The word “timeless” is used to describe places that, in the face of change, still manage to retain an antiquated quality. But in the case of Perouges, France, what is “timeless’ is not just the ancient architecture or even the way of life that separates it from all other places. It’s the town’s unique ability to stop time for visitors, transporting you to a different era with its mood and haunting beauty.
Medieval Pérouges has many charms that will take you back — from the weathered walls surrounding the fortified village, to the picturesque restaurants that serve traditional French cuisine, to the artisans who have revived the techniques of their forefathers. Slip through the cracks of time and learn a bit more about this hidden gem.
The Village Fortress
While the first known presence of human activity in Perouges dates back thousands of years, the first noteworthy events took place during the time of crusades and empires of the 12th century, when a fortress was constructed on what had been a commune. The town developed over many centuries but its population remained small, peaking at a little over 1,000 residents. Citizens enjoyed relative peace and a stable economy based on farming, and on textiles, which were hand-woven by skilled artisans. But when the Industrial Revolution hit in the 19th century, the craftsmen were made obsolete, effectively devastating the village’s economy. Today, many artisans have returned, and have opened shops for handcrafted bookbinding, pottery, cabinetry, and yes, textiles. The shops have rejuevenated the local economy, and provide visitors with a glimpse into Pérouges’ fabled past.
In the Heart of the Town
Upon entering either of Perouges’ two village gates, both of which are remnants of the original fortress, you’ll be transported back to the Middle Ages. Follow the cobblestone streets lined with wood-framed and Renaissance-style homes, quaint shops, and enticing restaurants that all lead to the enchanting village square. In the heart of the town you’ll find the church dedicated to St. George, the arbre de la Liberté (Tree of Liberty) that was planted in 1792, and the Museum of Old Perouges — which offers patrons the chance to further explore the rich history of the town, in addition to collections of art, furniture, ceramics, and musical instruments from a bygone era. To cap off the day, take a stroll through the medieval garden and up the watchtower for a scenic view.
Travelers who embark on the optional half-day tour as part of Vantage’s French Waterways: Highlights of Burgundy, Beaujolais & Provence cruise will find themselves stepping back into the antique world of Perouges, whose origins still flourish today. When you’re taking a glimpse into medieval life within the walls of Perouges, you can immerse yourself in a rare, neatly preserved past — one that could soon be lost to the history books entirely. Take this opportunity to peer through a window into the French countryside during a tour filled with exploration and discovery.