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Incroyable! 61 France Landmarks to visit in 2021

France is an astonishingly diverse country. The largest country in Western Europe, it has long seafronts, alps, canyons and rivers, and vineyards and lavender fields. Here is a complete guide to the 59 most significant French landmarks that include natural wonders and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Map of Famous French Landmarks

Northern France

Carnac Alignments

Carnac Alignments, Brittany, France

Carnac stones are megalithic monuments located on the Atlantic Coast of Brittany, France. They were built between 3500 BC and 2000 BC according to radiocarbon dating. 

The Carnac Stones are composed of large granite blocks weighing several tons each. Some of them weigh up to 100 tons. The largest stone measures approximately 30 meters (100 feet) long and 6 meters (20 feet) high. 

The Alignments are made up of two types of stones: monoliths and menhirs. Monoliths are single stones, whereas menhirs are groups of three or more stones.

There are around 200 menhirs at Carnac, but only about 50 monoliths but over 3000 stones in total over. The menhirs are aligned in 12 converging rows. The tallest structure is just over 4 meters high.

These giant megalithic formations are one of the most significant remains of French ancient history and together with several lesser-known nearby stone circles, are major landmarks of Brittany.

The stones were moved from their original location to Carnac during the Middle Neolithic period (around 4000 BC). This means that they were moved by hand, not by using heavy machinery.

Like the standing stones found in other parts of Europe, the Carnac standing stones were erected by Neolithic peoples – in this case by pre-Celtic peoples – as a community focus for rituals that most likely involved astronomical events and calendars.

Visiting the standing stones at Carnac, Brittany is free from October to March but from April to September the site is closed unless you book a one-hour guided tour. It’s also possible just to walk the perimeter of the enclosing fence and have a great view of the Alignments.

The Visitors Center is called the Maison de Megaliths and has a terrace with a view over the Alignments.

Opening Hours: Daily 10.00 am to 17:00 pm, October to March. Other times closed except for guided tours; Admission: Free October to March

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel

In the Western part of French Normandy, you will find the famous Mont Saint-Michel, a rocky island located around 1 kilometer out from the coast.

Mont Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of cobbled streets and medieval architecture. It attracts more than two million tourists every year. You can reach the island on foot via a modern bridge which will take around 45 minutes, or with the free shuttle bus which departs from the parking lot.

The island was used as a defensive position against invasion and it stood unconquered during the 100 Days War, and as a small garrison of soldiers were even able to see off a full attack by the English in the 15th Century.

The entry to the island is completely free, except for the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel where until the 1960s the famous Benedictine monks lived. The abbey was a popular pilgrimage site but has was turned into a prison by Louis XI and during the Ancien Regime.

To avoid the crowds, you should come early in the morning and prebook your ticket for the abbey to skip the line.

For your trip to Mont St Michel, you should pack a small picnic, enough water for the day as well as sturdy shoes. An alternative for a picnic would be a visit to one of the restaurants but expect to pay tourist prices for a meal.

You can even stay overnight on this fantastic island at one of the hotels or you could stay on the campground on the coast with a view of the island and the beautiful scenery.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

By Victoria at Guide Your Travel

Bayeux Tapestry

Detail of Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an amazingly large embroidered tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of England. it is more correctly called the Bayeux tapestry because its designs are embroidered onto the fabric, rather than woven

The Bayeux Tapestry was thought to have been created in Normandy but is now known to have been made in England in 1070. The tapestry was probably commissioned by William the Conqueror’s brother (William was Duke of Normandy at the time).

The tapestry scenes tell the story of the events that led up to the Norman invasion of England, including the Battle of Hastings, the first major battle. It took place on October 14th, 1066. The Normans defeated the English army led by King Harold II.

The Bayeux tapestry is a rare example of secular Romanesque art and is one of the most important examples of Norman Romanesque art. This 68.3 meters of embroidered cloth, with its 70 intricate scenes, has somehow survived for 9 centuries.

The tapestry was once displayed in the Bayeux cathedral but now you can find it at the Museum Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux.

It is open daily from March to October from 9 am to 6.30 pm (7 pm from 19 May to 31 July), and 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm the rest of the year. Closed over Christmas and New year. Admission costs €9.50 per adult.

Opening Hours: Daily, March to October: 9.30 am to 18:30 pm (19:00 pm closing 19 May to 31 July), and 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and 14:00 pm to 18:00 pm November-February; Admission: €9,50 per adult.

Normandy Landings

juno-beach-normandy
Juno Beach

Among all the places worth visiting in France’s celebrated tourist landscape, few are as historically significant as Normandy’s northwest coast. Normandy is a region in the northwest of France, known for its wide, sandy beaches and rugged cliffs that rise up from the English Channel.

It takes a few days to properly explore the D-Day beaches, Normandy battlefields, World War II cemeteries, and memorials of this historic region of France.

It was here that Allied troops stormed five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy’s fiercely guarded coast at dawn on June 6, 1944, beginning the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi domination.

Amongst this extensive region, visitors can visit Juno Beach and other D-Day Landing sites in Normandy (such as Omaha Beach) and experience all the culture and heritage that these historically significant landmarks have to offer.

Pointe du Hoc and Arromanches-Les-Bains are popular places to visit, whether you want to retrace history or simply admire the Allies’ bravery.

Juno Beach Center is a central location for all D-Day Landing sites in Normandy and offers an interactive experience that encourages critical thinking from people of all ages.

It allows people to “experience” the history of WWII rather than just read about it and makes for one of the best D-Day Tours of Normandy. It is best to explore both Juno Park and Juno Beach Center.

Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 17:00 pm daily, closed in January; Admission: 12,00 adult, 35,00 family of 5.

By Casandra at Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel

Cliffs of Étretat

cliffs-of-etretat
Cliffs of Étretat

The Alabaster Coast in Normandie has unarguably one of the most spectacular sceneries of France.

The steep white chalk cliffs throning impressively above the French channel shores and the fascinating rock formations making a trip to the coastline an unforgettable experience. 

The best town to see this natural spectacle is Étretat. The fishing village lays in a little bay right in between two of the most iconic arches of the Alabaster Coast and is a great spot to explore the cliffs.

The numerous hiking trails along the coastline are amazing for outdoor lovers and the elevated level grants you stunning views over the precipice.

Don’t worry if you are not the fittest – the shortest hiking trail is just a few hundred meters up to the top level of the cliff, while the longer ones are 3-4h hikes along the coast. 

But even if hiking is not your activity of choice, there is more to do in Étretat! If you are visiting during low tides, you can also take a walk to the ancient oyster gardens of Marie Antoinette and explore the caves along the shore. Be careful though, the flood comes in quick.

Étretat is also a great spot to sample regional delicacies like mussels with fries, hearty galettes, or even apple cider and as it’s only 2 hours from Paris to Étretat, it’s a wonderful destination to spend some time by the sea. 

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

By Lena at Salut from Paris

Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral

Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral

Notre Dame d’Amiens is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in Amiens, Picardy, northern France. The Cathedral stands on the site of an earlier Romanesque cathedral that was destroyed in a fire.

