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Wonders of France

Strasbourg, La Petite France
Strasbourg, La Petite France. / Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

France is home to many of the best known landmarks in the world. This country is literally crammed with thousands and thousands of the most diverse attractions. The most amazing wonders of France are:

  • Gothic cathedrals. Most people know Notre Dame de Paris or Amiens cathedral, but there are almost countless other magnificent Gothic cathedrals all over the country.
  • Renaissance and Baroque palaces. The most magnificent palaces of the world are in France. The best known is Palace of Versailles.
  • Medieval towns and cities. Diverse urban planning traditions evolved in France depending on the terrain and available construction materials. Hundreds of very old towns and city centers have been preserved almost unchanged up to this day. Avignon, Mont Saint-Michel, Carcassonne, Aigues-Mortes are among the most interesting.
  • Prehistoric cave paintings. Numerous caves in France are adorned with high quality paintings, done tens of thousands years ago. Paintings in such caves as Lascaux, Chauvet, Cosquer serve as a proof – "caveman" knew a lot about true art.

France (mainland) is divided into 13 regions:

List of regions:
  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
  • Brittany (Bretagne)
  • Centre-Val de Loire
  • Corsica
  • Grand Est
  • Hauts-de-France
  • Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)
  • Normandy
  • Nouvelle-Aquitaine
  • Occitanie
  • Pays de la Loire
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
There are also overseas areas of France:

Overseas regions

Overseas collectivities

Sui generis collectivity

Overseas territory – French Southern and Antarctic Lands

Island possession

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of France

Archaeological wonders

Chauvet Cave (Chauvet, Grotte ornée)


Cave with some of the best examples of prehistoric painting. Contains 420 drawings (paintings and engravings) of animals that have been created since 35,000 BP, Aurignacian period. These drawings belong to the oldest artworks in the world. The quality of the drawings shows that ancient humans already very long ago professed high-quality art. Paintings and engravings are done with different techniques but always of very high quality.

Grotte Chauvet, drawings of lionesses
Grotte Chauvet, drawings of lionesses / HTO, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Pont du Gard


One of the most impressive existing Ancient Roman structures is an aqueduct bridge across the Gard River. It represents a part of a 50 km long aqueduct – a 48.8 m high and 274 m long bridge with three stacks of arches. Constructed in the 1st century AD and used for its original purpose until the 9th century. Used as a bridge in medieval times and up to 2000. Built with extreme precision – f.e. it descends 2.5 cm over its 456 m length. Built without mortar – stones are fitting so well that no water is lost.

Pont du Gard, France
Pont du Gard / ignis, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Grotte de Lascaux


Group of caves with some of the best-known Palaeolithic polychrome paintings in the world. Paintings were made sometime around 15,300 BC. Here are depicted mostly large animals.

Paintings in Lascaux Cave - aurochs
Paintings in Lascaux Cave – aurochs / Saša Šantić, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Architecture wonders

Palace of Versailles

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

The best known and possibly the most magnificent palace in the world with 700 rooms. Constructed starting from 1661 and served as a royal palace until 1789. This palace brought a new style in many areas of life – architecture, planning, arts, governance, and etiquette – thus the palace represents one of the most important monuments of culture in Europe.

Versailles. / 3dpete, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Notre Dame de Paris

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

Constructed in 1163 – the late 14th century. One of the most significant Gothic cathedrals and one of the world’s best-known monuments of architecture. One of the first buildings where flying buttresses were used.

Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris / A.Thomas, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.5.
Eiffel Tower

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

One of the best-known landmarks in the world, a symbol of Paris and to some extent – the whole of France. This 324 m tall iron lattice tower was built in 1889 and was the tallest man-made structure on Earth until 1930.

Eiffel Tower, sunset
Eiffel Tower, sunset / Angel James de Ocampo, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Musée du Louvre

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

One of the largest museums in the world with more than 35,000 objects exhibited. Many works are among the most important artworks in the world. Located in a palace that was started as a castle in the late 12th century. Gradually extended and now it is one of the largest palaces in the world.

Louvre./ Jose and Roxanne, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Mont Saint-Michel


Unique monument of urban planning – a fortified monastery with a surrounding small town, built on a rocky tidal island. This monastery was established here in the early 8th century. Its buildings were constructed in a Romanesque style, mainly in the 10th – 11th century AD. The island is topped with the massive, Romanesque Mont-Saint-Michel church (11th century).

Mont Saint Michel, France
Mont Saint Michel, France / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Château de Chambord

Centre-Val de Loire

One of the most iconic Renaissance buildings in the world, melting in its design the French medieval architecture and Italian classical architecture. Constructed in 1519 – 1547. This castle still has fortifications, including a keep and a moat, but it primarily functions as a luxuriant residence. Palace has 440 rooms.

Château de Chambord, France
Château de Chambord / Estelle, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Amiens Cathedral


One of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. It has the second tallest nave in France (42,30 m) and a very large interior hall – the largest in medieval Europe. Constructed in 1220 – 1270. Contains an excellent set of Gothic sculptures from the early 13th century. Contains a labyrinth that was installed in 1288. The facade originally was polychrome.

