Occitanie is filled with gorgeous villages that boast exemplary architecture and rich history. If you are a fan of local architecture, love history or skilled craftsmanship then Occitanie's villages are the place to be.

    Although they are very peaceful today these stone villages have centuries of stories telling of wars and pilgrimages. Perched high on cliff tops, built into the rocks or lying by the side of a river, these peaceful villages are full of buildings with a rich architectural history. Walking through their narrow streets you won't notice the time pass as you let your imagination step back into history. Discover the 10 prettiest villages in Occitanie.

    1

    Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

    A pretty medieval village in the Lot valley

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    Saint-Cirq-Lapopie looks like it was built out of the cliffs it is perched on, far above the river. Time seems to have stood still in this medieval village. This listed village has 13 historic monuments and lots of shops, cafés and restaurants to enjoy once you've finished wandering down the stone streets, up the twisting steps and through the fortified gates.

    Sunset on the pinky-brown stone of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has inspired lots of artists, many still having workshops and galleries in the town. But the village has also been popular with writers, in particular the surrealist writer André Breton who said of it "I have ceased to desire elsewhere".

    Location: 46330 Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France

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    2

    Rocamadour

    A dizzying trip to a hillside village

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    Rocamadour is a stunning medieval village built in several layers into a cliff above a deep canyon. Since the 12th century its one and only street has been travelled by pilgrims coming to pray by the relics of the well-known hermit, St Amadour.

    Past the many shops and restaurants, at the end of this street you arrive at a monumental staircase leading up to 8 churches and chapels, that were restored in 1858 in a Troubadour-Gothic revival style. One of them is dedicated to the famous Black Virgin (Vierge Noire). Then it's on to the castle where you'll have a wonderful view of this celebrated place of pilgrimage.

    Location: 46500 Rocamadour, France

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    3

    Cordes-sur-Ciel

    Walking into the sky

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    Cordes-sur-Ciel is a little medieval village whose steep stone streets are only accessible on foot. Stroll past the ramparts and the charm of the medieval streets kicks in. Founded in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse on the rocky ridge of the Puech de Mordagne making it one of the oldest bastide towns in Occitanie, the village became home to wealthy merchants, many of whose luxurious houses and fortified gates still stand today.

    From the very top of this hillside town there are wonderful views over the Cérou valley (la vallée du Cérou). A town of artists, Cordes-sur-Ciel is also well-known for its many artisans' shops selling paintings, ceramics and jewellery.

    Location: 81170 Cordes-sur-Ciel, France

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    4

    Bruniquel

    Not just one castle, but two

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    Bruniquel is a very pretty village in Quercy, with a mix of stone, wood and half-timbered houses lining narrow streets that look untouched by time. Along flowered alleyways, the architectural variety of the village can be seen by the mullioned or double mullioned windows, arched doors and even turrets.

    This medieval village is dominated by two enormous castles, the "old" one originally built in the 13th and 19th centuries and the "young" one in the 15th and 18th. From these superb Renaissance style architectural gems, there is a wonderful view down into the Aveyron valley. And cinema buffs will enjoy the exhibition about "The Old Gun" (Le Vieux Fusil), a film by Robert Enrico that was shot in the village.

    Location: 82800 Bruniquel, France

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    5

    Sarlat-la-Canéda

    A village you'll love for its food and its buildings

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    Sarlat-la-Canéda, one of the most beautiful towns in France, was the medieval capital of the Black Périgord (Périgord noir) and today has 66 classified monuments. These include the Our Lady convent (le couvent de l'ordre de Notre-Dame), a beautiful town hall and many Gothic and Renaissance mansions like Plamon Mansion (l’hôtel Plamon), Magnanat Mansion (l’hôtel Magnanat) and Vassal Mansion (l’hôtel de Vassal).

    The former church of St Mary (église Sainte-Marie), was converted into a food market by Jean Nouvel, making it a must see place when you're in town. The glass lift in its bell-tower gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of the town's roof tops. Sarlat is as famous for its food as its culture. A large part of its reputation rests on the local specialities, like truffles, walnuts and geese, and the many festivals that celebrate them.

    Location: 24200 Sarlat-la-Canéda, France

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    6

    Estaing 

    A pretty town on the Way of St James

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    Estaing, curled into the green banks of the River Lot, is a pretty village with picturesque streets that lead up to an imposing Château. It was built in the 13th century around a pentagonal keep topped by a high tower which has impressive views over the valley.

    This village, a stopover on the Way of St. James (le chemin de Compostelle), is full of pretty historic buildings with facades dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including the 15th church containing the relics of St. Fleuret. If you happen to be in Estaing at the beginning of July you can enjoy the annual procession with historic costumes that celebrate St. Fleuret, the patron saint of the village.

    Location: 12190 Estaing, France

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    7

    Conques

    The village of a thousand treasures

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    Conques is a jewel of Romanesque art and definitely a must-see if you're in Aveyron. Just above the River Dourdou and surrounded by greenery, this village seems to have come straight out of the middle ages. The paved street and half timbered houses with limestone tiled (lauzes) roofs lead up to the ancient, and famously beautiful, Conques abbey, an important stopping place on the Way of St. James.

    It contains the relics of St Foy and the fabulous treasure they attracted, as well as the more modern stained glass windows created by the world famous local artist, Pierre Soulages. And you can also visit the abbey church at night. Experience something truly different, wandering through the columns and watching the stained glass gradually becoming illuminated while the abbey organ plays.

    Location: 12320 Conques, France

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    8

    Najac

    A jewel of a town surrounded by greenery

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    Najac is found in the shadow of its castle and is perched on the top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the River Aveyron. It has one single street of old stone houses basking in the sun. The village was turned into a fortified town (bastide) in the 13th century but is now best known for the beautiful tones of its stone buildings set in a landscape that is green in both summer and winter.

    The well-preserved castle, which dates from the same era, has a magnificent circular keep and a terrace with panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. Strolling through the village you can admire the Church of St John the Evangelist (l'église Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste), the house that was once the Chapel of Saint Barthelemy (la chapelle de Saint Barthélemy), the original 14th century fountain and the St Blaise bridge (le pont Saint-Blaise).

    Location: 12270 Najac, France

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    9

    Carennac

    A step back in history in the Dordogne valley

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    Carennac sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Dordogne. It is one of the most beautiful, calming villages in France. A charming medieval village with beautiful renaissance houses it also has an 11th century Cluniac priory. In addition, there's the Dean's Castle (château des Doyens) and a beautiful church with a 12th century tympanum.

    This village is one of the most beautiful in Haut Quercy but the countryside around it is equally beautiful. You can enjoy herds grazing in the stone walled meadows, walnut orchards, grottoes and prehistoric sites or a canoe trip along the river to explore the plant and wildlife.

    Location: 46110 Carennac, France

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    10

    Lavardens

    A small village in Gascony with a very large castle

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    Lavardens castle towers over this pretty medieval hilltop village in the heart of the Gers region. It was built in the 17th century by the Counts of Armagnac and is an interesting mixture of fortified castle and pleasure château with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

    In the village itself there is the Church of Saint Michael (l'église de Saint Michel) and the original wash-house (le lavoir du Parat). A little further on there is the Domaine Encapette where you can try the local Vins de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, but also get a view of the village and its castle.

    Location: 32360 Lavardens, France

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