The Belle France guide to the most beautiful villages in Northern France
Northern France’s appeal as a holiday destination has been largely centred around its battlefields and the D-Day beaches, but this area of the country has much more to recommend it than combat scarred landscapes: lovely port towns, charming seaside resorts, fine architecture and first class cuisine only begin the list.
The regions of Brittany, Normandy, Picardy and Île-de-France are home to 12 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.
One of France’s most distinctive regions, Brittany boasts miles of dramatic coastline marked with countless coves, rugged rocks and splendid beaches. From the jagged inlets of the Emerald Coast to the white sands of the Quiberon peninsula, it’s a smorgasbord of shape and colour that cannot fail to delight the senses.
Points of interest: Côte de Granit-Rose | Saint-Malo | Dinan | Quimper | Golfe de Morbihan | Carnac | Fôret de Paimpont
Locronan, Finistère (above)
Situated at the foot of a hill, Locronan was initially named Saint-Ronan after its founder who laid out the settlement in the 5th century. Hemp has grown naturally in the local area since the 15th century and was cultivated, processed and exported internationally, used for ships’ rigging.
Like Locronan, Montcontour was known locally and internationally for its production of sailcloth up until the late 1700s. Its imposing ramparts nod to its medieval founding.
Rochefort-en-Terre, Morbihan (above)
Located on a rocky outcrop above the River Arz, Rochefort-en-Terre is said to be the most beautiful of all the villages in the Most Beautiful Villages in France. In the early 1900s, French-born American painter Alfred Klotz bought a local château and encouraged residents of the town to decorate their houses with geraniums - a tradition that is still visible today.
Nestled by the River Rance in north western Brittany sits a charming fishing village, its colourful, floral streets are lined with shuttered, granite stone houses, some draped with fishing nets or other nautical items and many dating from the 14th century.
The celebrated capital of France, city of romance, Paris is known the world over as a sophisticated destination. It’s almost impossible to walk its streets without spotting a famous landmark or thinking of cultural icons: Montmartre proudly bears both the Sacré Cœur and associations with some of art’s elite – Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Dalí; Notre Dame, beautiful in itself, conjures images of Victor Hugo’s most famous characters; the Rue Cambon cannot be walked without recalling Chanel.
Points of interest: Eiffel Tower | Louvre Notre Dame de Paris | Arc de Triomphe Palace of Versailles | Musée de Orsay | Montmartre
La Roche-Guyon, Val-d’Oise (above)
With the château at its centre, La Roche-Guyon sits on the banks of the Seine and is located a little under 60km from the capital, Paris. Historically the village depended entirely on the château and its surrounding workable land. It is now open to the public.
Laying on the upper edge of France, Normandy has is a striking and wonderfully old fashioned feel characterised by craggy granite coastline, quiet villages and unspoilt countryside. It’s a place with a noticeable artistic streak: Monet’s garden at Giverny is located here and the fine Gothic architecture of Rouen Cathedral was the subject of a number of the impressionist’s paintings. Towns such as Honfleur typify the picturesque, maritime charm of its ports.
Points of interest: The D-Day Landing beaches | Cotentin Peninsula | Honfleur | The Pays d’Auge | Mont-Saint-Michel | Giverny | The Bayeux Tapestry
Twinned with Lyme Regis on the southern coast of Britain, Barfleur has a rich maritime history. It was first occupied by the Vikings and served as an important port from which British sovereigns would return to Britain. Today its cultural vitality and picture postcard port makes it a bustling tourist hot spot.
Beuvron-en-Auge, Calvados (above)
Beuvron-en-Auge is a charming little villages situated in the marshes of Dives about 30km from Caen. It’s full to the brim with architectural heritage and is a must-see if you’re visiting this area of Normandy. Sitting on the cider trail, there will be plenty of opportunities for tasting regional tipples!
Le Bec-Hellouin, Eure
With its colourful half-timbered houses and streets awash with floral shades there is no wonder Le Bec-Hellouin is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village was built around the 11th century Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec which is, to this day, still occupied by Benedictine monks and is open daily.
Lyons-la-Forêt, Eure (above)
Nestled in the heart of the Forest of Lyons this pleasant village is the former residence of the Dukes of Normandy. Its central square is blessed with pretty half-timbered faНades, an 18th century market hall, fountains and café terraces.
This picturesque village sat on a meander of the River Sarthe has been inspiration for many artists including Corot, Courbet and Harpignies. Its pretty stone houses and pleasant medieval bridge lay snug amid a leafy setting. The Romanesque church and Gothic Petit Saint-Céneri chapel are must-sees.
A combination of flat and gently rolling terrain, and possessing a quintessentially French atmosphere, Picardy is said to be the crossroads of France due to its proximity to Belgium in the east and Paris in the south west. A picturesque region, it has a feeling of immense space and boasts some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.
Points of interest: Amiens Cathedral | Château de Chantilly | The Somme | Château de Compiègne | Laon Cathedral
Gerberoy, Oise (above)
The village’s narrow streets are splashed with spots of colour from the many roses, wisterias and other flowers that cover the pastel-painted, half-timbered 17th and 18th century houses. Despite being besieged five times between 1079 and 1437, and being dismantled and rebuilt each time, the village has managed to keep its authenticity. Be sure to pay a visit to the Henri Le Sidaner garden, planted by the artist of the same name.
Characterised by its red-bricked, slate-roofed houses and surrounded by corn fields, orchards and pastures, Parfondeval is a typical rural village. A short walk from the village pond lies the fortified church of St. Medard with its keep and turrets. Take a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the white stone Renaissance door to the church.
We've produced a comprehensive digital guide to France's 156 most beautiful villages. Click below to view.
Holidays in Northern France
Baie de Somme
Sea air, wildlife and sandy beaches
Discover the beautiful Baie de Somme, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Picardy coast. Open water, marshes, dunes and saltwater meadows make up a landscape where water and dry land seem to merge. It is one of France’s major sites for...
Prestige Emerald Coast Cycling
Quiet coves, elegant seaside towns and Belle Epoque hotels
Featured in the Telegraph's 10 best cycling holidays for 2016, this easy cycle takes in the beautiful Brittany coastline and verdant countryside, following and criss-crossing the River Rance. Visit Belle Epoque towns and bustling fishing...
Picardy Pastures: Land of Battles and Cathedrals
Delve into the history of the medieval city of Laon and walk in the footsteps of the soldiers of the First World War
This centenary walk through the Picardy countryside takes you to some of the most poignant sites of World War I, enabling you to explore destroyed villages, visit the fascinating Dragon’s Lair and walk in the footsteps of the soldiers...
Véloscenie - Alençon to Mont St Michel
The second stage of the Véloscenie; a taste of Normandy between Alençon and Mont St Michel
For a real taste of Normandy: this is calvados and camembert country, the second stage of the Véloscenie can be combined with the first stage or it can stand alone as a wonderful short cycling break. The route starting in Alençon, the capital...
Seine Valley River Walk
Ancient woodland and ruined abbeys
With one or two steep sections to negotiate each day, this route rises from the river valley, taking in forest tracks through glorious woodland, towpaths along the slow moving Seine and quiet lanes leading past romantic ruined abbeys. The...