France is one of the most popular destinations worldwide. In fact, it’s regularly the most visited country in the world. The number and diversity of landmarks in France play a huge role in this popularity. There are famous landmarks and lesser-known ones, there are natural landmarks and human-made landmarks, there religious and non-religious… there’s something for everyone in France.
In this article, we will explore the most famous landmarks in France, both natural and human-made. From the Eiffel tower to the Mont Blanc, from the Mont Saint-Michel to the Dune du Pilat! Though France is so packed with known monuments, historical buildings, and lovely natural areas, that’s almost impossible to mention them all in a single post.
We have visited France several times and know the country well. Still, to elaborate an article as complete as possible, we have invited a few fellow bloggers to contribute with some of their favorite landmarks in France.
Landmarks in France – Paris
By James Ian from Travel Collecting
The Eiffel Tower is one of the main symbols of Paris and, with about 7 million visitors each year, it is the most visited fee-paying site in the entire world!
Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the tower was the winner of a design competition for the Universal Exhibition. It debuted in 1889 and was an engineering marvel unparalleled at the time. With its unusual structure and iconic image, it remains a centerpiece of Paris. Indeed, at 324 meters, it is still the tallest structure in Paris to this day.
While not a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in its own right, the Eiffel Tower is nonetheless a significant part of the Banks of the Seine in Paris’ 1991 UNESCO designation. The tower is lauded as one of Paris’ architectural masterpieces and cited for its cultural significance as a living testimony of the universal exhibition.
The tower sits on the banks of the Seine just across the river from the Trocadero and at the end of the long stretch of lawn, the Champ de Mars. There are incredible panoramic views of Paris from the top. The tower has three levels, and you can take an elevator or climb the stairs to the first two levels, and then take another elevator up to the top for the best views. There are restaurants on the lower two levels for an incredibly romantic meal.
The Eiffel Tower is an engineering marvel, one of the most famous landmarks of France, and a true icon of the city. Plus, for five minutes each hour from dark until 1:00 am daily, it twinkles!
Notre Dame Cathedral
By Haley Blackall of haleyblackall.com
‘Our Lady of Paris’, or Notre Dame cathedral, is widely recognized as another of the symbols of Parisian culture and more afar, the nation of France. The medieval catholic building is located on The Île de la Cité (Island of the City) in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The church can be reached on foot, by bicycle, or by car over the many bridges connecting the island to the mainland.
Originally erected in 1163 by the bishop of Paris Maurice de Sully, the French Gothic cathedral took over 100 years to build. The church was finished in 1345 and was constructed using progressive architecture such as the rib vault and flying buttress. The building also boasts large colorful rose windows.
Over the years, Notre Dame has become famous for many reasons. Originally, the crowning of the infamous Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte took place in 1804. But what really gave rise to the popularity of the cathedrals is Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel ‘The Humpback of Notre Dame’.
The Notre Dame cathedral was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage site list in 1991 as part of the ‘Paris, Banks of the Seine’ ensemble. The group of quays, bridges, and buildings is regarded as geographical and historical structures that shape a distinctive example of outstanding metropolitan riverside planning.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris
By Darcy Vierow from Plan, Ready, Go
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris is one of the most recognizable streets in the world and should find a place in your Paris itinerary. It lies in Paris’ 8th arrondissement and stretches 1.9 kilometers from Place de la Concorde in the east to the Arc de Triomphe on the western end.
The famous Bastille Day military parade is held every July 14 on the Champs-Élysées. It’s one of the largest and oldest military parades in the world. You’ll also find many restaurants, theaters, shops, and luxury and designer stores along this landmark street.
Though the street didn’t take the name Champs-Élysées until the early 18th century, its history reaches back as far as 1667 when it was designed to be an extension of the Jardin des Tuileries and stretched from the Tuileries Palace (no longer there) to the Rond-Point (roughly the midpoint of today’s Champs-Élysées). The avenue was extended in 1710 to its length now, ending at Place Charles de Gaulle, the location of the Arc de Triomphe.
Take the Paris Metro to Concorde (lines 1, 8, and 12) to get to the east end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Stopping at Charles de Gaulle–Étoile (lines 1, 2, 6) will get you to the Arc de Triomphe.
Arc de Triomphe
By Alice from Adventures of Alice
The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’s most famous landmarks and has been around since 1806 when Napoleon commissioned architect Jean Chalgrin to build this incredible monument. He wanted it to commemorate his military victories, but it took over a decade to complete this colossal arch. Nowadays, the Arc De Triomphe is one of the most iconic monuments in Paris and a must-see during any Parisian itinerary.