It received a religious relic, the skull of St John the Baptist, from Constantinople in 1206 and became a popular landmark on french pilgrimage routes.

Notre Dame d’Amiens was built between 1220 and 1270 and is a fine example of High Gothic and French Gothic architecture. The ornate flamboyant Gothic Rose window is a “new” addition since

The Gothic Cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its architects tried to create a very tall structure and as a result, you can fit two Notre Dame de Paris cathedrals inside Amiens Cathedral!

Opening Hours: Open daily 8.30 am to 5.15 pm, Towers open 2 pm – 5 pm, closed Tuesdays; Treasury is open from 11, closed Tuesdays and Sundays. Towers and Treasury closed during religious proceedings; Admission: Free

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly is a château in Chantilly, Oise, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Paris. It was built in two parts  – a petit and a grand château. The petit château was built in 1560 for Anne de Montmorcey.

The Grand Château was burned to the ground during the violence of the French Revolution. It was rebuilt in the 1870s.

The Montmorcey family owned the site from 1484. After the French Revolution owned by several families and even a bank and eventually lavishly renovated for the sum of 70 million euros, 40 of which were donated by the Aga Khan.

This impressive French landmark is now owned by the Institute de France and has several must-see attractions as part of its large grounds. These include the formal gardens, the lavish stables, and the Art Gallery, Musée Condé, which has rare 15th and 16th-century books as well as one of the best collections of French paintings in France.

There are many visitor facilities and you can even learn to ride at the Château!

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday, 10:00 am to 18:00 pm, June to September: from 10:00 am to 21:00 pm; Admission: € 8 for the three gardens of the park (but not the castle), or €17 for a full one-day ticket and €23 for two days.

Eastern France

Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral

Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims is located at Place du Cardinal Lucon in Reims and means “Our Lady of Reims”.

The Cathedral started construction in 1211 and was completed in 1275 and is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. The height of Reims Cathedral is 87 meters which includes the Bell Tower and has a length of 149 meters.  It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

The Cathedral contains 2303 statues which makes it the largest religious building with the most statues in the world. The Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims is famous as it was here that 25 French Kings Coronations were held from 1223 to 1825.

During WW2 the Germans targeted Reims Cathedral and were hit by 288 artillery shells.

During Summer the Gothic Masterpiece hosts a light show in the evenings.  There are 2 shows each evening that run for 25 minutes each.  Depending on the summer month and the nightfall the times may differ, you can check with the Reims Tourist Office for the timing.  After each show, the Cathedral stays illuminated for a short period. Busiest Days: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and it takes about an hour to visit.

Opening Hours: Daily 7.30 am to 19.30 pm; Admission: Free.

By Jane and Duncan at To Travel Too 

Metz Cathedral

Metz Cathedral

One of the most beautiful monuments in France is definitely La cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz, known in English as the Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Metz.

Built 800 years ago, this place of worship was also created as the third largest cathedral in France.

The construction of the cathedral lasted a whole 300 years, and in fact, this church was already built between 1220 and 1520.

Today, Metz Cathedral is considered one of the most spectacular Gothic church buildings in all of France!

Most impressive is the 42-meter high interior and the approximately 6500 m² of stained glass, which earned the church the nickname “La lanterne du Bon Dieu” -the lantern of the dear God.

This masterpiece was designed from the 13th to the 20th century by Hermann von Münster, Thiébault de Lixheim, Valentin Bousch, Jacques Villon, and Marc Chagall.

Although the cathedral is not on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it has been classified as a cultural monument since 1930 and so the building is still under special protection today.

If you plan a trip to Metz, with a little luck you can also participate in one of the numerous events such as classical concerts or exhibitions in the cathedral!

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm, Sundays 2 pm to 6 pm; Admission: €3 for the Cathedral Crypt and Treasury

By Martina at PlacesofJuma

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

interior strasbourgh cathedral
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Cathedral Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is located in Strasbourg, Alsace. Its full name is the Cathedral of our Lady of Strasbourg de Notre Dame. It is one of the finest examples of late Gothic architecture in the world.

It is the second most visited church or cathedral in France, second only to Notre-Dame de Paris. 

The Cathedrale Strasbourg is a Roman Catholic church renovated and essentially rebuilt (from the original church of 1015) at the end of the 12th century in a Gothic architectural style.

From 1647 until 1874 it was the world’s tallest building and today it is still the highest structure still standing that was built in the middle ages.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. and from 12:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sunday: free visit from 2:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. no presentation of the clock; Admission: Climbing to the platform: Adult rate 8€, reduced 5€, Astronomical clock 1€

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

Château Haut Koenigsbourg

Château Haut Koenigsbourg dates back to the 14th century, through the years the Château has fallen under the banner of the Habsburgs and Wilhelm II who was the last of the German Emperors.

The castle has belonged to both Germany and France until it was finally wrestled back to France for good with the treaty of Versailles.

The castle lay in disrepair for long periods of the 17th and 18th centuries before Wilheim 11 rebuilt it into the magnificent chateau it is today.

The Château is enclosed by its high defensive wall which measures 270 meters in length. You can take a self-guided audio tour that takes you through the rooms of the castle and finishes in the highest point of the Château which is the defensive tower.

The castle sits hugging the hills of the Vosges Mountains in the Alsace region of France. For those planning a trip to the chateau, it is easily accessible from both Strasbourg and Colmar.

Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 4.45 pm with some slight changes on different days, closed 25 December, 1 January, 1 May.; Admission: 9,00 Adults

By Mark from Wyld Family Travel​

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc, seen from Aiguille du Midi

Literally translating to “White Mountain,” Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in Western Europe as well as the highest in the Alps.

At nearly 16,000 feet above sea level, it is a prominent, recognizable mountain between the Aosta Valley in Italy and Savoie and Haute-Savoie, France.

The ownership of the mountain has long been debated between the two countries, but it has attracted visitors and admirers for decades.

Mont Blanc is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders, or those looking to make the two-day summit.

With hiking, rock climbing, and trail running to offer as well, there’s no shortage of breathtaking sights from this notable peak.

Opening Hours: For the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi gondola ride: 8:30 am with the last ride leaving at 1:50 pm; Admission: €67,00.

Paris

Villa Savoye

Villa Savoye, Poissy, Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0

Situated outside Paris in the small commune of Poissy, this World Heritage site is one of the most notable pieces of modern architecture in the last 100 years.

Finished in 1929 by a Swiss architect named Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye is a must for any interested in modern architecture or notable human achievement.

Le Corbusier’s Villa is a modern, machine-age interpretation of a French country house that he described as a “machine for living.”

Established using Le Corbusier’s “Five Points of Architecture,” Villa Savoye includes pilotis, a flat roof terrace, an open plan, ribbon windows, and a free façade within its reinforced concrete walls.

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am- 5 pm September through April, or 10 am-6 pm May through August; Admission: €6,50-€8,00 or free the first Sunday of each month.

Sacré-Coeur Basilica

Sacré-Coeur Basilica

Also called the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris or simply Sacré-Coeur, this Roman Catholic church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus is located at the top of the butte Montmartre, the highest peak in Paris.

