12 charming medieval towns in France to visit

Les Baux de Provence

While many may visit France for its iconic cities like Paris, Nice and Bordeaux, there is so much to see outside of these urban hubs. I love exploring all the quaint medieval towns of France – they are bursting with charm, history and that storybook aesthetic. 

The best medieval towns in France comprise cobblestone streets and ancient buildings against the backdrop of gorgeous rolling countryside. In these towns, it’s all about a slower pace of life, taking time to appreciate the small moments.

In this guide, I share my favourite French medieval towns for your next visit to the country. I’ve included all the most charming spots, along with my suggestions of the best things to do and where to stay. 

From the verdant vineyards of Burgundy to the lavender-scented hills of Provence, let me inspire your next adventure with my pick of the best medieval towns in France.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

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Map of medieval towns in France

I’ve compiled all of my favourite French medieval towns into a clear map, so you can visualise where each is located:

1. Èze

Best for: Breathtaking views

Nearest airport: Nice

Where to stay: Château Eza

Top tour: From Nice: Eze, Monaco, & Monte-Carlo Half-Day Trip

Hilltop Village of Eze

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Côte D’Azur, or French Riviera.

One of the unmissable places to visit on the French Riviera is the medieval village of Èze, perched on a cliff high above the Mediterranean.

Narrow lanes are bordered by stone houses, and the village’s height means truly spectacular views. 

The ruins of a 12th-century castle sit at the peak, and the castle’s grounds have been transformed into a beautiful exotic garden known as the Jardin Exotique d’Èze.

Here you’ll find an impressive collection of cacti and succulents against the blue backdrop of the sky and sea.

I’d recommend browsing the village’s artisan shops and cosy cafès for a charming way to while away a few hours. 

2. Gordes

Best for: Art lovers

Nearest airport: Marseille

Where to stay: Airelles Gordes, La Bastide

Top tour: From Avignon: Best of Luberon in an Afternoon


Stood proudly on the edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, Gordes is another village that offers exceptional views due to its hilltop position.

As you’d expect from one of the best medieval towns in France, Gordes comprises winding streets and stone buildings that reflect the bright Provençal sun.

A particular favourite amongst art lovers, this is a place that’s brimming with art galleries, boutique shops and delightful cafès. 

The incredible views have understandably attracted and inspired many artists over the years, and the village’s artsy reputation is a strong appeal for visitors.

Art aside, there is plenty of history to absorb too. Don’t miss the imposing Renaissance castle at the centre of Gordes, as well as the ancient Cistercian Abbaye de Sénanque.

3. Saint Paul de Vence

Best for: Timeless charm

Nearest airport: Nice

Where to stay: Toile Blanche

Top tour: Half-Day Saint Paul de Vence and Wine Tasting Tour

Saint Paul de Vence Shop

My first memory of visiting Saint Paul de Vence is one of feeling incredibly car sick after an extremely fast and windy taxi journey to the village!

Was the car sickness worth it? Absolutely! Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a well-preserved medieval town in the South of France.

Enclosed by its original ramparts, the town offers gorgeous views of the French Riviera landscape. 

Saint-Paul-de-Vence has been a magnet for artists since the early 20th century, and this is evident in the town’s numerous galleries, art studios and the famed Fondation Maeght art museum.

The cobblestone pathways lined with historic buildings lead to the quaint central square, where locals and visitors gather in the cafés and restaurants. 

Saint Paul de Vence is one of my favourite day trips from Nice. If you’re not planning to stay in the village, I’d recommend at least having lunch or dinner at the amazing Toile Blanche.

4. Rocamadour

Best for: Religious significance 

Nearest airport: Brive–Souillac 

Where to stay: Hotel Beau Site


Clinging dramatically to the side of a limestone cliff, the medieval village of Rocamadour is a sight to behold. 

This sacred site draws visitors not only for its breathtaking views but for its deep spiritual significance. 

The town is a renowned pilgrimage destination, which has attracted pilgrims since the 12th century.

Rocamadour is home to the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Black Madonna, housed within the Chapelle Notre-Dame.

Beyond its spiritual allure, there is plenty of impressive medieval architecture to explore.

Highlights include the castle that crowns the cliff, the labyrinth of narrow streets, and the Grand Escalier, a stairway of 216 steps leading up to the sanctuaries.

5. Provins

Best for: Medieval festivals

Nearest airport: Paris

Where to stay: La Demeure des Vieux Bains


Provins was once a flourishing trade centre in the heart of medieval Europe. Nowadays, the town is renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture.

I’d recommend paying a visit to the Caesar Tower, a 12th-century keep, as well as the intriguing underground tunnels. 

Provins is also famous for its medieval festivals – think reenactments, jousting tournaments and traditional crafts. 

Don’t miss a chance to talk along the town’s ramparts, which offer a glimpse into the past of this historical gem. 

Located only around 1.5 hours from the French capital, it makes for a dreamy day trip from Paris.

