Top 10 Most Famous France Landmarks Travelers Talk About
Situated in the far western reaches of Europe along the Bay of Biscayne and the Mediterranean Sea, France boasts the geography and historical allure to make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. There is much to see and do here, but first time travelers and seasoned adventurers alike rarely visit without stopping at some of the famous landmarks in France. From ancient monasteries to world renowned museums, there are many fascinating things to see here and more than enough France Landmarks to make a repeat visit worthwhile.
1. Eiffel Tower: Although perhaps debatable, the most recognizable of all the France landmarks is the Eiffel Tower. For decades, travelers to Paris have stood in awe at the base of the iron tower which stands over a thousand feet tall on the Champ de Mars. Although the structure is now considered an iconic monument of sorts, its original purpose was to serve as an entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889. For many years this most recognizable of all France Landmarks bore the title of the tallest manmade structure in the world, even beating the Washington Monument. For visitors wishing to take a tour inside, the first and second levels offer restaurants, and elevator access provides a ride to the third floor where an observation deck is located opening stunning views at heights of over eight hundred feet. In fact, the observation deck at the tower is one of the most popular of all Paris attractions.
2. Louvre Museum: No trip to Paris should be complete without a trip to the Louvre, which is recognized as one of the most important museums in the entire world. Many people are familiar with the iconic pyramid shaped structure situated in front of the Louvre Palace where the museum resides, but although this artful structure is considered one of the most stunning of all France landmarks, it barely holds a candle to the wealth of historical wonders that the facility actually contains. The museum’s collection started as a private holding of pieces for King Francis I in the 16th century, during which time the Mona Lisa joined other pieces purchased by kings and donated from others to begin the formation of one of the most impressive and diverse displays of art in the entire world. The building itself serves also as an important piece of French history, and its interesting transition from fortress to palace to the cultural epicenter it is today.
3. The Arc de Triomphe: This monument is actually one of the most famous of all France landmarks and is quite recognizable. This large, boxy arch can be found at the west end of the Champs-Elysees. The monument itself pays tribute the fallen from both the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. On the outside of the structure can be found the names of generals and French victories, and in its vault below lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. The structure is positioned at the meeting point between a dozen different streets where it’s encompassed by a large circle at their junction. Gorgeous any time of day, the monument is incredibly popular when viewed at night when illuminated.
4. Versailles Chateau: Also known simply as “Versailles,” this palace turned museum is one of the most well known of all France landmarks and is home to the famed Hall of Mirrors. It has remained a World Heritage Site for over three decades and is considered one of the best examples of French art and architecture in the entire world. The structure has made an impressive transition from a hunting lodge to the center of ruling power to the preeminent location for French History since its construction in the 1600s.
5. French Riviera: Also known as Cote d’ Azur, the Riviera refers to the southeast corner of the country that lies along the Mediterranean Sea. Here, the waters are a tropical blue, the weather is bright and balmy and the atmosphere is elegant to say the least. This part of France is home to the iconic Cannes Film Festival, playground for the super rich Monaco, and tourist delight St. Tropez. However, the area also is home to Nice, which is both a major seaport and one of the most diverse areas in the country. There are many Nice France attractions to consider for those not traveling by private yacht or bringing an entourage to a film premier including some of the freshest seafood in the world, buzzing nightlife, historical points of interest and of course, a glistening and gorgeous beach.
6. Palais des Papes: For visitors to southern France in and around Avignon, defined as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the region, can be found one of the most impressive castles in Europe. Known for its stunning architecture and historical significance as well, the Palace of the Popes wows visitors with its medieval and gothic detail. In the year 1309, Popes fled here from a chaotic Rome, seeking the natural protection afforded the castle by the rocky, cliffed landscape. Built in two phases, the now World Heritage Site and museum is one of the most important of all France Landmarks and an interesting opportunity to sample the era’s history and architecture in one stop.
7. Mont St Michel: In the lower part of the Normandy region can be found Saint Michael’s Mount, a commune that almost completely encompasses a small island located at the mouth of the Couesnon River. The towering structure resembles both a fortress and a castle and had served first as a stronghold and later a monastery. The community is home to a mere handful of residents and is one of the most interesting of all France Landmarks, encompassing both historical and cultural perspectives.
8. Loire Valley Chateaux: Just over forty structures all built along the Loire river draw visitors each and every year thanks to their stunning architectural details and historical relevance drawing on the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance. These chateaux are significant because they were constructed during a time when notable architects were leaving the areas of Bloise, Chinon, Orleans, Tours, Angers and Amboise and heading back to Paris, creating a problem for the wealthy that chose to spend their time along the Loire River. Some of these France landmarks are privately owned, some are open to visitors, some are owned by the government and available to the public and some have even been turned into hotels or bed and breakfasts, making visiting and touring easy.
9. Chateau de Chenonceau: Perhaps one of the most impressive of all the chateaux along the Loire River is the Chenonceau Castle, which stands like a grand, elegant fortress right in the water’s edge. Different architectural styles and interior designs can be found throughout the castle. The original architect was summoned to war during its construction and his wife took over in his absence, providing a unique look at their competing tastes throughout the structure. Just as war shaped the history of many other France landmarks, this castle too nearly vell victim to tumultuous time, and was saved from government seizure during wartime thanks to proof of private ownership, preserving the historical treasure that visitors enjoy today.
10. Chateau d’Usse: Fairy tale fans will not want to miss out specifically on this Loire Valley gem which is rumored to have been the inspiration for many castle based fairy tales including the well known Sleeping Beauty. One look at the structure and it’s easy to see why. Pointed towers and light stone give it the look that has become synonymous with princesses and daring rescues. This particular chateau is unique because although it’s privately owned, guests can tour the first floor, appointed with sixteenth century furniture. And, a fairy tale tour of the mocked up attic delights guests time and time again. There is also a winery on site offering samplings for purchase following tours.