Here’s a look at 15 essential sites and monuments in France that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.
France’s iconic monuments, a veritable part of the nation’s identity, showcase its heritage. Retrace the history of France through these 15 sites and monuments.
An emblem of France, the Iron Lady was inaugurated in 1889 to mark the centennial year of the storming of the Bastille. This majestic 1,122-foot wrought iron tower is practically synonymous with French identity and never ceases to amaze. She’s an absolute Paris essential.
Home to four generations of France’s kings, the Palace of Versailles is one of the world’s most sumptuous palaces. Remarkable for both its architecture and French gardens as well as for the wealth of collections found inside, Versailles served as an archetype for many other European palaces.
Did you know that Mont Saint-Michel and its abbey were among the first places that UNESCO listed as World Heritage sites? The Wonder of the West that withstands the elements every day is the third-most visited site in France. The abbey topped with St. Michael the Archangel makes it recognizable to all.
4. The Millau Viaduct
The Millau Viaduct is a colossal monument, even higher than the Eiffel Tower, ascending 1,125 feet and spanning over 1.5 miles. Despite these figures, you will be impressed with its light design which implements long, slender lines to give it the appearance of a sailboat.
From Medieval fortresses to Renaissance castles, the Loire Valley is nestled into an exceptional setting. Vineyards line the river creating a romantic and magical atmosphere while representing an important chapter in France’s history.
6. The Dune of Pilat
Not far from Bordeaux, the Dune of Pilat in Arcachon Bay is the highest dune in the world! From the top, the view of Banc d’Arguin National Park and the point of Cap Ferret will take your breath away.
7. The Arena of Nîmes
This former Roman amphitheater in Nîmes is one of the most well preserved in the world, and today, it is still a center for local entertainment. Concerts, shows, bullfights and Camargue races are just some of the events that take place here.
8. The Pont du Gard
Not far from the Arena of Nîmes lies another well preserved Roman vestige. The Pont du Gard aqueduct is a technical feat of ancient architecture that is only enhanced by its exceptional surroundings.
9. The Arc de Triomphe
In addition to being the biggest challenge for drivers in the French capital, Place Charles de Gaulle–historically known as Place de l’Étoile–also happens to boast the largest arch in the world. Built under the orders of Napoleon to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe is a true symbol of Paris and France.
10. Montparnasse Tower
Despised and criticized by Parisians at the time of its construction, Montparnasse Tower has now become a key element of the French capital. An observatory deck on the top of this 59-story skyscraper offers a 360°-view of Paris.
11. Carcassonne Castle
Overlooking the river Aude in the heart of Cathar country, Carcassonne Castle stands it is namesake medieval city. Its ramparts and incredibly well-preserved castle are open to visitors looking to travel back in time.
12. Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame Cathedral is a legendary monument that is not only an integral part of the Parisian landscape but also of French culture thanks to Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Several key events from French history have taken place inside its walls, from the marriage of Henry IV to Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as well as the funerals of many prominent national figures.
13. The Pope’s Palace of Avignon
The Pope’s Palace of Avignon is a unique architectural complex and symbol of the influence of the Catholic Church on Western Christianity during the fourteenth century. In addition to being particularly rich in its historical and religious footprint, the Gothic palace is one of the main venues for local entertainment.
14. The July Column, Place de la Bastille
Standing tall on the former site of the Bastille prison, the July Column is topped by a statue called La Génie de la Liberté (the Spirit of Freedom), complete with a torch in hand. The statue is an emblem of the civil liberties that French citizens have defended both in the past and today.
15. The Panthéon
The Pantheon in Paris is also tied to the French Revolution. This former church was converted into a national cemetery in 1791 to accommodate the body of Mirabeau, one of the leaders of the French Revolution.