Dating back to 1914, this cultural and political monument was consecrated after the completion of World War I in 1919 and represents national penance for the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

It was designed with nationalism in mind by the notable architect Paul Abadie who won a competition out of 77 other applicants; it cost an estimated 7 million French francs to make.

Opening Hours: daily from 6:30 am10:30 pm; the Dome is open daily from 10:30 am-8:30 pm; Admission: Free.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

A major French landmark, the Arc de Triomphe is designed to be seen! The archway is built within the circular Place Charles de Gaulle (Place de l’Etoile) with roads radiating out from the iconic monument.

A monument to those who have fought for France, it’s a wonderfully significant French landmark. Although Napoleon commissioned the stone Arch, it was his body that finally passed under the Arc on its way to the cemetery.

The Nazi flag was flown from the Arc when they took Paris, and it was fitting that Charles de Gaulle led the victorious troops under the Arch when the Nazis were defeated. Parades (Bastille Day), marches, Le Tour de France, visits of State – they all begin or end here at the conclusion of the Champs-Elysées.

Take the tunnel under Place Charles de Gaulle to get to the Arc de Triomphe and climb the 280 stairs to the lookout at the top for a spectacular view!

Opening Hours: Daily 10 am to 10 pm (11 pm in summer); Admission: Free, Stairway cost: 12, free for Under 18s, 18-26 EU residents, and non-EU permanent residents

Palais Garnier (Opera National de Paris)

Palais Garnier

Académie Nationale de Musique , also known as the Palais Garnier or the Opera Nationale de Paris is one of the most renowned operatic institutions in the world.

Commissioned by King Louis XIV in 1669, it is still the primary Opera and Ballet group of France.

A guided tour of Opera Nationale de Paris can be a highlight of the Paris itinerary for first-timers. Not only does it bewitch the visitors with the opulent interiors but also introduces one to the Parisian culture.

Palais Garnier redefines grandeur. One can easily visualize the past when it first opened. The noble ladies dressed in their best attire descending the royal staircases with commoners cheering through their pigeon-hole docks. Something so like modern-day movie-award shows.

Palais Garnier has been the main center of Opera performance in the French language during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Its popularity declined in the 20th century with the advent of movies and other forms of entertainment. However, watching a performance here is still a memory to be cherished forever.

Opening Hours: always open; Admission: The lowest price of a ticket to the Opera Nationale de Paris is 12,00 and a guided tour costs 17,00. The guided tour is free with the Paris Pass.

By Sinjana at Backpack & Explore

Trocadero

Trocadero with Eiffel Tower in background

Trocadero is a must-see spot in France. Along with being one of the best photo spots in Paris, it is also one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower.

From early morning sunrise views to the light show at night, you can visit Trocadero any time of day to get an amazing view.

Named after the Battle of Trocadero, the area includes the famous Trocadero gardens as well as several museums and the Paris Aquarium.

During the summer, people love to gather around the gardens for picnics or just to enjoy the nice weather.

In the winter, the area includes an ice skating rink and a Christmas market. If you head to Paris for New Year, the Christmas activities are still up until the first weekend usually.

For Bastille Day each year, you can enjoy the fireworks that take place here.

Wandering through the gardens and the main viewpoint in Trocadero is free. The areas are open all hours of the day and night other than during special events.

If you decide to visit the museums and aquarium, those areas have varying open and closing times throughout the week, and some are closed for national holidays.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: From €6 to €24.

By Christine at Live Love Run Travel

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is located in central Paris in the 7th arrondissement. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in celebration of The Universal Exhibition of 1889.

Ground broke in 1887 and it took just over 2 years for it to be built. It originally stood at 1000 feet, but today stands closer to 1060 feet with an addition of an antenna.

Today, the Eiffel tower is seen as a symbol not only of Paris but of France. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Over 7 million visitors visit the Eiffel Tower every year making it the most-visited paid monument in the world.

Visitors are welcome to go to 3 different levels. The first-level observation deck is only 187 feet. However, the second-level observation deck is 377 feet high. At this level, you get panoramic views of Paris and its famous monuments, such as the Louvre, Seine, and Notre-Dame Cathedral, to name a few.

On the third and highest level, you are 276 meters (900 ft) above ground and Paris lays magnificently beneath you. 

You take the stairs to the second observation deck, but they are closed from the second to the third level. Instead, a marvelous glass elevator whisks you to the top.

At each level, there are various exhibitions, restaurants, and bars so that you can take your time exploring.

Opening days and times vary month to month, even day to day. The price of admission ranges from free for children under 5 years old up to 26 euros for an adult who wishes to reach every observation deck.

Opening Hours: Times vary, but in general, Summer from 9:30 am to 22:30 pm and rest of the year until 17.30 pm; Admission: Up to € 26,00

by Nicole at Go Far Grow Close

Champs-Élysées

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Running between the famous landmarks of Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe (Place Charles de Gaulle) is the equally famous French landmark, the Champs Elysees.

Also known as the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, this 1.2-mile avenue (1.9 km) runs through the 8th arrondissement of Paris at 230 feet wide.

The Champs-Élysées is famous for acting as the finish line of the notorious Tour de France cycling race and is commonly referred to as the most beautiful avenue in the world.

Named for the Elysian Fields, the burying place of Greek mythological heroes, the Champs-Élysées was originally built in 1667 as an extension of the Tuileries Garden.

The Grande boulevard was once the home of the most famous shops in Paris but in recent years has not been a place that locals frequent. A renovation of the Champs-Élysées is underway.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free

Grand Palais

Grand Palais

Finished in 1900 as a dedication to the “glory of French art,” this iconic building on the Champs-Élysées attracts around 2 million visitors each year.

Featuring the largest glass ceiling in all of Europe, this impressive structure now acts as an exhibition hall and museum in addition to being a historic site, with approximately 40 events staged annually.

Built in the architectural style of Beaux-Arts, the Grand Palais features ornately decorated stone facades, a glass vault, iron and light steel framing, and reinforced concrete.

The Grand Palais was designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte and now sits facing the Eiffel Tower.

Opening Hours: Closed for renovations until 2024.

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III

Connecting the Eiffel Tower and central Parisian attractions on the Left Bank with Palais Garnier is the most ornate and beautiful of the bridges that cross the Seine River in Paris.

This elaborate Beaux-Arts bridge was completed in 1896 in time for the 1900 World’s Fair.

It was an engineering nightmare because it needed to be 160 meters long, but could only be 20 meters high. That’s because it needed to keep the central Parisian view of Les Invalides and the Champs-Élysées.

The bridge was named after the Russian Tsar, Alexandre III.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Les Invalides

Les Invalides

When you are visiting Paris, it is important to take part of your day to the Les Invalides.  This is an important historical landmark located in the center of France.  

The historical significance is mainly focused on military history and influential figures which like me if you are a fan of military history is a very interesting stop along your travels.

The Les Invalides is a multiple-building complex and contains museums and monuments relating to France’s military history.  It includes the military museum, a hospital, a retirement home for veterans, and a French library and archive center.

As far as location, you will be in the center of Paris in the 7th Arrondissement.  17th Century structures and extensive courtyards are some of the main highlights of this area.