The triumphal arch stands magnificently at the center of the elegant yet bustling square, Place Charles de Gaulle, and at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. This makes it an excellent starting point for exploring the city, as it stands at the center of a series of concentric streets that radiate outward like spokes on a wheel. These streets are lined with cafés and shops, and the Arch itself is also framed on three sides by two wings built during different periods that house museums.
If you’re not afraid of heights, then climb up onto the top of this beautiful monument. The structure stands at about 45 meters high and has a length of just over 50 meters. At the top, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of other landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacre Coeur Basilica. These are some of the best views in Paris because you can also get the famous Eiffel Tower in the shot.
By Karee from Our Woven Journey
The Louvre Museum in Paris is the largest museum in the world. It houses over 380,000 pieces of art, with 35,000 of them on display at any given time. It is so large, it’s literally impossible to see every piece in a lifetime, let alone one visit! The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, is arguably the most famous painting in the museum.
It wasn’t always a museum, though. The Louvre was originally built in 1190 as a fortress and later became a royal palace. It’s been built, rebuilt, added on, and eventually became a museum in 1793. It was even used by the Germans to house stolen artifacts during WWII.
The glass pyramid in front of the Louvre was built in 1989 and has become one of the most famous landmarks in all of Paris. Located in the heart of the city, nearly 10 million people a year visit the museum. Although the line to get in can be extremely long, visitors can purchase a ticket online and skip the line to buy the ticket in person.
Although the history of the building itself is quite fascinating, it’s the history on showcase inside the Louvre that puts it on the must-see list for people visiting France.
Sacre Coeur Basilica
By Mal from Raw Mal Roams
This 19th-century basilica, also known as Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, perched on Montmartre Hill, is one of the most stunning landmarks of Paris.
The church was built in the 19th century by the French government after the defeat by the Prussian army following the Franco-Prussian war. Generous donations of the Parisians fully sponsored it. Sacre Coeur was designed by the artist Paul Abadie in a romano-byzantine architectural style, with large domes being its main feature.
Today, Sacre Coeur is the second-highest point in the city, boasting some spectacular vistas over Paris stretching for many kilometres. The church is roman-catholic, and it is the most visited church in Paris after Notre Dame.
The best time to visit the basilica is early in the morning or late afternoon. At these times, the church is less busy, and if you’re planning to take photos, the light will be less harsh than during the day. There are no entrance fees to go inside the church, but it’s an active place of worship, so be respectful to others praying inside. If you want to go up to the top for even better views, it costs 5 euros.
The basilica is surrounded by a lovely park with benches where you can take a break and relax. The closest metro station to Sacre Coeur is Anvers on line 2.
By Antoine and Marielle from Offbeat Escapades
The Pantheon is one of the most well-known landmarks of France due to its symbolic representation of French Culture. This imposing building was built in 1758 and is home to various exceptional French men and women who sacrificed their lives for the country or contributed to the Republic in some recognizable manner. Some of these notable individuals include Victoria Hugo, Maria Curie, and Jean Moulin, to name a few.
Located in the Latin Quartier, there are many places to stay in Paris close to everything so that you can be within walking distance to the Pantheon.
When you arrive and tour around the building, you will surely be impressed by its Neoclassical architecture featuring Gothic design, grand columns, and wide spaces. The facade is also a marvel to behold, reminiscent of the Pantheon found in Rome.
Last but not the least, what makes the Pantheon unique is that you can witness stunning views of Paris from its rooftop. Although it takes about 276 steps to get to the top of this landmark, the experience is so worth it as it provides you with the most beautiful panoramic scenes of all of the city. As such, it is recommended to visit during the sunset hours to get the best photographs of the city. Entrance fees range from 9 to 11 euros per adult.
By Rosie Fluskey from Flying Fluskey
Located just 40 minutes from Central Paris is an architectural masterclass in extravagance. Chateau Versailles (the Palace of Versailles). From your initial arrival at the golden gate, you will be whisked into a world that seems like a fairytale. As magical as it seems, it was actually the main home to the French Royal Court for around 100 years. The small chateau had to be extended twice to make room for them, leading to an ostentatious blend of styles. French Baroque was created here, so gilded mirrors, flocked wallpaper and heavily brocaded furniture pieces grace nearly every Royal Apartment. There used to be a large number of solid silver items to go alongside these, but they were sold off to meltdown and reclaim funds. Stretching from the back of the palace is a huge formal garden with its magical dancing fountains.
