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  • Top 15 Heritage Sites of France You Must Visit

    Mont Saint-Michel ©Nicolas Raymond

    Mont Saint-Michel Nicolas ©Raymond/flickr

    France is blessed with outstanding architecture, cuisine and history. It has so many beautiful places that it was extremely hard for me to choose not only the top places, but also which places to visit. Since France has many exceptional and  famous places I’ve choose both lesser known and well known places just to make the whole list more interesting and compelling.

    15. Strasbourg

    Why ?

    The city itself is pure beauty, its city center is called Grande Île which literally means “Grand Island”. I’ve found Strasbourg out of common compared to other French cities since it has absorbed both French and German architecture and culture.

    An example of Strasbourg architecture @Marja van Bochove/flickr

    An example of Strasbourg architecture ©Marja van Bochove/flickr

    It is one of those cities where there is a coexistence between Catholics and Protestants, making the city open minded and liberal. The capital of Alsace is prosperous and lively, filled with people. The Old Town with its striking Strasbourg Cathedral is exceptionally beautiful. It holds many beautiful and old houses and small churches.

    The Cathedral as its finest @francois schnell

    The Cathedral as its finest ©francois schnell/flickr

    The Strasbourg Cathedral  is the emblem of the city.  Although some parts of the cathedral are still Romanesque style, it is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of late Gothic architecture.

    14. Vézelay Abbey

    Why ?

    Situated in the commune called Vezaley, Burgundy, it is known to be a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.  It is famous for having complex and wonderful imagery and sculptures typical to Romanesque style, making the 11th century Abbey an exciting point of interest.

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    13.  Albi

    Why ?

    The 13th century commune from the Midi-Pyrénées was once the seat of the Archbishop of Albi. The center of the commune, the quarter around the church, the fortified church and Saint-Salvi quarter is known for having having a unique southern French Gothic style made of local bricks.

    Albi just before dawn @Alex Brown

    Albi just before dawn ©Alex Brown/flickr

    It is one of those places where surely you can enjoy your time both because of its architecture and the Mediterranean climate.

    Cathedral of Albi @Graeme Churchard

    Cathedral of Albi ©Graeme Churchard/flickr

    12. Carcassonne

    Why ?

    The city itself is famous for its medieval citadel which is located on a hill on the right bank of the River Aude. A very beautiful example of a true middle aged fortress, the place has a charm that reminds you back about those times. It is just gorgeous, I mean, not only it has exceptionally well preserved walls, houses, little churches and even a Basilica, but also has a breathtaking view both from the fortress and outside a bit far from the fortresses walls

    A view of the whole medieval fortress of Carcassonne @Dennis Jarvis

    A view of the whole medieval fortress of Carcassonne ©Dennis Jarvis/flickr

    11. Avignon

    Why ?

    Gorgeous, Mediterranean and scenic, it is one of those few pleasant french cities that kept its ramparts well preserved.

    Between 1309 and 1377, seven popes resided in Avignon rather than Rome and because of that the town was known as “Avignon Papacy”.  This resulted in conflict between the French Crown and the Papacy.

    Today it is one of Southern France’s most beautiful cities and one of Europe’s oldest.

    Avignons beauty@Henri Sivonen/flickr

    Avignon’s beauty ©Henri Sivonen/flickr

    10. Palace and Park of Fontainebleau

    Why ?

    It is not far from Paris (55 km) and it’s worth a visit. The medieval castle and later chateau was the residence of French monarchs from Louis VII through Napoleon III. Napoleon I also abdicated his throne there before his exile. Undoubtedly an extremely beautiful place, it has medieval architecture style from the 12th century to the Renaissance of 15th and 16th. The park of the Fontainebleau is also very pleasant and a not to be missed attraction.

    Fontainebleau @Hervé

    Fontainebleau ©Hervé/flickr

    Fontainebleau also has a theater, a Chinese museum and a chapel.

    9. Belfries of France

    Why ?