The Dome des Invalides was originally built under the reign of King Louis XIV.  Until the Eiffel Tower was built, it was the tallest building in Paris.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Tomb was planned in 1840 and was not completed for 20 years. Napoleon’s remains were transferred in 1861 with only a small ceremony and party of government officials and other related nobility.  

Other Napoleon family members have also found themselves buried here over the next few decades

Napoleon Bonaparte was such an important military and political leader that European and global affairs were affected for over 10 years during his reign.  

The liberal policies he brought to France and Western Europe greatly impacted the modern world. The wars and campaigns he led in continental Europe are still studied today in military school.

The military museum located in the other wing of the building provides an extensive history of the military as far back as the Roman Empire to modern times. 

 It contains suits of knight’s armor, medieval weaponry, Napoleonic French uniforms and rifles, descriptions of famous battles, and the influence France has had on Europe.  

Any person interested in French history would find this appealing.

Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 18:00 pm with occasional days closed; Admission: €14, discounted €11.

By Nicholas at The World Overload

Luxor Obelisk (Place de la Concorde)

Luxor Obelisk

Next time you visit France, look for the Luxor Obelisk, which is an ancient Egyptian monument in Place de la Concorde.

The Egyptian obelisk was transported to France from Egypt’s Luxury Temple and arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833. The obelisk was built in 1300 BCE, and is one of a pair of obelisks that was erected by Ramses II; the other is still in Luxor.

This iconic historical world landmark is constructed from red granite, is 74.9 feet (22.3m) tall, and weighs around 227 tonnes.

It became one of the iconic landmarks of Paris during the reign of King Louis-Philippe I, arriving in France after it was gifted to his predecessor Charles X.

The French monarch gave Pasha Muhammed Ali a large clock to install in the Cairo Citatel’s mosque clock tower.

It came with a pedestal with four carved baboons, raising their front and paws and worshipping the sun. The sight of naked baboons was too scandalous for 19th-century Paris, so the pedestal was sent to the Louvre

The cost of relocating the obelisk to Paris was an exorbitant 2.5 million Francs, and there weren’t enough funds to transport the second one from Luxor. 

The Luxor Obelisk is open all the time and is free to visit.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, October to May: 10.00 am to 18:00 pm, June to September: from 10:00 am to 21:00 pm; Admission: 3,00 €, free on Mondays.


By Christina at Travel2next.com

Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

In between famous landmarks like the Louvre Museum, Place de la Concorde with its Obelisk of Luxor, and the Champs-Élysées lies the iconic Jardin des Tuileries.

This long garden once hosted the Palais des Tuileries, which was completed by Queen Catherine de Medici in 1564.

Today, the gardens host Maillol statues standing amongst the foliage and its two beautiful ponds.

Perfect for an inspiring stroll on a sunny day or a casual afternoon picnic, the Jardin des Tuileries also hosts the Fête des Tuileries from June to August of each year; park-goers can enjoy candyfloss or other confections from the fair and enjoy a Ferris wheel ride.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 7.00 am to 9:00 pm; Admission: Free

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d’Orsay

Located on the banks of the Seine in central Paris near the Jardin des Tuileries, this railway station-turned-museum was originally converted for the Universal Exhibition in 1900.

Today, it holds collections of mostly French artwork spanning from 1848-1914.

Formerly the Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts style railway station, the Musée d’Orsay houses one of the largest collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings in the world, including works by Morisot, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Seurat, and Van Gogh, among others.

It remains one of the most-visited art museums in the world.

Opening Hours: Closed Monday; Tuesday-Wednesday: 9:30am-6:00pm; Thursday: 9:30am-9:45pm; Friday-Saturday: 9:30am-6:00pm; Admission: €16 full price, €13 reduced price

Musée de Louvre

Le Louvre

The largest art gallery in the world, the Louvre Museum is a must-see when visiting Paris. The museum is located in what once was a fortress located on the right bank of the Seine River.

Throughout time, the building went through many changes and renovations, up to the point when Francis I, King of France until 1547, asked for most of the building to be demolished so that his royal residence could be built on top of it – but parts of the original buildings are still visible.

The king was a lover of art so he collected many pieces, and subsequent kings added to the collection.

When Louis XIV moved the court to Versailles the Louvre stopped being the royal palace, but it was only in 1793 that it officially became a museum. 

The building is certainly impressive, and with time the much-criticized pyramid that marks the main gate and which was designed by Chinese architect Pei Cobb upon request of Francois Mitterand (the then French President) became a full addition to the site and one of the city’s main landmarks.

However, the collection is what should attract you there. This is where you’ll be able to see pieces such as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and the Virgin of the Rocks, the Wedding at Cana, the Venus of Milo, the Winged Victory, the Coronation of Napoleon, the Seated Scribe, and many more. 

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday: 99.00 am to 18:00 pm; Admission: €17.

By Claudia at My Adventures Across The World

Pont Neuf

pont-neuf-paris
Pont Neuf

A stunningly beautiful bridge, Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is more than 400 years old.

Most of the current bridges across the Seine were originally wooden bridges and either burned down or collapsed under the weight of the buildings built on the bridges.

Pont Neuf replaced earlier wooden bridges and so it’s not surprising that it’s the oldest standing bridge across the Seine.

Pont Neuf spans the Seine river through the Ile de la Cité, connecting the Left and Right Banks. It is free, always open, and a great spot to photograph the Conciergerie and the other bridges of the Seine.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Pompidou Center

pompidou-center
Centre Pompidou

Known as the largest collection of contemporary and modern art in Europe and the second-largest in the world, the Centre Pompidou’s impressive exhibition space attracts over 3 million visitors every year who flock to view its 120,000-piece collection.

Established in 1969 by its president George Pompidou, this national museum is located in the heart of Paris and boasts a large public library (the future Bpi), a center for musical creation and research (Ircam), and a center for industrial creation.

This glass and metal structure allow natural light to filter through, thanks to the architectural design of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers.

At its heart, this modern art space was designed to be a place where all disciplines of art could interface with the public and the ever-evolving dialogue of modern art could be pushed forward.

Opening Hours: 11 am-10 pm daily except Tuesdays; closed May 1; Admission: €14 for select exhibitions or €78 for a 6-day Paris Museum Pass

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle

Another iconic monument considered to be a great French architectural masterpiece, this Gothic-style basilica dates back to 1238 as a commission from King Louis IX of France.

It was damaged during the French Revolution but restored in the 19th century and boasts one of the largest collections of stained glass dating back to the 13th century in the world.

Today, it is no longer a church as it was secularized after the French Revolution, but once separated the royal family and their guests from courtiers, soldiers, and servants, who were reserved to the lower level.

In 1862, the Sainte Chapelle (or Holy Chapel) was classified as a historical monument, and it continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.

Opening Hours: Daily; opens at 9 am with the last tour at 4:10 pm; Admission: Free.

Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Known in French as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, or “our lady of Paris,” this French Gothic cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and contains three large pipe organs as well as enormous church bells.

Its construction began in 1163 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and the first phase was completed in 1260.

Featuring a rib vault as well as flying buttresses, this cathedral supports vast rose-colored windows as well as sculptural decoration.