6. Carcassonne

Best for: Medieval architecture

Nearest airport: Toulouse

Where to stay: Hotel de la Cité & Spa MGallery

Top tour: Cité de Carcassonne Private Guided Tour


One of the largest surviving medieval walled cities in Europe – and one of the best in the world – Carcassonne has well and truly earned its place in my guide to the medieval towns in France.

The hilltop town stands as a monumental testament to medieval architecture, with its imposing walls and towers. 

This fortified city looks as if it has been lifted straight from the pages of a storybook, thanks to its double ring of ramparts and 52 fairytale towers. 

A wander through Carcassonne really feels like stepping back in time. Look out for the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, and the Château Comtal. 

Unsurprisingly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located about 80 km from Toulouse, I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

7. Dole

Best for: Pretty scenery

Nearest airport: Dole-Jura

Where to stay: Chateau Du Mont Joly


Situated along the serene banks of the Doubs River, Dole offers a captivating snapshot of medieval and Renaissance France.

This former capital of Franche-Comté enchants with its intricate network of canals, earning it the nickname “Little Venice.”

The centrepiece of Dole’s historic core is the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture whose bell tower dominates the skyline.

I’d recommend simply taking a slow stroll through the streets of Dole, admiring the blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture.

I particularly love the leafy pathways along the river and the lush Jardin de l’Arquebuse.

The area in which Dole can be found is famed for its cheese and also its natural beauty. So take the time to soak up the surroundings and indulge in a bit of cheese tasting.

8. Riquewihr

Best for: Wine lovers

Nearest airport: Strasbourg

Where to stay: Hotel KLE, BW Signature Collection

Top tour: From Strasbourg: Best Of Alsace Historical Day Trip


Located in the Alsace wine region, Riquewihr is an utterly charming town that effortlessly embodies a fairytale aesthetic.

I adore the colourful half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and flower-clad balconies. 

Surrounded by vineyards, Riquewihr is a must-visit for wine lovers, offering some of the finest Alsace wines. 

Wine aside, another highlight of this French medieval town is the Dolder Tower, part of the town’s original fortifications.

9. Dinan

Best for: Fairytale feel

Nearest airport: Rennes

Where to stay: Hôtel Mercure Dinan Port Le Jerzual


Perched above the Rance River, Dinan beautifully captures Brittany’s rich history and culture. 

The town’s ramparts are among the most extensive and well-preserved in France, plus they offer spectacular views of the surrounding valley and river. 

I’d recommend a stroll around Dinan’s wonky cobbled streets, including Rue du Jerzual that features quaint half-timbered houses. 

Don’t miss the imposing Château de Dinan and the striking Basilica of Saint-Sauveur which blends a range of architectural styles from Gothic to Romanesque.

Artisans’ workshops, boutiques, and creperies populate the old town, and the result is impossibly charming.

10. Yvoire

Best for: Flower lovers

Nearest airport: Geneva

Where to stay: Villa Cecile


For a gorgeous lakeside village with heaps of history, I know you’ll love Yvoire.

Located on the shores of the beautiful Lake Geneva, this fortified town dates back to the 14th century. 

Colourful flowers adorn every nook and cranny of the town, from lush garden beds to vibrant hanging baskets. Trust me when I say that it is incredibly picturesque.

For a truly stunning floral arrangement, don’t miss the “Garden of the Five Senses”. While for a touch of history, make sure you stop by the town’s castle. 

As you’d expect, the town’s location on the lake lends it a wonderfully tranquil feel against a scenic backdrop.

11. Les Baux-de-Provence

Best for: Dramatic views

Nearest airport: Marseille

Where to stay: Baumanière

Top activity: Carrières des Lumières Entrance Ticket

Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence is a village with a view as dramatic as its history.

Perched atop a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles mountains, it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France.

The ruins of its castle, overlooking the rolling Provençal countryside, hint at a history of battles and defence.

Today, Les Baux-de-Provence is famed for its artistic spirit. It’s home to art installations and exhibitions that blend seamlessly with the ancient stone.

Don’t miss the Carrières de Lumières. It’s a series of limestone quarries turned into an immersive art venue, showcasing digital projections of famous artworks.

12. Saint-Émilion

Best for: Wine tasting 

Nearest airport: Bordeaux

Where to stay: Hôtel de Pavie

Top tour: Bordeaux Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting

Saint Emilion

You’ve probably heard of the wine and, as you’d expect, Saint-Émilion is set amidst the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux. 

This town’s historic roots are evident in its monolithic church carved from a single block of limestone, and the catacombs and underground passages that weave beneath the streets.

Saint-Émilion’s medieval architecture, from the remnants of its walls to the ancient wine cellars, serves as a backdrop to its world-renowned wine industry.

The town is also a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its well-preserved history. 

Of course I’d recommend partaking in a wine tour and tasting to really experience Saint-Émilion and its renowned wine heritage.

Have you visited any of the best medieval towns in France? Let me know your favourites in the comments!

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.