Belcastel: A Beautiful French Town to Visit
Belcastel is a tiny French town with a population of less than 300. It is located halfway between Villefranche de Rouergue and Rodez in the Averyon department (12) which is part of the Occitanie region (formerly called Midi-Pyrénées). If you haven’t visited this gorgeous region in France, I highly recommend it!
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
If you love medieval villages, then Belcastel is an ideal place to visit. Charm oozes from the idyllic cobbled streets and stone houses draped in sweet-smelling wisteria. It’s no wonder it was voted one of the most beautiful villages in France!
I have visited this little French town three times over the years, and I’m sure I’ll go back again. I’ve never seen the village overly crowded, but you can expect to see a few other tourists here and there. Even so, it’s very quiet and quaint.
Explore This Little French Town
There is more to do in Belcastel than you might think! You could easily spend half a day or more here enjoying the sights at a relaxed pace.
Often, the main attraction in a French town is the castle. This is true here with the historied remnants of the Château de Belcastel.
A Short History
The sight began as a chapel in the 9th century, and over time it grew into a fortress castle.
It has gone through many hands over the centuries. In the 1390s, it was gifted to a knight, Alzias de Saunhac, for his loyalty.
Later, it fell into ruin, but was discovered again by the French architect, Fernand Pouillon. He painstakenly restored the château and lived there until his death.
Visiting the Castle
There is really just one main road in town. You just walk up the cobbled path to get to the castle. It’s not a long or difficult walk, but it is uphill, so take your time because it’s really lovely. Do wear good walking shoes; those cobbles are tough to walk on!
Once you get to the castle, cross over the moat to gain access. There, you will be given information to follow on a self-guided tour. The brochures are available in French, English, Spanish, and Dutch.
General Admission: 10.00€ adults/5€ children
Guided Tour (with reservation): 1€ per person
Hours (open daily):
June 15 – September 15: 10:00 am – 7 pm
April 2 – June 14 & September 16 – November 15: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm & 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Inside the château, you will be whisked away to another time. You can walk down to the original chapel, visit rooms with sparce medieval furnishings, and learn about knights and other cool facts about French history. You can also gain amazing views overlooking this charming French town.
Conversely, some of the rooms of the castle also function as contemporary art galleries. Each time I’ve gone, the art on display is different.
Every French town has its church or cathedral. You can walk across the bridge on the main street to the see the Église Sainte Marie Madeleine de Belcastel. Both the bridge and the church were built in the 14th century by Saunhac.
This medieval church is small but mighty, and well worth a look.
I really enjoy seeing the architecture and learning about the history of this period. My house in Villefranche de Rouergue was built in this same time frame.
The Blacksmith’s Workshop & Ancient Trades Museum
This museum, Maison des vieux métiers et de la forge, introduces visitors to the daily life of a blacksmith/farrier, fisherman, and shoe maker. Seeing how the average person lived and worked contrasts with what we see in castles. It really gives a better view of life so many years ago.
Interesting fact: Did you know they wore wooden clogs in France? Me neither!
General admission: 2.50€ adults/2€ children
Village tour & museum admission: 4€
Summer hours only: 10:30 am – 12 pm & 2 – 5 pm
Eating in Belcastel
If you travel on a budget or just like picnics, get some eats and drinks at a grocery store before starting your day. You will always save money this way!
If this is not an option for you, you have a few choices.
There are a couple of places where you can get snacks and drinks. One little place is next to the church, and another on the main road through the village.
For a casual, cozy place, you can try Bar/Restaurant Le 1909. Another option is Chez Anna.
For haute cuisine, you may like the restaurant at the Hôtel du Vieux Pont. Meals here start at 50€ per person.
On the church side of the river, there are some picnic tables on the lawn next to the Aveyron River.
The last time I visited, my son and I ate our lunch there. We had gotten some food and drinks at the grocery store in Villefranche de Rouergue before we left and leisurely enjoyed our lunch looking on the village and river. Such a very French thing to do!
Accommodation & Transportation
Where to Stay
If you would like to stay in the village, I would recommend staying at the castle. They have a lovely suite! But there are a couple of other choices, and you can check them all out here.
We use Villefranche de Roeurgue as a base, and it is a short drive from there. We are renovating a house that will hopefully be available soon as a holiday rental. Fingers crossed, as it’s a sloooow process.
How to Get There
I really recommend that you have a rental car. That way you can explore the region and get to Belcastel easily. You can park in 5 different paid-parking lots in the village if you have a car.
It is possible to take a taxi from Rodez, but I don’t recommend it.
Until next time…