There’s no question that France is a country with a rich history and culture. But if you need any proof, we can point you directly toward the country’s impressive collection of monuments. From castles and cathedrals to iconic structures that have become symbols of the country itself, there is no shortage of incredible monuments to visit in France. If you’re planning a visit, check out our list of the top ten French monuments to add to your itinerary. We’ve included a bit of history about each monument, as well as our thoughts on why it’s a must-see.
- The Eiffel Tower
- Mont Saint Michel
- Pont du Gard
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Château de Chambord
- Arles Amphitheatre
- Basilica of St. Michael
- Palace of Versailles
- Arc de Triomphe
- The belltower of Arras Hotel de Ville
1. The Eiffel Tower
Let’s start with the most famous French national monument of all…the Eiffel Tower! This iconic landmark is the symbol of France and welcomes almost seven million tourists every year. The 1,083-foot steel structure has been a must-see in the city of Paris since it was built in 1889, and that’s not changing any time soon thanks to 360° views of the city that are simply breathtaking.
There are plenty of French historical monuments outside of the capital, but none is quite as majestic as Mont-Saint-Michel. This medieval abbey and fortress is located on a tidal island in the region of Normandy and provides a dramatic backdrop to the area. UNESCO even ranked it as a World Heritage Site in 1972, so this French historic monument is not one to be missed!
3. Pont du Gard
Heading down south, the Pont du Gard is a stunning Roman aqueduct bridge located between the cities of Nimes and Avignon (home to the biggest performing arts festival in the country). It was built in the first century A.D., which makes it one of the oldest monuments in France.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral
Despite suffering significant damage in a devastating 2019 fire, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris remains one of the most famous historic monuments in France. It is a fine example of French Gothic architecture, with intricate stonework and incredible stained glass windows. It sits on the Île de la Cité in Paris.
5. Château de Chambord
What would a list of French monuments be without a castle? France is renowned around the world for its many stunning castles, but perhaps none is more striking than the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley, an area famous for its royal buildings. This castle is a great example of French Renaissance architecture and offers visitors a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of French nobility.
6. Arles Amphitheatre
Many French national monuments are located in Paris. But if you wander outside of the capital, you’ll come across a myriad of stunning structures, such as the Amphitheatre in Arles. This is another Roman structure built in the first century A.D. It has survived two millennia, is well-preserved and still holds events all year round.
7. Basilica of St. Michael
Bordeaux is home to more than 350 classified or listed UNESCO historic monuments, making it a popular city to visit. The Basilica of St. Michael is a Gothic church located on the world-famous Route of Santiago de Compostela, which was named a World Heritage Site in 1998.
8. Palace of Versailles
If you’re looking for a truly historic French monument, head to the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris. This opulent estate was built in the 1600s and served as the royal residence of Marie Antoinette and Louis XIII. It is almost impossibly luxurious and lavish, earning its reputation as a stunning French national monument. One of the highlights includes the Hall of Mirrors, which has an incredible 357 mirrors.
9. Arc de Triomphe
Located in Paris at the end of the renowned Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is another iconic French national monument. It was built to honor soldiers who fought for France in both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Thousands of people gather here to watch the fireworks bring in the New Year.
10. The belltower of Arras Hotel de Ville
Every French city has a city hall (hôtel de ville), and these are often stunning buildings. In the northern city of Arras in the Hauts-de-France region, the hôtel de ville features a beautiful bell tower which was voted the favorite monument of the French people in 2015. First built in the 16th century, it had to be rebuilt after being destroyed in World War I.
A monumental trip
France is a country filled with incredible monuments that showcase its rich history and culture. From iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral to lesser-known gems like the Pont du Gard and Château de Chambord, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you are planning a trip to the country, be sure to include these ten French monuments on your itinerary.