This is France’s Favourite Village of 2023 

This is France’s Favourite Village of 2023 

Discover the new winner of the popular TV show Le Village Préféré des Français, presented by France’s “heritage hero” Stéphane Bern 

On Friday 30 July, Stéphane Bern announced France’s favourite village after weeks of voting. The village of Esquelbecq, in the French Flanders, took first place in the “Village Préféré des Français” TV contest in which several villages entered the running to be elected the country’s favourite town. Upon hearing the news, the proud mayor said it “was the reflection of a winning region.” 

Located in the Nord département in Hauts-de-France, south of Dunkirk and just an hour away from Lille, Esquelbecq is a charming village whose calendar is packed with festivities and events.

The picture-postcard village is listed as a Village Patrimoine, a label recognising a town’s efforts to protect and value its rich heritage which is indeed remarkable for such a small community (around 2,000 people). The castle, surrounded by a moat, is typical of Flemish architecture with its eight towers. Of Medieval origins, it was restored several times over the years and its current aspect dates back to the 17th century. It sits in its own extensive park which also has a beautiful garden.

From the gates, you can spot a colombier (dovecote) from 1606, a French garden and a conciergerie. Just outside, don’t miss the castle inn whose gable sports traditional brick patterns.

There are also several chapels of fascinating interest in the village. One, the Christi Mater chapel, lets through, at a certain time of the year, a halo of light through a “bull’s eye” located above the door, creating a halo around the head of the Virgin nestled in the altar. Its woodwork retains several fragments of a shell that fell nearby during the First World War.

The Saint Folquin church dates back to the 10th century and was restored and updated throughout the centuries until it reached the final aspect of a Flemish hallekerke (church-hall). It was destroyed in a fire in 1976 but painstakingly recreated and reopened two years later. Visitors can even climb the bell tower and enjoy the sweeping views of the countryside.

La Plaine aux Bois commemorates the massacre of British soldiers during World War II with a museum tracing back the event.

The church in Esquelbecq, Nord © Richard Semik / shutterstock

The Book Village 

The association “Esquelbecq village du livre”, eager to create an original and sustainable activity for a rural environment, created the concept of “Village du Livre”. It encourages book professionals to band together but also puts together a diverse program of events all year-round, facilitating access to literary expression and culture for as many people as possible. 

Their flagship event, “La Nuit du Livre” takes place every first Saturday of July and is a literary festival allowing authors to meet with their readers. Book markets, literary cafés and reading groups are also regularly organised. 

The best of 14 villages 

It’s the second time a Flemish village wins the precious contest, with neighbouring Cassel also being chosen previously. Lavoûte-Chilhac, in Haute-Loire came second, followed by Lassay-les-Châteaux in Mayenne. 

Next came, in this order:

Which is your favourite?

Lead photo credit : Esquelbecq's castle © MisterStock / shutterstock

Share to:  Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn   Email

More in beautiful French villages, Hauts-de-France, north of France, villages

Previous Article From History to Gastronomy: 10 Compelling Reasons to Explore Dijon
Next Article Fit For a King: 8 Gorgeous French Châteaux to Stay at

Related Articles

Sophie is Digital Editor for France Today. Raised in Burgundy to British parents, she grew up bilingual in a small village where summers were about forest walks and lazy swims in the river. A Franco-British citizen, she studied literature, then journalism in Paris and Cardiff before quickly dipping her toes (and quill) into travel writing. She’s been specialised and writing about France since 2016 and now works from her home office in north-east France.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *