Did you know that the smallest village in France is located in Gironde, the department of Bordeaux? Castermoron d’Albret is a tiny village of only 3.5 hectares, located in the Entre Deux Mers wine region, about an hour drive from Bordeaux. Entre Deux Mers is sometimes called the Tuscany of France due to its scenic landscape of hills and vineyards. In this article, I am going to tell you why you should really consider visiting it on your trip to the Bordeaux region! At the end of the article, you can find other recommendations of villages worth visiting on the way (Click here to find a car for your trip).
Being the smallest village in France is a nice title but is it really worth an hour’s drive? In the case of Castelmoron d’Albret, the answer is definitely yes! The medieval town is brimming with charm and beauty with old houses covered with eclectic pots filled with colorful flowers. No house is the same here, every window, shutter, and door have its particularity and will make you stop and admire the beauty. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just flowers, and pure charm. It looks so authentic that it feels like it got stuck in time. Mind you, it didn’t go unnoticed by French moviemakers who shot several period movies here.
There are only about 50 people living here and even with some tourists wandering around, the village feels calm and peaceful, you can barely hear any noise here. I believe that my kids are the loudest thing this village has ever known 🙂
What to see in Catelmoron d’Albret?
There aren’t any important monuments you should see here and that’s kind of the beauty of it. Take your time to stroll the captivating streets of the village, smell the flowers, admire the stone houses, pass through the narrow corridors between the four streets of the village. Despite its tiny size we somehow managed to spend three hours there. I have to mention though, that we travel with kids who stop to pick up every stone and leaf so for most people, it would probably be a nice tour of about a 1.5h. The village is situated on a hill, so don’t miss the beautiful view from the little green square located next to the Halles. Another spot not to miss is the old lavoirs (wash house) located on the footsteps of the village. You will see it on the left when you enter the village from the main street, the Grande rue. In this map you can see all the places worths paying attention to.
The are only three businesses in this village. The most interesting is the pottery workshop of Cécile and Christophe, which is both a shop and a workshop where they host groups. They also have a little tea garden just next to the workshop.
There’s also Serge the silversmith with his big workshop that specializes in fixing agricultural equipment. And finally, you can also visit the Bar- Brocant of Pierre located at the entrance to the village.
If you love hiking there are two great hiking trails you can do from the village. One is a short 5km trail called Boucle locale du moulin and a longer one Boucle locale de l’etang which is 10km long. You can see signs in the villages leading in the direction of the trails. Or use the instructions on the official site of the village (in French) – find them here.
When to visit Catelmoron d’Albret?
The best time to visit this and other villages in the region is spring! All the flowers are blossoming with roses climbing all over the medieval houses. Just that will make you fall in love with the Southwest of France!
However, in Castelmoron d’Albret, Christmas is also a special time and if you’re in the region try to plan a trip here. Every Christmas, the couple from the pottery shop are installing one of the most impressive Crèche de Noël (nativity scene) in the church of the village and most windows on the main street are decorated with little characters from the creche. It creates an amazing atmosphere that gives this village even more charm.
What else to do around Castelmoron d’Albret?
Castelmoron d’Albret is a perfect half a day trip but if you made the effort to get here from Bordeaux you may want to visit one of the other villages, towns or sites in the region. There’s a lot to visit in this part of the Southwest of France, Here are some suggestions:
Sauveterre-de-Guyenne – just seven minutes’ drive from Castelmoron d’Albret and you’ll arrive to one of the most important towns in Entre Deux Mers. The town was founded in the 13th century and is one of the many bastide towns located in this region of France. You’ll see its impressive entrance gate from the road, it’s hard to miss.
La Réole – a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne river located about 14 km from Castelmoron d’Albret and about 50 km from Bordeaux. It’s one of the most impressive towns in the South of Gironde and has a great market every Saturday. For more beautiful villages in the region check out my article about the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
Duras – you can also continue a bit further to Duras, a town located in the Lot et Garonne department, about 17 km away from Castelmoron d’Albret. The most important monument in Duras is Chateau de Duras, a very impressive castle with a magnificent view of the Dropt valley.
Sauve Majeurs – if you’re looking to stop somewhere closer to Bordeaux, this is the place to go. The Abbaye de la Sauve Majeure built in the 11th and 12th centuries is located just midway between Bordeaux and Castelmoron d’Albret. The ruin of the ancient abbey is a historic site that appears on the UNESCO list of protected heritage sites. It was an important religious site until the Hundred Years’ War and was destroyed during the French revolution. Next to it, you can find the Maison du Vin of Entre Deux Mers which can help you with information about different wineries in the region.
