The 52 wonders of France classified as Unesco heritage sites


Cultural Heritage

Adobestock/ kevin_guillois
© Adobestock/ kevin_guillois

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 12 December 2023

The Château de Versailles, the Palais des Papes in Provence and the Pont du Gard in Occitania, the city of Lyon or the Auvergne volcanoes and Burgundy vineyards, France is one of the countries most distinguished by UNESCO for its exceptional cultural and natural heritage. No less than 52 sites and monuments are on the prestigious institution's list of "wonders of the world". Here is a small inventory to make you want to discover them... all of them!

If you are a lover of historical heritage

  • The historic centre of Avignon: the Popes' Palace, the Episcopal complex and the Pont d'Avignon In Provence, on the banks of the Rhône, Avignon was the seat of the papacy in the 14th century, and its prestigious remains include the Palace of the Popes, an extraordinary fortress that shouldn't be missed, its ring of ramparts and the famous Avignon Bridge. They can be discovered at the same time as the Petit Palais and the Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame-des-Doms.

  • Arles and its Roman and Romanesque monuments Arles, the beautiful city of Provence has preserved impressive Roman monuments. Among the oldest, the arenas and the ancient theatre date from the 1st century BC. The Thermes de Constantin, the Alyscamps necropolis and Saint-Trophime, one of the major monuments of Provençal Romanesque art that became a cathedral, are also remarkable and take us back in time.

  • The Episcopal city of Albi The fortified cathedral of Sainte-Cécile d'Albi, recognisable by its red and orange bricks and its southern Gothic style, dominates the city, one of the most famous in Occitanie. The former episcopal city, stronghold of the crusade against the Cathars, is also home to the vast Berbie Palace and very picturesque residential areas dating from the Middle Ages.

  • The belfries of France Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque, typical of the urban landscape of the cities of the North, 23 belfries of the Hauts-de-France, built between the 11th and 17th centuries, deserved to be registered with their beautiful bells with the heritage of Humanity.

  • Vauban's fortifications The military architect of Louis XIV played a major role in the history of fortifications in Europe and the world. His work includes 12 groups of fortified buildings and citadels, bastions, ramparts, etc. Discover them in Hauts-de-France, Alsace or in Brittany at Port-Louis, Belle-Île or Brest.

  • The ancient theatre and its surroundings and the triumphal arch of Orange In the Rhone valley, in Provence, the ancient theatre of Orange is one of the best preserved great Roman theatres with its impressive 103-metre long façade wall. The Roman triumphal arch, with its bas-reliefs depicting the establishment of the Pax Romana, is one of the most beautiful and interesting monument.

  • The historic walled city of Carcassonne With its many watchtowers and double walls, its castle and its superb Gothic cathedral, the walled city of Carcassonne is a sight to behold. A jewel of Occitania, it benefited in the 19th century a restoration work carried out by Viollet-le-Duc.

  • The Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela in France A cult place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and still popular with thousands of hikers, Santiago de Compostela in Spain can be reached from France by four routes starting in Paris, Vézelay in Burgundy, Le Puy in Auvergne and Arles in Provence. It is an opportunity to cross splendid landscapes dotted with a priceless heritage (churches, sanctuaries, hospitals, bridges, crosses).

  • The Maison Carrée of Nîmes Located in the city center of Nîmes, in Occitanie, just a few steps from the amphitheater, the Maison Carrée is one of the best-preserved Roman remnants of the ancient colony of Nemausus. Built over 2000 years ago (1st century) in honor of Augustus - the first Roman emperor - and his sons, the monument was one of the first Roman temples designed to establish the new regime and emphasize the allegiance of the conquered territories.

  • The Memorial and Funerary Sites of the First World War National cemeteries, military graveyards, memorials, and monuments to the fallen, totaling 139 sites on the Western Front of the Great War, located in France and Belgium, have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. These include the Douaumont Ossuary in Lorraine, the French national cemetery of La Fontenelle in the Vosges, the Fromelles site in Hauts-de-France, the Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, and the Arras Memorial. This recognition pays tribute to the memory of the 10 million victims of the conflict, honored in France and around the world."

If you are more interested in cities and architecture

  • Paris, banks of the Seine From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde to the Grand Palais, from Notre-Dame to the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris is told through its monuments by the Seine. Strolling along the bridges, quays and banks between the Pont de Sully and the Pont d'Iéna, the Île de la Cité and the Île Saint-Louis or sailing on the river is an unforgettable experience.

  • Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret Located on the English Channel in Normandy, the city of Le Havre was partly rebuilt after the Second World War according to the plans of the visionary architect and concrete enthusiast, Auguste Perret. A model of unity and modernity.

  • The Stanislas, Carrière and Alliance squares in Nancy Subtle scenography, rich architecture and ornamentation, the Stanislas, Carrière and Alliance squares in Nancy, Alsace-Lorraine, constitute one of the most harmonious urban landscapes of the Enlightenment.

  • Bordeaux, port of the moon After Paris, Bordeaux is the city in France with the most listed buildings, with 347 monuments to discover along the quays, along the Garonne, and around the remains of the Port of the Moon. Created during the Age of Enlightenment, this historic centre is an exceptional architectural ensemble, a pretext for beautiful walks.

  • Lyon's historic site From the Roman remains of ancient Lugdunum to the medieval streets of the Fourvière slopes and the Renaissance dwellings of Vieux-Lyon, from the Presqu'île with its classical architecture, to the slopes of the Croix-Rousse with its very special habitat, Lyon, at the confluence of the Saône and the Rhône, is an open-air museum.

  • Strasbourg, Grande-Île and Neustadt Before or after touring the Alsace Wine Route, a stop in Strasbourg is a must. The highlight of the visit is the Grande-Île, the historic centre of the city, which winds its way around the cathedral, between rivers and canals. Also worth seeing is the Neustadt, a new city designed and built under German administration between 1871 and 1918.

  • Le Corbusier's architectural work The Cité Radieuse in Marseille in Provence, the Chapel of Ronchamp in Burgundy, the Villa Savoye in Poissy near Paris or the Cabanon in Roquebrune-Cap Martin on the Côte d'Azur. Le Corbusier's work is abundant and fascinating. The visionary architect has been honoured by UNESCO for 17 of his buildings and achievements, 10 of which are in France.

  • Vichy, Europe's great water city Located in the Auvergne region, Vichy is an elegant spa town: its architectural heritage is worth a visit have been recognised since Gallo-Roman times.

  • Nice, city of the winter holiday A mild climate all year round, a location by the sea and at the foot of the Alps, promenades and parks lined with exotic species, beautiful villas and palaces testifying to the city's cosmopolitan history for nearly 200 years. The city of Nice is attractive in summer and winter.

If you are interested in religious buildings

  • The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay Between Normandy and Brittany, the Mont-Saint-Michel stands in the heart of an immense bay invaded by the highest tides in Europe. The "wonder of the West", its Benedictine abbey of Gothic style and the village born in the shelter of its walls can be visited all year round, at 3h30 from Paris.

  • The Cistercian abbey of Fontenay Founded in 1191 in a beautiful valley in Burgundy, Fontenay Abbey is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world. With its simple architecture, church, cloister, refectory, dormitory, bakery and forge, it illustrates the ideal of self-sufficiency of the first Cistercian communities.

  • The Basilica and the Hill of Vézelay In one of the most beautiful villages in France, in Burgundy, on a hill facing the Morvan mountains, the Basilica of Sainte-Madeleine is a masterpiece of Romanesque art, superbly restored in the 19th century by Viollet-Le-Duc. It is also a starting point for the routes to Compostela.

  • Amiens Cathedral In the Hauts-de-France region, in the heart of Picardy, Amiens Cathedral is one of the largest "classical" Gothic churches of the 18th century, and the largest in France. You will be shocked by its beauty.

  • Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral, former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Tau Palace, Reims Clovis was baptized here and most of the kings of France were crowned here. The cathedral of Reims, pride of the capital of Champagne, is one of the most famous religious buildings in France, a masterpiece of Gothic art. The old abbey, which has preserved a beautiful 11th century nave, and the Tau Palace, which played an important role in the coronation ceremony, complete the visit.

  • The abbey of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe One of its kind (in the world), with its 420 square metre of magnificently preserved frescoes dating from the 10th and 11th centuries, the Poitevin abbey of Saint-Savin in New Aquitaine is a masterpiece of Romanesque art, earning the nickname of "the Sistine Chapel of the Romanesque period".

