Seven of the best villages in France for food-lovers
From Normandy down to the Pyrenees, France is home to some of Europe’s best villages for food-lovers, with memorable restaurants, distinct signature dishes and iconic local ingredients.
Head to this golden-stone village in the heart of the Dordogne for its Sunday-morning market, and you’ll come out laden with delectable treats. Producers of all manner of local produce line the narrow, winding alleys, overlooked by half-timbered houses. Duck is the Dordogne’s delicacy, so you’ll find jars of confit de canard and pâté and — if it’s the right season — strawberries, asparagus and truffles. You can also buy wine direct from producers and bread that’s been baked in situ in a mobile bread oven.
Where to eat: L’Atelier is a charming restaurant offering modern twists on classic dishes.
Where to stay: Cook up a storm at self-catering properties Le Mas (sleeps two, €100 (£84) per night, minimum four nights) or Le Mazet (sleeps 10, €550 (£463) per night, minimum six nights) in nearby Sainte-Croix.
The signature red chilli peppers from this Pyrenean village, perched high above Biarritz, are a favourite across the French Basque Country; you’ll rarely find a chef who doesn’t list the small, mild piment d’espelette among their must-have ingredients. In Espelette itself, they’re strung in garlands across almost all its red-timbered buildings, and sold in all their forms — jars, spice blends, ready-to-eat dishes — in the small boutiques. If you’re visiting in October, join in with the annual Fête du Piment festival.
Where to eat: Aintzina, on Karrika Nagusia, in the centre of the village, has a great menu of Basque specialities. Try axoa, a veal mince stew infused with the famous chilli pepper.
Where to stay: Arraya in the nearby village of Sare has doubles from €96 (£80), room only.
3. Les Baux-de-Provence
Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Perched high on a narrow plateau overlooking lavender fields, vineyards and olive groves, the village of Les Baux-de-Provence is one of the Alpilles area’s most visited, drawing in travellers with its warren of lanes and spectacular views. It was at L’Ostau de Baumanière in 1982 that a 16-year-old Heston Blumenthal had the meal he credits with setting him on course to be a chef, and today the three-Michelin-star restaurant’s kitchen is headed up by chef Glenn Viel, who works magic with Provence’s incredible local produce — be sure to book ahead. Elsewhere, head to gourmet food store Maison Brémond and fill your basket with almond nougat, honey and jam; and call in at Mas de Cayol for olive oil and tapenade produced in the family’s groves.
Where to eat: If your budget doesn’t stretch to L’Ostau de Baumanière, book its sister restaurant, Le Cabro d’Or, where chef Michel Hulin also does wonders with local ingredients.
Where to stay: Just outside the main village, Benvengudo has its own excellent restaurant with Alain Ducasse-trained chef Julie Chaix at the helm, and has doubles from €196 (£165), room only.
Roquefort, the blue sheep’s cheese, is way more famous than the tiny village from which it originates, yet Roquefort-sur-Soulzon is well worth a visit, both for the many fromageries lining its streets and for the maturing caves up in the cliffs of the of the Causse du Larzac plateau. Here you’ll learn how Roquefort is made and how the blue mold originates in the soil of the caves. Legend has it that it was first discovered by a young man, who, on spotting a beautiful girl, abandoned his lunch in the caves only to return months later to find the plain cheese had gained a superior taste and texture in his absence.
Where to eat: While there are some good options in Roquefort, it’s worth making the short drive to the neighbouring village of Tournemire, where you’ll find Auberge des Orchidées, a friendly little restaurant with creative menus (3 Avenue Hippolyte Puech, 12250 Tournemire).
Where to stay: A 20-minute drive away, Château de Creissells is a four-star hotel with an incredible view of the Millau Viaduct, which you’ll pass under on your way there. Doubles from €106 (£88), room only.
Vendée, Pays de la Loire
On the tiny island of Noirmoutier, off France’s west coast, the main village of Noirmoutier-en-Île is the ideal place to go to tuck into the region’s incredible range of produce. Try the world’s most expensive variety of potato, la Bonnotte, as well as oysters farmed around the island and dishes enhanced by salt harvested in the local salt pans. You can cycle between oyster-growers’ shacks for your fresh molluscs and, at low tide, take an excursion alongside the Passage du Gois causeway to have a go at harvesting mussels and razor clams from the sand and rocks.
Where to eat: At Le Marine, acclaimed chef Alexandre Couillon — who grew up in Noirmoutier — creates incredible dishes inspired by the island.
Where to stay: Hotel Fleur de Sel has doubles from €116 (£97), room only.
Nothing can prepare you for Grignan’s dramatic appearance as you first glimpse it, on the road from Montélimar; the sight of its Renaissance chateau towering over a jumble of terracotta-roofed houses, surrounded by lavender, will stop you in your tracks. And the fact it sits within one of France’s most foodie departments only adds to its allure. Around Grignan itself are cherry orchards and vineyards galore; nearby is the town of Nyons, famous for its olives (the grove-lined road from Grignan is a sight in itself), and Saint-Marcellin cheese originates nearby.
Where to eat: Le Clair de la Plume hotel is home to the Michelin-starred restaurant of chef Julien Allano, who works wonders with the local produce. There’s also a garden restaurant and a bistro.
Where to stay: Le Clair de la Plume’s rooms are spread across buildings around the village; doubles start at €135 (£112), room only.
This idyllic village in Normandy is best known for its apple cider, calvados and pommeau — and where good tipples can be found, great food usually isn’t too far away. After visiting nearby distilleries such as Calvados Dupont, explore the village itself, with its neat, timber-framed buildings and the apple orchards that inspired art by local resident David Hockney in 2020. The region is blessed by both the flavours from the Pays d’Auge, with its cheese and cream, and also fish and seafood from the nearby coast.
Where to eat: Michelin-starred Le Pavé d’Auge is set in the village’s former covered market and creates innovative dishes using local produce.
Where to stay: Just 10 minutes away, elegant Château de la Bribourdière has doubles from €160 (£135), B&B.
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