from the edge with 360-degree vistas of the spectacular island coastline and to the closest neighboring island, Sardinia, 12 km away. Then, let the magical town envelop you on a stroll along the mazed alleyways, surrounded by white cliffs and sapphire waters on all sides. The charmer gracing the southern coast between France and Italy is one of the remote towns amid a surrounding wild paradise of protected nature and naked beaches.
Dinan is one of the best medieval villages in Brittany, with many charms strewn along its cobblestone streets, like the last of the country's half-timbered buildings. Home to 11,000 residents, you can enjoy the lively vibe wandering through the bustling morning market on Thursday at Place du Guesclin, the town square. Stroll along the River Rance and climb St. Catherine's Tower near the preserved section of the wall to overlook the river, old post, and surrounding area.
The walled city of Dinan is a fresh-air museum in itself, amid fortifications that lend the town a sense of impregnability. Find many buildings from the 13th century, along with ancient theaters, churches, and castles. Get swept away in medieval time capsule vibes along the river during July's Fête des Remparts, a two-day festival with period costumes and jousting tournaments. La Maison Pavie is an inviting, traditional 15th-century home right in Dinan's heart for a stylish stay with modern interiors.
This charming Normandy villa, famous for many things, manages to stay hidden from the tourist's eye in northwest France. It shines through the spectacular white chalk cliffs overlooking the English Channel, with the most small-town appeal if you have ever seen one. Étretat is where Guy de Maupassant wrote short stories amid scenery that inspired artists like Courbet and Monet. Take a cultural stroll through Le Vieux Marché market hall for boutiques and local goodies in town, and drive north to the cliffside Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde for dramatic views over a picnic.
Check out the towering white cliff with the Porte d'Aval arch eroded by the sea, an easily accessible natural monument at low tide, and tell us if you haven't been charmed just yet. See other striking rock formations around, like L'Aiguille (the Needle), a pillar carved out of the white cliffs rising out of the sea. This resort town is also the last place where the airplane, The White Bird, was last seen in 1927 before disappearing into the abyss with its two aviators flying non-stop from Paris to New York.
Èze, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Immerse yourself in a glamorous French Riviera love affair along a rocky hillside at 1,400 feet above the sparkling sapphire Mediterranean Sea in Èze. The small, endlessly famous village inspires from the first sight; it is impossible to mistake La Belle for any other, with stark waters against the medieval castle and a pretty cactus garden overlooking the scenery. Visit the old church with an Egyptian cross left from the time a Phoenician temple stood in its place.
Climb the narrow cobblestone streets to the castle for a dreamy atmosphere and 360-degree views that will take your breath away. After the dizzying hike to the centerpiece, reward yourself at La Chèvre d'Or, a two-starred Michelin restaurant with delicious creations prepped by head chef Arnaud Faye. It is a wonder how a village of such beauty bypasses the glitz for tranquility, sans the tourist vibe, with only 2,343 residents going about their everyday lives over the stunning Mediterranean.
Carpe diem and savor every moment when visiting the tranquil town of Locronan, which offers many immersing experiences. Locronan, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, envelops you with sights, enchanting you from the get-go and to the main square. Place de l'Eglise bursts with color from hydrangea-adorned, beautiful stone buildings and cultural buzz. Browse the cobblestone streets in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere, past artisanal gift shops with friendly owners, and savor Breton cider and galette at generations-run cafes.
Stroll along the poised artists with a brush at hand, as if part of the painting themselves, and feel yourself becoming one with the surrounding 15th-century atmosphere. The ancient church of Saint-Ronan with a lovely spire is the namesake of the town, while the Penity Chapel encompasses Saint-Ronan's tomb. Visit his hilltop graveyard for a tranquil sight over the town before heading down the sloping rue Moal to another 15th-century church, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good News, and a fountain from 1698.
Menton, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Menton is a darling seaside town with the most aesthetic streets lined by pastel-colored buildings all the way to the waterfront of the beautiful Mediterranean's turquoise-blue bay. Nestled peacefully in a corner of the country on the border with Italy, Menton shines with charming vibes unlike any other. Explore the small town by foot or bike, with a stop by the serene cemetery on top of a hillside for the most stunning sea views. Continue through the picture-perfect, candy-colored buildings along the narrow streets that will not leave your thoughts long after you leave.
