5 Picturesque French Villages Along The Tour De France Route

From breathtaking mountain routes to heritage cities, the Tour de France trail takes you through some of the best destinations in the country
Libourne, France
Libourne, France

The 2023 Tour de France, the second and most prestigious Grand Tour of the year in the men's road cycling season, is underway. The stage race began on Saturday, July 1, in Bilbao and will run until July 23, with the 21st and last stage to finish in Paris. Over the next few weeks, cyclists will pass through several historic towns and pretty villages in the French countryside. From breathtaking mountain routes to heritage cities, the Tour de France trail takes you through some of the best destinations in the country. If you want to be inspired for your next vacation, here are five lesser-known villages and towns on the trail that you should bookmark. 

Saint-L&eacuteonard-de-Noblat

This little village in the Haute-Vienne province of Limousin, east of Limoges, grew into an important medieval pilgrimage hub, with visitors lured by the tomb of Saint-Leonard. With its rich medieval legacy, the town is centred around its Romanesque college cathedral, which is classified on the UNESCO list of routes to Santiago de Compostela. The narrow streets surrounding it are lined with medieval structures. The lovely old houses here are organised in a medieval street system, with several streets intersecting in a public space beside the former abbey church. Saint L&eacuteonard de Noblat was well-known for its wood, leather, and porcelain craftsmanship. The location is a favourite overnight stop on the Tour de France. 

Libourne

This fortified harbour town at the junction of the Dordogne and the Isle had a rich history associated with the trade in wool, wine, salt, and timber. The 13th-century port is located northeast of Bordeaux and serves as the core of the Libournais wine-producing district. In the Middle Ages, Libourne produced wines that were shipped overseas. While you're here, visit Ch&acircteau Coutet, which produces wines using biodynamic agriculture, no pesticides, and only natural compost. Stroll around the quays on the Isle and Dordogne rivers. Visit the weekend market on Place de l'H&ocirctel de Ville. The clocktower gate was built in the 14th century, while the town hall was built in the 16th. Check out the collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts at the Museum of Fine Arts on the second floor of the town hall.

Bourg-en-Bresse

This town is well-known for the Brou Royal Monastery, a work of spectacular Gothic art. The municipal museum houses magnificent collections of French, Flemish, and Italian art from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Several evocative old timber-framed mansions from the 15th and 16th centuries, such as the Gorrevod House and the Hugon House, still survive here. Explore the old quarters with its Jacobins Door, a relic of an old monastery, and the Cathedral of Our Lady, built in a mix of Renaissance and flamboyant Gothic styles. Close to the town centre is the Bouvent Leisure Park, with a 21-hectare lake, beach, water sports centre, and golf course.  

Roanne 

Located on the banks of the Loire in the Auvergne-Rh&ocircne-Alpes region, the city's rich history dates back over 2,000 years. The cuisine in this quaint river town, which boasts a gorgeous marina, is also well-known. Try local fares, such as Charlieu andouille, Mons cheeses, Praluline®, and R&eacutevillon chocolates. Hikers will appreciate the Loire Gorges' accessibility, while those who appreciate stunning architecture and history will enjoy taking a stroll around the bustling metropolis. The canal's quays are ideal for strolling. Visit the Joseph D&eacutechelette Museum, which is housed in a townhouse from the 18th century and has an Egyptian collection, an archaeological collection that shows what life was like in Roanne during the Gallo-Roman era, and a collection of ancient and contemporary ceramics (from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries).

Combloux

The mountain village of Combloux is popular as a ski resort hub. Combloux has been called "the pearl of the Mont Blanc" since it constantly has a clear view of the mountain. Additionally, the village is home to France's first swimmable ecological lake, which is heated by the sun during the summer. It is perfect for outdoor pursuits like hiking, treks, cycling, and horseback riding because of the forests and alpine landscape. Combloux is a lovely community with retained traditions and authenticity, with its rural hamlets and still-operating farms. The town has a strong sense of cultural identity because of its history and built heritage.

You can check the full Tour De France schedule here.

Cover photo credit Shutterstock

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