The selection of villages takes place in 4 stages.

1- Evaluation on the basis of a village’s application

The application form, submitted by the village itself or by an inter-village structure if one has been so authorised, must guarantee that the village (or in rarer cases the hamlet) covered by the application meets the following 3 disqualifying criteria:

  • is of rural size, in other words it has a maximum population of 2,000 inhabitants,
  • has, in its area, at least 2 protected sites or monuments (either listed or registered on the supplementary list of historical monuments),
  • gives proof of mass support for the planned application for membership by furnishing the decision voted by the Town Council.

The council can add any documents to the application that it thinks might be helpful.

When the head office of the association receives the application form, the association tells the village whether its application is admissible or not.

The association does not approach any village with a view to its becoming a listed member.

2- On-site evaluation

When the application has been approved, a visit is paid to the village to carry out an evaluation at a date agreed on between the Mayor and the person responsible for the association’s Quality policy.

This appraisal is based on a chart of 27 objective criteria to measure the extent and value of the village heritage, its architectural, urban and environmental quality and also the suitability of municipal initiatives in terms of managing and showing off its area (town planning tools, controlling visitor flow, aesthetic developments, etc.)

An interview takes place with the Mayor of the village beforehand (assisted by any persons of his/her choice), during which the association will be given a number of documents needed for the evaluation, and the visit ends with an illustrated report of more technical nature.

3- Quality Committee

The Quality Committee is made up of elected members of the association and also qualified key figures or "experts". It is in session twice a year. It has supreme power to decide on the action to be taken further to an evaluation report that has been submitted by the person responsible for the association’s Quality policy.

There are 4 possible decisions:

  • unreserved listing (not ruling out any comments or advice that may be given for the purpose of improving quality),
  • listing with reservations, mentioned in the appraisal report and also in the quality charter and that the village shall endeavour to lift through future initiatives,
  • temporary non-listing, enabling the village, which has recognised potential, to renew its application for listing at a date it considers to be more appropriate once its quality has been improved,
  • definitive non-listing ruling out any possibility of renewing its application (unless there is a duly justified exception).

4- Quality Charter

This makes a new village’s admission into the association official. It must be signed by the Mayor of the village in question (and where appropriate by the President of the inter-village structure authorised to take care of the membership project) and the President of the association; signature must take place within a year as from the date the Quality Committee gave its decision. It provides the village with its first opportunity to make known and to promote its classification as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France among the inhabitants, local authorities and the media.

The Quality Charter implies a number of commitments for both the association and the village. The association grants the village (and its attendant structures: Tourist Office, etc.) the right and indeed the duty to use the symbols featuring its trademark (logo), and lets it enjoy the initiatives and services it carries through to improve the quality, reputation and development of all the villages in its network. For its part, the village undertakes, on pain of removal from the list, to get actively involved, in accordance with the principles enacted by the association, in implementing its strategy, not only by paying a subscription but also by taking part in the association’s work sessions. It must also continue its efforts to improve its overall quality (heritage, welcome, development, etc.) by drawing on the prestige of its classification.

Although this selection method is really stringent (only about 1 application in 5 ends in success), it is nevertheless necessary in order that both the villages and the network be credible in the eyes of the general public as far as the promise of excellence is concerned.

The quality of villages listed prior to 1991, the date when the multi-criteria evaluation chart was introduced, is checked using this chart and the Quality Committee can question the listing of these villages.

- Download the application form (pdf)
- Download Quality Charter (pdf)