France Attractions

Places to visit, points of interest and top things to see in France

8 /10
Palace of Versailles thumbnail
Palace of Versailles
*
The "City of light" is undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful and fascinating cities - you could spend a lifetime here and not see everything that Paris has to offer. An easy day trip from Paris is to the Palace of Versailles, one of Europe's most spectacular and largest royal homes. Versailles is about a 30 minute train ride from the center of the city.

King Louis XIV – the "Sun King" - commissioned the palace in 1668 as well as the spacious and beautiful gardens. At one time, almost 2200 men were employed on its construction, which took almost fifty years. The small town of Versailles became the unofficial capital city of the Kingdom of France in 1682, when Louis XIV decided to transfer his court to Versailles. All subsequent French monarchs lived there until the revolution.

At the height of its power, the Palace at Versailles was well known for its lavish banquets, parties and entertainment. It's estimated that around 3000 people lived at Versailles, which was perhaps necessary as one of the many duties of the servants was to hold the ermine robe of the king!

Versailles remained a royal residence until 1789 when a mob marched on the palace and forced the king and queen - Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette - to return to Paris... read more arrow
7.9 /10
Musee d'Orsay thumbnail
Musee d'Orsay
*
Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France, is a museum located in what used to be a railway station, the Gare d'Orsay. This museum boasts of a huge collection of paintings by Renoir, Monet, Delacroix, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh and other impressionist artists. It also focuses on the art scene between 1848 and 1915, which is said to be the early modern era for art in France. The collection also includes not just paintings but furniture, photographs and sculptures.

The setting itself is an interesting tidbit that adds to the fascination of Musee d'Orsay. The railway station dates back to the 1900s, when it was built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. This was the creation of three architects, namely Victor Laloux, Emile Benard and Lucien Magne. The Gare d'Orsay was where the railways that entered from southwest of France terminated until the late 1930s. As longer trains were being built, however, the terminal became less and less suitable because it only had short platforms that could not accommodate the trains... read more arrow
7.8 /10
La Sainte Chapelle thumbnail
La Sainte Chapelle
*
A jewelry box. A light show. A diamond reflecting the light with its many facets.

This is La Sainte Chapelle in Paris and more. It is best to visit this gem of a chapel during the day, when there is plenty of sunlight. La Sainte Chapelle may be small, but oh, the wonder and excitement when you see how natural light plays with it!

La Sainte Chapelle (or Holy Chapel) harks back to 1246, when it was built as a home to the relics of the True Cross. This includes the purported Crown of Thorns that Jesus wore during his crucifixion. This was acquired by the Crusader King (King Louis IX), along with a portion of the True Cross. The chapel is small, when compared to the buildings that surround it. It is 36 meters long, 17 meters wide and 42.5 meters high, with a 33-meter high spire made of cedar... read more arrow
7.8 /10
Centre Pompidou thumbnail
Centre Pompidou
*
The Centre Georges Pompidou is to be found at the Beaubourg area of Paris, France. It is near Marais and Les Halles at the IVe arrondissement. This controversial building was constructed in the 1970s and now houses a variety of institutions. These include the National Museum of Modern Art, a library (Bibliothèque publique d'information) and others.

Ever since it opened its doors in 1977, it has been the subject of many an argument, because of its bold "exo-skeletal" design made of glass and metal and the use of brightly colored pipes that are visible to all. It is one of the most visited sights in France, attracting around 6 million people annually and around 5,000 people daily.

The centre, as the name suggests, was named after the then president of France, Georges Pompidou. It was his idea to build a modern testament of the creativity and ingenuity of the people and have it standing right in the center of Paris... read more arrow
7.8 /10
Undoubtedly the most famous avenue in the world, Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, is blessed with a unique elegance and charm. That is also why it is considered the world's most beautiful avenue. Even with traffic surging along it, there really is something special in the experience of ambling along Champs-Elysees. The streetlamps at dusk provide an exceptional atmosphere to the length that spans from the Place Charles de Gaulle (where you can find the Arc de Triomphe) to Place de la Concorde.

"Champs-Elysees" translates to "Elysian Fields" in English. What is interesting is that it was named after Elusia, which in Greek mythology is the place where conquerors and heroes came to relax. Indeed, when you visit Avenue des Champs-Elysees, you will discover that it was aptly named.

The entire avenue is about 2 kilometers long. It was laid out in the mid1600s by André Le Nôtre, a landscape artist, upon the behest of Marie de Medicis... read more arrow
7.7 /10
Promenade de la Croisette thumbnail
Promenade de la Croisette
*
The first thing that comes to mind when you say Cannes is the Cannes Film Festival, with all its glitz and glamour. And yes, La Croisette is very much part of this, as this promenade is very much a part of the activities for the film festival.