Visit imminently to bask under the summertime rays of the Provençal sun and indulge any way you like in this unique town under the breath of the Mediterranean. Find cute cafes to enjoy a morning cappuccino, and pack a croissant to go to one of the many beaches with refreshing waters and scenery that make you forget the rest of the world's existence. Plage des Sablettes, facing the bay, is great for sunbathing and a naturally sectioned area from the sea by long rock piers for swimming.
This picturesque village in southeastern France, with only 693 locals, knows no bounds to charm. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, bookended by towering limestone cliffs, envelopes you with enchanting vibes from the first step onto the cobblestoned streets lined by rosy-tiled buildings. Explore the famously beautiful pottery through the cozy profile of the town and head into the refreshing nature of the pleasant region. It is your western gateway to the incomparable Gorge du Verdon or the "Grand Canyon of France."
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie awaits with a sprinkling of local restaurants for a terraced dinner as a shade of pink envelops the town in the warmest of glows. Stay at La Bastide de Moustiers country house, with olive trees and lavender in your backyard, and step out into the views of the stunning cliffs to feel part of the bucolic charm. Nestled in terraces on a hillside from the 10th century, the town inspires with the story of a gold-colored star on a 225-meter (738-foot)-long chain between two cliffs. A prisoner of the Saracens promised to hang it during the Crusades in the 12th century if he ever escaped.
Peillon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Visit this hilltop town of just under 1,500 residents for the best views of the Alps, only 7.5 miles (12.2 kilometers) northeast of Nice. La Paillon River strikes through the town's heart, with refreshing streams in all directions, small parks, and historic fountains to enjoy the best of the outdoors. Enjoy the small-town vibe along the pedestrian-only streets with narrow, steep staircase passages, peaking baroque churches, and charming stone houses all around.
You won't find many tourist attractions, but a few local businesses at the entrance to the village with laidback streets. Just imagine the true sense of tranquility that is part of the local lifestyle, and let the timeless village envelop you on a serene stroll along its picturesque streets. Enjoy the mountain views and air while hiking up and down the steep stairs and low passageways with postcard sights at each turn. Take advantage of a quick drive to the Côte d'Azur of the French Riviera for a day along the coast.
Roussillon is that burst of color at the foot of Monts de Vaucluse in the Luberon massif of southern France. The postcard-perfect town is a real sight to behold, with red buildings blending into the crimson-hued cliffs, thanks to its favorable location in one of the world's largest ochre deposits. The stark contrast to everything else gives Roussillon an incredible aura and unforgettable charm on a stroll along the quiet streets.
Roussilon attracts and inspires the creatives, making up a large part of the small town's population of 1,328, while putting the everyday tourists in a stupor over the dramatic cliffs around. Become part of the painting yourself in the village, often compared to an artist's palette. The town enchants from every perspective, with sights at each corner that make you forget where you are and the rest of the world with it. Get a relaxing stay at Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa with massages and fireplace-side drinks.
Saint Emilion is an exciting little town, the epitome of small-town charm in the wine-producing Bordeaux region, home to only 1,878 happy residents. Needless to say, this country gem is a destination for all wine enthusiasts, where red, white, pink, and sparking flow non-stop, while first-time visitors are dumbstruck by the sheer beauty all around. The fascinating village in the southwest of France is a UNESCO heritage site thanks to its "exceptional landscape" and historical monuments.
Immerse yourself in the inebriating combination of boozy galore under sunny vibes and picturesque landscapes that have served as economic and religious centers for royals, winegrowers, and pilgrims. Seek history in every blessed corner, with incredible architecture and thousands of hectares of vines around the medieval town. Whether you are in for the wineries, the small-town appeal, or history, the most unforgettable times await along the winding streets lined by homes and cute businesses in limestone houses.
France has endless charms to offer new and returning visitors, from the vast stretches of Normandy beaches to the glamorous sands of the Cote d'Azur to the wine country and Corsica island. Enjoy hilltop vistas of the endless Tyrrhenian waters and find castles, coffee shops, and colorful and pastel buildings straight from a storybook page. Leave the crowds of Paris, Bordeaux, or Lyon for the unobscured shots and sights at each turn with access to surrounding nature.
These villages boast Michelin-starred restaurants, award-winning hotels, and easy access from big cities. Give into the emotions and feast greedily on sights as you let go along the laidback streets under the one-of-a-kind atmosphere in each town. Bask in serenity on a stroll and under the summertime sunshine along the beaches, or visit in the winter for ski slopes in the mountainous region of France.