Noyers sur Serein, one of the 100 most beautiful villages in France, is a medieval cité nestled within an elegant curve of the aptly named Serein river, within a pastoral northern Burgundy landscape of wheat fields, meadows, forests and vineyards. Only an hour and 40 minutes from Paris, the place has somehow remained unspoilt – there are no souvenir shops, no mass tourism. Wandering Noyers’ crooked, cobblestoned streets, discovering an alley just wide enough for one, a tiny sun-drenched courtyard, purple irises bursting from the top of a 15th-century wall, a walled herb garden, time seems to slow down and stop altogether. The limestone buildings with their arcades, towers and oak beams are witnesses to history, to the lost grandeur of the time when the Dukes of Burgundy ruled this part of France all the way up into Flanders and beyond. The Order of the Golden Fleece met here in a mysterious building adorned with esoteric stone carvings. Much later, the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson spent his childhood summers here, undoubtedly enjoying the same kind of old-fashioned pursuits children find here today: cycling through wheat fields, paddling at the swimming hole, fishing. Life in Noyers sur Serein mirrors the small-scale urban density of the architecture; with houses close together and often even entertwined, this is a place that creates and maintains community, and beyond the dreamy fairy-tale enchantment that first seduces the visitor, it is perhaps this sense of authentic community that leads so many people to want to stay for a while, whether a week, a month, or a lifetime.
Click here for a brochure on Noyers created by the tourist office.