Avignon bridge

The best free tourist attractions in France

A selection of top sites that can be seen free of charge

About-France.com - the thematic guide to France

Subject index Great cathedrals Free museums
Other free sites Paris for free

  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 often no tickets sold, therefore no accurate visitor statistics..

Note : Senior citizens, over 65s.

There is not much of a tradition in France of offering free access or discounts to senior citizens (unlike Spain, Italy or the UK, for example), but it sometimes worth looking to see in there is a "tarif seniors". These do exist sometimes, and for example, Seniors benefit from the reduced rate at the Paris Science museum at La Villette.


Free attractions by category:

1.  Cathedrals and other churches


a. Cathedrals

France's magnificent medieval 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 medieval 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 medieval cathedral
  • Beauvais (Picardy) never finished, but the highest vaults of any medieval cathedral.
  • Bourges (Centre region) one of the last medieval cathedrals to have been built. Fine stained glass - see gallery
  • Albi (Midi Pyrenees)  the only fortified cathedral in France.
Other cathedrals:
b. Other significant churches
  • Abbey of Saint Savin sur Gartempe (Poitou) - medieval frescoes
  • Abbey of Vezelay (Burgundy) - Great pilgrimage church
  • Abbey church of Conques (Midi Pyrenees )  see gallery
  • 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 - Nice museums are no longer free, except to under-18s and students
    •  - 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
  • Rouen (Normandy)  (Free  since 2016 )   Musée des Beaux arts and other municipal museums. The best collection of works by the Impressionists outside Paris
  • 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

Near Paris:
  • Château de Versailles: free access to the grounds. Free access to the château for under 18s and for under-26s resident in the European Union (proof of residence needed).

Other places:
  • Aigues Mortes (Languedoc)  Medieval 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 Medieval bridge, a Unesco world heritage site, was washed away in the 17th century.  Also visit the old city and the free gardens beside the medieval Papal palace (paid entry).
  • Carcassonne . the historic medieval city is free to visit, but there is a charge for access to the ramparts. Children free, and EU citizens aged 18-25 also free (ID required).
  • 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 formerly 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 medieval 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 medieval 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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