UNESCO has deemed Versailles a world heritage site, citing its stunning Hall of Mirrors, Hall of Battles, and Royal Opera as special points of interest within the complex. It has been an important place in history for hundreds of years. Not only was it the final home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, but the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors to mark the end of WWI.
To reach Versailles, hop aboard and RER C train and rice for roughly 40 minutes until you reach Château Rive Gauche station. The site is just a short walk from the station.
Landmarks France – Provence
Pont du Gard
By Bridget from The Flashpacker
Pont du Gard is a must-see on any Provence itinerary.
Located between Uzès and Nîmes and towering almost 50 meters above the River Gardon (River Gard), this unmissable French landmark is the tallest aqueduct bridge of the Roman world. Built around the year 50 AD and featuring 47 majestic arches (35 of which remain), Pont du Gard formed an essential part of an aqueduct that supplied water to the Roman city of Nîmes.
It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 for its technical and artistic mastery. Pont du Gard is notable for being constructed entirely with dry materials, without the need for masonry.
Take time to appreciate the Pont du Gard from different angles. Walk across the bridge itself and then explore the trails that run along each side of the river. There is also an on-site museum, which traces the history of the Roman aqueduct through artefacts, models, virtual reconstructions and multimedia, plus a cinema showing a 13-minute film about the Pont du Gard.
The easiest way to reach the Pont du Gard is by car. Alternatively, take bus number 115 from Avignon’s bus station. There are five buses a day and the last bus returns to Avignon shortly before 7 pm.
Palais des Papes, Avignon
By Nadine Maffre from Le Long Weekend
One of the most iconic landmarks in Provence is Avignon’s Palais des Papes. Developed in stages from the 13th century, it housed Rome’s Popes for only a century or so, but its grandeur belies that fact. The Pope’s Palace sits at the center of the historical heart of the city – which has been given UNESCO World Heritage status for its breadth of well-preserved historical sites. The palace itself is one of the world’s largest medieval gothic palaces and covers a hefty 15,000 sqm.
Nowadays, it’s one of Avignon’s key attractions, and you don’t have to use your imagination to know what it once looked like on the inside, as you can take an interactive histopad tour which brings the palace to life before you.
Tours are self-guided and take around an hour to complete – longer if you linger. Allow time to appreciate the view from the rooftop and perhaps sample the goodies on offer in the elevated cafe. Afterward, head down to the nearby Pont d’Avignon, which predates the palace (you can buy a combined ticket for the two attractions). To get there, head into the center of Avignon via car, bus, or train. You can’t miss the palace rising high above the terracotta rooftops of the town.
Palais des Festivals des Congrès, Cannes
By Ucman from BrownBoyTravels
The Palace of Festivals and Conferences (officially Palais des Festivals et des Congrès) has the attention of the entire world every year in May when Cannes Film Festival lays its red carpet and arrive the glitterati, celebrities, and who’s who of showbiz from the world around and France. Being invited to the Cannes Film Festival is a mark of true celebrity. The venue must match the grandeur and sophistication of the event.
The event has been happening since 1938 but the current building has been hosting the event since 1982. It is built in modernist style with sharp lines and the current building is located on the top of Boulevard de la Croisette, on the east side from Cannes Port. It is a short walk to the labyrinth of old market of Cannes and a busy place.
The building has been updated to high tech facilities with 18 auditoriums and exhibition space of 35,000 sq. metres.
It is not commonly known but apart from the festival and multiple conferences, the building also hosts the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and NRJ Music awards.
[Editors note] Calanques National Park and Verdon Gorge are also located in Provence but were included in the Natural Landmarks, as they are some of the most famous natural landmarks in France.
Other famous Landmarks in France
By Victoria from Guide your Travel
Mont-Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Normandie in the north of France. This incredible structure is located on a small island in an estuary. Most of the time, Mont-Saint Michel isn’t actually surrounded by water, so you can walk there easily. In recent years a bridge was built that lets tourists make their way to the island. It takes around 45 minutes to walk, but there are also complimentary shuttle buses available. Visiting Mont-Saint Michel is free but to visit the historic abbey you have to pay 11€. If you’re a European Citizen under the age of 25, you do not have to pay.
