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Historic monuments in France

The most interesting and most visited historic monuments in France

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With over 40,000 officially classified historic monuments, France has one of the densest concentrations of historic buildings and other monuments of any country in Europe. From great palaces and cathedrals to the tiniest of medieval chapels, Roman remains, or vestiges from the time of the Industrial Revolution, France has them all. And that is just counting the officially listed historic monuments. Apart from the 40,000 officially listed sites, many thousands more old bridges, barns, houses, chapels, villages, priories and private residences are historic monuments in all but official designation.

Top sites: the most visited historic monuments in France


(Source French national statistical office: includes only monuments visited primarily for historic and cultural interest, rather than other reasons.)

The top twenty most visited monuments in France

  1. Notre dame de Paris Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (free)
  2. Sacré Coeur basilica, Montmartre, Paris (free)
  3. Gardens of the château de Versailles, near Paris (free)
  4. The LouvreParis
  5. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
  6. The Georges Pompidou centre and museum of art, Paris
  7. Notre Dame Cathedral Strasbourg (free)
  8. La Villette science museum, Paris
  9. The château de Versailles, near Paris
  10.  Mont Saint Michel, Normandy
  11. Musée d'Orsay, Paris
  12. Les Baux de Provence, near Avignon
  13. Village of Riquewihr (Alsace)  (free)
  14. St. Malo  (Brittany)  (free)
  15. Notre Dame cathedral, Reims (Champagne)  (free)
  16. Notre-Dame cathedral, Chartres (Centre)  (free)
  17. The Pont du Gard (near Nimes, Languedoc)
  18. The Arc de Triomphe, Paris 
  19. Palace of the Popes, Avignon, Provence
  20. Basilique de Vézelay, Burgundy (free)
The top 20 most visited monuments in France are not necessarily the twenty most interesting historic monuments in France. The most visited monuments are most visited because they happen to be easily accessible from the main tourist centres in France.  For a much greater choice, visit the Best of France

Here are a few more major monuments that are just as worth visiting as any of the above:
The cathedral of St. Cecilia in Albi (Midi Pyrenees), the Chateau de Chenonceaux (Centre - Loire valley), the Royal saltworks at Arc et Senans (Franche comté), the walled city of Carcassonne (Languedoc), the cathedral at Amiens (Picardy).... , the amazing Caverne du Pont d'Arc museum in Ardèche (prehistoric cave paintings) and so many more.
  For details by region, see Tourist attractions in France by region

Historic French cities


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Here are the six most visited historic city centres among the major cities of France. Each of these cities is a regional capital, has a rich historic centre, and is very much worth the visit during a holiday in France or for a weekend break.

These six cities are by no means the only - nor necessarily the most interesting - city centres to visit when on holiday in France. Many smaller towns and cities in France - notably some that are less important now than they were in the past - have city centres with remarkable collections of historic monuments.
Click for more ideas on the most interesting and attractive historic cities in France


Historic areas with rich collections of monuments :



While the richest concentration of historic monuments can be found in Paris, the vast majority of historic monuments lie in the regions. And there are thousands of them .....
Here is a short themed selection: From north to south.

Tourism in France by theme:


To make the most of a holiday in France, follow these links for a thematic approach to touring in France, and the main things to see and do in the French regions:
By region
A short guide to the regions of France

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   It would be impossible - and indeed pointless -  to draw up a list of all the historic monuments in France.  The aim of this guide is to help visitors, tourists and anyone else, to discover the essential historic heritage of France, and - through the regional guides - some of the less well-known sites and monuments.  But this can only be a start.
    Ultimately,  to make a full discovery of all the historic monuments - listed and unlisted - that an area has to offer, it only local knowledge,  handouts from local tourist offices, and personal  experience that can really produce the results.


St Front cathedral
St Front's cathedral - Perigueux. The Byzantine-Romanesque tower is the oldest cathedral tower in France, nearly 1,000 years old


This page covers continental France but does not include historic monuments in French overseas departments and territories . In no way is it a complete guide.  While all of the "most visited" historic monuments in France are among the best and most interesting historic monuments that France has to offer, there are also many other magnificent historic monuments that are off the beaten track, and consequently far less visited than they would be if, for example, they were just outside Paris.



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