The Most Beautiful Villages in Aveyron, France
France is home to numerous beautiful towns and villages. The prettiest are given special designations: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
Currently, there are 164 villages with this prestigious designation. Ten of them are in the Aveyron department in the Occitanie region of southern France.
I hope you enjoy this overview of the ten and ultimately feel inspired to discover the Aveyron!
Where is Aveyron, France?
Aveyron is a department (#12) within the Occitanie region in the South of France. Please see the map below.
Recently, the name of the region changed names from Midi-Pyrénées to Occitanie. You will still see a lot of references using the old name. The Aveyron was previously called the Rouergue, but this was many moons ago.
The department got its name from the Aveyron River which snakes its way through the region. The largest cities in Aveyron are Rodez, Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue (where my house is), and Onet-le-Chateau. None of which are very big. Don’t be surprised if you are the only one on the road!
Why visit Aveyron?
The Aveyron is a breathtakingly beautiful rural area (think lush green pastures and grazing animals) that is studded with the most charming villages.
Not only does it have 10 villages on France’s most beautiful list, but also pretty much every little town you come across is oozing with charm.
I continue to explore this region with my husband when we stay at our French house, and I fall it love with its offerings of history, nature, and culture over and over again.
If you have not visited the Aveyron in France, you really should!
Many of the villages in the Aveyron are along one of the main French paths (or in some cases on smaller branches) of Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
In French, it is Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. And in English it is called the Way of Saint James.
If you see scallop shells, you are on a path!
The charming village of Belcastel is one of my favorites, and I have been there several times. When you step into this village, it’s as if you’ve stepped out of a fairy tale.
Stone houses, shops, and restaurants line the path up to the fortress. Sweet-smelling wisteria vines climb the stone facades. Across the river, over a medieval bridge, lies the 15th century church, Église Sainte Marie-Madeleine.
The Château de Belcastel is really interesting. It provides a glimpse into aristocratic life in medieval times. In contrast, it has temporary modern art exhibition space as well.
Make sure you pack a lunch, so you can picnic below the church by the river. It’s such a serene place to enjoy a meal.
For a complete guide, see my post about Belcastel, France.
The village of Brousse-le-Chateau sits on a rocky point above the confluence of the Tarn and Alrance Rivers. The chateau and surrounding buildings of Brousse were given a restorative “facelift” in recent years which brought this town back to life. Now, it is one of the prettiest.
Here, you can see some exemplary architecture harking back to the Middle Ages. There is a formal garden, Jardin de la Colombie, and a fortified castle, Château de Brousse, that was built in the 10th century.
You can walk along the ramparts of it’s restored walls, and inside the castle you can delight in some very interesting exhibitions. There is also a gothic bridge and 15th century church, Église Saint-Jacques le Majeur.
Watch the video below to see it for yourself:
Conques is another favorite village of mine. It’s very much a fairy-tale town come to life. In fact, the 2017 movie set for “Beauty and the Beast” was modeled after Conques, and it’s easy to imagine Belle wistfully strolling through the cobbled streets with a book in her hand.
Besides just being a gorgeous little town, you will find two structures for pilgrims that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site, “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.” These are the Abbey Church of Saint Foy and the bridge (Pont Vieux) over the Dordou River.
Within the church you can go into the treasure rooms which has the gem-encrusted gold reliquary statue of martyred Saint Foy and other religious pieces.
Located in the northern part of the Aveyron, Estaing rests along the Lot River in the Lot Valley.
Here you can find an impressive castle, Château d’Estaing, where you can learn about the history of the village as well as the connection with former French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.
Like Conques, Estaing also has a historical bridge (Pont Vieux) designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.” Be sure to visit the 15th century church, Église Saint-Fleuret.
Estaing is also the home of France’s smallest AOC vineyard. You can visit the Maison de la Vigne, du Vin, et des Paysages d’Estaing, where you can learn about wine making and taste some wine. Gotta love that!
Are you interested in Templar history like me? The small village of La Couvertoirade was founded by the Templar Knights in the 12th century. It is actually one of five Templar towns along the Lazarc Plateau. Now, the medieval stone buildings house artisans and their shops.
Walk into town through the towered gate. For a great view of the picturesque center and the surrounding countryside, you can walk around the wall ramparts (le chemin de ronde).
Be sure to visit the 14th century church of Saint Christophe and the 13th century chateau (Château Templier de la Couvertoirade). Additionally, on a hill overlooking the village, there is a restored communal windmill (Moulin du Rédounel) and bread oven. Finally, there is a Templar cemetery with its original gravestones.
Najac is very close to my French town, Villefranche-de-Rouergue. They are kind of sister cities if not rivals.
The string of stone and timber buildings of this town wind along a ridge up to the Forteresse Royale. The storied history of this fortified castle is very intriguing (Templars, Cathars, and royalty)! See the video below for an aerial view.
There are several other important buildings and an interesting museum about medieval life here as well. Take a look at my article about Najac for more information.
The beautiful village of Peyre is located near the viaduc de Millau within the Regional Natural Park of Grands Causses. In fact, it provides a great view of the famous, modern bridge.
The town itself is perched on a hillside overlooking the Tarn River. Here, you can discover troglodyte houses and the 11th century church of Saint Christophe.
Interestingly, the main fountain was used eons ago as a place of pagan worship. Certainly, this village is steeped in rich history dating back to the Bronze Age.
This village is also in the Lot valley near the Boralde River. Saint-Côme has ties to the Chemin de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle as it is on the Le Puy route (AKA Via Podiensis).
This little town is circular rather than in the grid layout of the bastides. Some of the houses form the wall, and there are fortified gates to go through.
The architecture throughout this village sings of medieval times. Take notice of the unusual twisted spire of the Église Saint-Côme et Saint-Damien. It’s as if a giant walked by and turned it with his thumb and finger.
Across from the church lies the Château de Castelnau which was originally built in the 12th century. It has had various additions and renovations over the centuries.
Other notables include the Chapelle des Pénitents built in the 11th century and L’Ouradou a memorial to the 1500 people who died from the plague in 1586,
Also located along the Lot River, Sainte-Eulalie is a gorgeous, flower-filled town. Now a center for art, it’s easy to see why this village is so inspiring.
You will also find the museum of Marcel Boudou, a local artist and several artisan workshops as you stroll through town.
The Église Sainte-Eulalie, built in the 11th century, has a reliquary that holds a fragment of Christ’s crown of thorns. Every year on the second Sunday of July, the Procession of Sainte Epine takes place.
The Château de Cruières is a stunning manor house that was constructed in the 15th century. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of other historic stone and timbered buildings to enjoy.
If you want to take advantage of the outdoors, you can rent canoes, paddle boards, and electric bikes.
Sauveterre is a bastide village that was founded in 1281. It was once surrounded by deep moats and has a central square with 47 arcades.
There are lovely timbered houses and stone buildings including a 14th century church, Collégiale de Saint Christophe (seems to be a popular name for churches in the area!).
In its earliest days it became a center for artists and administration. In the Middle Ages, the town was famous for its knife making. Although there was much decline in later years, it is once again a center for professional artists.
Well, there you have it! All of these villages are worth a visit, and don’t be surprised if you find plenty of other beautiful villages in the Aveyron as you explore the area.
There is no shortage of gorgeous towns steeped in the rich history and culture of France.
If you have any questions or comments, drop me a line in the comment section!
Until next time…