French Landmarks - 30 Must-See Famous Landmarks in France
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Europe draws in millions of tourists from around the world each year thanks to its vibrant culture, delicious food, friendly people and a myriad of famous European landmarks to visit.
This is especially true in the summer months and even for warmer destinations in Europe during the winter. According to the World Tourism Organization, a record number of over 700 million tourists visited Europe in 2019.
France itself manages to attract over 70 million tourists every year, which makes it one of the most-visited countries in the world. This is due to the many famous landmarks in France that there are to visit.
Even though this might seem like a large figure, plans are being made by the French government to increase the number of visitors to 100 million. From this, you might be wondering, what makes France so unique? Well, there are several reasons why tourists love France so much!
The country is proud of its long history, ranging from the French Revolution to the two world wars. As such, there are loads of historic sites and hidden gems dotted around the country to explore. France has 39 sites included on the Unesco World Heritage Site list!
To learn what some of these sites, attractions and monuments are, I have put together this list of the most famous French landmarks that you should consider adding to your France itinerary when planning your trip to the country.
30 Famous French Landmarks
- Sacré-Cœur, Paris
- Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris
- Centre Pompidou, Paris
- Place de la Concorde, Paris
- Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
- Arc de Triomphe, Paris
- Eiffel Tower, Paris
- Jardins du Trocadero, Paris
- Louvre Museum, Paris
- Musée du Quai Branly, Paris
- Jardin des Plantes, Paris
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris
- Parc de La Villette, Paris
- Grévin Museum, Paris
- Bois de Boulogne, Paris
- Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
- Musée d'Orsay, Paris
- Champs-Élysées, Paris
- Grand Palais, Paris
- Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM), Marseille
- Château Royal d'Amboise, Amboise
- Astérix Park, Plailly
- La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon
- Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy
- Pont d'Avignon, Avignon
- Puy du Fou, Les Epesses
- Futuroscope, Chasseneuil-du-Poitou
- Château de Chenonceau, Chenonceaux
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, Chartres
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Sacré-Cœur, or the "Sacred Heart" Basilica in English, is a major landmark in France and a must for your Paris bucket list. Located in Paris on top of Montmartre hill, this landmark attracts thousands of visitors every year.
The Basilica is one of the city's most iconic and historic structures and is highly popular with tourists. As such, it is a must-see on your four days in Paris itinerary.
Sacré-Cœur is a modern Catholic church and is often compared to the revered Notre Dame Cathedral because they were both opened after World War I. Paul Abadie, a French architect, started the construction of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in 1875.
The architect also constructed the renowned Notre Dame Cathedral. It is rather unfortunate that he did not live to see the completion of his project since he died in 1884.
The construction of the Basilica was completed in 1914 but was consecrated in 1919. The view from the Sacré-Cœur over Paris is one of the reasons why it is a must-visit destination. Visiting the Basilica gives you a memorable experience in Paris.
Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Luxembourg Gardens is undoubtedly one of the most popular gardens in Paris. Many tourists visit the Luxembourg Gardens because it is full of life and beauty.
The famous gardens of Paris were created by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, in 1612. She created the gardens when she decided to move out of the Louvre Palace into the Luxembourg Palace.
Because the gardens were built in different stages at different times, they contain various styles of gardens. You can spend your day in your favourite garden if you want to relax and enjoy the serene environment.
You can also have fun by participating in a variety of outdoor activities held at the gardens. If you feel like exploring, you can try visiting the Luxembourg Museum, which can be found in the north-west corner of the park.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, also known as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, is one of the famous monuments in France. The idea and construction of the gothic architectural style cathedral began in the 12th century, but it was finally completed in the 14th century.
It is the most visited monument in Paris, meaning it is more popular than the Eiffel Tower. The Notre-Dame Cathedral became more well-known when it was featured in a novel written by Victor Hugo, a 19th-century writer. The book was titled "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Some of the attractions of the Notre-Dame Cathedral are the bells and the Crown of Thorns. The bells were once ten in total with each weighing over 13 tons, but today you can only find one. The Crown of Thorns is an ancient relic worn by Jesus Christ during his crucifixion.
No entry fee is required if you want to enter the cathedral, but the audio guide is not free. Visiting the loved Notre-Dame Cathedral during the summer is best because it offers tours for tourists who want to learn about its history and architecture. So if you want a guided tour of the place, I recommend coming in the summer if possible.
