The story of the Plus Beaux Villages de France began with an encounter, in 1981, between a man and a book. The book was an album going by that same name published by Sélection du Reader’s Digest, and the man was Charles Ceyrac, Mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge. Through that book, the elected representative of Corrèze found a way to serve a cause he felt very strongly about: uniting energies and passions to protect and promote the outstanding heritage of these exceptional villages and thereby provide them with an alternative to rural exodus. 66 mayors were to follow Charles Ceyrac in an adventure that was made official on 6 March 1982.

Today, the association includes 157 villages spread over 14 regions and 70 departements. We aim to avoid certain pitfalls such as villages turning into soulless museums or, on the contrary, "theme parks". Our well-reasoned and passionate ambition is to reconcile villages with the future and to restore life around the fountain or in the square shaded by hundred-year-old lime and plane trees.