Every year since 2012, there’s a flurry of excitement in my house when the TV Show “Village préféré des Français” – Favourite village of the French – announces the list of candidates. Often they are places you may not have heard of, so it’s a great introduction to off-the-beaten-track France. The winner is chosen by public vote. This of course means that the most loyal inhabitants of a village or region can often sway the result by enthusiastic clicking for their local candidate. That said, every village featured is always beautiful. And here’s the proof – a look back at the winners since the start…
2012: Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (Midi-Pyrenees)
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot department, was the first village to be crowned the favourite village of the French (top photo). Perched above the River Lot, the medieval town – which is also one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, it has many historical monuments. Cobbled streets lined with ancient houses, cafes, arts and crafts shops and restaurants, wind their way up the cliff. It was a well deserved win. Read more about Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
2013: Eguisheim (Alsace)
Another one from the list of “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, Eguisheim is famous for its flowery good looks and quintessential Alsatian charm. It also hosts a beautiful Christmas market.
2014: Cordes-sur-Ciel (Midi-Pyrénées)
Cordes-sur-Ciel touches the clouds and legend says it was created by the stars. Its steep streets are full of treasures – picturesque wooden doors, medieval facades, old-fashioned signs, fantastic sculptures. Read more about Cordes-sur-Ciel
2015: Ploumanac’h (Brittany)
Ploumanac’h, in the town of Perros-Guirec, Côtes-d’Armor is one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Brittany. Picture-postcard good looks, sandy beaches, the famous Mean Ruz lighthouse and its magnificent pink granite rocks make this a standout location. Read more about the Cotes d’Armor
2016: Rochefort-en-Terre (Brittany)
A second consecutive win for Brittany with the village of Rochefort-en-Terre, in Morbihan. With its medieval castle, half-timbered and grey stone houses and flowery central square, it’s easy to see how this town could steal your heart.
2017: Kaysersberg (Alsace)
Small but perfect Kaysersberg is near Colmar. The village stands out thanks to its imperial castle, half-timbered houses and fortified bridge spanning the Weiss River. At Christmas it hosts one of the prettiest markets in France. Now there’s an idea – favourite Christmas market of the French anyone?
2018: Cassel (Hauts-de-France)
Cassel in the Nord has Flemish good look, traditional inns, known as estaminets, and a famous carnival. The town’s museum is dedicated to Flemish art since the fifteenth century. And don’t miss the gorgeous gardens du Mont des Recollets – like walking into a Breugel painting. Read more about Cassel
2019: Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (Normandy)
Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, on the north-eastern tip of the Cotentin peninsula, has a pretty fishing port and authentic little town. Just 30 minutes from Cherbourg, the village is famous for its oysters and, at low tide, the oyster beds provide a link between the mainland and Tatihou Island. Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue is also home to the Vauban de la Hougue tower, which stands at the entrance of the small harbour and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with its sister tower on the island opposite.
2020: Hunspach (Alsace)
Hunspach is in Wissembourg, at the end of the Vosges du Nord Regional Nature Park, which borders Germany. Home, like so many little villages in Alsace, to a beautiful Christmas market and a perfect base to explore the area.
2021: Sancerre (Centre-Val de Loire)
Sancerre sits atop a rocky hill overlooking the Loire Valley. A tranquil and authentic little village surrounded by the vineyards. It’s full of charm, and there’s a great wine museum where you can enjoy a terrace tasting overlooking the vineyards. Read more about Sancerre