The concept

The Petites Cités de Caractère® concept

The concept of the Petites Cités de Caractère (PCC) was born in the mid 1970s with the purpose of bringing to prominence small towns, rural by virtue of location and small population, but urban as a result of their historical and cultural heritage. These towns, once having been administrative, political, religious, commercial or military centers, have seen their importance diminish as a result of social and political change as France’s history has unfolded. They have lost a large part of their urban functions and now find themselves with neither the population nor the financial means to safeguard their cultural heritage.

PCC aims to bring together these communities, uniting all parties around a single objective: the safeguarding of their heritage and the use of that heritage as a means of stimulating regional development. PCC’s first step is to support local elected officials who wish to reconcile the development of their community’s future
with its past.

In 2009 a national Charte de Qualité, which formalised the criteria and objectives, was established. PCC is principally a round table discussion group which currently meets at either three or five yearly intervals. At these meetings all interested parties come together (Participating communes, Local Councils, Regional Councils, Tourist Boards, Cultural Bodies, STAP, DRAC and CAUE) to assess and support proposed heritage projects. Our aim is to offer assistance and support in the development of projects but not to systematically adopt all and any ready-made projects.

To improve their appeal and outreach, the individual communities within the PCC capitalise on their own individual attractions and their own ways of exploiting those attractions, whilst at the same time contributing to the overall dynamic of the network. All participants have the common cause of safeguarding, restoring and maintaining their heritage. In this way local economic development through tourism is promoted, thereby establishing Petites Cités de Caractère as a benchmark of quality in Tourism. 

Fundamentally PCC :


- is a trademark based upon a Charter of Quality whose basic tenet requires the engagement of participants in the protection, the restoration and the maintenance of our
common heritage, as well as the promotion of that heritage amongst local residents and visitors. Consequently it is strongly recommended that communes create a ZPPAUP or a AVAP, as a regulatory frameworks when undertaking projects concerned with the management of local heritage
- has networks organised on Departmental or Regional bases offering the advantages of mutually supportive actions for both participating communes and individual partners, be they private individuals or professionals
- enjoys the support of local administrative organisations which recognise the trademark Petites Cités de Caractère® as being an indicator of positive development and which will support, both financially or otherwise, activities which are in accord with the Charter of Quality
- is in partnership with movements involved in the local economy and tourism, heritage and culture, as well as local planning authorities such as DRAC, STAP, CAUE, CRT, CDT, OTSI, Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire…).