Centre Pompidou, Paris
The Centre Pompidou is another famous landmark in Paris. It is one of those places in Paris that allows you to explore through all forms of modern art. The Centre Pompidou was founded to be the home for all kinds of modern art by President Georges Pompidou.
One of the main attractions of The Centre Pompidou is its strange exterior design, even though it has an extensive collection of modern art inside. When you visit, the peculiar exterior of the monument will definitely surprise you.
The Centre Pompidou was designed in a way that all the wiring, plumbing, and other crucial features of the building are outside. This helps to attract many tourists because the architectural style is not standard in the world.
For you to see the entire exhibition of the museum, you need a minimum of two hours, so it is advisable to arrive early to give you enough time to explore it properly.
Place de la Concorde, Paris
The Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris and the second largest in France. It is actually an octagon-shaped landmark that connects many famous landmarks of the city.
For example, it connects Champs-Elysées to Eglise de la Madeleine and the Tuileries Garden. Originally named as Place Louis XV, the public square was designed and constructed between 1757 and 1779.
The square was renovated between 1836 and 1840, whereby a giant 3000-year-old Egyptian obelisk was placed in the centre. The Khedive of Egypt offered the Obelisk from Luxor at that time.
There are several attractions for you to look at once you visit Place de la Concorde. You can check out the sculptures and fountains, and the obelisk, of course.
Jardin des Tuileries, Paris
Tuileries Garden was a name that was derived from the tile factory that used to be on the same land. Queen Catherine de Medici built it with the Palais des Tuileries in 1564. The garden covers a ground area of over 22 hectares and stretches to the Louvre, so visiting this landmark is easily accessible from the museum.
Tuileries Garden is also the perfect spot for you to relax and have a good time after the Louvre Museum. You can stroll around and explore the garden, viewing the sculptures inside. The park has a Ferris wheel that provides a unique view of Paris as well.
Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Just like many famous monuments in France today, construction of Arc de Triomphe was ordered by Napoleon I. Jean-François Chalgrin was the architect in charge of the monument's design, and he got his inspiration from the Arch of Titus that was built in Rome in 81 AD.
The architect made sure that his arch would be more massive, having a measurement of 49.5 metres in height, 45 metres in length, and 22 metres in width. The arch was not completed until 1836, meaning Napoleon I did not live to see the completion of it.
It is no surprise that the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most visited historical places in France. Looking at Paris from the top of this landmark is one way of viewing the beautiful capital city of France. You can also go for a walk around the base of the arch if you are not willing to pay to climb the monument to the top.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Before travelling to France, you might have come to know or seen this iconic monument in France in movies or shows. The Eiffel Tower, also known as the "Iron lady", is a major landmark in France. It should be no surprise that it has become a symbol of Paris, the French capital.
The Eiffel Tower recently celebrated its 130th anniversary, even though it was not meant to last this long. It has truly defied all the odds.
The iconic monument measures to a height of 324 metres, with about 18,000 iron parts held together by 2.5 million rivets. You can take amazing photos with the monument in the background to remember this magical moment by.
You have the option to either climb the "many" stairs or take an elevator to the top of the tower for an incredible view of Paris.
Jardins du Trocadero, Paris
Trocadéro Gardens, or "Jardins du Trocadero" in French, is a garden designed by the French architect Roger-Henri Expert in 1937. It is located near the Eiffel Tower.
Roger-Henri Expert created the gardens as an exposition on the arts and the "techniques of modern life." The gardens were initially opened in 1878 as the Trocadero Palace. It has a ground area of about 10,000 square metres and offers a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower.
When you visit the Trocadéro Gardens, the first thing you might notice is the Warsaw Fountain. This is a rectangular water structure centred around 12 monumental fountains, each projecting water that rises above 30 feet in the air.
The mirror effect produced by the fountains, especially in the morning when the surrounding is calm, is incredible. You can relax on the lawns that surround the fountains to enjoy a picnic with your family, friends or significant other.
Louvre Museum, Paris
The Louvre Museum was completed in 1989 and is recognised to be the most famous museum in the world. It records more than 15,000 individuals a day and greater than 10 million people each year. This is no surprise since it is home to a lot of well-known art pieces gathered from around the world.