It underwent many changes throughout history, from additional modifications to desecration in the French Revolution to the devastating fire that broke out in 201.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most iconic monuments of Paris—and indeed, all of France.

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-6:45 pm; Saturday-Sunday, 8:00 am-7:45 pm; Admission: Free to enter the cathedral, €8,50 to enter the tower, and €6 to enter the crypt

Jardin du Luxembourg

Luxembourg Garden, Grand Basin, and Luxembourg Palace

Inspired by the Boboli Gardens of Florence, this lush landscape spans over 25 hectares of land and is modified in both English and French-style gardens.

Commissioned by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612, these beautiful gardens contain 106 statues within their perimeter as well as the Medici fountain, the Orangerie, the rose garden, and the Pavillion Davioud.

Today, tourists and Parisians alike come to the gardens to play tennis, chess, cards, or remote control boats in the large pond.

With a geometric forest as well as a collection of exquisite orchids, the Jardin du Luxembourg makes for an excellent afternoon stroll along the border of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quartier.

Opening Hours: 7:30 am-9:30 pm in summer or 8:15 am-4:30 pm in winter; Admission: Free

Versailles Palace

Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most beautiful palaces near Paris and a must to any first trip to the French capital. This jewel of French baroque architecture was once a royal hunting lodge before becoming home to three French Kings (Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI) and their courts and the theater of historical events and intrigues.

The Palace of Versailles is part of the Versailles Estate, including stunning French-style gardens, gorgeous fountains and water games, two smaller palaces (named Trianons), a hamlet (the Queen’s Hamlet), and several hectares of forest around the Grand Canal.

It is possible to visit Versailles Palace alone in combination with other parts of the Estate, and the price of tickets will depend on what you want to do. There’s so much to see and do that many people book a guided tour to avoid missing the essentials.

The Palace of Versailles is beautiful to visit, and the standard visit includes the Kings’ rooms, the Royal Opera (a view from the doors on the ground floor and first floor), and other richly decorated rooms. However, the most beautiful part of a visit to Versailles Palace is the Hall of Mirrors, which was used for magnificent balls and other special events.

The Palace of Versailles is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 6.30 pm.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9.00 am to 18:30 pm; Admission: 12,00 for a vehicle,

by Elisa from World in Paris

Central France

Chartres Cathedral

Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres

Also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, this Roman Catholic church in Chartres, France was constructed in the High Gothic and Romanesque styles and completed in 1220.

A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1979, this cathedral has been dubbed a “masterpiece” and still sports the original stained glass windows from the 13th century.

Complete with two contrasting spires (one from the 16th century), three ornately sculpted facades adorn the exterior of the cathedral, featuring various theological messages.

After a large fire destroyed much of the cathedral in 1194, the cathedral was reconstructed within 25 years of the event.

Opening Hours: Daily, 8:30 am-7:30 pm; Admission: Free entry to the chapel; €3 to enter the crypt; €7,50 to enter the north tower

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

This spectacular French château from the Baroque era is just 34 miles southeast of Paris in the Île-de-France area.

Completed in 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, this large-scale project combined landscape and interior design with the architecture of Louis Le Vau.

Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages for the creation of the château grounds, employing the displaced villagers in the upkeep and maintenance of the property.

He was said to have employed 18,000 people for his costly 16 million-livres project. Today, the château is furnished with original decorations and furniture, with gardens maintained true to their original 17th-century design.

To visit the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is to take a trip back in time!

Opening Hours: Wednesday-Sunday except for Saturdays, June 2-October 3, the château opens at 11 am with the last person admitted at 5 pm; July 2-October 2, candlelit evenings on Saturdays at 2 pm, 10:30 pm, and midnight; Admission: €16,90 during the day or €19,90 for candlelit evenings.

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is an amazing destination for anthropologists and a lovely Paris getaway; it is also a perfect day trip for travelers because of its proximate location to Paris, historic value, and natural forest.

The Château de Fontainebleau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hidden gem in Paris’s backyard. Fontainebleau is about 45-minute away by direct train from Central Paris’ Gare du Lyon.

For more flexibility, consider going there in a rental car so that you can explore the heritage at your own pace.    

Château de Fontainebleau is a great place to visit because the palace is extravagantly decorated through centuries of expansion and remodeling, serving as the imperial residences of a number of French Kings from Louis VII to Napoleon III.

The palace beauty rivals Versailles yet it’s much less crowded, visitors can take a slow pace to appreciate the many apartments, halls, and chapels without disturbance – each of them has its own signature and is distinctive by looking at the paintings, the furniture, and the wallpaper. 

The palace is frequently named one of the French King’s favorites residences as it is surrounded by a historic forest and a beautifully crafted Italian Renaissance garden.

The garden is open to the public for free all year round. The English Garden (the Pine Garden) features beautiful landscaping, exotic trees, ornamental rocks, and winding pathways.

To the end of the garden, the Grand Parterre is the largest French-style formal garden in Europe with 45,000 flowering plants, and a 1,200 meters long canal.

To enhance your entire experience, this is also a place where you could hire a professional photographer for photo-shoot, or hop on a hot air balloon to enjoy the view atop of the palace and the forest.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, October to May: 10.00 am to 18:00 pm, June to September: from 10:00 am to 21:00 pm; Admission: 3,00 €, free on Mondays.

By Kenny at Knycx Journeying 

Fontenay Abbey

Abbey of Fontenay

This former Cistercian abbey nestled in Marmagne was founded by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1118 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

One of the oldest and most complete abbeys of its kind, Fontenay Abbey was built in the Romanesque style and is known for acting as a bridge between Romanesque and Gothic style architecture.

At one point servicing 300 monks, the abbey became exempt from all taxes thanks to King Louis’ efforts in 1259, and 10 years later it became a royal abbey.

While the abbey changed hands several times over the course of its history, it was ultimately restored in 1911 thanks to Edouard Aynard, a wealthy art-loving banker from Lyon.

Today, the complex contains the original chapter house, cloister, dormitory, caldarium, refectory, dovecote, forge, and church.

Opening Hours: Daily, 10:00 am-6:00 pm; Admission: €11 for entry plus €3 for a guided tour

Château de Chambord

Chambord Castle

Built in a combination of French medieval architecture and classical Renaissance style, this distinguished château once served as a hunting lodge for Francis I and is the largest château in the Loire Valley.

After 28 years of construction, it was completed in the year 1547 with a design rumored to have been influenced by Leonardo Da Vinci—but certainly by the Italian architect Domenico da Cortona.

While the château was abandoned after the French Revolution, it was partially restored in the 19th century.

Today it houses some pieces of artwork from the Louvre and the Château de Compiègne and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

Opening Hours: October-March, 10am-5pm; April-September, 9am-6pm; Admission: 11.

Château Royal d’Amboise

chateau amboise

Château Royal d’Amboise is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Loire Valley. It was the seat of the Valois Kings, and death, intrigue, and conspiracy all occurred within its thick walls.

The Château is a simple day trip from Paris. It towers above the town of Amboise even though it is only a fifth now of its once impressive size. You can see what it once looked like with the histpoad experience.