  • Bourges Cathedral Particularly renowned for its stained glass windows, tympanum and sculptures, Bourges Cathedral in the Centre-Val de Loire region is considered one of the masterpieces of Gothic art built in the Middle Ages.

  • Chartres Cathedral A symbol of French Gothic art, Chartres Cathedral, in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, marvels at its size and above all at its beautifully coloured stained glass windows, one of the most complete and best-preserved sets of windows from the medieval period. They present a unique collection of 172 bays that leave you breathless.

If you are interested in industrial heritage

  • The Nord-Pas-de-Calais coalfield In the Hauts-de-France, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region offers an invaluable testimony to the techniques and architecture linked to coal mining, from the 18th to the 20th century: slag heaps, pits, corons, railway stations, miners' villages, everything is still there, and almost intact, on a land of 120 000 hectares.

If you want to discover the secrets of wine

  • The Coteaux, houses and cellars of Champagne. In Reims, the Saint-Nicaise hill shelters incredible cellars, real underground cathedrals. In Épernay, the Avenue de Champagne is lined with magnificent mansions owned by famous brands such as Moët & Chandon with the Fort Chabrol. Add the historic vineyards of Hautvillers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. These are the places to go to learn all about how the [famous Champagne] wines are made (

  • The jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion Vines planted by the Romans as far as the eye can see in a fertile landscape of plateau, hillsides, valleys and plains. A few kilometres from Bordeaux, the medieval city of Saint-Emilion is one of the renowned strongholds of winegrowing in France. This territory, blessed with wines and pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, also includes 7 surrounding villages and their vineyards.

  • The Climats of the Burgundy vineyard The Climats du vignoble de Bourgogne, south of Dijon, are small parcels of vines precisely delimited and spread over the Côte de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune, where some of the world's most famous red wines are cultivated. Over the centuries, the work of the winegrowers has improved these 1,247 perfectly exposed pieces of land.

If you are a fan of palaces and castles

  • The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes Historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, world-famous châteaux such as Chambord, remarkable gardens, troglodytic habitat and beautiful tufa and slate houses. The Loire Valley is a royal site, magnified by the natural landscapes of the banks of the Loire.

  • The palace and park of Fontainebleau Popular with the kings of France since the 12th century, the hunting residence of Fontainebleau, in the heart of a large forest in the Île-de-France region, south of Paris, was transformed, enlarged and embellished by François I. His idea was to make it a "new" hunting palace and make it a "new Rome". Inspired by Italian models, the castle, surrounded by a vast park, was a meeting place for Renaissance art and French traditions.

  • The Palace and Park of Versailles It is the palace of Louis XIV, and also of Marie Antoinette. The privileged residence of the French monarchy until the Revolution of 1789, the Palace of Versailles and its park, southwest of Paris, were embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, ornamentalists and landscape designers. A majestic composition!

If you like great works

  • The Pont du Gard Between Nîmes and Avignon, the Pont du Gard, the best preserved Roman vestige in the world and the most visited ancient monument in France, is astonishing for its extraordinary size in a beautiful natural setting.
  • The Canal du Midi With its 360 km of navigable waterways between Toulouse and the Mediterranean, and its 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels...), the Canal du Midi network in Occitania is an extraordinary technical feat in landscapes worthy of a work of art.
  • The Cordouan Lighthouse Nicknamed the "Versailles of the Sea", the Cordouan Lighthouse has watched over the mouth of the Gironde estuary and guided sailors for over 400 years. This masterpiece of maritime signalling is the oldest French lighthouse still in operation.

If you are inspired by the Middle Ages

  • Provins, medieval fair town. In the heart of the ancient region of the powerful Counts of Champagne, less than 100 kilometres from Paris, the fortified medieval town of Provins takes you back in time with its historical monuments, its shows in vintage costumes along with its beautiful gardens and museums.

If you are a prehistory enthusiast

  • Prehistoric sites and decorated caves in the Vézère valley. In the Dordogne, the Vézère valley was one of the favourite places of prehistoric man. There are more than 150 sites dating from the Paleolithic period and about thirty decorated caves, including Lascaux and its replica. You can find a piece of rock art at every turn.

