France is known internationally for its fine cuisine, romantic cities, and overwhelming art collections. But the country has more to offer, and its historical monuments should not be missed by serious Francophiles. And since it is practically impossible to make a list of all those monuments, much less visit them all, we have chosen a few favorites, in and out of Paris where most of them are located.
When you think of France, the Eiffel Tower comes up on your mind instantly, and no trip to France can be complete without visiting the country’s most popular and most visited landmark. The Eiffel tower was built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Republic. There can be a long wait to explore the attractions within, but it is well worth it especially when you go there at night.
Cité of Carcassonne
Located in the French city of Carcassonne in the Occitanie region, the Cité of Carcassonne is a medieval village that has 52 towers and two massive walls that surround the buildings, streets, and a Gothic cathedral. As early as the 6th century BC, this village has been an important Roman town up until the Middle Ages. It has a very long history that made it one of France’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, welcoming more than 4 million visitors a year.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is a symbolic landmark for the French people erected to honor the soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. Underneath the world’s biggest arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose flame is rekindled every day at 6:30 in the evening. Visitors can get a panoramic view over the whole of Paris when reaching the top terrace.
Notre Dame de Paris
Arguably the most famous church in the world, the Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic masterpiece that has become the stuff of legends because of Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published in 1831. Its construction started in the 12th century and finished 300 years later with the bourdon or tenor bell called Emmanuel, the biggest bell of Notre-Dame, housed in the cathedral’s biggest belfry. The panoramic terrace lets visitors get a 360-degree view over Paris.
Palace of the Popes
Palace of the Popes or Palais des Papes is a 14th-century symbol of the influence of Western Christianity. As the name suggests, this has been the home of Catholic popes for most of its 1,500-year history. Located in Avignon, it has 15,000 square meters of living space and rooms, one of which is adorned by a painting by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.
France has more than 40,000 officially classified historical monuments, and these are the more popular ones and listed by many travelers as must-see sites. Iconic and stunning, these monuments represent France’s long history that is filled with art, religion, battlefields, and are a big part of the French national heritage.