The Château became a royal one when it’s owne, the Viscount of Thors, was found guilty of treason and King Loius XIV decided to seize his castle.

In 1515 King Francis the First, who had grown up at the castle, invited none other than Leonardo da Vinci to stay there.

Da Vinci lived close by for the last four year sof his life and a tunnel connects his home to the Château.Leonardo Da Vinci is buried in the Chapel of the Château.

Visiting today includes a histopad (included in the entry price), and a one-hour guided tour.

Opening Hours: Daily 9.00 am but closing between 16.30 pm and 19:00 pm depending on the month, closed Dec 25, Jan 1; Admission: Full 13,30 €, 11,50 € reduced, 9,10 € children 7-18.

Château de Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau Castle

The exquisite Château de Chenonceau is the most important and most visited of the French castles, second only to the Palace of Versailles.

The château is located 5 km from the village of Chenonceau, 40 km from Tours, and 214 km from Paris in the Loire Valley. The castle has a rich history, unique architectural details, and is a popular day trip from Paris.

A fairytale castle, its uniqueness lies in the way that the château has a Gallery built across the River Cher. A separate tower, the Marques Tower, sits just to the right of the main building.

This visually stunning castle is surrounded by exquisite formal gardens and forests – the hunting grounds of the French Kings.

But it is the French Queens and other powerful women who created, competed for, and changed this chateau – five in all, that have given the castle the name of ‘Chateau Château des Dames or ‘ladies chateau’.

Opening Hours: Daily 9.00 am to 18:00 pm; Admission: € 15.00 full, € 12.00 reduced, free for Under 7s.

Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry

Known for its beautiful gardens, this grand country house is located in Villandry, in Indre-et-Loire, France.

Once the site of an ancient fortress, this château was constructed in the 14th century and was once the meeting place of King Philip II of France and Richard I of England for peace negotiations.

A historical monument, the Château de Villandry is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with flowing Renaissance gardens featuring flowers, vegetables, hedges, and more.

While the château belonged to the Le Breton family for over two hundred years, it changed hands during the French Revolution and was even acquired by Emperor Napoleon for his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte.

In 1906, it was purchased by Joachim Carvalla and its restoration was financed by his wife, Ann Coleman.

Opening Hours: Gardens are always open; Castle open only some months of the year; Admission: €7,50 for the gardens, or €12 for the château and gardens

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Located in the Loire Valley in the town of Azay-le-Rideau, this château is considered one of the premier surviving examples of beginning French Renaissance architecture.

Once the site of a feudal castle, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau was built between 1518-1527 on an island on the Indre River, making it a unique and iconic tourist attraction known for appearing to rise straight out of the river.

Perhaps its most prominent feature, the château’s grand central staircase, or escalier d’honneur, was unique at the time of its construction, as it was designed to rise in straight flights rather than spiral, like most other staircases of the era.

Its ornately decorated interior harkens to the Italian Renaissance and includes many 16th and 17th century Flemish tapestries amongst its furnished rooms.

Opening Hours: October-March, 10:00am-5:15pm; April-June, 9:30am-6:00pm; July-August, 9:30am-7:00pm; September, 9:30am-6:00pm; Admission: €8,00 plus an optional €3,00 audio tour

Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral

Otherwise known as the Cathedral of Saint Etienne de Bourges, this impressive structure dates back to the 12th century and is considered an iconic masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

Known for its stained-glass windows, tympanum, and sculptures, Bourges Cathedral was dedicated to Saint Etienne, the first Christian martyr.

With double flying buttresses, the cathedral also boasts lateral walls, a well-designed, unified interior, and stained-glass artwork from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Largely unaltered over the years, the Bourges Cathedral is legally considered Catholic and receives around 30,000 visitors each year.

The Bourges Cathedral is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30am-11:30am, then 2:00pm-6:00pm; Sundays, 2:00pm-6:00pm; Admission: €8,00

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Recognized as the “Romanesque Sistine Chapel,” this sizeable abbey contains myriad well-preserved 11th and 12th-century murals and was founded in the Carolingian era by Saint Benoît d’Aniane.

Rebuilt in the 1000s, the abbey includes an 80-meter Gothic spire from the 14th century.

The Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe also includes a church, ambulatory, five chapels, a bell tower, and an extensive nave.

While the monastery buildings were destroyed by religious wars over the course of the abbey’s history, they were rebuilt in the 17th century and restored in the 19th century.

It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-12:00pm, and 2:00pm-5:00pm; Sundays 2:00pm-5:00pm; Admission: €10,00 or €12,00 for a guided tour

Western France

Cordouan Lighthouse

Cordouan Lighthouse at low tide, Gironde estuary, France

This impressive lighthouse known as the “Patriarch of Lighthouses” is the oldest in France and is still active. At 221 feet high, it is the 10th-tallest traditional lighthouse in the world.

Designed by Louis de Foix to combine a fort, cathedral, and royal palace, this Renaissance-style edifice was originally completed in 1611 with three additional stories added in the 18th century.

Noted as a historical monument in 1862, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2021.

A small chapel was also built on the islet, while the wood fire-fueled light atop the platform was stoked by a religious hermit, who also collected the required dues from passing ships.

Opening Hours: May-June, Friday-Monday, 2:00pm-6:00pm; July-August, daily, 11:00am-7:00pm; September-October, Friday-Monday, 2:00pm-6:00pm; November-April, by appointment; Admission: €3,00

Lascaux Cave

Lascaux Cave

One of the greatest sites in France to visit is Lascaux Cave, often called the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory. Lascaux is a decorated cave complex in the village of Montignac in the Dordogne.

The artwork was created about 20,000 years ago and profoundly strikes modern visitors because of the skill and creativity of these early people. There are over 6,000 figures that dramatically cover the walls and ceilings. 

The cave network was discovered in 1940 and became immensely popular with both scientists and tourists. Tragically, the previously sealed off cave began to deteriorate quickly, and the original cave was closed to the public in 1963.

When you visit Lascaux II Cave today, you will be visiting a reproduction of the original Lascaux Cave. 

Lascaux II is a masterful recreation of the paintings. The modern artists used the same techniques and pigments as the original paleolithic artists.

Visitors are brought on a guided tour of about 1.5 hours through this jaw-dropping early gallery. The guided tour ends at a hands-on, multimedia museum to explore at your own pace. 

Lascaux II is part of the combined UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Dordogne: The Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley. The UNESCO site includes 15 of the 147 prehistoric sites in the area that are of enormous importance.

Consider visiting the nearby National Museum of Prehistory and some of the other caves on your visit to see original cave art that is still accessible to visitors.  Learning about early man in the Dordogne before visiting Lascaux II will greatly enhance your trip.

Opening Hours: Daily 9.00 am to 19:00 pm; Admission: Adults 20 € / Children 12.90 € / Under 5 free.

By Erica at Trip Scholars

Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror)

Miroir d’Eau

The world’s largest reflecting pool, the Miroir d’Eau (or Water Mirror) spans over 37,000 square feet at the foot of the Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux.

Built in 2006, the pool was designed by notable landscape artist Michel Corajoud.