The best way to get to Mont-Saint Michel is by car. There is parking available on the mainland, where the shuttle buses leave. The island is gorgeous, with ancient architecture and incredible views. Definitely make sure to pack your camera when you visit Mont-Saint Michel. It can get quite crowded during the summer so going early in the morning is highly advisable. It will be very hot during the summer months, and especially the walk to Mont-Saint Michel will take a lot of energy. Pack plenty of water and put on sunscreen to protect yourself.
Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Metz
By Martina & Jürgen from PlacesofJuma
One of the most beautiful monuments of France is located in the city of Metz: La cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz, known in English as the Cathedral of Saint Stephen. The builders designed this extraordinary monument already 800 years ago, creating then the third largest cathedral in France. It is located directly in the old town and can be easily visited via a city walk.
This imposing church building was built for 300 years, between 1220 and 1520 and is still considered one of the most spectacular Gothic church buildings in the country. This landmark is most famous for its 42-meter high interior and the approximately 6500 m² of stained glass, which earned the church the nickname “La lanterne du Bon Dieu “meaning the lantern of the dear God. This was designed from the 13th to the 20th century by Hermann von Münster, Thiébault de Lixheim, Valentin Bousch, Jacques Villon or even Marc Chagall.
Although the church is not on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this cultural monument was classified as a historical monument in 1930 and is therefore protected. Numerous events like concerts, exhibitions, conferences, tours are taking place in the building and invite people to discover this Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral de Reims
By Jane and Duncan from To Travel Too
The Notre Dame Cathedral de Reims (Our Lady of Reims), also known as the Reims Cathedral, is located at Place du Cardinal Lucon in Reims.
Reims is the perfect day trip from Paris Gare de L’est Station taking just 46 minutes on the TGV.
The Cathedral began construction in the 13th century and was completed in the 15th century and was constructed in the High Gothic style.
Reims Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was the location of the coronation of 33 Kings of France over 1000 years, including the famous coronation of Charles VII in 1429 in the presence of Joan of Arc.
The Reims Cathedral was dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
When you visit during the summer months, one of the Reims Cathedral highlights is the Reve de Couleurs. There are two shows, 25 minutes each evening from the end of May to the end of August. The Light Show highlights the construction of the Cathedral as well as the many statues inside the Cathedral. Check at the Tourist Office for the starting times as it depends on the timing of sunset throughout the summer months.
Cité de Carcassonne
By Elisa from France Bucket List
The Cité de Carcassonne, in the Occitanie region, is a fascinating landmark in Southern France. This ensemble of medieval castle and citadel surrounded by impressive ramparts is listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 1997.
The Cité de Carcassonne was built in the 12th on the ruins of previous Gallo Roman structures, with later additions in the 13th and 14th centuries. During the Crusades, Carcassonne supported the Cathars – a Christian movement declared as heresy by the Catholic Church – and the Pope’s troops badly damaged the Cité. After many years abandoned, the Cité was restored in the 19th century by the famous architect Viollet-le-Duc. He is responsible for Carcassonne’s pointed towers so typical of the North of France!
A stroll around Carcassonne’s narrow streets and medieval buildings is like a step back in time. Inside the castle, there’s a small museum about the Cathars, and it is also possible to climb to the top of the walls and do the tour. From there, the views over the lower city and the plains are amazing!
Carcassonne is also one of the must-stops along the Cathar Route. This tourist route in Southern France explores the main sites related to the Cathars: medieval castles, citadels, villages, and abbeys. This area is also famous for the cassoulet, a delicious regional dish.
Château de Chambord
Located in Chambord, in the Loire Valley, the Chambord palace (or Château de Chambord) is one of the most iconic castles in the world, easily recognizable by almost everyone because of its unique features blending traditional French medieval designs with classical renaissance structures. Despite never being finished, it is the biggest castle in the Loire valley.
It took 28 years to construct the Chambord (1519–1547), and despite its size, it was mostly a hunting lodge, not the official residence. The castle’s design changed a lot during its construction, and there are still many doubts about who actually designed it. Several names are mentioned, including Leonardo da Vinci. One of the most famous features of the castle is the double-spiral staircase which is said to be inspired by da Vinci’s work (or even designed by him).
The Chambord is one of the most famous French landmarks, and visiting it is at least a half-a-day job. The castle is huge, and the grounds and gardens surrounding also deserve our attention as they make a wonderful experience. The gardens were fully restored to the original designs, based on paintings of the time.