Promenade de la Croisette (which, in English, means the "Avenue of the Little Cross" is a famous boulevard that spans its share of the Mediterranean Sea. It is named thus because of the little cross that stood east of the bay. La Croisette, as it is fondly called, is about 2 kilometers in length and is lined with chic hotels (some harking back to the Belle Epoque period), the most expensive of shops and restaurants. It starts from the Palais des Festivals to the point that juts into the Mediterranean. From here, you can have excellent views of the Lerin Islands and the gulf.

The palm-studded boulevard is an excellent place to go people-watching You can sit in one of the many cafes as you watch life in Cannes pass by your very eyes... read more arrow
7.7 /10
Jardins des Plantes thumbnail
Jardins des Plantes
*
Visit the oldest garden in all of France – the Jardins des Plantes in Montpellier in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. It may come as a surprise to most tourists, but this haven is just 20 minutes' walk from the Place de la Comedie. But these lovely gardens are a welcome respite and a haven of peace and tranquility. Do come here to relax and breathe in the fresh air that only gardens seem to have.

This botanical paradise is filled with over 3,500 species of indigenous and exotic plants. There are also some very old trees in this garden, several that date back to the time when the garden was first formed, in 1593.

The Jardins des Plantes was created by Henry IV, who wanted students of medicine to have easier access to plants that can help in their research. He commissioned Pierre Richer de Belleval, who was a teacher of botany and anatomy, to make a Royal garden similar to an Italian medical garden... read more arrow
7.7 /10
The Conciergerie is a fortress in Paris, France that used to house kings and subsequently prisoners. It served as the Royal Apartments prior to the completion of the Louvre, which became the new Royal Residence. La Conciergerie was constructed during the early part of the 14th century. It came with a guardroom, a kitchen and a men-at-arms room. This was built by the architects Jean de Saint-Germer and Nicolas des Chaumes. It was originally an extension of the royal Palais de la Cite, it stands beside the twin towers (the Tour de Cesar and the Tour d'Argent).

It gained its notoriety during the French Revolution, when thousands were imprisoned here before they were brought to Concorde Square where they were guillotined before an angry mob. There is a room that holds a record of all 2,780 men and women who were executed here. Among the illustrious personages that made it their "home", Charlotte Corday (who is said to have stabbed Marat while he was bathing) and Danton... read more arrow
7.6 /10
Mont Saint-Michel, France, as seen from afar, is mystical, imposing and magical. It stands majestic as it gazes down from its lofty heights. It stands in the bay that is daily assaulted by the highest tides in Europe. Seated from its lofty height, it provides you with magnificent panoramas of the Bretagne and Normandy coastline.

Legend says that the whole fortification was made at the request of Michael, the archangel. In response, Aubert, then the Bishop of Avranches, has a small church built in 709. This was followed by additions made throughout the different centuries – monastery buildings, a cloister and refectory, a Romanesque cathedral and even a fortress. The fortress was an addition necessitated by frequent attacks during the Hundred Years War. Such was the strength of the fortress and the will of the people that they were able to withstand a 30-year siege... read more arrow
7.6 /10
Basilique Sacre Coeur is a revered landmark in Paris, France. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart marks the city's highest point, on top of the hill of Montmartre. And from that lofty mount, it serves as a very visible reminder of Christian traditions.

The basilica is an immense example of the Roman-Byzantine style, it has soaring dome towers - 83 meters tall! It is built with Château-Landon stones that naturally maintains its white color as it bleaches with age.

Mind you, the Basilica has been met with mixed reviews. With the basilica, it's either you love it or you hate it. But, its ability to elicit strong emotions means that it is an architectural landmark. It has been called the "Basilica of the ridiculous", but it is also well-loved by others.

The gallery around the inner dome is also something to behold... read more arrow
7.5 /10
The monument stands for triumph – the triumph of the human spirit against the odds. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, stands proudly, a fitting memorial to homage the brave ones who fought during the Napoleonic Wars, for the honor and freedom of their beloved country, France.

You can see this monument displayed in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, right at the end of the magnificent Champs-Elysees. It is part of a series of monuments that begins from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace all the way to the outskirts of Paris. The Arc de Triomphe stands as the focal point from where other major avenues (such as the Avenue de la Grande Armée and Avenue Foch) radiate.

The Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin and features images of young people battling Germanic warriors. It was inspired by the Arch of Titus... read more arrow
7.4 /10
The Massif des Calanques offer a unique experience. This geological formation shaped like fingers mark the rocky coastline between Marseille and Cassis in Provence. Hiking, going on trails, diving, swimming and rock-climbing are just some of the sports that are yours to enjoy as you get a load of the Calanques. The rugged terrain beckons with its unique geological beauty. The towering peaks of white limestone are indeed an unforgettable sight to behold. Its beauty has made this one of France's most beautiful natural wonders.

Calanques are finger-like rocks that were formed over time, as rivers flowed into the sea. The ebb and flow of the waters caused the formation of steep coastal valleys and inlets. These form long and narrow inlets with small beaches at its fringes. The limestone walls provide an amazing counterpoint to the sandy beach and the turquoise waters... read more arrow
7 /10
Place de la Comedie is the "heart" of Montpellier in France. Although it is not its center in terms of geographical position, it is the center of Montpellier as it is where the locals, mostly the young, stay to hang out, people-watch and chat with friends. This plaza is where the life of the city ebbs and flows. You can join the locals and sit at the many cafes in the area and watch the hustle and bustle of the people going by, even as you sip your cup of hot latte.

Located at the south-west area of the city center, Place de la Comedie is in the Herault department in France. This is also the area where most of the city fortifications are located.

The Place de la Comedie is also fondly called by locals as "L'Oeuf", which literally means "the egg". It is called such because it is shaped like an egg, its ovoid shape housing some cafes, bars, and shops... read more arrow
7 /10
The D-Day Beaches in Normandy, France, with its gentle sand dunes and coves, lay witness to one of history's greatest moments during wartime. This is where 100,000 soldiers lost their lives in a bid to secure and liberate this section of Europe from the rule of the Germans. The coastline was a strategic line of defense, one that the Allied troops tried to breach and one the German forces tried to defend at all costs. This coastline was transformed into an unbroken fortress armed with land mines, guns, wire, beach obstacles and pillboxes.

Dubbed Operation Overlord, D-Day marks what is considered to be the largest military operation in history and involved the U.S., Canadian and British troops. Their assault successfully smashed the Nazi defense.

D-Day refers to June 6, 1944, when a great assembly of Allied troops along with a multitude of warships, tugboats, jeeps and landing craft, arrived and occupied the area along the Norman Cost – on the Cotentin Peninsula and between Les Dunes de Varneville and Orne... read more arrow
7 /10
The Musee Rodin in Paris is, as the name suggests, a showcase of the works of the renowned French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. In addition, you will find here many aspects of Rodin's life – Rodin the art collector, Rodin the painter, Rodin the person and of course, there is a collection of sketches he made prior to transforming these into sculptural masterpieces.

The place used to be the Hotel Biron, which was Rodin's residence since the early 1900s. The chic 18th century hotel, along with its surrounding grounds, was converted into a museum upon the sculptor's behest. Rodin donated his works, along with his art collection to the state, on the condition that the hotel be turned into a museum. The recipient, which was the French State, gladly complied. Auguste Rodin is known and considered to be the father of modern sculpture, so much so because his works were, during his time, considered controversial... read more arrow
7 /10
No other cemetery is so good at name dropping than Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise in Paris, France. It is the final resting place of many famous personalities. The list of the persons buried there looks like the Who's Who of over two centuries' worth.

It is expansive and beautiful, with 44 hectares and over 5,000 trees. This makes it the largest park in the city. And the fact that many of the famous are buried here has made it into a pantheon garden and open air museum.

The cemetery is located on top of the hill of Camp 'Eveque. It is named after the confessor of Louis XIV – Father Francois de La Chaise d'Aix, or La Pere La Chaise. It was opened as a cemetery in the early 1800s and was designed by Alexandre-Theodore Brongniart, who is also buried here.

The cemetery came about as a response to the banning of cemeteries within the city's vicinity, as this was believed to cause disease... read more arrow
7 /10
Another landmark in Paris, a city filled with great landmarks, is the Palais Garnier, also called the Opera Garnier, Opera de Paris or the Grand Opera House. Designed by the renowned Charles Garnier, this splendid structure is of the tradition of the Neo-Baroque style and is a grand masterpiece in architecture.

Completed in 1875, it is a tour de force for rococo, especially when you bear in mind that this was built during the glory days of the French Empire. Napoleon III ordered it built as part of the reconstruction project for Paris. Today, it is making a comeback as the premier place for ballet dances.

