The department of Gers in southwest France, a land often called by its historic name of Gascony, is small – but beautiful. It’s a land of sunflower fields, vineyards and rolling hills. Medieval towns and tranquil hamlets, ancient churches, chapels and glorious castles dot the landscape. It’s where Armagnac is made and wine, and the region is famous for its gastronomy. And, it’s home to six of the officially most beautiful villages in France.
Built around a feudal castle and church, this little village on a rocky outcrop has oodles of charm. Go in July and August for the fabulously festive night markets.
The castle of Lavardens dominates the landscape, and it’s only as you get closer to it that you can appreciate it’s majestic size and beauty. This was the former military stronghold of the Counts of Armagnac and walking the ramparts you can see why. You can see for miles around over the lush countryside and rooftops of the village houses. There’s been a castle here since at least the 12th century. It changed hands many times, was stormed several times, partially destroyed, pillaged in the French Revolution and finally abandoned. After facing the threat of destruction in the 1950s, it was finally classified a Historic Monument and restored thanks to an association created to protect the castle’s legacy and many passionate volunteers.
It’s a joy to visit, inside the rooms have an air of history, the 17th century tiled floors are remarkable and though furnishings are sparse, the castle hosts several exhibitions each year including its famous, end of year Santon Fair. 20,000 tiny figurines fill rooms, drawing locals from miles around to visit, admire and buy a Santon for the Christmas collection.
The village is peaceful and pretty, well worth a wander along narrow cobbled streets lined with beautiful houses and archways.
With medieval arcades, beautiful walkways, quirky shops and several restaurants, it’s a fabulous place to while away a few hours admiring its beauty.
Take a painting workshop, enjoy a meal, get lost in its pretty little streets and drink in the beauty. More about Fourcès.
AKA the “little Carcassonne“, this is the smallest fortified village in France. Step through the gate to the extraordinary and tiny walled town and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the past. More about Larressingle
This fortified bastide town has a beautiful central square, arcaded walkways and marvellous medieval half-timbered houses. Pop down the road to visit the Gallo-Roman villa of Séviac. Once a luxurious rural palace, it’s believed to have been one of the biggest residences in southwest Gaul in its time and is now famous for its outstanding mosaics collection and vast thermal baths.
Taking its name from the Gascon “Roumiou”, which means “pilgrim”, the village was founded at the end of the 11th century on the Camino de Santiago route. It’s a popular tourist destination thanks to the many cats that live there. And not just any cats. These cats are made of stone! They’re the work of sculptor Maurice Serreau who began creating cat sculpture in the 1990s, inspired by ancient legend that the village was saved from a rat problem by cats. It seems in every street and nook and cranny, a cat is sitting, watching… The 14th century gothic Church of St Peter in the town has UNESCO world heritage status and is stunningly beautiful. Discover the story of Romieu’s cats…
Enter the 14th century gate to discover a village of pretty half-timbered houses wrapped around the 13th century Saint-Vincent church. Don’t miss the La Librarie-Tartinerie book store. Browse the shelves and take a break on the terrace with a delicious snack and drink and dream away a few hours in this stunning part of France…