Every year the French public gets the chance to vote for their favourite village. The Village préféré des Français is the brainchild of TV presenter Stéphane Bern. This year it’s the 10th anniversary of the show so there’s plenty of excitement.
Here’s the list of the 14 possible favourite villages of the French. Some you might have heard of, while others hopefully come as a nice surprise. I certainly haven’t been to all of them.
Many of them are classified, not surprisingly, in The Most Beautiful Villages of France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). Check them out here.
The map of France shows each 2022 candidate. They are all notable, so if you’re in the area make the detour to visit. On the map I’ve located them geographically as far as possible. I think it makes sense. Start in the north and go anti-clockwise around France.
The French voted on the favourite villages of France earlier in the year and the winner was announced on Wednesday June 29, 2022. See the winner at the bottom of the article!
Hesdin, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts de France
Hesdin in the area known as the Seven Valleys was once an important French stronghold. In 1553 Emperor Charles V destroyed the fortified town and built the present village 6 kms/3.7 miles away. On the banks of the river Canche and surrounded by forest, Hesdin is charming with its old streets and houses, an ornate16th-century town hall and a lovely church.
La Bouille, Seine-Maritime, Normandy
The small village of La Bouille stands in woodland just 18 kms/11 miles southwest of Rouen. Beloved by the Impressionists including Gauguin, Sisley and Turner, it’s always included in Normandy’s Impressionist Festivals. It stands on the river Seine with a ferry taking you over to the opposite village of Sahurs.
Quintin, Côtes d’Armor, Brittany
This ancient village’s wealth came from the 17th– and 18th-century weaving industry and the trade in linen cloth. The French Revolution and growth of cotton put paid to that but Quintin still has mills and plenty of waterways that lead to the sea in the Saint-Brieuc bay. This Small City of Character has two châteaux, the main one housing a museum that includes a kitchen with an 18th-century oven for slow cooking (it’s not a new idea!), some lovely old houses and a museum/weaver’s house showing the history of linen.
Port-Joinville, L’île d’Yeu, Pays de la Loire
The island off the glorious Vendée on the Atlantic coast was once the centre of the Atlantic tuna fishing industry. Port-Joinville is where you come into from the mainland. It’s dominated by the atmospheric and deserted citadelle.
Here’s more about the Glorious islands of France that lie off each coastline.
Ainhoa, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
In Basque country, Ainhoa is on the pilgrim route from Bayonne to Santiago. It’s near Espilette, famous for its October pepper festival (Oct 29, 30, 2022), celebrating one of the major products of the area. A fortified village, its streets are full of the red and white houses typical of the architecture of the region.
Le Malzieu-Ville, Lozère, Occitanie
On the pretty Truyère river, Le Malzieu-Ville is a small fortified village in the glorious Margueride. Narrow streets lie within the stone walls; there’s a medieval festival on Ascension Day in May and it’s associated with the Bête du Gévaudon (the Beast of Gévaudon) a man-eating animal that terrorised the area between 1764 and 1767.
Dieulefit, Drôme, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Dieulefit is set among the lavender fields and olive groves that make this region so famous. The pretty village with its narrow streets and historic buildings is also known for its pottery so take a look at the local ateliers and try to visit the Maison de la Céramique which has both traditional and contemporary exhibitions. There’s a ceramics fair each Whitsun at the beginning of June.
La Grave, Hautes-Alpes, PACA
Now a ski resort, La Grave has some challenging off-piste runs only for the experienced. It’s in the Oisans massif, sandwiched between the well-known ski resorts of Les 2 Alpes and Serre Chevalier. Overlooked by La Meije (3,982 metres/13,064 ft) the old village has small streets, stone houses, a church and a Penintents Blancs chapel. It was the birthplace of Nicolas de Nicolay, an adventurer and Geographer Ordinary to Henry II of France.
Pino, Bastia, Corsica
On Monte Cupieta, Cap Corse, Pino has a small port on the sea, and good walks in the tree-covered landscape above the village. There’s a baroque church and bell tower, the convent of San Francesco nearby and cafés at the harbour where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Bergheim, Haut-Rhin, Grand Est
On the Alsace Wine Trail, the well-preserved village with its 16th– and 17th-century houses has a sinister history. The witch trials that were conducted here in Bergheim between 1582 and 1683 are shown in the Musée de la Sorcière (Witches Museum).
Walk through a happier history along the ramparts complete with towers, the gardens and the gothic basilica.
Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
If you want to discover the Puisaye area, read some of the novels of Colette. The celebrated author and journalist was born in Saint-Sauveur in January 1873. You can find out more about her unconventional, often scandalous, life at the Musée Colette. It’s located in the house where she spent her first years. She’s best known outside France for Gigi, her novel adapted about the 16-year old who is groomed as a courtesan to attract a wealthy lover but who ends up marrying him instead. Adapted for the stage in 1951, Gigi was played by the then unknown Audrey Hepburn who was personally picked by Colette. The 1958 musical movie starred Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan.
If you visit, take in the extraordinary nearby project of Guédelon, a medieval castle being built according to medieval craftsmanship from scratch.
Levroux, Indre, Centre-Val de Loire
Walk through the impressive Porte de Champagne into a village that has always been associated with leather production. Levroux in the rich Berry region has medieval houses lining its small streets, the Saint-Sylvain collegiate church which is worth seeing for its 16th-centurystalls and 1502 gothic organ case, château ruins and a Museum of Leather and Parchment with working models.
Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières, Essonne, Île-de-France
Just one hour from Paris, Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières has a magnificent church with notable 13th-century glass. There’s also a historical arboretum, the Domaine de Segrez which groups of five people can visit by appointment.
Overseas France Favourite Village
Saül, Guyane, Outre-Mer
The overseas French commune of Saül in Guyane completes the list of France’s favourite villages. This remote commune in the Amazonian Park is surrounded by forests. It’s the most sparsely populated commune in French Guiana.
The 2022 Winner of the Favourite Villages of the French
The winner is…Bergheim, Haut-Rhin, Grand Est region.
More about the Geography of France