It could be challenging to set a list of the top 10 most famous monuments of France. The truth is that such a list is highly subjective… unless you take account of the number of visitors per monument. The other issue we have with French monuments is that they are so many of them. And they are diverse as well, from Roman ruins to Renaissance chateaux and from Gothic cathedrals to stunning bridges… All that to say that it makes it hard to rank them all. So, if you don’t mind, here is a (very) personal attempt at listing my top 10 monuments of France. If you have another ranking in mind, please do share it by commenting below, it’d be surely interesting to hear about it!
Top 10 Most Famous Monuments in France outside Paris
In 2018 France welcomed 89.4 million foreign visitors.
Never before did the country record so many tourists. This record makes France the world’s top destination.
The French government’s tourism committee targets 100 million foreign tourists by the end of the 2020s.
Tourism is a key sector of the French economy (it accounts for nearly 8% of GDP). Visitors come to France to explore its sheer landscape diversity ranging from coastline to gently rolling hills and snow-capped mountains… The beauty of France is seen in each of its regions. They all look and feel different. You’ll find this in the architecture, in the gastronomy and sometimes in the accent spoken.
So many famous sites and landmarks!
A big part of the touristic success of France comes from its famous monuments.
The Eiffel Tower of course. And many monuments of Paris such as Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre…
But the Province (that is France except for Paris!) boasts some grand and renowned landmarks too. Some of them welcome millions of visitors each year. People would travel from far away to discover their beauty.
Let me go through my favourite French monuments…
Bonjour students friends! 👋
And if you are a student researching the most famous monuments of France, a big welcome! You’re in the right place!
Pick the info you need to feed your essay and don’t forget to click on some of the internal links that will guide you to more info about the monument. You’ll also find a mini English-French glossary at the end of the article.
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The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is a stunning landmark in France. Set on a small rocky island is a fortified village dominated by a powerful fortress-like church.
- Find out more on the blog!
- Get your ticket to a Guided Tour of Mont Saint-Michel: visit the castle and the ramparts
- Get your ticket to a visit to Mont Saint-Michel with Transport from Paris
Cité of Carcassonne
The fortified city of Carcassonne in the Aude département is a formidable fortress restored by architect Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century.
- Find out more on the blog!
- Get your ticket to a Guided Tour of Carcassonne: visit the castle and the ramparts
Reims Cathedral is arguably France’s most iconic Gothic church with Notre-Dame de Paris. A magnificent sanctuary, the cathedral of Reims is a historic place associated with the Coronation of the French Kings.
Most Famous Monuments of France #4: Pont du Gard
The Gard Bridge (Pont du Gard) is an incredible Roman bridge – one of the largest still standing in the world.
The amphitheatre of Arles is a masterpiece of Roman architecture in the South of France. The town of Arles, culturally in-between Languedoc and Provence, is also famous for its Maison Carrée (also dating back to the Roman era).
The Shrine of Rocamadour, in the Quercy province, offers a breathtaking view of houses and palaces built onto the cliff.
The castle of Chambord is situated near Blois, in the region of Centre-Val de Loire. It is the largest and arguably the most impressive of all the castles of the Loire.
- Find out more on the blog!
- Get your skip-the-line ticket to the castle of Chambord
- Get your ticket to a roundtrip of 3 Loire castles from Paris!
Popes’ Palace, Avignon
The Pope’s Palace (Palais des Papes) in Avignon is the former seat of the Popes when they were exiled in the Provençal city during the Middle Ages. This is the largest Gothic structure in Europe.
The castle of Chenonceau is situated between Tours and Blois, not far from the delightful market town of Amboise. It is one of the most famous castles of the Loire.
- Get your skip-the-line ticket to the castle of Chenonceau
- Get your ticket to a roundtrip of 3 Loire castles from Paris!
Hospices de Beaune
The Hospices de Beaune is a medieval complex that once was a hospital to the town of Beaune in Burgundy. The site has kept its magnificent glazed-tile roof, which is reminiscent of the Flanders that once belonged to the Dukes of Burgundy.