Château de Chantilly
By Norbert from World in Paris
Château de Chantilly is one of the most beautiful castles in Northern France. It is located 45 kilometers north of Paris, connected to the French capital by direct trains. Therefore, it is one of the most popular day trips from Paris, very easy to organize without a guided tour.
Château de Chantilly is not a royal castle. Still, its beauty and picturesque location – in the middle of a pond -, attracted kings and queens who enjoyed lavish parties organized by its owner.
Château de Chantilly’s last owner, the Prince of Condé, was very interested in arts and literature. His collection of paintings is one of the most important collections in France, only second to the Louvre Museum, and it is displayed in the same way the prince showed it to his guests. The library and reading room are also wonderful, with an interesting collection of rare books.
The castle is surrounded by magnificent gardens in French and English styles. The French-style garden was designed by André le Notre, the same landscape designer that created the Versailles Gardens. The English-style garden is more recent, and it includes a hamlet like in Versailles.
Trains to Chantilly leave from Paris Gare du Nord hourly. The journey lasts 40 minutes, one way.
Château de Fontainebleau
By Kenny Chow from Knycx Journeying
Fontainebleau is a popular destination for a getaway among Paris locals and a perfect day trip for travelers because of its proximate location, historic value, and natural forest. The Château de Fontainebleau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hidden gem in Paris backyard. The city of Fontainebleau is merely 45-minute away from Central Paris’ Gare du Lyon by train; Another great way to get there is by rental car so that you can explore the area at your own pace.
The Château de Fontainebleau is a must-see location as the site is extravagantly decorated through centuries of expansion and remodeling, serving as the imperial residences of several French Kings from Louis VII to Napoleon III. Check out the many apartments, halls, and chapels – each of them has its own signature and is distinctive by looking at the paintings, the furniture, and the wallpaper.
The palace is considered one of the French King’s favorites residences because 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, ornamental rocks, exotic trees, and winding pathways. The Grand Parterre is the largest French-style formal garden in Europe, with 45,000 flowering plants and a 1,200 meters long canal.
By Monique from Trip Anthropologist
After the Palace of Versaille, Château Chenonceau is the most visited castle in France. This is for three main reasons. Firstly, it is an easy day trip from Paris by train or car. Paris is 214 km away. The château itself is located 5 km from the village of Chenonceau.
The second reason is that the Château Chenonceau lies in the heart of the Loire Valley, the former hunting grounds of the French Kings. The Château is 40 km from Tours which is a major hub for tourists visiting the 42 castles in the Loire Valley. Together these castles are a UNESCO site.
The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes was designated by UNESCO as a landscape of great cultural beauty and containing great architectural monuments (the châteaux) in 2000.
The third reason for the popularity of Château Chenonceau is its rich and fascinating history over the centuries and its lush woodland setting. The castle has been built across the River Cher, and visitors can walk along with the Gallery that spans the river. Surrounding the castle are gardens by some of the most famous women in European history. In fact, the Château is known as the Ladies Château or the Château of the Dames because of its ownership by five powerful women, including Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers.
By Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
Also known as Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, Strasbourg Cathedral is one of the top attractions in Strasbourg and Alsace region. This 15th-century catholic cathedral is the finest example of Gothic architecture. Standing majestic at 142 meters, Strasbourg Cathedral was the world’s tallest building and it held this position for 227 years between 1647 to 1874. Today, it is the sixth tallest church in the world.
The cathedral is part of Strasbourg’s historic city center which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The intricate details of the cathedral’s facade itself are a testimony of how exemplary the architecture is. The pink sandstone changes its color according to the time of day and the color of the sky.
Inside you cannot miss the details of the rose window, suspended pipe organ, or the nave. The astronomical clock located in the south transept is another important feature of the cathedral. Don’t miss the performance by the animated figures of the clock, which happens every day at 12:30 pm.
The most impressive and thrilling part of visiting Strasbourg Cathedral is climbing to the top platform. Taking 332 spiral steps is sure tiring, but the views you get to enjoy from the top are second to none – one of the best panoramic views of Strasbourg city and its red roofs. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Vosges Mountains and the Black Forest.
