The 7 Most Adorable Towns in France

Not to knock Paris -- a city everyone agrees is the prototype for pretty capitals -- but these small towns are the ultimate when it comes to French cuteness. Everything from cobblestone lanes and gingerbread-like houses to canals and food markets are cranked up to 11 on a scale of zero to mega-adorable. In general, you won't find museums or landmark sights here. Instead, the towns themselves are the main attraction, drawing travelers who want to spend the day strolling and swooning over one delightful scene after another. Ready to have your heart skip a beat? Here are our top seven picks.

1. Annecy

Jean Balczesak/Flickr

Practically knocking on Switzerland's door, the Alpine town of Annecy looks like a watercolor painting come to life. Backed by a snowcapped mountain range, its streetscape is lined with pastel-colored buildings often separated by canals. (Eat your heart out, Venice.) Given the setting, it's no surprise that the town has its own Pont des Amours (Lovers' Bridge), the perfect spot to snap a pic of yourself with your sweetie. The town's namesake lake is a great place to take a paddleboat out on the water. And like any proper village in France, Annecy hosts a food market where visitors can seek out the region's mix of French and Swiss cheeses. 

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2. Colmar

francois schnell/Flickr

With its half-timber houses lined in shuttered windows, the town of Colmar would make the perfect setting for a Disney Princess to sing about her quiet, provincial life while swinging a straw basket. Part of the reason for Colmar's distinct look is its location: It's right on the edge of France's pointed elbow that extends into Germany. That geography translates to its architecture (picture houses with crisscrossed timber beams that tipsily lean against one another). It also translates to its wine, as the town is known for being the capital of Alsace's wine region. Be sure to stop into a "winstub," the local version of a wine bar with a country twist. (Side trips to Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, and Eguisheim provide more Alsatian charm.)

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3. Bayeux

Uwe Brodrecht/Flickr

A coastal town just off the English Channel, Bayeux has roots that extend all the way back to the Roman Empire, and walking through its streets can feel like stepping back centuries. The town's cathedral -- a hulking Gothic structure topped in a series of pointed spires -- acts as the ultimate counterpoint to the town's darling homes, often stone buildings capped off with chimneys. History buffs often come to this area to see the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth dating back to 1066. Many travelers also consider Bayeux the ultimate home base for exploring Normandy's beaches.

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4. Èze

David Baron/Flickr

Let Cannes keep its film festivals and super yachts; this French Riviera town presents something entirely different -- small-scale storybook charm. Èze's cobblestone streets, archways, and staircases winding up the hillside feel like the village time forgot. Here and there, bursts of green vines or purple bougainvillea add color to the medieval scene. Those who keep hiking uphill will be rewarded with views across the Mediterranean. If you fall under Èze's spell, you'll hardly be the first -- Walt Disney was known to spend time here, no doubt gathering inspiration for his own enchanted kingdom.

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5. Gordes

Salva Barbera/Flickr

Deeply romanticized for its sun-baked houses, lavender fields, and outstanding cuisine, Southern France tends to be toward the top of traveler's lists. And while Marseille and Aix-en-Provence have more name recognition, Gordes has much of their appeal in miniature. The village itself is wedged onto a slab of rock jutting over a valley, and its houses tumble down from this apex, all in a uniform sunset hue topped with terra-cotta tiles. Narrow streets and century-old churches are part of the charm. The town is so cinematic that its square served as a location for the Russell Crowe romance "A Good Year."

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6. Etretat

Lorena Torres Angelini/Flickr

Etretat could rightly be considered more dramatic than adorable. Its staggering white cliffs plunging off the coastline could give England's Dover serious competition. But next to that showstopper sits a cute seaside hamlet complete with a pier cluttered with multicolored boats. Streets have a hodgepodge of candy-colored buildings, brick homes, and half-timber structures, but somehow it all hangs together. Above it all sits the Chapel of Notre-Dame de la Garde, a beautiful spot to soak in the sunset and feel the sea-salt air.

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7. Dinan

Daniel Jolivet/Flickr

Should you go to Brittany? If you love oysters, white wines, and crepes, the answer is a loud "heck yes." This corner of France has a surplus of things that delight, and it's not just limited to what's on the dinner table. The town of Dinan has full-blown cobblestone cuteness on display, providing its own good reason to visit the region. Its medieval structures, including ramparts and churches, give the village a certain nobility. But it's the homes and shops -- often mortared stone walls topped with pitched roofs or half-timber houses straight out of "Hansel and Gretel" -- that charm the most. Just try to stop yourself from skipping down the streets.

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