Call it a cliché, but if you want to know the real France then it’s the small towns you need to visit.
In the best ones you’ll get to know about local savoir-faire, culture, cuisine and industry.
You can visit the wine-growing villages of Alsace, Burgundy or Gironde to see how the terroir, built environment and flavours feed into one another.
The official “plus beaux villages” are sometimes so immaculate they’re like film sets, and you’ll be rubbing your eyes wondering if they’re real.
Lets explore the most charming towns to visit in France:
1. Riquewihr, Haut-Rhin
Undamaged by the Second World War, Riquewihr is a perfectly conserved walled town packed with timber-framed buildings from the 1500s.
You have to park outside and walk in through the gates.
What greets you on these cobblestone streets is like something out of a movie: House after house of timber and daub, many of which have been Winstubs (wine cellars) for centuries.
Indeed, this is Alsace’s wine region, and the hillsides right outside the gates are grooved with vineyards growing riesling and gewürztraminer grapes.
You can go for gentle hikes in this bucolic landscape or see the town’s sights, like the Dolder, a 13th-century watchtower rising 25 metres above the town.