Le Petite France, Strasbourg
By Alexander Waltner from Gourmand Trotter
Le Petite France is the historic quarter of Strasbourg and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is also known as Quartier des Tanneurs in French and Gerberviertel in German. In the Middle ages, this area was home to tanners, millers, and fishermen. It’s a very well-preserved area with a large number of half-timbered buildings. Le Petite France is a very popular site among visitors and it’s definitely one of the most charming neighborhoods in Europe. It’s a great example of the region’s heritage along the border between France and Germany.
The oldest house in town is the Tanners house, dating back to 1572, although there are several houses in Petite France that were built in the 16th century as well as in the 17th century. This area is also famous for its beautiful canals and it’s lovely to go for a stroll along the water and just admire the beautiful architecture and quaint atmosphere.
La Petite France is centrally located in Strasbourg and can be reached in 15-20 minutes on foot from the central station. There are also buses and taxis available. Petite France was designated a World Heritage Status by UNESCO in 1988 and it’s a great symbol of Franco-German culture.
The citadel of Bonifacio
By Annabel from Smudged Postcard
The citadel of Bonifacio is located on the south coast of Corsica. This 9th century fortress town sits precipitously above its modern namesake – the town below features a harbour full of luxury yachts and trendy bars which seem very much at odds with the medieval citadel above. The limestone cliffs have been eroded by the sea so that the old town appears to overhang them.
Bonifacio has been fought over many times. It has its roots in pre-history and there is evidence of a Roman settlement on the site. However, its most significant history began in the 9th century when Boniface II of Tuscany built a fortress there to protect the Tuscan mainland. Much of the town has since been modified many times over the centuries. What still exists is an impressive reflection of European history.
The citadel, which is 70 metres above sea level, is best reached via a small tourist train – cars are not permitted (nor do they fit – the streets are extremely narrow). Otherwise, it is a slow steep climb to the top. The views across the Mediterranean from the citadel are impressive, on a clear day you can see Sardinia (12 kilometres to the south) and the Isles Lavezzi – a protected nature reserve.
Bonifacio is best reached by car – there is plenty of parking in the new part of the town. The nearest airport is Figari and there are daily ferries operating from Sardinia.
Basilica of Note-Dame de Fourviere, Lyon
By Emma from Journey of a Nomadic Family
The city of Lyon is one of those cities that you cannot help be impressed by. With two rivers joining, it’s not hard to see why Lyon was one of the most important Roman empire towns, founded in 43BC. The arched bridges crossing the rivers elude a certain richness whilst the intricate Renaissance architecture looms high above you. Don’t forget to look up in awe, and you’ll realize why Lyon is often described as one of France’s most underrated cities.
Vieux Lyon and The Basilica of Note-Dame de Fourviere sit to the west of the city, in prime place on the hill guarding this delightful city below. Although it is described as a minor Basilica, it is enormously impressive especially if you consider it was constructed in 1872. The Basilica sits on land once occupied by Romans and was designed by architects, Pierre Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin.
The Basilica of Note-Dame de Fourviere is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site welcoming over 2.5 million visitors each year. A fun way to visit is by catching the Funicular railway from Vieux Lyon, although you can walk and drive too. Parking is very limited and ticketed strictly.
Containing two churches, the upper floor of the Basilica is lavish & exquisite in size, design, and color. Some visitors forget the lower and less ornate lower floor, which is still worthy of a tour. Walking around the outside, you’ll discover four towers and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. Find the viewpoint to see Lyon in all its glory.
Whilst you’re in the area, just south of the Basilica lie a Roman theatre and odeon, the main remains of the Roman city of Lugdunum.
Giverny, Fondation Claude Monet
By Lena Drevermann from Salut from Paris
It is possible, that you have never heard of Giverny, but you surely know Claude Monet, the founding father of the French Impressionism. The famous painter spent many years of his live in Giverny, a little village within the Normandie region, just an hour outside of Paris.
The Foundation Claude Monet, namely his house and gardens are a popular day trip destination from Paris but shouldn’t be missing on any Normandie trip, really. The house itself is nice to see, already as it’s a vivid display of life around 1900, but also for Monet’s huge collection of Japanese art. However, the real reason to visit Giverny is certainly Monet’s Gardens.
Monet lived in Giverny for 46 years, and his gardens were a pure source of inspiration for his art. They consist of a beautiful water garden, an orchard, and a flower garden with an unbelievable variety. Most of his famous paintings were inspired by his water gardens, though. The Japanese bridge, the weeping willows, and the thousands of water lilies are a motive that is displayed in countless masterpieces.