There are many outstanding pieces of art for visitors to explore, which might take you weeks if you want to view every artefact or piece of art in the museum.
The Louvre Museum is home to the most popular painting in the world, the "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is thought to be priceless but has an estimated worth of about $800 million.
The first thing you will notice when you reach the museum is its pyramid-shaped glass entrance. Even though the entry is special, it is just introducing you to the rest of the museum known as the "Grand Palace". The Louvre Museum is an excellent place to visit when you want to relax and go through unique artworks.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris
Musée du Quai Branly, known in English as Quai Branly Museum, is a museum that opened in 2006. This is a new museum in France dedicated to artworks from around the world.
You can locate the museum in Paris close to the Eiffel Tower and not too far from the Musee d'Orsay. The museum was built to encourage inter-cultural art and teach the importance of appreciating non-western art culture.
Quai Branly Museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, contains a large reserve of artworks open to researchers, classrooms, conference rooms, a multimedia library, and a theatre.
It showcases artworks from America, Africa, Oceania, and Asia divided into three sections. The three areas are musical instruments, historical collections, and textile collections. The museum is the perfect place to learn about other cultures.
Jardin des Plantes, Paris
Jardin des Plantes, or simply the Botanical Garden of Paris, was created in 1635 and is another famous landmark in France. Even though the botanical garden attracts many visitors each day, it is not the only feature of the landmark that is worth visiting.
You can also find a historical museum with several prehistoric exhibitions, a zoo, and a historic botanical school which trains lots of young botanists.
The museum proudly boasts of having one of the most extensive collections of natural specimens, fossils, and minerals in the world. The zoo is the second-oldest zoo in the world and home to over 200 species of animals, with one third of them being endangered.
Jardin des Plantes is the largest herbarium in the world as well. If you are looking for a place to enjoy a variety of sceneries, then consider stopping by the Jardin des Plantes.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Paris
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the most romantic park you can take your partner to when in Paris. Covering a ground area of 61 acres, construction of the park started in 1863 when Napoleon III decided to plan for gardens and green spaces in the country's capital.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is also a place where you can take your kids if you want them to run around and enjoy the green environment.
There are many places for you to go with your family or partner if you are visiting the park. You can head to the lake the surrounds the park if you want to relax by observing the birds that fly around. You can check out "The Suspension Bridge" built by Gustave Eiffel as well, which is an impressive 200-foot-long structure.
Parc de La Villette, Paris
Boasting an area of 35 hectares while promoting biodiversity, Parc de La Villette is the third largest park in Paris. The famous landmark is understated if you describe it as a park because it is more like a cultural complex.
The park attracts millions of people every year because of its arts and culture features. It has 26 red "follies" designed by the architect Bernard Tschumi, which is one of the main attractions of the park.
Another attraction of the park is the onsite Science & Industry Museum. The science museum is the largest of its kind in Europe and runs fascinating science-related exhibits.
If you love watching movies, I recommend visiting Parc de La Villette during the summer at night. In the summer, management sets up a giant screen on one of the lawns of the park whereby visitors are allowed to enjoy open-air movies.
Grévin Museum, Paris
Named after Alfred Grévin, a caricaturist, Grévin Museum was founded in 1882. The museum is known to be one of the oldest wax museums in Europe. It has over 450 wax figures on exhibition and more are added every year. I recommend visiting the Grévin Museum if you want to visit unconventional tourist sites in Paris.
The museum contains wax figures of French historical figures as well as modern characters we know today. Some of the wax figures you can easily recognise are Micheal Jackson, Bradd Pitt, Kylian Mbappe, Leonardo DaVinci, and Auguste Rodin.
Grévin Museum is a friendly place for kids who are wanting to learn about some of the famous personalities represented in wax form. You are allowed to pose and take pictures with the figures to mark your experience.
Bois de Boulogne, Paris
Bois de Boulogne is an open park that was developed in the 19th century after Napoleon III, the ruler at that time, ordered for the facilities of Paris to be upgraded.
Bois de Boulogne combines with Bois de Vincennes to form the "lungs of Paris". It is the second-largest park in Paris after Bois de Vincennes, estimated to be twice as big as New York's Central Park.
You can easily go for a quick stroll around the park or have a picnic here. If you love boat rides, then you're in luck. The park has two lakes on-site which offer boat rides from either side of the park, eventually meeting at the artificially-made Grande Cascade waterfall.