Famous monuments of France: and the list goes on…
You thought I’d stop by #10? Well, there’s so much to say about the monuments in France that I couldn’t leave this list at such as a low number of points! So here are the next 30 French monuments to complete the list up to 40!
From #10 to #20
11. Amphitheatre of Nîmes (Languedoc)
12. Strasbourg Cathedral (Alsace)
13. Citadel of Besançon (Franche-Comté)
14. Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau (Centre)
15. Chartres Cathedral (Centre)
16. Pierrefonds Castle (Picardy)
17. Millau Viaduct (Midi-Pyrénées)
18. Fourvière Basilica (Rhône-Alpes)
19. Trophy of Augustus in La Turbie (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)
From #20 to #30
20. Chantilly Castle (Picardy)
21. Maison Carrée in Nîmes (Languedoc)
22. Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle (Alsace)
23. Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)
24. Fonserannes Lock in Béziers (Languedoc)
25. Capitole in Toulouse (Midi-Pyrénées)
26. Abbey of Fontenay (Burgundy)
27. Blois Castle (Centre)
28. Amiens Cathedral (Picardy)
29. Rouen Cathedral (Normandy)
From #30 to #40
30. Lourdes Basilica (Midi-Pyrénées)
31. Roman Theatre of Orange (Provence)
32. Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux (Aquitaine)
33. Pompidou Museum of Metz (Lorraine)
34. Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen (Normandy)
35. Vizille Castle (Rhône-Alpes)
36. Royal Monastery of Brou (Rhône-Alpes)
37. Périgueux Cathedral (Aquitaine)
38. Lion of Belfort (Franche-Comté)
39. House of Joan of Arc (Lorraine)
40. Charles de Gaulle Memorial (Champagne-Ardenne)
What about Paris?
I mentioned above that the list only included sites that were outside the Paris region.
If you’re interested in learning more about what are the most famous monuments of Paris, I invite you to click on this link. It will take you to my post dedicated to Paris!
English-French Glossary to help you with a few terms
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- abbey = abbaye (f)
- amphitheatre = amphithéâtre (m)
- to build = construire (v)
- bridge = pont (m)
- castle = château (m)
- cathedral = cathédrale (f)
- church = église (f)
- house = maison (f)
- memorial = mémorial (m)
- monastery = monastère (m)
- monument = monument (m)
- museum = musée (m)
- palace = palais (m)
- site = site (m)
- theatre = théâtre (m)
- tourism = tourisme (m)
- tourist = touriste (m/f)
- to travel = voyager (v)
- to visit = visiter (v)
What about your favourite French monuments?
You may have your own listing of the most famous French monuments. If so, let us know by commenting below which monuments are not in our list that should be included! We’d love to hear from you!
I’m meant to be visiting Paris in Match for my annual trip – it’s my girlfriend’s 40th – but it looks like she’ll be going by herself (as a French national) whilst I rebook my Eurostar ticket again…
I forgot to mention, I’d love to visit the upstairs of Au Père Tranquille, opposite Forum Les Halles.
As a writer, to sit amongst the books and feel the historicity of the city would be an absolute dream
Thank you Johnnie, that’s a great place to be indeed! 🙂
Bonjour Pierre! This is a tough question since France is loaded with so many wonderful treasures. I think for me I would want to be in Paris and simply be a flaneuse in the LeftBank. I’d like to walk around and look through the windows of art galleries, old book shops, admire the architecture, buy a delicious pastry, and visit a garden or two. I would have a long pause at a terrace cafe for a drink and people watching. I am looking forward to the day when we can do these sorts of things again.
Flâner in the Left Bank of Paris is a GREAT idea!!
I would like to visit the French Basque Country and learn about their culture.
Yes! It’s a very beautiful corner of France!
Thank you for your posts.
All the way from Wollongong, Australia after COVID,. I would like to spend time in Annecy.
