France's World Heritage Sites

Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi

France is proud to have dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites within its borders

Canal du Midi

Visit time : 2 to 4 days.

The Canal du Midi, completed during the reign of Louis XIV, is extraordinary in its scope, representing one of the major works of civil engineering. Its conception, the ingenuity required by Pierre Paul Riquet to feed water to the canal and the creation of dozens of water features along its route, all testify to its exceptional technological innovation. It opened a safe and fast navigable link between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, thus providing commercial prosperity to the regions it crossed in the three centuries of its use.

At a length of 240 kilometers, the Canal du Midi was the largest construction site of its time and today remains the oldest canal in Europe still in operation. Beyond the technical challenges overcome by Pierre Paul Riquet, it is the aesthetics of his architecture and the landscapes created that make the Canal du Midi so unique.

Carcassonne Cite Medievale

Carcassonne
Visit time: 1 day.

Words are difficult to find when seeing this medieval city unfold before your eyes. Few places in the world have so much to tell. Carcassonne possesses an exceptional legacy of a fortified city from the Middle Ages. Immerse yourself in an ancient world and soak up the atmosphere, in this city that transports visitors of all ages into a medieval dream.Causses et Cevennes

Causses et Cevennes

Visit time : 4 days to 1 week.

The site of the Causses and the Cévennes is certainly one of the most comprehensive classified sites to discover, combining natural elements (canyons, plateaus, mountains, caves) and cultural ones (agro-pastoralism, agriculture, construction, architecture).

These cultural landscapes are also reflected through the region’s gastronomy (lamb, cheese). On the farm, on the drailles (paths used for transhumance) or in the villages, visitors are especially encouraged soak up the atmosphere by meeting the people who live here. After discovering this thousand-year old land, it’s sure to be difficult to leave.

Fontainebleau Palais et Parc
Fontainebleau

Visit Time: half-day.
If Versailles is the pinnacle of an era and of a king (Louis XIV), Fontainebleau illustrates eight centuries of French history. Over thirty rulers resided within these walls, and each one has left his mark, his extension, and his style, making the Palace a patchwork of architectural techniques.

Though it witnessed great pages of French history, it is itself a symbol of the adaptation of Italian Renaissance art in the 16th century, allowing visitors today to admire the exceptional richness of its decorations and furniture. From the ground to the ceiling, precious wood flooring, woodwork, tapestries, fireplaces, paintings, sculptures... every square meter of the Palace is richly decorated, offering its visitors continuous delight.
Juridiction de Saint Emilion

Juridiction de Saint Emilion
Visit time: 2 days.
The picturesque village of Saint-Emilion is perfect for a stroll down its medieval cobblestone streets. But that’s not the only reason visitors venture here. A name known around the world, Saint-Emilion has a reputation that has been earned over the centuries through the trade of wine production, omnipresent in the landscape of the Jurisdiction.

Only the wine estates, each more sumptuous than the other, stud this vineyard landscape shaped by man. The best way to understand this land and its traditions is to taste the nectar of its labor (in moderation), legacy of its long and singular history.

Lyon

Lyon
Visit Time: 1 day.
Lyon is a city of history and culture whose strategic position has shaped its destiny for more than 2,000 years. From the Fourvière district, birthplace of the Roman Lugdunum, to the slopes of the silk district Croix Rousse, from Vieux Lyon in medieval and Renaissance architecture to the Presqu'Île (the peninsula) that developed in the 19th century, Lyon offers a unique architectural, social, cultural and historical diversity.

The city has frequently played a major role in the political, cultural and economic development of Europe. To walk through these neighborhoods is to relive a rich history. As Lugdunum was once the capital of Gaul, Lyon is now the capital of painted walls, puppet theater, silk and gastronomy.

Massif du Mont Perdu

Massif du Mont Perdu
Visit Time: 1 to 3 days.
This site is an example of nature at its purest, immediately evident upon arrival at the Cirque de Gavarnie: spectacular rock formations, and abundant and varied wildlife and flora. Discovering these natural resources along the beaten trails is a true delight. But this trans-border site, dominated by Mont Perdu that rises to 3,352 meters above sea level, is also classified as a World Heritage site for its cultural legacy.

Since the 11th century, the inhabitants of these valleys have shaped the landscape, and the fusion between man and environment promoted exchanges between the French and Spanish communities. This classification thus confirms the tradition of pastoralism in the Pyrénées. Here, history, culture and nature combine to offer visitors a mix of intense emotions.
Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel
Visit Time: 1 day.
The Mont-Saint-Michel stands on a rocky mount in the middle of stretches of sand and water that make up the immense bay. Not really on the continent, not really at sea, between the world of men and the wild vastness of the ocean. Between heaven and earth, its imposing figure seems to rise to the heavens. The lights, which change from morning to night, and the atmosphere, at times mystical in the sea mist, enhance these impressions, along with the breathtaking vision upon arrival at the site.

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For the full effect, travel to Mont Saint Michel on foot from the mainland, as did hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for centuries, and you will understand the magic that surrounds this place. Victor Hugo summed up the feeling in 1884 : "Mont-Saint-Michel is to France what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt."

