The Petites Cités de Caractère® brand distinguishes municipalities that comply with a quality charter and with commitments to safeguard, restore and maintain the municipal heritage, as well as to develop it, animation and promotion among residents and visitors.


This quality charter encourages municipalities interested in participating in a Remarkable Heritage Sites approach (e.g. ZPPAUP and AVAP), a regulatory system for knowledge and management of wealth implemented, within the Grand Est DRAC, by the departmental units of architecture and heritage.

Heritage as a vector for development

It was in the 1970s that the concept of Small Cities of Character was born® around the need, for these municipalities, former administrative, political, economic centers... which have seen their urban functions, their resources and their population shrink, to succeed in safeguarding the important heritage, left by an urban past and to make, of this heritage, a vector of development.

The Small Cities of Character Network® of the Great East

In the region, the first small cities of character® have been approved, in 2012, in the territory Champardennais. In September 2022, the distinction Small Cities of Character®  is awarded to 20 municipalities in the Great East.

Lists of Small Character Cities® in the Great East

Aÿ-ChampagneBourmont, BouxwillerChâteauvillain, Cormicy, Ervy-le-Châtel, Hombourg-hautJoinville, The RiceysMontsaugeon, Mouzon, Mussy-sur-Seine, Plumbers, Rocroi, Saint-MihielSainte-Ménehould, Sézanne, Senones, Vic-sur-Seille and Vignory.

To which are added 4 homologable communes, working to join the network soon: Arc-en-BarroisBar-sur-Seine, Châtillon-sur-Saône and Essoyes.

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The four foundations of the Small Cities of Character®

The municipalities give themselves for missions of "to safeguard, restore, maintain their heritage, to highlight, animate and promote it to the inhabitants and visitors in order to participate in the economic development of the territories and make the brand Small Cities of Character® a quality and attractive tourist brand."

The four founding axes:

  • a brand based on a Quality Charter, based on the establishment of a "Remarkable Heritage Site";
  • departmental or regional networks, offering pooled means of action, for member municipalities and private partners (residents, professionals...);
  • support from local and regional authorities which recognise in the mark a genuine approach to territorial development and which, through the implementation of specific and financial measures, accompany actions that comply with the Quality Charter;
  • action partnerships with local stakeholders in the economy and tourism, heritage and culture, regional planning (Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs; Regional Council, Council for Architecture, Urban Planning and the Environment; Heritage Foundation; Regional Tourism Committee; Departmental Tourism Committee; Tourist Offices; Cities and Countries of Art and History...).

Admission prerequisites and commitments

  • a community of less than 6,000 inhabitants (or less than 6,000 inhabitants residing within the area subject to protection under the Historic Monuments or the Remarkable Heritage Site);
  • protection under Historic Monuments, or under a Remarkable Heritage Site (e.g. ZPPAUP or AVAP or under a Protection and Development Plan);
  • a building sufficiently dense to give it the appearance of a city, hold an architectural heritage of quality and homogeneous witness of its history, have exercised and/or exercised urban centrality functions have a multi-year program of rehabilitation and development of tangible and intangible assets;
  • be part of its territory’s tourism development strategy. 

Finally, the municipalities undertake to respect criteria for the preservation and enhancement of their heritage.