10 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France

Most Beautiful French Historical Landmarks

    Picking the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites isn’t an easy task. With over 2,000 years of history, you can bet that there’s a good choice of historical landmarks in France. At the time of writing, 41 have been listed by UNESCO.

    Unique, beautiful, historically important – all the UNESCO World Heritage sites listed below are well worth seeing. Being spread around the 6 corners of the ‘Hexagon’ (one of France’s nicknames) means that one of them may be near your next destination. Get ready for a virtual travel back in time in a country as famous for its architectural and engineering prowess as it is for its wines and gastronomy.

    1

    The Mont-Saint-Michel

    One of the most emblematic landmarks in France

    The Mont-Saint-Michel is a unique site 600 meters off the coast of Normandy, in the northwest of France. This island commune dates back to the 8th century. Built for protection, it’s never been conquered, thanks to the tide reputed for “changing as swiftly as a galloping horse” (according to Victor Hugo). Abbey, fortress, prison, and now major tourist site, a visit to the Mont-Saint-Michel will take you back to the middle ages.

    If you want to stay on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel, there are only a handful of accommodations options so be sure to book ahead.

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    2

    The banks of the River Seine in Paris

    See the long history of nation’s capital city

    The section of the banks of the River Seine listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site stretches for almost 5 km, from the Eiffel Tower in the west to Notre-Dame Cathedral in the east. Lined with stunning landmarks such as the Louvres Museum, the Grand Palais, and the City Hall, the Seine riverside is like a huge open-air museum in the heart of Paris. To stay in the area, we have hotel options conveniently located along the River Seine for you to choose from. Use our detailed map to select one suited to your liking.

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    3

    Carcassonne Walled City

    Explore a city established for over 2,000 years

    Founded by the Visigoths on a pre-Roman settlement during the 5th century, Carcassonne is an impressive fortified city. It’s strategically located in the southwest of France, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Entirely restored in the mid-19th century, it doesn’t only showcase a stunning bygone décor, but it’s also a pleasant place warmed by the cheerful nature of its inhabitants.

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    4

    Palace and Park of Versailles

    The residence of the last King of France

    The Palace and Park of Versailles sit about 20 km southwest of Paris city center. The last residence of the last king of France, Louis XVI, it’s a regal artwork built by the best artisans of the 17th century. Get ready to be amazed throughout your visit to Versailles. From the jardins à la française to the Hall of Mirrors, you’ll feel like you’re part of a fairy tale.

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    5

    Chartres Cathedral

    One of the most impressive cathedrals in France

    Considered a masterpiece of French Gothic art and architecture, Chartres Cathedral dates back to the end of the 12th century. Located around 80 km southwest of Paris, it’s famous for its tall spires, which respectively reach up to 105 and 113 meters. The size and beauty of its stained glass windows is also remarkable.

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    6

    Historical center of Avignon

    Tour the former French papal city

    Settled on the banks of the Rhône River, in the southeast of France, Avignon is a walled city renowned for its status as the home of the Pope during the 14th century. This left the city with splendid edifices that include the Papal Palace and Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral. Another of Avignon’s UNESCO-listed architectural monuments is the Saint-Bénézet Bridge, which is celebrated in the famous French nursery rhyme ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’. To see all these specacular landmarks, choose your accommodations in Avignon based on location, so that you can easily visit them all by foot.

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    7

    Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments

    Venture through some remains of the Roman Empire

    Arles is a historical city settled between Montpellier and Marseilles, on the French Riviera. Sat on the banks of the Rhône River, Arles was established in 800 BC by the Ligurians, before to be taken by the Romans. The long existence of the city left an impressive number of historical monuments, including Arles Amphitheater, the Thermes of Constantine, the Church of Saint-Trophime, and many other.

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    8

    Canal du Midi

    Spend your vacation on a historical canal

    Stretching for 240 km between Toulouse and the Étang de Thau, the Canal du Midi links the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea in the southwest of France. It’s therefore also known as the canal of the two seas. Built at the end of the 17th century, it’s a remarkable feat of civil engineering. Originally built to convey goods such as wheat, it’s now mainly used for river tourism and recreation.

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    9

    Bordeaux, Port of the Moon

    A timeless setting

    The Port of the Moon owes its name to the crescent shape of the River Garonne in the center of Bordeaux. The city and its port have been developed throughout 2,000 years of history as an important commercial hub in the southwest of France. Today, the banks of the river host many historical buildings and landmarks, such as the Place de la Bourse. They offer you the opportunity to enjoy pleasant strolls in timeless surroundings.

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    10

    Pont du Gard

    A well-preserved 3-tier arched bridge

    The Pont du Gard (the Gard River Bridge) is a Roman aqueduct built around 19BC. Located 20 km northeast of Nimes, it’s the highest of all structures of this kind in the world. The purpose of this engineering masterpiece was to provide Nimes with fresh water. Nowadays, the Pont du Gard is one of the most visited attractions in the south of France.

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveler

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