If you’ve never heard of this small town near the Belgian border, you’re probably not alone.
The people of France just voted the small town of Cassel, located about 18 miles south of Dunkirk and just over seven miles from the Belgian border in northern France, the country’s favorite village as part of the annual TV show Le Village Préféré des Français.
With a population of just 2,300, Cassel is a tiny hilltop town in French Flanders that most people outside of France probably haven’t heard of before today. But there are several reasons why it’s worth taking note of this beautiful village.
Cassel is home to not only the scenic Jardin du Mont des Récollets but also an 18th-century windmill located at the highest point of the town where you can take in some of the best views of the surrounding area.
Cassel’s most famous residents, meanwhile, are its two 20-foot-tall “giants”—called Reuze Papa and Reuze Maman—that are paraded around on Easter, Mardi Gras, and other religious festivals. The two wood and papier-mâché figures were built in the 1800s and gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2005. When not in use at parades, they’re on view in Cassel’s Departmental Museum of Flanders.
Cassel takes the title from the 2017 winner, Kaysersberg, in the Alsace region, which is known for its Michelin-star restaurants, vineyards, and more recently, and sadly, as the village where Anthony Bourdain was found dead in early June while shooting an episode of Parts Unknown.
In the seven years the show has been on air, this is the first time a village from the Hauts-de-France region has won. Cassel beat out 14 other villages, including Normandy’s well-known Mont-Saint-Michel, to take the title.