When you visit Bordeaux, dedicating at least a day or two to its exquisite countryside is a must. Bordeaux is the capital of Gironde, the biggest department in France with a huge variety of places to visit and things to do. Among others, the Bordeaux region is known for its beautiful villages.
In this article, I gathered some of the most beautiful villages in Gironde, the perfect places to discover the architecture and heritage of the region. My list includes villages in Cap Ferret, wine towns as well and medieval villages from the south of Gironde.
*Note – most villages on this list require a car to get to, in case you don’t have one, click here to get a rental car in Bordeaux.
Now let’s hit the road and discover the most beautiful villages in Gironde.
The right bank – Saint Emilion and Pays Blayais
You can’t really do a list of villages around Bordeaux without including Saint Emilion in it, can you? This medieval village is known all around the world for its splendid wine but it’s also undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux.
Important historical monuments can be found in abundance in this medieval town, some of which date back as far as the 11th and 12th centuries. One of the famous monuments is the 11th-century Monolithic church, carved from a limestone cliff, it’s the largest underground church in Europe.
Its picturesque center, densely filled with wine shops and fancy restaurants, turns this little town into a prominent tourist attraction. If you’re visiting Saint Emilion in the high season of July-August beware that you need to book everything in advance, it gets very busy!
Blaye is one of the most interesting places in the Bordeaux area, located only about 50 km north of Bordeaux. This little town has a long military and strategic history and is mostly known for its remarkable Citadel.
The Citadel and city walls are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can easily spend half a day discovering them. The entrance to the Citadel is free and you can explore the streets and ramparts admiring the view of the Gironde estuary which can be seen from the top.
Blaye is also well known for its red wine which I really like and find reasonably priced. You can visit the Maison du Vin on the main street (12 Cours Vauban), where they would gladly introduce you to the wines of the region and the chateaux you can visit around Blaye.
How to get from Bordeaux to Blaye? The easiest way to get there is by car or by ferry if you’re coming from the other side of the Gironde estuary. The ferry is leaving from Lamarque, you can see all the details about the tariffs and hours in this link.
Bourg (Previously called Bourg sur Gironde) is a picturesque village, located at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. Playing a key role in the region’s history, Bourg was fortified by the English and visited by several kings, such as Louis XIV in 1650. Just like its neighboring town of Blaye, Bourg also has a very impressive citadel called Château de la Citadelle.
Apart from the citadel, the historic part of the city has a cute central square with restaurants and shops, the market takes place every Sunday.
Bourge is also known for its great wine, labeled under the Côtes-de-Bourg appellation. Don’t miss a visit to the Maison des Vins, a 19th-century former residence with a warm atmosphere that acts as a venue for exhibitions, talks, receptions, tasting classes, meetings with winegrowers, and more. You can also see the map of all the wineries here, it’s better to call them before your visit.
Whether you decide to go to Blaye or Bourg, I highly recommend staying at the stunning Domaine La Corniche located in between the two towns.
How to get from Bordeaux to Bourg: Two bus lines of TransGironde (201, 202) from Lormont pass through Bourg. However, unless you live or stay on rives droite of the Garonne it will take you some time to get to Lormont from the center of Bordeaux. So here too, going by car is recommended.
Beautiful villages in Arcachon, Cap Ferret, and Medoc
L’herbe is a traditional oyster-farming village located on the Cap Ferret Peninsula. Here you won’t find the typical French village, no central square with a bakery, no old houses or medieval gates. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most beautiful villages in the southwest of France, in my opinion at least.
There’s something raw and authentic about L’herbe. You get to stroll amidst the colorful huts of oyster farmers and see them in action on their special workboats. If you like oysters, you’re going to love this place. Charming cabanes de huitres spread along the beach with a tiny menu that mostly includes oysters, pork paté and white wine. This is a perfect destination for a sunny half-day trip from Bordeaux, or a full-day if you add a trip to the beach as well.
How to get from Bordeaux to L’herbe: by car is the best way to get here as the bus is not a direct one and it takes almost two hours to get to L’herbe from Bordeaux. But if you have no choice take bus 601 (Trans Gironde) from Bordeaux center.