  • The Pont d'Arc cave, known as the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave in the Ardèche. A thousand-year-old treasure... In the Ardèche valley, the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave contains the oldest known paintings to date. Dating from 30,000 to 32,000 years before our era, this exceptional site has been preserved for thousands of years. This exceptional site was rediscovered in 1994. You can only visit the facsimile, a few kilometres from the original, but the representations of mammoths, bears, cave lions, aurochs and bison seem to date from yesterday.

  • The prehistoric Paleolithic sites around the Alps. The name "Paleolithic" means "on stilts" and refers to the remains of prehistoric lake dwellings around the lakes and marshes of the Alps and on the edge of the Alpine arc. They date from around 5000 to 500 years before our era.

If you are more of a nature lover

  • The Gulf of Porto: Calanche de Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve in Corsica In the regional natural park of Corsica, the Scandola reserve is a jewel, both land and sea. The red of the granite cliffs meets the deep blue of the Mediterranean and the maquis is more fragrant than elsewhere. On this land of 20 km square metre, which also includes the calanques of Piana, the whole ecosystem is admirably protected.

  • The Puys chain and the Limagne fault in the Auvergne In the centre of France, the Auvergne is an ancient volcanic land with well-defined geological characteristics. Among the sights, the long Limagne fault, the panoramic alignment of the volcanoes of the Puys chain and the inverted relief of the Montagne de la Serre make up a spectacular and very instructive landscape.

  • The Causses and Cévennes, cultural landscape of Mediterranean agro-pastoralism One must imagine a landscape of mountains braided with deep valleys. In the south of the Massif Central and the Auvergne, the villages and large stone farms on the terraces of the Causses and in the Cévennes reflect the organisation of the great abbeys of the Middle Ages. Mont Lozère is one of the last places where the summer transhumance of cattle is still practised in the traditional way.

  • The Mont Perdu in the Pyrenees An exceptional mountain landscape, straddling France and Spain. The Pic du Mont Perdu is the highest point at 3,352 m. Two of the largest and deepest canyons in Europe on the Spanish side, and three cirques on the French side, including Gavarnie, are the main sights of this site, which is still very pastoral.

  • The Lagoons of New Caledonia The French South Pacific Archipelago is one of the three largest reef systems in the world, with sites of extraordinary beauty. Few places in the world have such a diversity of marine species (corals, fish, turtles, whales, dugongs), as well as a continuum of habitats, from mangroves to sea grass beds.

  • Pitons, cirques and ramparts of Reunion Island The Piton de la Fournaise (whose eruptions are fascinating) and the Piton des Neiges, the Mafate cirque, the Piton d'Anchaing in the Salazie cirque, the Piton de Sucre and the Chapelle in the Cilaos cirque. So many grandiose sites with dreamy names. These natural jewels are to be discovered during superb hikes, in the heart of the national park of Reunion, this French island in the Indian Ocean.

  • Taputapuātea in Polynesia In Polynesia, on the island of Ra'iātea, Taputapuātea is a cultural, land and seascape between forests and lagoon. An exceptional testimony to 1,000 years of Mā'ohi civilisation, it is home to a marae, a sacred space that is a political, ceremonial and funerary centre.

  • The French Southern Territories and Seas The last French site to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019, the French Southern Territories and Seas encompass the largest of the rare land masses in the southern Indian Ocean: the Crozet Archipelago, the Kerguelen, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands, as well as 60 small islets in the sub-Antarctic zone. This "oasis" in the heart of the Southern Ocean is home to one of the highest concentrations of birds and marine mammals in the world.

  • The Massane National Nature Reserve, in Occitania. Located in Argelès-sur-Mer, between the Occitan coast and the Pyrenean peaks, the Massane National Nature Reserve is one of the 40 "old forests" of the Mediterranean basin. Untouched by logging for more than a century, this reserve is home to exceptional biodiversity: beech, holly, oak, maple, mushrooms, birds of prey (including the peregrine falcon), reptiles, fish and 3,300 species of insects.

  • The Volcanoes and Forests of Mount Pelée and the Peaks of Northern Martinique Overlooking the city of Saint-Pierre, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 1902, Mount Pelée is a biodiversity treasure. It is home to several endangered species such as the Martinique allobate (a species of frog), the couresse snake, and the Martinique oriole (bird). The UNESCO-inscribed area covers 14,000 hectares, including the peaks of northern Martinique, which represent over 10% of the island's total area.


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