Opera Garnier is lavishly decorated with marble. You can see the fabulous sculpture of Carpeaux entitled the Dance. The façade includes rose-colored marble columns, winged figures and friezes as part of its embellishments.

Inside, take in the wonder of rainbow-colored marble pillars, gilded statues and vibrant mosaics... read more arrow
7 /10
With medieval ruins, a waterfall and a flower-filled garden, Colline du Chateau in Nice, France is a favorite, and a frequently visited site, not just by tourists but by locals who want to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Colline du Chateau can be found on a hill nestled between the Nice harbor and the old town. The hill upon which this park stands is called Castle Hill and has an elevation of around 92 meters. The park's position at the top of Castle Hill affords its visitors with great views of the city below. From here, you will see the Promenade des Anglais, the Baie des Anges and the Old Town (with its red roofs).

Although it is called a chateau, you will find no such structure in this plateau-like park. The imposing medieval stronghold that once stood here now lies in ruins, victim of many an attack, until it was finally destroyed. Yet, the place still retains this name, probably in memory of the medieval grandeur that once can be found here. This was the first section of Nice that was settled into... read more arrow
7 /10
Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (or Our Lady of the Guard Basilica) stands as one of the highest points in the city of Marseille, France. And rightly so, as she is considered to be La Bonne Mere - "Our Good Mother" - who benevolently guards the people of Marseilles. At 154 meters, it seems that she is doing her job quite well. The statue, as well as the Basilica, is a well-loved landmark.

The magnificent Basilica never fails to shock and move you. Back in the mid1800s, the bishop of Marseilles, Saint Charles Eugene de Mazenod, had this basilica built. It was originally a chapel dedicated to the Lady of the Guard, who was expected to ensure the safe return of the "people of the sea" – the sailors of Marseilles. In fact, the 13th century chapel contained some ex-votos that were used for the purpose of praying to her. There is also a fortress built near the site.

Surmounted on the basilica is a gigantic statue of the Virgin and her Child... read more arrow
7 /10
The Louvre, in Paris, France, is one of the world's greatest museums – you could easily spend a month there and still not see all of its treasures. It's also one of the largest and most visited museums in the world, attracting around 8 million visitors every year.

The building's statistics are staggering – the Louvre contains an estimated 380,000 works of art, sculptures and paintings, of which only around 30,000 are on display at any one time. There are almost 60,000 square meters of exhibition space and the exhibits on display encompass eleven centuries of art and design.

The history of the Louvre dates back to the 12th century, when King Philippe-Auguste constructed a fortress to protect Paris from Viking raids. The site was chosen partly due to its strategic position by the Seine. Parts of the medieval wall and moats are still visible today in the courtyard known as the Cour Carree... read more arrow
7 /10
Ban des Vendanges de St. Emilion (or Jurade de Saint Emilion) is not a place, but a special event held annually in medieval Saint-Emilion in the famous wine region of Bordeaux, France. It marks the beginning of the grape harvest, a special event for this part of France that is known for its excellent wines. It usually starts between the first and third week of the month of September. It really depends on the weather – the warmth and coolness of the air also affects the ripening of the grapes. Wineries wait for the grapes to fully ripen under the sun. Also, winegrowers count 100 days from the date of the flowering of the vine to determine the time of harvest.

Les vendanges (or harvest) is when the vineyards come alive as the ripe grapes are picked and brought to the wineries... read more arrow
6.9 /10
The Musee des Beaux-Arts (or the Museum of Fine Arts) in Lyon, France is one of biggest art collections in the country. Housed in the former Abbey of the Ladies of Saint Pierre, this museum provides one with a glimpse of the arts throughout the ages. There are works that are from the time of ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as works from the Medieval Age up until the present.

Indeed, Musee des Beaux-Arts offer an extensive collection for the world to view. There is the antiquities collection, which covers artifacts and art objects from the Egyptian, Cyprian, Grecian, Sumerian and Roman Empires. There are also collections featuring art from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance periods and an odd mix of folk art and crafts from different places. There are also some Byzantine ivories, as well as Etruscan art works. It even has an Islamic Art collection (the first of its kind outside of Paris), along with a collection of Japanese tea ceremony earthenware... read more arrow
6.8 /10
Marseille, France boasts of awe-inspiring monuments, chief of which is the Abbaye Saint-Victor in Rue de l'Abbaye. This utterly beguiling abbey harks back to the 5th century and was built above the grounds where Saint Victor was buried.

This fortified abbey stands just above the Vieux-Port's bank, on its southern side. The view of the ancient building makes an interesting counterpoint with the sleek and modern yachts below, at the dry dock.

