12 Breathtaking Medieval Towns in France That Transport You Back in Time

France’s historic towns, cities, and villages provide an evocative glimpse into the country’s past. Here are the medieval towns in France most worth visiting.

History buffs seeking a French adventure will adore exploring the country’s incredible medieval towns. Aged and enchanting, their half-timbered homes, fairytale castles, and cobblestone streets serve as magical windows to the past. There’s just one problem: France is enormous, and these exquisite towns are everywhere! To help you decide which ones to visit, here are 12 of the country’s most impressive medieval towns.

12. Rocamadour

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Rocamadour is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of France’s quintessential fairytale destinations. Age-old stone buildings sit on limestone cliff sides above the River Dordogne, and cobblestone streets lined by medieval ramparts lead to 12th-century churches. Rocamadour is also a millennia-old pilgrimage destination. Its shrine to Madonna, said to have healing powers, is one reason this tiny village welcomes over a million visitors yearly.

11. Colmar

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Nicknamed the “Little Venice of Alsace,” Colmar delights visitors with its colorful half-timbered buildings that line a patchwork of picturesque canals. The town is so well-preserved it resembles a medieval movie set. In reality, Colmar dates back to the 9th Century. Expect a romantic place with layers of charm and history.

10. Saint-Paul de Vence

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Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the French Riviera, Saint-Paul de Vence is everything you could want in a medieval town. Expect giant stone ramparts with terrific views, hidden courtyards, a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, and masses of old-world intrigue. Cute shops, restaurants, and bars add to its appeal. Located just 19 km west of Nice and 26 km from Cannes, it’s also incredibly accessible.

9. Carcassonne

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Majestic. Iconic. Ineffable. Those are a few words you might use to describe Carcassonne. It’s awe-inspiring – a vast, fortified citadel in southern France that transports you to a medieval world. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, its impressive stone ramparts, towers, and turrets encompass a labyrinth of cobblestone streets. If you can only visit one medieval town in France, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another as memorable or evocative as Carcassonne.

8. Sarlat-la-Canéda

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While Sarlat-la-Canéda, commonly known as Sarlat, lacks the blockbuster appeal of Carcassonne, it remains an attractive (and popular) medieval town with many appealing traits. Not only is it full of modern amenities, but it’s also a fantastic base for exploring the wider region. Sarlat’s cobblestone streets are pedestrian-friendly, too, and it’s small enough to explore on foot. As you walk around, you’ll fall in love with its charming atmosphere, impressive architecture, and endless things to see and do.

7. Gordes

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Gordes looks spectacular. Nestled in the foothills of “Les Monts de Vaucluse,” it is one of France’s best-known hilltop towns. Expect a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets (called “calades”), ancient golden stone walls, a chateau dating to the 10th Century, and stunning views. Gordes oozes medieval charm from all angles. An added perk? It’s only a few kilometers from Bories Village – a unique historic destination where every building is made from dry stone walls.

6. Dinan

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If you’re going to explore Brittany in northwest France, don’t miss Dinan, a medieval town (actually a city) with a difference. While still boasting the usual medieval elements – cobbled streets, ramparts, and half-timber houses with pointed gables – Dinan lines the banks of the Rance River, where it once had a thriving port. There’s a pleasant combination of tourists and locals here, too, topped off by peaceful surroundings.

5. Eguisheim

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Welcome to another of the most beautiful villages in France. Once again, there are colorful timber-framed houses, narrow streets full of character, fountains, hidden courtyards, and ancient castles to explore – as well as modern conveniences like boutique stores and restaurants. Unique to Eguisheim is its layout, which extends outward in concentric circles. Imagine a maze where every turn reveals another medieval marvel.

4. Saint-Émilion

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Saint-Émilion is well-located for wine lovers. It’s tucked away in the heart of Bordeaux – an area famous worldwide for its viniculture. That’s hardly the town’s sole appeal, though. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, prepare for more quintessential medieval delights. Golden stone buildings, hidden courtyards and narrow streets, and numerous architectural wonders (such as the underground Monolithic Church) make Saint-Émilion a must.

3. Riquewihr

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Picturesque doesn’t do Riquewihr justice. It’s another fairytale village in Alsace, eastern France, which oozes charm, romance, and historical appeal. Its location is hard to beat, too. Expect views of mountains and vineyards as you explore the narrow, cobbled streets and gawp at 15th-century half-timbered homes.

2. Provins

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Located in north-central France, Provins is an impressive, fortified town with walls dating to the 12th Century. However, like many other places on this list, the history of this magical place goes way back to Roman times. For example, a 12th-century keep aptly named the Tour de César sits where a Roman fort once stood. As an ode to its history and cultural significance, Provins became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

1. Pérouges

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The history of Pérouges in southeast France dates back almost 1000 years, but its recent history is worth noting, too. You wouldn’t know it today, but this pristine medieval town fell into disrepair in the 19th Century. Its buildings started being dismantled for materials, and the population dropped from 1500 to a mere smattering of folks unwilling to leave. Fast forward to today, and the town has thankfully been restored to its historic best. Expect another medieval walled town perched on a hilltop, complete with cobblestone streets, old-world buildings with traditional wooden shutters, and stunning views of the surrounding area.


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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.