The Belle France guide to the most beautiful villages in Eastern France
The regions of eastern France achieve a unique identity that balances undeniably French culture and custom with influences from European neighbours. Alsace and Lorraine have a distinctly Germanic feel in some of the towns and villages, the forested Ardennes sweeps into the area from Luxembourg and Belgium, and more than a few buildings in the Rhône-Alpes display architecture inspired by the Italian Renaissance.
The regions of the Alsace, Burgundy, Franche-Comté and Lorraine are home to 26 of the 156 most beautiful villages of France.
We've produced a comprehensive digital guide to France's 156 most beautiful villages. Click below to explore.
A quirky mixture of French and German culture and architecture, Alsace is a truly unique corner of eastern France. Situated between the rushing Rhine and the mighty Vosges mountains, it is a patchwork of dense forests and verdant pastures, gentle valleys and, of course, vineyards. It’s a region dotted with sites that bear witness to a turbulent past: ruined castles perch atop hills and Le Struthof, France’s only concentration camp, squats stark and sinister in the north of the region.
Points of interest: Strasbourg | Eguisheim | Riquewihr | Alsace Wine Route | Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg | Le Mont Sainte-Odile | L’Ecomusée d’Alsace
The dreamy village of Eguisheim is the image of Germanic Alsace. Its streets of baby boy blue, rose pink and minty green give it its fairytale feel and hark back to its past when it was part of neighbouring Germany. The village is laid out in concentric circles with its castle, magnificent fountain, main square (or circle) and colourful Saint-Léon-IX chapel in the centre. It also sits on the Alsatian wine trail and in the summer the village comes alive with the Stork and Wine Growers festivals.
▲ Hunawihr, Haut-Rhin
Also located on the wine route and built in a narrow valley, Hunawihr shares many of its features with Eguisheim including its colourful half-timbered houses and central square with fountain. The fountain dates from the 6th century and was used by Hune, the wife of one of the first lords of the country, to wash the clothes of the poor. The fortified church is steeped in history and is one of the few examples of defensive religious architecture.
Hunspach is one of the most well preserved towns in Alsace however it is different to most Alsation villages in that its houses are painted uniform white instead of the usual pastels. Another interesting architectural feature are the convexed windows that allow inhabitants to see out without being seen! There is also a small church in the village, notable for its red stone clock tower.
Set at the foot of Mount Saint Odile, and surrounded by gently sloping vineyards, this village is the home of the Zotzenberg grand cru. Because of the village’s placing near the Vosges, a rain shadow is cast leading to a dry and relatively warm climate during the summer months. However, its winters are cold and it’s not unusual to see the Alsation vineyards dusted with snow.
▲ Riquewihr, Haut-Rhin
Nestled at the bottom of a valley alongside vineyards of plenty is the fortified village of Riquewihr. A staple on the Alsace Wine Route and often nicknamed ‘Pearl of the vineyards’, it is steeped in history having been spared by two past wars. No less than 40 monuments in the village are classified as Historic Monuments.
Burgundy’s River Saône meanders gracefully through a rolling landscape of green and gold, studded with castles, mosaic roofs and Romanesque churches. Famous for its wines, the region displays neat rows of vines that flourish in the long, warm summers and produce the fruit that becomes such favourites as Chablis, Meursault and Gevrey-Chambertin. Scattered between are picturesque timbered villages like Noyers-sur-Serein where geraniums spill from pots and pretty squares buzz with the activity of shoppers and artists.
Points of interest: Hospices of Beaune | Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy | Cluny Abbey | Château de la Rochepot Dijon Cathedral
Its imposing fortress from which the village radiates out was once the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy because of its strategic location between Dijon and Auton. Every two years in late July its medieval streets lined with old stone houses complete with turrets and flowers of plenty come alive with the Médiévales festival.
Built on a rock with a Benedictine monastery at its centre, Flavigny is home to fewer than 400 residents. It’s former abbey now houses a factory which produces Les Anis de Flavigny, small aniseed-flavored pastilles that are distributed worldwide.
▲ Noyers, Yonne
It’s easy to see why Noyers is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It feels almost like a movie set, untouched since the medieval period but beautifully maintained, it is one of the most well-preserved villages in France. The oldest building in the village is the now Town Hall with its foundations dating back to the 12th century.
Perched on a small hill overlooking the Dombes plateau, Pérouges boasts an exceptional architectural heritage and rich past. The village has been used in many films because of its beautiful, well-preserved buildings. Pérouges cake, a local speciality made of brioche pastry with sugar and butter is a must when visiting. Enjoy it with a glass of Cerdon wine.
Home to the oldest castle in Burgundy, this pink ochre-coloured village is the birthplace of chef Albert Roux OBE whose restaurant Le Gavroche was the first restaurant in Britain to be awarded 3 Michelin stars. Saint Hugues, founder of Cluny Abbey was also born in the village in the year 1024.