Cap Ferret is a little town located in the south end of the Cap Ferret Peninsula in the Western part of Bassin d’Arcachon. It’s traditionally known as a summer getaway for the French upper class. Although it’s been recently gaining popularity among tourists visiting the south of France, it has yet to lose its relaxing beach village atmosphere, especially if compared to Arcachon city.
Cap Ferret is shaped like a narrow tongue with a long string of beautiful sandy beaches. It’s also known for its ostréiculture industry, which produces some of the best oysters in France. Dozens of colorful oyster huts adorn the bay side of the town of Cap Ferret, giving it a unique character.
If you want to profit from the day, rent a bike and cycle along the beaches and through the pine forest that covers a large part of the Cap Ferret peninsula. There are plenty of bike rentals in Cap Ferret, Beach Bikes is a good one to check first.
For a perfect weekend in Cap Ferret, check out Les Chambres du Phare, a cozy B&B within walking distance from the beach.
How to get from Bordeaux to Cap Ferret: Bus 601 will bring you to Cap Ferret but it’ll take you at least two hours to get there, so a car is definitely a better option here. You can also take a ferry from Arcachon or le Moulleau beach, you can see the schedule here.
Soulac Sur Mer
This charming little town is one of the highlights of the Medoc region. It’s located on the very top of the Medoc Atlantique area, about 90 km from Bordeaux.
If you ever had the chance to visit the town of Arcachon, you will find Soulac sur Mer a bit familiar, and many actually call it “little Arcachon”. The city center with its market and restaurants resembles Ville d’été in Arcachon. The northern part of the town with its charming 18th-century villas is similar in style to the impressive villas of Ville d’Hiver in Arcachon.
Soulac has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, attracting many French tourists to the area. There are plenty of cute little restaurants both in the center and on the promenade. Seafood is a very important part of the local cuisine and so many restaurants will serve oysters and large shrimp.
Every June Soulac hosts one of my favorite events in Gironde, called Soulac 1900. A celebration of music, dance, ancient cars, and costumes from the beginning of the 20th century.
Entre deux mers and South Gironde
I finish my list with the Entre Deux Mers region and the South of Gironde, my go-to places when I’m in the mood for beautiful medieval towns. This is one of the most beautiful parts in the southwest of France, embodying the historic and cultural richness of this region.
Most of the villages on my list are located close to one another so you can visit them all in one weekend. Public transport is not extremely developed in this part of Gironde so it’s better to travel by car or bike if you like cycling a lot. I did, however, add public transport routes to these places just for completeness.
First on my list is Saint Macaire, a little medieval town located on the banks of the Garonne River. Located about 50km from Bordeaux, Saint Macaire is an attractive destination for those interested in history and beautiful architecture.
What today seems like a sleepy town in the Entre Deux Mers wine region was once an important city under British rule and declared the “Ville royale d’Angleterre” (An English royal city) in 1341. During the 13th and 14th centuries, it was one of the most prosperous cities in Aquitaine due to its significant agricultural and trade activities.
When there take the time to discover its rich heritage, the narrow streets, and beautiful old houses and monuments. Place Mercadiou, surrounded by beautiful medieval houses is the main square of the village, where the market takes place every Thursday morning. Another monument not to miss is Porte de la Benauge, the main gate to the old city whose historic center is surrounded by ramparts.
The most important monument of the village is Eglise de Saint Sauveur et Saint-Martin. The big church, built in the 12th and 15th centuries has impressive murals that are worth seeing. Every year at the end of August, Saint Macaire hosts one of the best medieval festivals in the region.
How to get there from Bordeaux to Saint Macaire: There’s usually only one or two trains a day going from Bordeaux to Saint Macaire, so getting there by public transport is not very practical. However, you can take a train to Langon and then cross the Garonne to the other side and bike or even go for a nice hike along the river until you reach Saint Macaire.
Cadillac is a little town located on the right bank of the Garonne River in the Entre Deux Mers wine region. It’s quite a popular destination attracting many tourists, especially during summer. Cadillac is hard to miss when driving the D10 route to the south of Gironde. You will be greeted by a big defensive wall and the main gate into the old medieval center built in the 13th century.
However, its undeniably most famous monument is the Château des Ducs d’Épernon, built by the Duke of Épernon in the 17th century. The chateau is very impressive and is best known for being a women’s prison starting from the French Revolution up until 1950.
It now serves as a museum that mostly displays the life of the royals who were occupying the estate before it became a prison. However, on the last floor, you can still see the cells and a small exhibition about the prison.