Sainte-Chapelle was once an important and holy place in the world. It was built in the Gothic architectural style because of orders from Louis IX in the second half of the 13th century to make the church a symbol of religion in Paris.
The chapel was built within seven years, unlike Notre-Dame Cathedral. It has become one of the most famous monuments in France, mainly because of its stained glass collection.
The stained glass collection in the chapel has been arranged into 15 windows which shows 1,113 scenes from both the new and old testament of the Bible. It is indeed overwhelming when you get the opportunity to witness the outstanding work of art.
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Musée d'Orsay, although not as popular as the Louvre Museum, attracts more than 3 million visitors annually. It was built back in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition as a train station, but it was converted into a museum in 1979 by three architects. When you enter the museum, you will see that it still maintains the look of a train station.
If you are a fan of French impressionism, the fifth floor of the museum is the best section of the building for you to check out. The most attractive and appealing part of the museum is the art collection inside gathered from 1848 to 1914.
Champs-Élysées is one of the most visited and beautiful avenues in the world, known for its stunning tree-lined sidewalks.
Built and completed in the 17th century, the avenue links Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe and has undergone frequent changes since then. The ground size of the avenue measures to about 2 kilometres from end to end.
Champs-Élysées caters to all your cravings when it comes to having fun and staying entertained. With numerous cinemas located on the avenue, you can easily relax and watch a movie with your family.
There are many theatre auditoriums for you to visit if you are also looking for a theatre experience while you are visiting Paris. It is home to several landmarks for you to explore as well, examples being the Arc de Triomphe and Jardins des Champs-Élysées.
Grand Palais, Paris
Built mainly for the Exposition Universelle held in 1900, Grand Palais can easily be recognised because of its large glass dome.
The famous monument was constructed with steel, stone, and glass and was declared a historical monument in the year 2000.
Grand Palais is comprised of 3 major sites, which are the National Galleries, the Nave, and the Palais de la Découverte. The National Galleries is where art exhibitions are held, and the Palais de la Découverte is the science discovery museum.
With these features, the Grand Palais attracts about 2 million people every year. As of today, the Grand Palais showcases a large number of art exhibitions, including the hosting of events like Fashion Week and the annual Paris Photo exhibition.
Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM), Marseille
The Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean is the home of many important artefacts from the Mediterranean civilisation. Aside from the fact that it houses a wonderful collection of art, the structure itself is impressive. It is the creation of the architect Rudy Ricciotti.
The 55,000-square-meters museum can be located in Marseille. It was opened in 2013, the same year Marseille was named the cultural capital of Europe.
The museum has several attractions which draw in visitors every day. An example is the 12,000-square-metres botanical garden, the Garden of Migrations.
Another must-see feature of the museum is the footbridge that links the museum to the historic Fort Saint-Jean. MuCEM also has a cafe, two restaurants and an open-air theatre.
Château Royal d'Amboise, Amboise
Château Royal d'Amboise, a famous historical monument of France, was the seat of the court of Kings Charles VIII and François 1st. Many well-known people have lived in the castle, including the artist Leonardo da Vinci.
The artist was invited by François 1st to visit, and he was buried inside the Château as his last wish three years later. His tomb can be located in Saint-Hubert's Chapel.
Every feature of the landmark has political and artistic importance, depending on how you look at it. Tourists are allowed to go through the passageways and towers of the fortress. It is an excellent way to spend your day if you are a fan of ancient structures or monuments.
Astérix Park, Plailly
You might have heard about the comic characters Astérix or Obélix when you were a kid. These comic characters have appeared in many comic books and cartoon movies. Astérix Park is a theme park based on these comic characters.
The theme park has 32 fun rides and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Aside from the rides, you have the opportunity to explore six featured lands in the park.
You can spend the whole day here with your family if you ride every slide before you leave. When you are hungry, you can also buy some food sold on the premises. A fun place to be, especially if you have kids with you.
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, designed by Pierre Bossan, is a must-see landmark when you visit the city of Lyon. The white Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, popularly known by locals as the "upside-down elephant," can be located on Fourvière Hill in Lyon's 5th district.
With its location on a hill overlooking the city of Lyon, the Basilica has become a symbol of the city. It attracts approximately 2 million visitors each year.