The Miroir d’Eau is composed of granite slabs covered by 2 cm of water, with a system in place that creates a mist in 15-minute intervals; it is operational only from April to October of each year.

The reflecting pool is the most-photographed part of the Port de la Lune (or Port of the Moon) harbor at Bordeaux.  

Opening Hours: Daily, any time from April-October; Admission: Free

Dune du Pilat

Dune du Pilat, Cap-Ferret

Also known as the “Grande Dune du Pilat,” this impressive natural attraction is the tallest sand dune in all of Europe.

Just 60 miles southwest of Bordeaux along the coast of Arcachon Bay, the Dune du Pilat attracts over 1 million visitors annually.

Over a mile and a half long, this sandy attraction is considered a foredune, or a dune running parallel to the shore.

While today it brings in many paragliders, it was once the site of a protohistoric camp for sea salt mining, which has been evident by the discovery of various artifacts in the sand.

With a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, the Dune du Pilat is a must-see for enthusiasts of sandy beaches and natural splendor!

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Southern France

Promenade des Anglais (Nice)

Promenade des Anglais-Nice

Sometimes called the “Prom” for short, the Promenade des Anglais-Nice is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nice.

Each year, it attracts thousands of runners, roller skaters, walkers, and cyclists along its path. It is known for hosting the annual Nice Carnival as well as hosting sporting events, meetings, and exhibitions.

With beautiful waterfront views, the promenade is lined with palms and passes by many significant landmarks along its length, including a miniature of the Statue of Liberty.

The “Prom” is just over 4 miles long (roughly 7 km) and makes for a wonderful way to begin exploring the historic parts of Nice.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Gorge du Verdon

Gorge du Verdon

A must-see natural landmark of France is the Gorge du Verdon, nestled deep in limestone massifs of Provence.

The gorge is the deepest and longest in France and should be on your itinerary if you’re planning a French road trip.

Over the last million years or so, the rivers which flow from the nearby Alps have carved out gorges in the limestone, creating dramatic steep walls which swoop down to the rushing turquoise waters below. 

The Verdon river, from which the gorge takes its name, runs from Castellane into Lac de Sainte Croix, a reservoir created from the natural valley at the head of the river. This creates a natural playground for paddlers and water sports lovers with opportunities for wild swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the perfectly clear river and lake.

Hikers will also love the trails around the gorge, which offer a more peaceful way to enjoy the glorious surroundings.

You can also take the spectacular corniche road around the gorge, starting in the picture-perfect village of Moustiers Sainte Marie and heading for Trigance.

You’ll find the best views on the D71 and D23 roads – both a tight squeeze with hairpin bends, but worth the white knuckles for the stunning vistas across the Provencal landscape.

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

By Izzy at The Gap Decaders

Provence Lavender Fields (Valensole)

Valensole Lavender Fields, Provence

Lavender has been an important crop to the people of Provence, France for centuries. Believed to have been imported by the Romans over 2000 years ago, the fragrant flower has been used throughout history for everything from curing ailments to creating perfumes.

Today, pure, ‘fine’ lavender is still grown at the higher altitudes of the region, while the hybrid, lavandin, is grown on the plateaux at lower altitudes. The first is used for its medicinal properties, while the latter is used primarily for its fragrance.

Visiting the lavender fields of Provence is an intoxicating experience and one that should most definitely be a high priority if you’re visiting the region in summer.

From late June to mid-July (and slightly later in some areas), many areas are awash with the purple flowers, but you’ll find the most concentrated fields in the Luberon Valley, the Sault plateau, and most famously, the Valensole plateau.

There are also many distilleries and stores you can visit along the way to pick up lavender essential oils and souvenirs to take back home.

It’s easy to self-drive and weave your way through the fields, stopping to take in the stunning scenery and accompanying sunflower fields on your way, or you can take a guided tour from Avignon or Aix-en-Provence.

Opening Hours: Always open Admission: Free.

by Nadine at Le Long Weekend 

Parc National des Calanques

Calanque de Port-Miou

Nestled on the banks of the Mediterranean coast in Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France, this national park was established in 2012 and spans over 200 square miles.

It is known for its beautiful coastal features including the Calanque de Port-Miou, Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque de Sormiou, Calanque de Sugiton, and Cosquer Cave.

This park is a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts as well as fans of conservation efforts—and the best news of all? The park is completely free!

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde

Translating to “Our Lady of the Guard,” this Catholic basilica in Marseille was built at the city’s highest point atop the foundation of an ancient fort.

The structure towers above the city perched on a nearly 500-foot high limestone outcropping, where it has remained since 1852.

Built in the Romanesque style and partially carved from rock, the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde includes a chapel, crypt, lower church, and upper church.

Its 135-foot bell tower hosts a copper statue of the Madonna and Child finished with gold leaf.

A 7-year restoration project reached completion in 2008, amending years of wear and candle smoke deposits on the mosaics, limestone, and stonework.

Opening Hours: Daily: 7.00 am to 18:00 pm; Admission: Free.

Arles Roman and Romanesque Sites

Roman theatre, Arles

Some of the most impressive Roman monuments in France, the Arles, Roman, and Romanesque Monuments pose as examples of ancient cities adapted into medieval European civilizations.

The arena, cryptoporticus, and Roman theatre date back as early as the 1st century B.C, and the whole site spans over 160 acres (or 65 hectares).

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981, the recognized monuments include:

  • the Arles Amphitheatre,
  • the Roman theatre,
  • the Thermes of Constantine,
  • the Cryptoporticus and Roman forum,
  • the Alyscamps,
  • the Ramparts of the Roman castrum,
  • the Roman exedra (or courtyard of Museon Arlaten), and
  • the Church of Saint Trophime and its associated cloister.

Opening Hours:10:00am-6:00pm, except the Camargue Museum, which is 10:00am-5:00pm; Admission: €16 for an all-monument pass

Arena of Nîmes (Amphitheatre)

Arena of Nîmes (Amphitheatre)

This Roman amphitheater located in Nîmes was built around the year 70, just after the completion of Rome’s colosseum.

One of the best-preserved amphitheaters in the world, the arena at Nîmes is in the top 20 largest of the 400 known Roman amphitheaters across the globe.

Able to hold 24,000 people over its 34-tiered frame, today the Arena of Nîmes hosts two annual bullfights over the course of the Feria de Nîmes , among other events.

The monument was restored in the 19th century by the architect Henri Revoil, and began hosting events in 1853 for the first time since the Roman era.

Opening Hours: November-February, 9:30am-5:00pm; March & October, 9:00am-6:00pm; April, May, September, 9:00am-6:30pm; June, 9:00am-7:00pm; July-August, 9:00am-8:00pm; Admission: €10.

Pont D’Avignon

Pont D’Avignon

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Pont D’Avignon (also called Saint-Bénézet Bridge) has been an integral part of the pilgrimage between Italy and Spain since medieval times.

The bridge once acted as the connecting link between the palace of the Pope and the people of Avignon and is the subject of a famous French children’s song.

Over 900 meters long (over 3,000 feet), construction of the bridge began in 1177 and was completed in a remarkable 8 years’ time.

