The 8 most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime

Talmont-sur-Gironde

Whether on the islands or in the hinterland, by the sea or in the countryside, Charente-Maritime’s most beautiful villages are nestled in a variety of natural environments, making them truly charming stopovers in the region.

The most beautiful villages of Charente-Maritime trace an itinerary that crosses the entire department, from the Ile de Ré to the Ile d’Aix, from the Saintonge countryside to the banks of the Gironde. These villages have preserved all their charm, and stand out not only for their architecture and heritage, but also for the natural setting in which they evolve.

Whether you’re visiting the region as a stopover or as a vacation destination in its own right, take the time to discover Charente-Maritime’s most beautiful villages at your own pace, while adopting theirs.

1. Ars-en-Ré

Plus beaux villages Charente Maritime : Ars-en-Ré

Photo credit: Shutterstock – trabantos

Ars-en-Ré is, in a way, the quintessential village: low houses with green shutters, narrow alleys lined with hollyhocks, the little port at the end of the fier d’Ars with its cafés, the church square, the market square… it’s all there! Ars is one of the island’s most recognizable villages, thanks to its emblematic bell tower, painted in black and white and used by sailors to navigate the fier.

Here, everyone gets around by bicycle, the preferred means of transport on the Ile de Ré: that’s how you explore the trails that leave from the village, towards the Ars marshes where fleur de sel is produced, the Lilleau des Niges nature reserve, or the splendid Conche des Baleines beach.

One of the most beautiful villages not only in Charente-Maritime, but also in France.

2. Brouage

Brouage

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Jean-Christophe BENOIST

Among the most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime, Brouage is undoubtedly the one with the most singular history. This small fortified town was built in the 16th century as a seaside port from which to export salt. Today, lost in the middle of the marshes, the ocean, which has since retreated from the Gulf of Saintonge, seems a long way off!

Brouage has preserved an interesting heritage from this era: imposing ramparts encircle the village, with the Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul church at its center, former military buildings such as the Halle aux Vivres and the Saint-Luc powder magazine, the Porte Royale and the underground port…

Brouage is still bustling with restaurants, boutiques and art studios, attracting the curious, yet retaining a peaceful atmosphere. All around the village, marshes stretch as far as the eye can see, creating a unique landscape to be discovered while strolling along the paths.

3. Aix Island

Plus beaux villages charente Maritime : Île-d'Aix

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Francois Tourret

Of all the islands in the Charente-Maritime region, Île d’Aix is undoubtedly the most unusual: tiny and forbidden to all motorized vehicles, it can be easily circumnavigated on foot or by bike in just a few hours. That’s how you get to Île-d’Aix (with a hyphen for nuance!), the smallest commune in the department, but also one of the most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime.

The local atmosphere is unique, and well worth a two- or three-day stay. In addition to the beaches, you can also take a tour of the Île-d’Aix’s heritage, which should not be underestimated: the Fort de Rade, the double Phare de l’île d’Aix, the Napoleonic Museum where the emperor stayed before his exile… but also the typically Charentais low houses, the sound of bicycle bells, and off the coast, the silhouette of Fort Boyard!

To discover Ile d’Aix, depart with the ferryboat from the coastal port of Fouras at regular times.

4. Talmont-sur-Gironde

Talmont-sur-Gironde

Photo credit: Shutterstock – SpiritProd33

In Talmont-sur-Gironde, you’ll find the style of low houses with painted shutters and hollyhocks so characteristic of the most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime, much to the delight of walkers. This time, we’re in the south of the department, directly overlooking the Gironde estuary.

Talmont-sur-Gironde may seem harmless today, but it’s worth remembering that, from the 13th century onwards, this village, built on a promontory of limestone cliffs, was a solid bastide controlling comings and goings on the estuary.

A jewel of Romanesque architecture built in the 12th century, the church of Sainte-Radegonde serves as an immutable landmark in the heart of the village. After the charming alleyways, take the time to discover Talmont’s surroundings, and in particular its carrelets: these small fishermen’s houses with large square nets, built on stilts on the estuary, are an integral part of the local heritage.

5. The Fleet

Plus beaux villages Charente : La Flotte

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Ivonne Wierink

The island of Ré is home to some of the most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime, and this time we’re stopping off at La Flotte, on the north coast. This village, with its typical « rétaise » appearance, is organized around its small harbor, enclosed by a 200-meter-long rounded pier.

Around the basin, where the boats sit quietly on the quayside, a host of cafés and restaurants come alive in season, when the terraces are full to bursting. In the inner lanes, boutiques and small shops delight holidaymakers, and here again, bicycles are almost as numerous as pedestrians.

The cycle paths around La Flotte are ideal for coastal walks, heading for Saint-Martin or the bridge to the Ile de Ré, via the ruined Abbey des Châteliers.

6. Mornac-sur-Seudre

Mornac-sur-Seudre

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Elisabeth Fabre

Oyster-farming landscapes can be baffling, with their marshes and oyster beds, multicolored oyster huts and jumble of wooden stakes planted in the mud, always seemingly between land and sea… This is exactly the setting that awaits you in Mornac-sur-Seudre, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages in Charente-Maritime, but also one of the most original.

An ancient medieval village, Mornac has preserved its pretty little streets, its small Romanesque Saint-Pierre church, its covered market and its craftsmen’s stalls. Today, however, the village’s main activity is oyster farming, and tasting the local oysters is an essential part of your visit! Visit the producers directly, near the port of Mornac-sur-Seudre.

7. Loix

Plus beaux villages Charente Maritime : Loix

Photo credit: Shutterstock – trabantos

We’re back on the Ile de Ré with another of Charente-Maritime’s most beautiful villages: Loix. It may not match the dapper, flirtatious side of some of its fellow villages, but the village’s setting sets it apart from the rest.

Loix seems to be lost in the middle of the salt marshes. Occupying its own little peninsula, itself surrounded by the waters of the Pertuis Breton and the Fier d’Ars, the whole area seems on the verge of disappearing beneath the sea with each rising tide… This situation gives Loix a little taste of the end of the world, which adds to the intrinsic charm of the village itself: the Retais style has proved its worth.

8. Saint-Sauvant

Saint-Sauvant

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Havang(nl)

Lost in the heart of the Saintonge region, it’s easy to overlook one of Charente-Maritime’s most beautiful villages, Saint-Sauvant. Bordered by its small river, Le Coran, and with no more than 500 inhabitants, the village knows how to keep a low profile.

And yet, Saint-Sauvant has been on the ancient Roman road linking Saintes to Lyon, the Via Agrippa, visible to this day. The village’s charms lie in its old stones: winding medieval lanes, 14th- and 15th-century houses, washhouse, defensive tower, not forgetting the 12th-century church of Saint-Sylvain.

Away from the hustle and bustle, for a timeless stroll.

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