Widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in the country, little Cordes sur Ciel, France, is also one of the most popular. It's a medieval hilltop town 50 mi/80 km northeast of Toulouse with a charming central (arcaded) square dating from 1352.
The tiny lanes leading up to the village are bordered with art galleries and craft workshops—many painters, writers, ceramists, sculptors and jewelers have settled there and set up shop in this inspiring town.
Its name means Cordes-on-the-sky—on a summer morning, with the pinnacle of Cordes poking through the low clouds and lit up by the sun, you can see why.
The practicalities, however, bring you back to earth. Leave your car halfway up (there's no parking at the top); do not be tempted to leave it at the bottom and walk all the way up unless you are very, very fit.
Crowds can be a problem, especially during the famous Bastille Day (14 July) medieval festival.
Cordes has a reputation for art and philosophy—Albert Camus, author of The Stranger, and existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre used the village as a retreat.
Don't miss the famous croquants aux amandes, delicious local cookies made with sugar, egg whites and ground almonds. There is also an interesting museum with sculptures made entirely out of sugar—the Musee de L'Art de Sucre (Museum of the Art of Sugar).
We also like the nearby smaller villages of Penne, Bruniquel and (our favorite) Puycelsi. They are all within easy driving distance and can be seen in a morning.
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