Saint Victor of Marseilles was a martyr who played an important part in the development of Christianity in the Mediterranean. It is said that he publicly denounced idols and refused to worship the god Jupiter. He was an officer in the Roman army and because of his denunciation, the emperor had him beaten, thrown in prison and then beheaded.

Thus, the Abbey is a memorial to this brave saint, as well as to the friends who also chose to follow the way he led and who also died with him... read more arrow
6.7 /10
Welcome to Grande Ile, in Strasbourg, France. This is the only city center that has the distinction of being declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. And indeed, Grande Ile is imbibed with a unique sense of culture, and is overflowing with a wealth of historical and cultural monuments. There are also 22 brass plates that celebrate its being a World Heritage Site – these can be found at the bridges that lead to Grand Ile.

Grande Ile, as the name suggests, is really an island, as two branches of the Ill river encircle the area, separating it from other parts of the city of Strasbourg.

Grand Ile is the perfect embodiment of a medieval city. It is also home to the Strasbourg Cathedral, as well as four churches that are centuries old. These are the churches of Saint Pierre le Vieux, Saint Etienne, Saint Thomas and Saint Pierre le Jeune... read more arrow
6.2 /10
Paris, France, is known for iconic structures. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the dome of Sacre Coeur on Montmartre are practically clichés when thinking of the City of Light.

Perhaps no one building more perfectly encapsulates the soul of the city as the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, located on Ile-de-la-Cite in the River Seine. This splendid example of Gothic architecture occupies a site that's long been the center of the city, and captures in its soaring arches and stained glass windows much that is emblematic of the French soul.

The site of Notre Dame has long been a center for worship, long before the advent of Christianity in France. Celtic tribes had sacred groves of trees on the island. When the area was part of the Roman Empire, a temple to Jupiter graced the site; after the triumph of Christianity, two separate churches in the Romanesque style were built over the centuries, with the most recent being the Cathedral de Saint-Etienne (St... read more arrow
5.5 /10
Lourdes's Our Lady Sanctuary which encompasses the Catholic famous grottoes has long been a favorite among tourists in France. This is a place where people go to seek healing and to meet Our Lady of Lourdes, just as St. Bernadette did in one of the grottoes.

The story goes that Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old French peasant girl, was able to see and converse with Mary, Jesus' mother, eighteen times in 1858. These visions occurred in a niche at the Massabielle grotto. Bernadette also said that the Virgin Mary directed her to a spring, a spring that did not exist before. She then asked Bernadette to take a drink from the spring. The Virgin Mary also asked Bernadette to tell the local priest to build a chapel for her.

Since then, this spring has been believed to contain healing water. And millions have lined up to get a taste of this water. Also, there are quite a number of those who have drank of this water who claimed healing from various sicknesses such as cancer, blindness and so much more... read more arrow
5.5 /10
Toulouse, France is home to the Saint Sernin Basilica, which is among the grandest, largest and most fabulous in the Western World. Its magnificent splendor never fails to draw "oohs and aahs" from those who are blessed to visit it. Saint Sernin Basilica's sheer size and utter architectural beauty are qualities that have that irresistible ability to draw people into itself. You cannot simply resist coming in for a visit.

Some parts, such as the choir, was built as early as the late 11th century. However, the basilica itself was completed during the 13th century. Sadly, it fell into ruins until Viollet-le-Duc had it restored during the 19th century. But these "renovations" are also undergoing renovations at the moment, as the desire is to restore the basilica to its original appearance.

The Saint Sernin Basilica was built in honor of Saturnin, who is the city's first bishop... read more arrow
5.1 /10
Canal du Midi in Toulouse, France, was built in the 17th century. It also has the distinction of being the world's oldest working canal. It is also counted as one of France's engineering marvels. Because of its significance to the engineering world, as well as to the history and culture of France, the canal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

It is essentially divided into two parts – the 211 kilometer-long Royal Languedoc Canal, which spans Marseille and Toulouse and the 200 kilometer-long Garonne Lateral Canal, which spans the length from Toulouse up to Castets-en-Dorthe. The entire canal is now called Canal du Midi. It was previously called the Canal des Deux Mers (which is French means "Canal of two seas") as this connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Talk about building the canal has existed for quite some time, as people felt the need for a shortcut between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic... read more arrow

* Regular pre-pandemic touristic activity level.

You can also rate and vote for your favorite France sightseeing places, famous historical landmarks, and best things to do in France by visiting the individual France attraction pages.