The best free tourist attractions in France

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  Top free tourist attractions in France 

On this page we list some of the best tourist attractions in France that can be visited free of charge. It is not possible to list these in order of popularity, since being free there are no tickets sold, therefore no accurate visitor statistics..

Free attractions by category:

1.  Cathedrals and other churches

a. Cathedrals
France's magnificent mediaeval cathedrals are among the most visited of the nation's free tourist attractions, on a par with the top paid-entry sites.  
The finest gothic cathedrals in France are to be found at:
  • Paris - Notre Dame
  • Chartres (Centre region)  famous for its incredible mediaeval stained glass windows
  • Strasbourg   (Alsace) Notre Dame cathedral -one of the most visited in France.
  • Reims (Champagne region) the cathedral where the kings of France used to be crowned
  • Amiens (Picardy) one of the greatest gothic cathedrals.
  • Rouen (Normandy) another fine mediaeval cathedral
  • Beauvais (Picardy) never finished, but the highest vaults of any mediaeval cathedral.
  • Bourges (Centre region) one of the last mediaeval cathedrals to have been built.
  • Albi (Midi Pyrenees)  the only fortified cathedral in France.
Other cathedrals:
b. Other significant churches
  • Abbey of Saint Savin sur Gartempe (Poitou) - mediaeval frescoes
  • Abbey of Vezelay (Burgundy) - Great pilgrimage church
  • Saint Philibert, Tournus, (Burgundy)  one of the oldest churches in France.
  • Saint Sernin, Toulouse - (Midi Pyrenees)

2. Free Museums in France

Note: the permanent collections of state museums, including the Louvre, are free at all times to young people under 26 years of age and resident in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein. Free tickets can be obtained on presentation of a valid ID - passport or ID card - plus proof of residency -  at the museum ticket office 

All state museums (that means most major museums in France) are free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month.

Museums that are free at all times:
Entrance free to the permanent collections in these museums
Paris area:
  • Paris: City of Paris Museum of Modern Art
  • Paris - Musée Carnavalet - the museum of the history of Paris
  • Paris - Petit Palais, City of Paris museum of fine arts; near the Champs Elysées. Includes some Impressionists.
  • Le Bourget - Just outside Paris: Musée de l'air et de l'espace (Aerospace museum) - 
  • See also  Paris for Free
Other places: .
  • Bordeaux: Musée des beaux arts - one of the best general art galleries in France outside Paris.  No longer free.
  • Bordeaux: Musée d'Aquitaine - good prehistoric section, including a reproduction of part of the Lascaux cave paintings.
  • Dijon - Musée des Beaux Arts - one of the finest provincial art galleries in France, housed in the former palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
  • Limoges (Limousin) Musée des beaux arts - A collection from XV to XX century, including works by Delacroix, Redon, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, plus Limoges enamels and prehistoric artefacts.
  • Menton (Riviera) -  Palais de Carnolès.  from Greek icons and the Italian Renaissance to Chagall Dufy and Picasso. A fine small museum.
  • Mulhouse (Alsace) - Musée des Beaux Arts.
  • Nice - Musée Matisse.
  • Nice - Musée des Beaux arts (includes works by Fragonard, Boudin, Degas, Dufy, Sisley, Rodin, and others)
  • Nice - Musée d'art moderne et contemporain - Modern art museum
  • Toulouse - Musée départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation - Museum of the French resistance

3 Other free sites to visit

Paris:  see Paris for Free

Other places:
  • Aigues Mortes (Languedoc)  Mediaeval bastide city port, from where the Crusaders set off in medieval times. And generally speaking the other bastide towns of southwest France
  • Avignon (Provence) : Admire the famous "Pont d'Avignon", or what remains of it. Most of the Mediaeval bridge, a Unesco world heritage site, was washed away in the 17th century.  Also visit the old city and the free gardens beside the mediaeval Papal palace (paid entry).
  • Millau: visit the Millau viaduct and interpretive centre on the A75 motorway. (Bridge toll). Also close by Les Gorges du Tarn - a deep natural gorge
  • Nice: wander along the Promenade des Anglais and visit the gardens of the old château de Nice. Also several free art galleries.
  • Nimes (Languedoc) : view from the outside the famous Roman remains of the Amphitheatre and the Maison Carrée.
  • Normandy: the Normandy beaches 
  • Oradour sur Glane, near Limoges. (Limousin) . A French village that was the site of a massacre by Nazi SS in 1944. The village was burned to the ground, and remains preserved as it was left, a memorial to the horrors of war. Free entrance to the village.
  • Rocamadour, Lot (Midi-Pyrenees). A major mediaeval pilgrimage centre, the old town hanging precariously on the steep rocky side of a valley.
  • St Malo (Brittany) . Fortifications - One of the walled cities of France
  • Near Pontarlier (Franche Comté). La source de la Loue - the river emerges, full-size, from a cavern at the base of a cliff
4  Natural environment.

Generally speaking, France's immensely rich natural environment is free for all to enjoy. See Wild France

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Who hasn't heard of the famous "Pont d'Avignon" - the great mediaeval bridge over the Rhone?  You have to pay to walk on it, and back again; but viewing the bridge from the river bank is quite free.... and more interesting.
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