Also if you know anything about Auxerre I would be keen to here for you please.
I would like to attempt to spend 3 months in a small town so as to improve my language skills.
You’re welcome. I’ve never been to Auxerre but it is a place in Burgundy on my to-do-list! It’s a medium-sized town with a nice historic centre. If I manage to go there in the near future I will post on it! 🙂
If I am allowing myself to dream, I would love to live in France, preferably in Paris. I have a creative skill set: I write, draw, illustrate, do photo and video. So, ideally, I would live in Paris doing something creative. Is that possible? Or what would be the first steps to take? I think the first step would be to establish myself and willing to work any job. Anyway, may as well start the ball rolling. I know it would not be easy.
That’s a fantastic dream Henry… I guess your thought of establishing yourself first and look for any job opportunity is a great way to start. Unfortunately Paris is a very expensive place to live… unless you choose a smaller historic town in “la France profonde”.
June 6th of 2020 was our 50th anniversary and my husband and I had plans to spend it in Paris. We have been to France on a number of occasions and have loved everywhere we went, from Strasbourg, to Eze, Nice, Dijon, Beaune, Lyon and on. This time we had plans to tour Monet’s gardens in Giverny. So disappointing about the necessary delay but hopeful for a better 2021.
Oh, I do hope that during 2021 we’ll all be able to travel back to France… And yes, Giverny is a beautiful place!
Dreaming of Provence, was slated for Summer 2020….now looking ahead. Thank you for all of your great emails this year, has helped us keep the hopes alive 🙂
Paris Opera house tour at night. Chenonceau, Palais de Versailles, danse by river Seine, plage ou mon ancetre a left Dieppe, France in 1650. On a Friday afternoon, where Joan of Arc was imprisoned and burned at stake. To dine inside restaurant in that same city where Joan died, where Julia Child was inspired to cook. Anne is cooking at Monmartre, Paris. St. Malo, Valence Auberge ( central S France), Monet gardens for the afternoon. Building in Paris where Benny Hinn and David Herzog have hosted meetings. Jersey Island manoir of Charles Robin, plaque on St. Aubin about fishery business ties between Jersey Island and Gaspe. Jersey where daffodils grow in April. Chartres where saint Caron was killed by two robbers. Cathedral of Chartres. A business in South France where they make perfumes, I want to make some. Cobbled streets. A little downtown apartment in Paris I can rent and live or inherit from relatives. A house in France country with a big back yard where I can garden. Italy. Hot sunny days from a 2nd floor of a home in Italy. Rides on a motorbike in France. Driving in the countryside. Notre Dame Cathedral. Cathedral in Dieppe where my ancestor would have been baptised as a baby, same with Rouen but that one is maybe gone. Old flour mill. Vineyard. Fields of lavender and sunflowers, every kind of crop.
Knights templar of paris, what is left
Where would I like to be now?
Exploring the Bordeaux wine estates and chateaux OR having lunch in one of the Paris brasseries.
Thanks for all your efforts this year – and we look forward to more exploration and discoveries in 2021,.
It was very upsetting to have our trip to France cancelled early in 2020 We are from Australia and international travel is not allowed at the moment but, hopefully, mid 2021.
Anyway. I realise that your favourite areas are in Northern France but I have to mention that my favourite area in France is the Languedoc. We stayed in Pezenas (best Saturday markets in France) in 2007 for the World Cup and I fell in love with Pezenas and the surrounding districts. It is only 1/2 hour from Cap D’Agde ad Sete and the best oyster area next to Cancale , a town called .Bouziques. A day’s trip can easily include Carcassonne, Aigues Mortes, Nimes, Arles and many other villages in Provence so I can thoroughly recommend the Pezenas area for a holiday..
Last time in France I found, with 3 friends, a real treat. The town of Troyes just one hour by train from Paris. And it’s a different time period.
I love Lyon too and the bird sanctuary on the Camargue with the pink flamingos!!