The Basilica was constructed between 1872 and 1884 as a monument to thank God for the victory they enjoyed over the socialists, like the Sacré Coeur of Montmartre in Paris. This serves as a symbol of rooting out the sins of Modern France.
One of the popular sites at the landmark is the Rosary Gardens, which can be found under the Basilica. The gardens were designed in a way to isolate the place of prayer from all the chaos going on in the city. There are many other attractions for you to see in the Basilica to make your day memorable.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is about an hour drive away from Paris, but it is worth the travel because of the attractions it has to offer. It is one of the historical landmarks in France.
The famous landmark was constructed between 1656 and 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. Today, the chateau is owned by the De Vogüé family, and they have been responsible for maintaining the beauty of the castle.
When you visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, you will notice that it maintains its 17th-century look because of the way it has been preserved. The château is a representation of France's pre-revolutionary wealth.
The landmark shows immense beauty and royalty, probably the reason why many celebrities have gotten married at this venue. It is also family-friendly, so you can take your kids along with you when you are visiting.
Pont d'Avignon, Avignon
Pont d'Avignon, or The Saint Benezet Bridge, was constructed between 1177 and 1185. It is one of the historical landmarks in France, attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually.
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge was originally the only link between the river of Lyon and the sea. Today, only four arches of the bridge remain from the original number of 22 connecting Avignon with Villeneuve lez Avignon.
A dangerous flood destroyed the missing 18 arches of the bridge during the 17th century. Tourists can visit the Chapel of Saint Nicholas, located on the second arch of the historic bridge. You can also check out the Tour Philippe-le-Bel when at Pont d'Avignon in the city of Avignon.
Puy du Fou, Les Epesses
Puy du Fou is one of the biggest tourist attractions in France, drawing in more than 20,000 people every day, especially during the summer. You have probably not heard of this theme park because it is not largely advertised outside the country.
Being the second-largest theme park in France, it has won several awards from around the world. For example, it won the "Best European Theme Park" in 2013.
Unlike other theme parks, Puy du Fou, located in Les Epesses, does not have any rides available for its visitors. The theme park replaces the fun you get from the rides with historical shows of a medieval nature.
Some of the shows feature birds and horses dancing with people in costumes. This is the place to be, with your children, if you are not a fan of theme park rides.
The Futuroscope was the first theme park established in France in 1987, and it is the second-largest theme park in France today. Since its opening, the theme park has hosted over 40 million visitors.
If you are travelling with kids, visiting the Futuroscope is recommended because kids are always in the mood for adventure and fun. Even though this famous landmark is a theme park, it is not a traditional theme park we are all accustomed to with roller coasters and rides.
The park is known to offer futuristic experiences for tourists. There are 3D and 4D shows provided at the theme park to engage kids, with educational videos showcased on a large screen.
Château de Chenonceau, Chenonceaux
Château de Chenonceau is a palace that was built in the 15th century but was rebuilt in the 16th century. The castle was built on the River Cher and has had many owners, like King Francis I of Francis.
Today, the owners of Château de Chenonceau is the Menier family, owners of a famous chocolate company. The palace is the second most-visited palace in France, following Versailles, after the family fully restored the castle and its gardens.
Visiting the palace during the summer is recommended as the best time to explore it since the gardens usually blossom with beauty during that time. This is the perfect location for you if you want to have a feel for what royal life was like.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, Chartres
Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral can be located in the Centre-Val-de-Loire region. It is popular for its French gothic architecture and was built between 1194 and 1250.
Since it was built, the Cathedral has been an important place for pilgrims. Many pilgrims come to the Cathedral to worship the veil of the Virgin Mary, "Sancta Camisa". They believe that this was the same veil worn by the Virgin Mary when she was in labour with Jesus Christ.
Today, Chartres Cathedral is the world's best-preserved cathedral and attracts plenty of visitors every year, mainly for its architecture and stained-glass window designs. Visiting the Cathedral transports you back to the middle ages with its rich sacred art, which is impressive even if you are not a religious person.
France is a country with many tourist attractions for you to explore. From the list of landmarks provided, you will notice that most of them are in and around Paris.
If you are fortunate and your destination is Paris, you should consider adding some of the above destinations to your French itinerary. I hope this list of top landmarks in France will help you plan your visit to France!
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