France is renowned for its scenic villages and some of the most beautiful are in the north, near the Sir John Monash Centre.
France has more than 3200 villages, but the ‘The Most Beautiful Villages of France’ is an official classification limited to 156 rural destinations, recognising their tourism appeal and rich cultural heritage.
These authentic and charming spots are known for their passion and ambition to share the history of their land, culture and inhabitants.
Through winding lanes, you’ll find picture-perfect scenery rich with national heritage sites. Many offer guided tours or you can obtain a map and wander at your leisure.
Here are 10 of the most beautiful villages in northern France:
- Gerberoy, Hauts-de-France: The streets of Gerberoy are lined with 17th–18th century houses covered with roses and wisteria, thanks to post-Impressionist artist Henri le Sidaner who planted roses throughout the mediaeval town in the early 20th century. Today the town still attracts artists who paint the pretty streetscapes.
- Parfondeval, Hauts-de-France: North of Reims, Parfondeval is a little remote, but it features a fortified church surrounded by picturesque red-brick houses and rolling countryside. There is a small museum dedicated to the history of agricultural tools.
- La Roche-Guyon, île-de-France: On a bend of the Seine River, La Roche-Guyon developed around a mediaeval chateau. There are three main parts to the village: the chateau, the castle keep (donjon), and the village itself. There is a 15th century church; and scenic views from the riverboats or walking paths up the hill.
- Barbizon, île-de-France: South of Paris, but still in the north of France, Barbizon was once favoured by 19th century landscape painters, the forerunners to Impressionism. This village nestles on the edge of the Fontainebleu forest and its main street features beautiful homes, restaurants and art galleries.
- Le Bec-Hellouin, Normandy: Forty kilometres from Rouen, Le Bec-Hellouin takes its name from the nearby stream (bec in French) and the knight, Herluin, who founded the Benedictine abbey. Half-timbered houses surround William the Conqueror Square, one being the Auberge de l’Abbaye, a 15th century lodge once frequented by pilgrims. The Church of Saint-Andre has been rebuilt three times since the 11th century.
- Lyons-la-Forêt, Normandy: Thirty kilometres east of Rouen, Lyons-la-Forêt is situated in a forest, as the name suggests, and its half-timbered houses are typical of the region. There is a church with belltower dating to the 12th century and markets are held in the marketplace on Thursdays.
- Beuvron, Normandy: Most buildings in Beuvron are from the 17th century, apart from the manor house, a historic monument that dates to the 15th century. Most of the houses have been converted into cafés and shops selling regional produce, including cider and Calvados, the apple brandy.
- Flavigny, Burgundy: Flavigny is a walled mediaeval town with winding streets and turreted houses built from local stone. At the centre, the Church of Saint Geneste has a 12th century carving of the Madonna, while the Abbey of Saint-Pierre was founded in the year 717. Its Benedictine monks created aniseed confectionery.
- Eguisheim, Alsace: Charming Eguisheim was voted the Favourite French Village in 2013 and it has won the Villes Fleuri competition for its garden plantings and floral displays. A former moat surrounds the town and winding streets feature houses painted in pastels typical of the region. Eguisheim is also known for the storks that nest on top of the Place du Chateau and the Church of Saint-Peter and Saint-Paul.
- Rodemack, Lorraine: Often referred to as ‘little Carcassonne’, Rodemack is a well-preserved mediaeval settlement edged with ramparts that contain several historical monuments. These include an original 12th century castle and a mediaeval garden growing traditional vegetables and medicinal plants.