The town is also known for its wine, the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. You can visit the Maison des vins of Cadillac to learn about the wine of this region and taste it of course 🙂
How to get from Bordeaux to Cadillac: You can get there by bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
About 5km from Cadillac you will find Rions, a medieval village located on the banks of the Garonne river. Like other towns in this region, Rions is also characterized by cute narrow streets and medieval houses.
During medieval times it was an important town that was greatly affected by the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. In 1295, Rions, which was at the time under British rule, was conquered by the French Charles of Valois who took down its defensive walls. In 1313, England was able to take the city back and surround it with ramparts, making it one of the Fortified English cities of British-ruled southwest of France (Guyenne).
It went back into French hands right before the end of the long war and, despite all the turmoil, was left with its impressive architecture and charm, perfect for a few hours trip. If you want to make the best of your day trip to the region, you can go on a 5km hike and see the beautiful surroundings of this medieval town.
How to get from Bordeaux to Rions: You can take bus number 501 from the Bastide neighborhood in Bordeaux, see the schedule here.
This tiny medieval village is brimming with charm! Almost every house here is covered with colorful roses and other beautiful flowers spilling from eclectic pottery that is made here in the village.
No house here looks the same, every window and door has its particularity. There are almost no signs of modern life here, no cars, no sidewalks, just a beautiful village frozen in time. Only about 50 people are living here and only three businesses operate in the 3.5 hectares village so the atmosphere is incredibly relaxing. I think my kids were the loudest thing this village has experienced in a while.
It will take you about an hour of a scenic drive over the hills and along the vineyards of Entre Deux Mers to reach the little town from Bordeaux. If you want to combine the visit with any other activity, I recommend visiting the impressive bastide town of Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, which is located just a few minutes drive from Castelmoron d’Albret.
There are also several hiking and cycling routes you can do in this part of Entre deux Mers. In this link, you can find a great hiking trail that starts from the village itself.
How to get there: Getting there by bus is fairly complicated and I would advise going only by car. The closest train station to this village is La Reole but the bus from there to Castelmoron d’Albret is not very regular.
La Réole is a small hilly town situated on the banks of the Garonne River about 50 km from Bordeaux.
The town originally developed around a monastery founded in the 7th or 8th century however its golden era was in medieval times when it became the second-largest city in the region after Bordeaux. Still today, it’s one of the biggest towns in the south of the Gironde department with plenty of interesting events and a very lively weekly market on Saturdays.
There are quite a few impressive houses and monuments to see in this little town. Just to name a few are the historic 12th century Town Hall, the Saint Pierre church and the Benedictine abbey, the old ramparts of the city, and more. Wander through the enchanting narrow streets of the historic center and let the beautiful architecture take you back in time.
If you happen to arrive in La Reole when the tourist office is open, be sure to take a map of all the monuments in the city.
How to get from Bordeaux to La Reole: This is a great destination for those who don’t own a car. You can get to La Réole in 40 minutes by train from Bordeaux. The train leaves from Gare Saint Jean every two hours.
Bazas is one of my favorite towns in the south of Gironde not only because it’s a beautiful place but also due to its rich heritage embodying the Gascony culture. It’s located at the eastern edge of the Gascon Landes forest, about 65 km from Bordeaux.
A leisurely walk through the historic center unveils the city’s remarkable architecture and its past role as an important bishopric. The main square of Bazas is home to its famous gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which appears on the UNESCO world heritage list. When strolling the historic center don’t miss the charming old houses on the smaller streets as well as the gardens.
Architecture is not the only attraction of Bazas which is quite famous for its gastronomy, especially its meat. You can enjoy the Bazadaise meat in one of the restaurants located on the main square. True meat lovers could also buy meat in one of the many butcher shops in the center.
If you’re looking for a full gastronomic experience to discover the cuisine of the region, there’s one tour you shouldn’t miss. Anne, an American living in Bazas is an expert on everything related to food in the region. She knows all the farmers and chefs around Bazas and her guided farm-to-table tours are an unforgettable experience. Check out her website.
How to get from Bordeaux to Bazas This is the most complicated place on my list to get to by public transport and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. If you want to get to Bazas from Bordeaux, renting a car is a must!
We came to the end of my list of the most beautiful villages in the Southwest of France, Gironde (at least until I find another treasure that has a place on this exclusive list :)). There are of course more charming villages around Bordeaux such as le Canon in the Cap Ferret Peninsula or Monsegur in Entre deux mers, but I narrowed down the list to the ones I find most special.
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*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