The easiest way to visit Giverny is by book a tour from Paris, but you can also reach the Fondation Claude Monet by car or train. Just keep in mind that the site is closed for the public during the winter months.
By Ania James from The Travelling Twins
The Viaduct Millau is a French landmark and an engineering marvel. The Millau viaduct is one of the most spectacular bridges in the world. It’s a long, multi-span cable-stayed bridge that spans over 300 metres and crosses the French River Tarn near Millau, France. The construction team was led by engineer Michel Virlogeux and English architect Norman Foster with help from prestigious engineering firms.
The tallest tower of the viaduct is 343 meters, and the deck height is 270 meters. this makes the Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge, but if we talk about the highest bridges – the deck height it is only the twenty-sixth highest bridge in the world.
Construction began in 2003; it was completed in 2004 with the first traffic crossing on December 15th of that year, opening to pedestrians three days later. The bridge spans 16 lanes of highway A75 and railroad tracks south-eastwards from Villeneuveitre.
Crossing bridge is quite pricy as in the high summer season toll fee for small vehicle is above 10 euros. But the views are breathtaking.
Natural Landmarks in France
Pink Granite Coast in Brittany
By Veronika Primm from TravelGeekery
The Pink Granite Coast of Brittany, called Côte de Granit Rose in French, is a series of unique rock formations of a pink hue created about 300 million years ago.
The rocks come in various sizes and shapes and decorate the whole coast of this part of Brittany. You can let your imagination run wild and see random objects in the rocks.
The uniquely pinkish hue is due to some elaborate geological processes involving a mixture of minerals exposed to magnum. The power of wind and tide then took care of creating the funky shapes.
You can enjoy it all on a light Brittany hike – it’s one of the prettiest in the area. The Pink Granite Coast forms a part of the legendary GR34 hiking trail running all along with Brittany. But it’s not just the pink rocks that are unique on this coastline. You can look forward to a few lovely beaches, a lighthouse, and a unique statue of a local monk Saint-Guirec.
To get to the Pink Granite Coast you’ll need a car. Park it either in the village of Perros-Guirec or Ploumanac’h. The distance between them is 4.4 km (2.7 miles) and you’ll need about an hour and 40 minutes to hike it (one way).
Even though this unique natural landmark is currently not on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the local tourism board is hard at work to make it happen in the future.
Dune du PIlat
By Casandra Karpiak from Karpiak Caravan
Dune du Pilat is one of the tallest sand dunes in Europe. The dune is located on the Atlantic coast near Arcachon Bay in the region of Aquitaine. The dune stands at an impressive height of over 300 meters (984 feet), and it’s one of the most well-known landmarks in France. You will need to walk up the stairs to the top on foot, but you can also take a boat ride around the bay for an even better view.
There are many fun activities at Dune du Pilat like hiking, biking, exploring its many trails, fishing in its saltwater lagoon, or simply relaxing by the beach. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, the Dune du Pilat is a great place to start. This picturesque beach in France is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and it’s not hard to see why. The dunes are so high that they can be seen from space.
You can access Dune du Pilat by both train and car. From Bordeaux, it is a 70km drive or a 50 min train trip plus bus line. There is a parking lot for vehicles which is a quick walk to the seasonal staircase to access the Dune.
Gorge du Verdon, Provence
By Izzy & Phil from The Gap Decaders
One of the must-see natural landmarks of France, the Gorge du Verdon, is 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.
By Ophelie from limitless Secrets
The Calanques are one of the most impressive natural landmarks in France! Located between Marseille and Cassis, the calanques look like steep limestone coastal cliffs coming inland. In the National Park of the Calanques the landscapes, the nature and the biodiversity are exceptional. Not only the cliffs are stunning but also the waters are crystal clear!
The Calanques are a great place for all outdoor and adventure lovers. You can hike there, but you can also do some kayak or swim. And they always offer some breathtaking views! They are especially popular in spring and summer and they get up to one million visitors every year. This is the reason why a National Park was created to protect them. The park stretches from Marseille to Cassis and La Ciotat over 24 km and counts 15 calanques in total.
Some of the best Calanques to visit are the Calanque d’En-Vau, the Calanque de Sormiou and the Calanque du Sugiton. The Calanque d’En-Vau is well-known for being the most stunning one. It’s located in the middle of two very high cliffs. The Calanque de Sormiou is the largest one and offers the most beautiful sand beach. Lastly, the Calanque du Sugiton provides some scenic views.
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