Amiens Cathedral
Amiens Cathedral. / Rob Oo, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Chartres Cathedral

Centre-Val de Loire

This church belongs to the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in the world and it is also one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Medieval Europe. The current cathedral is mostly built between 1193 and 1250, but a cathedral has been here since the 9th century at least. Preserved in exceptionally good condition, with all the original stained glass. Two spires – 113 and 105 m high. Adorned with hundreds of sculptures.

Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral./ Olvr, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Rouen Cathedral


Magnificent Gothic-Renaissance cathedral, one of the great architectural monuments of the world. Constructed in 1202 – 1880. The remarkable tower is 151 m tall and was the tallest structure in the world in 1876 – 1880. The church is 136.86 m long, with a 28 m high nave.

Rouen Cathedral
Rouen Cathedral./ Валерий Дед, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

A reliquary of the French monarchy, this outstanding Gothic building was built in 1239 – 1248. Contains a unique set of Gothic stained glass.

Sainte Chapelle
Sainte Chapelle./ Derek Misler, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Catacombs of Paris

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

Former extensive Paris stone mines (approximately 400 km long network) since the late 18th century have been turned into underground cemeteries where are located remains of approximately 6 million people.

Catacombs of Paris
Catacombs of Paris. / Thierry Leclerc, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Brittany (Bretagne)

A medieval port city with walls. Saint-Malo developed as a city of well-organized privateers and seafarers making discoveries and settlements in distant areas of the world.

Saint Malo
Saint Malo. / Dennis Jarvis, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Reims Cathedral

Grand Est

One of the best examples of Gothic architecture, built at the end of the 13th century. The towers are 81 m tall, the interior hall is 138.75 m long. Excellent stained glass and sculptures. The original cathedral was here already in the 4th century AD. The kings of France were crowned here.

Reims Cathedral, France
Reims Cathedral / Ludovic Péron, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Gardens of Versailles

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

Possibly the finest example of French Garden design – a Baroque-style representation in landscape architecture. Includes a complicated hydraulics system. In the gardens are some 1,400 fountains and 300 statues.

Gardens of Versailles, France
Gardens of Versailles / Denis, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Fortified medieval town with very impressive, well-preserved walls. These 1,650 m long walls were built mostly in the 13th century.

Aigues-Mortes. / rey perezoso, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Basilica of St. Denis

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

One of the earliest true Gothic buildings in the world. Constructed in 1137 – 1141. Nave was rebuilt in 1231 – and this rebuilding was one of the first examples of the Flamboyant Gothic style. Built on the site of earlier cathedrals that have existed here since the 7th century AD. Burial site of most French monarchs from the 10th century to 1789.

Basilica of St. Denis
Basilica of St. Denis./ Pjposullivan, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Château de Blois

Centre-Val de Loire

Large and exquisite Renaissance palace in the center of town. Consists of several buildings built in the 13th – 17th century. Palace has 564 rooms and 75 staircases. Contains Salle des Etats Généraux – the largest Gothic civilian interior remaining in France. The famous detail of the palace is the spiral staircase in the François I wing.

Château de Blois
Château de Blois. / Daniel Jolivet, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Strasbourg Cathedral

Grand Est

Gorgeous, giant Gothic cathedral. World’s tallest building in 1647 – 1874, with a 142 m tall spire. Started as a Romanesque building in 1015, completed in 1439. Very ornate portal. Stained glass windows were made mainly in the 14th century, but some are even from the 12th century. Very interesting is the enormous astronomical clock.

Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral./ hubert montaldo, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

Impressive Baroque palace, the most elaborate French palace from the middle of the 17th century. The predecessor of Versailles with its visual unity of the architecture of the palace and surrounding gardens.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, France
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte / Olga Khomitsevitch, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Grand Palais

Ile-de-France (Île-de-France)

An enormous public building, built in Beaux Arts style in 1900. It presents both very rich ornamentation and amazing achievements in structural engineering.

Grand Palais
Grand Palais. / Ștefan Jurcă, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Grand Est

Gorgeous medieval village with a perfectly preserved ensemble of buildings and streets. Preserved medieval fortifications.

Riquewihr. / malavoda, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Lerins Abbey (Lérins Abbey)

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

A large, fortified Cistercian monastery on an island, active since the 5th century. It is one of the centers of development for Western European monasticism. The oldest buildings date from around 1073.

Lérins Abbey, France
Lérins Abbey, France / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Rick Steves France 2019

Wander the lavender fields of Provence, climb the Eiffel Tower, and bite into a perfect croissant: with Rick Steves on your side, France can be yours!

The Best Loved Villages of France

An insider’s tour of France’s most beloved and beautiful villages uncovers the country’s hidden treasures. The Best Loved Villages of France brings the reader on a tour of forty-four of the country’s most treasured destinations. Always picturesque, but often well-kept secrets, the book offers insight into village life and local history. Take a tour of a crumbling medieval fortress with the mayor of Lavardin or peruse the maritime objects found at sea by a mustached fisherman in Saint-Suliac.

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