I don’t know what it is, but derelict places have an incredible allure. And this is totally the case with the abandoned French towns and villages dotted around l’Hexagon…
Last weekend, I finally had the chance to visit Goussainville, a largely abandoned town on the fringes on Paris (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already have seen this!). When I got home, I just knew that I’d have to do some more research on abandoned towns in France. That’s when I stumbled upon the abandoned French villages where time stood still…
While some of the villages look like it’s been decades since they saw a person, others look like the residents have just popped out to work or to do some shopping, due to return any moment.
Of all the abandoned places in France, Goussainville is the most unlikely. Barely 20km from the centre of Paris sits the once thriving village of Goussainville. The town was largely abandoned after Charles de Gaulle airport was built nearby. Constant noise from overhead planes proved too infuriating for the villagers and, following a tragic air crash in 1973.
Interestingly, the entire village isn’t abandoned. There are still residents in the region and even a few stores. One of these stores is a charming second-hand bookstore. Walking in feels like stepping into the pages of a 1970s novel…
Abandoned French towns come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The hamlet of Courbefy comprises of just several houses, a chapel, numerous holy wells, the ruins of a dungeon. Although Courbefy was once home to a fortified castle, this was destroyed in the 16th Century. Ruins of the 12th-century castle can still be seen today.
Up until the 1970s, Courbefy was a thriving, albeit small, community. By the end of the 70s, jobs had dried up in the area and the remaining residents left, the village left to ruin. In the 1990s, a tourism company bought the village, with the idea of turning it into a holiday village. However, following the company’s liquidation in the mid-2000s, the village was once again abandoned.
Courbefy was finally purchased by a wealthy investor for just over half a million euro in 2012. The investor has the idea of turning the village into a retreat and restoring many of the dilapidated buildings. Watch this space…
Situated in the Hérault region of France, the area is filled with Mediterranean beaches and quirky architecture. The department also happens to be home to Celles, an abandoned French town.
All of the buildings in the town apart from the church and town hall are in ruins. The town was forced purchased and subsequently abandoned by the French government in order to make way for a new dam in the area. The old village is now abandoned and falling down on the banks of Lac du Salagou.
Le Poil, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Situated high in the alps, the village of Poil sits high in the mountains and was happily inhabited until the mid 18th-Century. A lack of prospects in the surrounding area led villagers to abandon the town in their droves. Up until this point, Le Poil had been home to around 300 residents. By the early 1930s, so many villagers had left, that the few remaining ones left too.
In the 1970s, a French explorer and wealthy businessman, Philippe Cougnot, stumbled upon the settlement. He started a project that saw the town being turned into a hiking/ holiday destination. ‘The Friends of le Poil’ society are still around today, maintaining the properties under their care and holding annual events at the site of the once forgotten village.
Périllos is yet another French mountain village that was abandoned by time. Years of wars and poor crops led to the village finally being deserted by the 1970s.
Now, the village wasn’t entirely abandoned but instead transformed into a new community. The village merged with the nearby hamlet of Opoul, thus creating the super community of Opoul-Périllos. The new village is situated just under 5km from the previous Périllos.
Of all the abandoned French towns on this list, Brovès may well be the most tragic. Brovès is a tragic example of a deserted village where the residents wished to remain but were driven out against their will. The village is situated in the French region of Provence and is entirely in ruin.