Orange Monuments Antiques

Orange Monuments Antiques
Visit time : half-day.
The city of Arausio (its ancient Roman name) offers its Roman Theater and Triumphal Arch as a testament to its 2,000 years of history. Both are in exceptional condition, as if the tragedies that were played in the theater happened just yesterday, and as if the visitors who pass under the Triumphal Arch on the Via Agrippa were the Emperor Augustus himself.

The 20th century would be marked by the introduction of one of the largest festivals of lyrical art, the Choregies of Orange, which allowed the city to shine once again on the worldwide stage. The festival’s operas and symphonic concerts take place at the heart of the Roman Theater, offering a combination of history and culture, and timeless, magical moments.

Paris Rives de la Seine

Paris Rives de la Seine

Visit time : 4 days to 1 week.
It is of course “Paris, city of light”, but also “Paris, capital – and symbol— of France”, a city that expresses its country’s influence throughout the world. The city of Paris is a stunning architectural ensemble, built up over the centuries in spectacular unity. The area of the classified site that runs along the banks of the Seine reflects the evolution of the city and the importance of the river that runs through it.

It offers visitors views of the most beautiful monuments in Paris, simultaneously tracing the city’s rich history. As you visit, you will move from the oldest districts, already occupied in ancient times, to the palaces of the kings, on to the major axes created by Baron Haussmann in the 19th century, and finally arrive at the 20th century additions and the Eiffel Tower. The history of Paris unfolds before your eyes in an enthralling journey through time. Whether cultural, historic, artistic, religious or architectural, the city’s rich heritage offers something for everyone.

Place Stanislas Nancy

Place Stanislas Nancy

Visit time : 1 day.
The three main squares in Nancy – Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance – were built in the 18th century. This ensemble was designed to create a link between the old town and the new town while prioritizing public utility. The most spectacular, Place Stanislas, is a unique architectural gem that captures visitors with its beautiful fountains, gates and layout. It is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world. The downtown area of Nancy also showcases a series of bold and romantic Art Deco and Art Nouveau architecture.

Reims Monuments Religieux

Reims Monuments Religieux

Visit time : 1 day.
Though today the name Reims first evokes the capital of Champagne, now famous around the world, long before that it was the site of many important episodes of French history. The cathedral was indeed the place of coronation of the kings of France, and in total, 32 sovereigns, including 29 kings, succeeded one another here in Reims, expressing through their crowning a superiority over their people and a proximity to God.

The religious buildings in the city were certainly noble enough for the prestigious visitors they received. The Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Basilique Saint Rémi and the Palais du Tau all contribute to this religious, architectural and historical ensemble, unique in France. It is on this basis that the city’s religious heritage was selected as a World Heritage Site.

Saint Savin peinture cote nord entree vers transept

Saint Savin peinture cote nord entree vers transept

Visit time : half-day.
The abbey of Saint-Savin is a jewel of Romanesque art from the 11th and 12th centuries. Through its balanced volumes, it is a true representation of western Romanesque architecture. Its paintings, created by Benedictine monks, make up the largest set of Romanesque paintings in Europe.

The profusion of images painted on the wall panels combined with the quality of a prestigious setting constitute an exceptional testimony to medieval civilization and its modes of representation and dissemination of ideas. This exceptional collection has earned the site the nickname "Sistine Chapel of the French Middle Ages."

Saline D'arc et Senans

Saline D'arc et Senans

Visit time : 1 day.
Royal Saltworks of Arc et Senans, begun in 1770, is a masterpiece of industrial architecture, reflecting the ideal of progress of the Enlightenment. The architectural heritage of the Royal Saltworks, its history and its rehabilitation make it a unique monument that remains a rare example of industrial history and architecture classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

As for the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains, active for 12 centuries, it marked the history of the production of open-pan salt (by evaporation).

This "white gold" was an essential commodity of great economic importance, and for several centuries the state levied a tax on its sale, the salt tax. Visiting the two sites allows visitors to relive their prestigious history.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg
Visit time : 2 - 3 days.
The Grande Ile of Strasbourg was selected as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1988. It is on this site that the city has developed since Antiquity and the creation of the Roman castrum of Argentorate. The historic center of Strasbourg is full of a unique heritage that runs from medieval times to the present day. Its urban heritage, as varied as it is exceptional, is the result of continuous economic prosperity throughout the history of Strasbourg.

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Indeed, the city is located at a commercial crossroads of European dimension. From north to south and from east to west, men, ideas and goods have been transported and exchanged for centuries.  Strasbourg is unique in Europe for its cultural, intellectual, artistic and architectural mix.

Val de Loire Blois

Val de Loire Blois
Visit time : 1 week.
The Loire Valley is the largest site ever registered in France as World Heritage site by UNESCO. The site crosses a multitude of historic towns and villages, rich with architectural heritage and ancient history. It reveals religious buildings and castles, each more sumptuous than the last, cultivated land and wild landscapes exploding with biodiversity. This ensemble, which witnessed thousands of years of interactions between man and nature, is a cultural landscape of exception.