Over the course of several centuries worth of flooding of the river Rhône, a few of the bridge’s arches were swept away; today the bridge remains incomplete, though it still attracts over 300,000 visitors each year.

Opening Hours: September 1st-November 1st, 9:00am-7:00pm; November 2nd-February 29th, 9:30am-5:45pm; March, 9:00am-6:30pm; April 1st-June 30th, 9:00am-7:00pm; July, 9:00am-8:00pm; August, 9:00am-8:30pm; Admission: €12

Pont du Gard

Pont Du Gard

Pont Du Gard was built during Roman times. It is an aqueduct that spans the River Gardon in southern France. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985 and is one of France’s most popular tourist attractions as well as one of the most visited attractions in France from ancient times.

The bridge was part of a 50-kilometer long aqueduct built to carry freshwater from the springs at Ucetia (now Uzès) to the Roman colony of Nimes.

It is the highest and best-preserved of all Roman aqueduct bridges in the world.

The bridge is almost 50 meters tall, built from limestone, and consists of three tiers of arches. The lower arch has had an additional pedestrian bridge added to it for visitors to see the aqueduct from close to the river.

There are also organized trips where you can walk on the highest tier of the aqueduct, but you need to book them in advance.

Seeing the bridge is free of charge but nearby parking has steep fees but is free if you purchase the ticket to the museum.

So my advice would be if you want just to see the aqueduct park a bit further and hike to the bridge.

If you want to visit the museum, which is very interesting, drive to the main parking and enjoy both experiences. Visiting Pont du Gard is a great educational trip when you are visiting France with kids.

Opening Hours: Museum open from mid-May to December, daily, 9.00 am to 17:00 pm, later in summer; Admission: Museum – 9,50 full and 7,00 reduced rate.

By Ania at The Travelling Twins 

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Dating back to the 14th century, when the popes fled Rome due to conflict and discord and chose Avignon, France as their new base for papal politics, the Palais des Papes still stands as a monument to this fleeting moment in time.

The combined palaces of two former popes, Pope Benedict XII and Pope Clement VI, the Palais des Papes is the largest gothic palace in the world and draws in visitors from around the globe with its intriguing history and unique architecture.

You can simply admire the scope of the building by sitting in a cafe opposite and imagining what took place in the grand building in years gone by, or you can pay an admission fee (€12 per adult) to gain access to the interior.

This admission fee includes the use of a “histopad” which allows you to see what the grand ballrooms and chapels once would have looked like during the pope’s occupation.

Make sure you also make your way up to the rooftop terrace for unbeatable views over Avignon and the Rhone River. And there’s a rooftop cafe if you find yourself in need of refreshment.

Opening times vary throughout the year, so it’s best to check the official website to check before your visit, but the palace is open every day of the year. 

By Nadine at Le Long Weekend

Opening Hours: Daily 10.00 am to 17:00 pm, later in summer; Admission: €12,00

Cité de Carcassonne

Cité de Carcassonne

The Cité de Carcassonne is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Southern France. This medieval citadel is located in the Occitanie region, not far from Toulouse, and it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cité de Carcassonne guaranteed the border between France and Aragon until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. It was built in the 12th century in a site occupied since Roman times.

The Cité consists of a maze of narrow, cobbled streets with houses, taverns, and little shops dominated by a 10th-century basilica (Basilique Saint Nazaire) and a medieval castle (Château Comtal).

The basilica was built in Romanesque style, and it was Carcassonne’s cathedral until Saint Michel Cathedral, in the lower city, replaced it.

The castle was built in the 12th century on the ruins of Roman walls, and it was the home of the Counts of Carcassonne and later the Trencavel family.

The citadel is protected by medieval walls, punctuated with 52 guard towers with pointed roofs. These pointed roofs are not original of Carcassonne and definitely not a typical architectural feature in Southern France.

The architect Viollet-le-Duc restored the Cité de Carcassonne following the patterns of the medieval villages and castles in Northern France.

The Cité de Carcassonne is open every day, and it is free to enter.

Opening Hours: Castle is open daily 10 am to 6 pm; Admission: 9,50 € entrance to the castle.

By Elisa at Travel France Bucket List

Millau Viaduct

Millau Viaduct

It took more than 30 years to build the Millau viaduct that crosses the Dordogne River near the town of Millau. Its construction began in 1968 and finished in 1986.

There are two lanes each way plus sidewalks along the entire length of the structure. Each lane carries traffic while the center walkway allows pedestrians to cross back and forth.

At night there are illuminated panels placed along the sides of the road displaying messages such as “Welcome” in French, English, Spanish, German and Italian.

In addition to being a major tourist attraction, the Millau viaduct also serves as a vital link in the European high-speed rail network.

Trains traveling from Paris to Barcelona stop here before continuing onto Spain and trains traveling northbound toward Bordeaux will pass through this area first.

This impressive piece of engineering features several unique design elements including:

  • A pair of curved tunnels that form a horseshoe shape around the river valley; these were designed so they could withstand earthquakes, and
  • Two sets of arches resting atop four columns, creating a double arch effect; these arches support the roadway above them.

Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, October to May: 10.00 am to 18:00 pm, June to September: from 10:00 am to 21:00 pm; Admission: 3,00 €, free on Mondays.

Roman Theater of Orange (Théâtre Antique)

Roman Theatre, Orange

The Roman theatre in Orange, Vaucluse, is the largest in Europe, with a capacity for up to 7,300 spectators, and was built around 50 AD by Julius Caesar’s general Pompey.

The Théâtre antique d’Orange is not just one of the most significant French monuments, it’s also a major European landmark. UNESCO describes this 1st Century masterpiece as one of the very finest pieces of Ancient Rome in the world and the best-preserved theater in Europe.

It has been restored several times since then but it still looks like an ancient amphitheater from its original design.

The front facade of the theater is simply amazing – stages were meant to be elaborate and entertaining and this facade is not only very large but it’s stone statues could be seen from the back rows of the large theater.

The Romans used this place as their main arena where they held public shows and gladiatorial games. Today the Roman theatre hosts various events throughout the year.

You may find classical music performances music festivals featuring famous artists during the summer months, art exhibits during the fall/winter season, and opera productions during springtime.

The Roman festival is the highlight of the year for the theater.

Opening Hours: January, February, November, December: from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, March, October: from 9.30 am to 5.30pm, April, May, September: from 9 am to 6 pm, June, July, August; Admission: 10,00 € full, 8,00 € reduced

Cirque du Gavarnie

Cirque du Gavarnie

Located in the central Pyrénées in southwestern France, this natural marvel within Pyrénées National Park was once described as the “colosseum of nature” due to its enormous, horseshoe-like shape resembling a Roman theater.

With rocky peaks reaching nearly 5,000 feet above its floor, the cirque is nearly 900 yards wide and over 3,000 yards long.

During the warm months, a fair number of meltwater falls spill into the cirque, including the largest, Gavarnie Falls.

Carved by the slow process of glacial erosion, the fertile lands of the Cirque du Gavarnie hosts many animals and a wide array of flora, as it is protected on both sides by national parks.

This spot is a must-visit for anyone interested in unparalleled natural views!

Opening Hours: Always open; Admission: Free.

Further Information

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