▲ Vézelay, Yonne
Famous for Vézelay Abbey, the town itself and the 11th century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The village has been a centre for christianity since the Middle Ages and is a starting point for the Compostela route. Bourgogne Vezelay is also a local wine appellation.
A little known area of France, Franche-Comté has retained an atmosphere of unspoilt nature and uninterrupted tradition that makes it a fascinating place to visit. Tucked against the Swiss border, guarded by the undulating Jura mountains and sparsely populated, it is an ideal region to truly escape from the pressures of everyday life. Its villages present an idyllic picture of stone cottages, winding lanes and medieval churches, and many afford stunning views of the surrounding scenery.
Points of interest: Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans | Musée du Temps | Château du Montbéliard | House of Louis Pasteur | Notre Dame du Haut
Sunken deep in a green valley lies Baume-les-Messieurs full to the brim with cultural and natural heritage. At it’s heart, like most ancient villages in the region, sits a Benedictine abbey founded in the 6th century. It is also home to a beautiful Romanesque abbey with a magnificent Flemish altarpiece dating from the 16th century.
Often thought as as one of the prettiest villages in the Franche-Comté, Château-Chalon sits atop a high rocky outcrop with stunning views of the surrounding Jura vineyards. The village’s own vineyards carry the AOC quality label and are renowned for their yellow wine.
▲ Lods, Doubs
Nestled in the valley of the Loue in the heart of the Doubs lays the commune of Lods. Once a village of winegrowers and blacksmiths, it is now reliant on tourism and is home to the Musée de la Vigne et du Vin (wine and vineyard museum).
Having undergone various occupations in the past before finally becoming French in the late 1600s, one would think its cultural, architectural and historic heritage would have taken a hit. However, the village has retained its ancestry. Its castle remains, albeit ruined, the 13th/14th century church of Saint Hilaire still stands and the old winegrowers’ houses still line the River Ognon.
Bordering Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Lorraine is a delicious blend of cultures, reflected in its hearty cuisine, wonderful beers and art history. Cities like Metz and Nancy are worth visiting and the First World War battlefields are incredibly poignant.
Points of interest: Lace Stanislas | Centre Pompidou-Metz | Jardin Botanique du Montet | Museum of Fine Arts of Nancy | Museums of Metz
Situated just north of Metz close to the border with Luxembourg and Germany, this well-preserved medieval village is often referred to as the ‘little Carcassonne of Lorraine’ due to its fortified walls that circle the historic settlement. The very ruined remains of a 12th century castle and the Maison des Baillis are just two examples of the village’s important historical monuments.
▲ Saint-Quirin, Moselle
The village of Saint-Quirin is stationed about midway between Nancy and Strasbourg in the peaceful Moselle countryside, and has a history dating back to the Gallo-Roman era. With over 70 listed historical monuments and religious buildings including its central priory, originally built in the 13th century and then rebuilt in the 18th century and its healing fountain, Saint-Quirin is a must-see in the region.
We've produced a comprehensive digital guide to France's 156 most beautiful villages. Click below to explore.
Holidays in Eastern France
Alsace Prestige en Vélo
Cycle the famous wine route of the Alsace
Alsace is a little known corner of France with a distinctly Germanic influence: a combination of picturesque historic towns, fine wines, beer and choucroute contribute to a unique culture. Cycle the oldest wine route in France,...
Walk in Beautiful Alsace
Natural park of Ballons des Vosges and Alsacian vineyards
A gorgeous walk in southern Alsace, with a mix of vineyards, typical villages and rounded mountains in the natural park of the Ballons des Vosges.
Burgundy Prestige à Pied
Rolling vineyards and ancient châteaux
Discover vine-clad hillsides, quiet lanes and attractive villages on this easy to moderate walk. Take in the stunning views and stay in prestigious hotels and converted châteaux at the end of each day.
Burgundy Prestige en Vélo
Prepare for world class scenery and stunning flavours
This easy cycle through prestigious vineyards offers sublime tasting opportunities with such names as Pommard, Volnay, Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. Stay at elegant hotels offering gourmet menus – an opportunity to discover some...
Luxury Sparkling Champagne Walk
Bubbly sensations, luxury hotels and gourmet dining
Drinking Champagne in Epernay is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg. Walk through leafy vineyards and lush woodland on this luxurious holiday, where you’ll enjoy charming accommodation and fine cuisine. 5 Champagne tours and tastings en...
Canal du Nivernais Cycling
Easy cycling along the Canal and a visit to Vézelay, UNESCO World Heritage site.
Along its 1,200 km of rivers and canals, Burgundy reveals one of its most striking facets with the Canal du Nivernais running through unspoilt countryside of great natural beauty. From South to North, the towpaths and little side roads alongside the...
Green Valleys of Franche Comté
Valleys of the Doubs and the Jura and their rich cultural heritage
The little known region of Franche Comté is a beautiful rural area of eastern France and has a lot to offer in terms of natural environment, historic heritage, museums and sites. This holiday gives a choice of various walks and hikes to suit all...