The Loire River is at the heart of this landscape. Indeed, without it, none of this would exist. The largest river in France, and the wildest, it is nicknamed "the Royal River." The Loire Valley was chosen as a royal residence in the 15th and 16th century. Several days are needed to explore the natural and cultural heritage of these landscapes. Take the time to soak up the history, culture and landscapes, and your stay in the Loire Valley will be unforgettable.

Cathedrale de Bourges

Cathedrale de Bourges
Visit time : 1 day.
The realization of the Bourges Cathedral was intended to express the power of the king and the archbishop of the city, especially over the south of France and of the Aquitaine region, which had passed into the hands of the English.

The result is amazing. Its exceptional size, the bold and innovative architectural pyramid construction, the speed of its completion, its ornate decorations, sculptures and stained-glass windows … everything that characterizes this cathedral makes it one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture. Its unparalleled beauty would mark history and influence other European cathedrals for many years to come.

Basilique et colline de Vezelay Visit time : half-day. The hill of Vézelay entered into history in the 9th century, when it first hosted the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene. It became one of the four historic departure points on pilgrimage route of Saint Jacques de Compostela. And it was just few meters from the Romanesque basilica where the Third Crusade was begun, in the presence of the kings of France and England. At the foot of this architectural masterpiece lies the picturesque village of Vézelay, nestled next to the mound nicknamed the "eternal hill". 
Imbued with a mystical dimension visitors walking along these medieval streets will discover the artistic treasures of the basilica, just as the pilgrims and artists who came here for spiritual or cultural inspiration have done throughout the past.

Basilique et colline de Vezelay
Visit time : half-day.
The hill of Vézelay entered into history in the 9th century, when it first hosted the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene. It became one of the four historic departure points on pilgrimage route of Saint Jacques de Compostela. And it was just few meters from the Romanesque basilica where the Third Crusade was begun, in the presence of the kings of France and England.

At the foot of this architectural masterpiece lies the picturesque village of Vézelay, nestled next to the mound nicknamed the "eternal hill". 
Imbued with a mystical dimension visitors walking along these medieval streets will discover the artistic treasures of the basilica, just as the pilgrims and artists who came here for spiritual or cultural inspiration have done throughout the past.

Historic Center of Arles Arles has the largest number of ancient Roman monuments, after the city of Rome itself! A city of culture and history, Arles guides visitors on an extraordinary, timeless journey. Two thousand years of history, reflecting each of the city’s periods of prosperity, unfold in its streets, squares and monuments. In the footsteps of Van Gogh, who was inspired by its colors and light, Arles breathes with life.

Historic Center of Arles
Visit time: 2-3 days.
Arles has the largest number of ancient Roman monuments, after the city of Rome itself! A city of culture and history, Arles guides visitors on an extraordinary, timeless journey. Two thousand years of history, reflecting each of the city’s periods of prosperity, unfold in its streets, squares and monuments. In the footsteps of Van Gogh, who was inspired by its colors and light, Arles breathes with life.
Pont du Gard - Remoulins Visit time : half-day. Exceptional for the quality of its construction and dimensions, the Pont du Gard is a global masterpiece of unique architectural and aesthetic work. Beautifully integrated within its surroundings, the bridge exudes a certain lightness despite its 50,000 tons! Every year, more than one million visitors come to admire its beautiful ocher colors at sunset and its surroundings, both of which have regained their former charm since the redevelopment of the site in 2000. This work of art, a unique part of our global heritage, is one of the few wonders of antiquity that has survived the centuries, allowing generations of today and tomorrow to appreciate its value.

Pont du Gard - Remoulins
Visit time : half-day.
Exceptional for the quality of its construction and dimensions, the Pont du Gard is a global masterpiece of unique architectural and aesthetic work. Beautifully integrated within its surroundings, the bridge exudes a certain lightness despite its 50,000 tons!

Every year, more than one million visitors come to admire its beautiful ocher colors at sunset and its surroundings, both of which have regained their former charm since the redevelopment of the site in 2000. This work of art, a unique part of our global heritage, is one of the few wonders of antiquity that has survived the centuries, allowing generations of today and tomorrow to appreciate its value.
Find out more about these sites at France's World Heritage site website.

Abbaye de Fontenay Abbey of Fontenay—Montbard Visit time : half-day. Nestled in the hollow of a green valley and surrounded by forests, the Abbey of Fontenay is an outstanding example of a Cistercian monastery, one of the major vestiges of the architecture of this monastic order in Europe. The state of conservation of the ensemble is exceptional. Its beautiful Romanesque architecture, harmonious and austere, has smoothly crossed the centuries without major incident. The solemnity and beauty of the place conveys a purity that reflects the lives of the ascetics who inhabited the site for centuries.

Abbaye de Fontenay
Visit time : half-day.
Nestled in the hollow of a green valley and surrounded by forests, the Abbey of Fontenay is an outstanding example of a Cistercian monastery, one of the major vestiges of the architecture of this monastic order in Europe.

The state of conservation of the ensemble is exceptional. Its beautiful Romanesque architecture, harmonious and austere, has smoothly crossed the centuries without major incident. The solemnity and beauty of the place conveys a purity that reflects the lives of the ascetics who inhabited the site for centuries.

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