    Along with Belgium, France has many belfries situated mainly in the northwestern part of France, particularly Picardy and Nord Pas des Calais Region.

    These belfries were once bell towers or steeples and used as a watchtower which provided protection against hostile incursions and fires. When there was a problem the bells were used as an alarm.

    Some examples of beautiful towns with Belfries you might visit are Arras, Dunkirk and Lille.

    The Belfry of Arras @Guillaume Baviere

    The Belfry of Arras ©Guillaume Baviere/flickr

    8. Reims

    Why ?

    Reims has probably the most notable history of the country. Reims played a prominent ceremonial role in the life of French monarchy as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France. It is one of the wealthiest and most ravishing city of France.

    Very important and famous buildings of the city are the Reims Cathedral, Abbey of Saint-Remi and the Palace of Tau and technically the whole city center with its gorgeous houses.

    Reims Cathedral as its finest @barnyz/flickr

    Reims Cathedral as its finest ©barnyz/flick

    7. Provins

    Why ?

    This delightful and exceptional medieval town is known for its fortifications, The Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church, and its wonderful town center. it was home to one of the Champagne fairs that was extremely important to the medieval European economy.

    Provins fortifications @Groume

    Provins fortifications ©Groume/flickr

    6.  Lyon

    Why ?

    How cannot you love a city that is close to the Alps and is famous for having both excellent architecture and cuisine? Lyon is easily considered one of Europe’s best cities because of its reputation and high standard of living.

    A view of Lyon @Fred PO

    A view of Lyon ©Fred PO/flickr

    Lyon was historically known as an important area for the production and weaving of silk. Important landmarks of the city that you must visit are the Roman district and Fourvière, the Reinassance district (Vieux Lyon), the silk district (slopes of Croix-Rousse), and the Presqu’île, which features architecture from the 12th century to modern times, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and in fact the whole city center.

    5. Toulouse

    Why ?

    The city is nicknamed la Ville Rose “the Pink City” because of its unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks which is not common in France. Toulouse in my opinion is one of the country’s most interesting cities. Important landmarks of the city are the Canal du Midi and Basilica of St. Sernin and the city center as a whole.

    Pont Neuf at night, Toulouse @Grégory Tonon

    Pont Neuf at night, Toulouse ©Grégory Tonon/flickr

    4. Loire Valley

    Why ?

    Loire Valley consists of historic towns such as Sully-sur-Loire, Amboise, Tours, Angers, Chinon, Orleans, Blois, Saumur, Chalonnes and other small villages. The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes is known for its extremely charming and opulent Chateaus. They illustrate the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightment on French thought and design of the whole region.

    Chateau de Chenonceau @Geoff Livingston

    Chateau de Chenonceau ©Geoff Livingston/flickr

    3. Historic Towns and Cathedrals of Bourges,  Chartress and Amiens

    Why ?

    All these 3 towns have three 13th century Cathedrals and beautiful historic city centers. Each of them has its own history and characteristics. They are all quite close to Paris so you should definitely go check them out cause they are so worth a visit.

    Amiens Cathedral @Maurice

    Amiens Cathedral ©Maurice/flickr

    2. Bordeaux

    Why ?

    “The Pearl of Aquitaine” is a must visit attraction. Bordeaux is famous for being the world’s major wine industry capital and has an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble mainly from the 17th 18th century. Bordeaux is highly crowded filled with fun and very prosperous and organized. Due to its wine culture and beautiful city center, it is a popular tourist destination that should not be missed.

    Beautiful Bordeaux @traveljunction

    Beautiful Bordeaux ©traveljunction/flickr

     

    1. Paris

    Why ?

    The word speaks for itself, I don’t have much to say about it, you know what to do ? Paris is just simply an outstanding city filled with life and architecture. It offers you anything what you need. It is far beyond beautiful

    The Eiffel Tower from the Seine ©Jiuguang Wang

    The Eiffel Tower from the Seine ©Jiuguang Wang/flickr

     

     

     

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