The world’s number one tourist destination, France should be on everyone’s list of „Must see countries”. I try to decide what to say about it, and my problem is with what to start. France has it all for the tourists:
- it has some of the greatest beaches in Europe,
- the highest mountains
- the finest historic monuments,
- ·the most beautiful cities,
- the most idyllic countryside,
- the most magnificent castles,
- the finest rivers,
- some of the best restaurants,
- the finest wines,
- biggest number of hotels than any other country in Europe.
It’s a great holiday opportunity if you want short weekend city break, in places like Paris, Nice or Bordeaux, or a more relaxed family holiday in the countryside. Or you can try a week or two of relaxation by the seaside, or an energetic break hiking, climbing, kayaking or cycling in France’s great outdoors.
According to the French National Statistical Office the most visited historical monuments in France are:
1. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
A gothic cathedral and a must see site in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Construction began in 1163, with the first stone supposedly laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III. It was built as a religious focal point in the city dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the original “Lady of Paris” or “Notre Dame de Paris”, by bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully.
Notre Dame Cathedral still functions as an operating church, however visitors are also allowed to tour the building and appreciate both its beauty and sheer size. Notre Dame is well known for its stained glass windows, gothic architecture and many sculptures.
Don’t forget to visit the nearby tower outside the cathedral. Dating back to the 13th century, it houses the 17th Century Emmanuel Bell as well as Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th century chimera and gargoyles. For a magnificent view climb the 387, I know that it seems much but it is worth it.
You can also visit the archeological crypt located under the Paris, just to the west of Notre Dame Cathedral. It was built to protect ancient ruins found in 1965 and can be accessed via a staircase opposite Notre Dame Cathedral, near the Police Headquarters.
Notre Dame Cathedral is open weekdays from 8am to 6pm and weekends from 7:15am to 6pm. Entry is free. The reception office is open from 9am on weekdays and 9:30am on weekends, closing at 6pm. Just note that services are held throughout the week, all day on Sundays.
2. Sacré Coeur Basilica, Montmartre, Paris
The Roman Catholic church was designed by Paul Abadie in a Romanesque-Byzantine architectural style. It was inspired by St-Front in Perigueux (Dordogne), a multi-domed Romanesque church the architect had recently worked at.
On the Inside, the Sacré-Coeur is kinda dim and gloomy. The golden mosaics glowing from apse brightens a little bit the atmosphere. The floor plan is an equal-armed Greek cross, with a large dome (83m high) over the crossing. In the huge choir, 11 tall round arches support a barrel vault.
You can also admire two bronze equestrian statues of France’s national saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX, designed by Hippolyte Lefebvre.
Daily, 6am-11pm; climbing the dome or visiting the crypt is available from 9am-7pm (6pm in winter). The basilica is free, but to climb the dome or enter the crypt it’s €5 (it’s a combo ticket for both).
3. Château De Versailles, Near Paris
Versailles is one of the most famous garden in the world and yet ‘garden’ is scarcely a fitting name. The scale is monumental and there is little sense of enclosure. Versailles was designed as a palatial center of government for an absolute monarch, Louis XIV.
There are immaculate parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculpture and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. The park and garden were designed by Andre Le Nôtre between 1661 and 1700.
‘The gardens of a great child’ as Walpole saw it has magnificent features: huge parterres, an orangery, famous fountains, rich bosquets, a 1.8 km cruciform canal. The gardens needed enormous work. Vast amounts of earth were shifted to lay out the flower beds, the Orangerie, the fountains and the Canal, where previously only woods, grasslands and marshes were.
From the central window of the Hall of mirrors, you can look down on the grand perspective that leads the gaze from the Water Parterre to the horizon. This vast perspective stretches from the façade of the Château de Versailles to the railings of the park.
The Palace of Versailles is open daily except Mondays, 9am-6.30pm (to 5:30 Nov-March). Last entry is half hour before closing. It is closed on 25 December, 1 January and 1 May. Entry to all sites costs €20 (Apr-Oct) or €16 (Nov-Mar).
4. The Louvre, Paris
A palace at its base is now one of the largest and most visited museums in the world. You shouldn’t miss it especially if you have a slight interest in art. Some of the museum’s most famous works of art are the Mona Lisa and the Venus of Milo.
You can admire about 35.000 objects that are on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has also a diverse collection ranging from the antiquity up to the mid 19th century. European paintings and sculptures represent a large part of the collection. That is not all, Other rooms contain Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Oriental art. Another must see section is the one with ‘Objects d’Art’, where objects such as clocks, furniture, china and tapestries are displayed.
Some of the most famous works of art in the museum are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Open daily except Tuesdays, 9am-6pm (rooms begin closing at 5:30pm). Open to 10pm Wednesdays and Fridays (rooms begin closing at 9:30pm). It is closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. Entry costs €10 (incMuséeEugène Delacroix). From 6pm to 9:45pm, entry costs €6. Entry is free on the 1st Sunday of every month. To avoid queues, you can buy advance tickets online.
5. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
The Eiffel Tower on Paris’ Champ de Mars by the river Seine is a tourist hotspot. Visitors can climb or use the lifts to reach the first or second floors, the latter of which is 115 m. high. You shouldn’t stop there because the third level at 276 m.has the most expansive views can be found on the Eiffel Tower’s. There is also a backstage tour available, if you are interested in details regarding the construction of the Eiffel Tower and its history.
An imposing iron monument, The Eiffel Tower was built between 1887 and 1889 based on the design of engineer Gustave Eiffel, after whom the tower was named. Its design was chosen out of 107 other proposals. These came as part of a competition to create an iron structure as the entrance way to Paris’ Universal Exhibition World Fair or ‘Exposition Universelle’. The purpose was to mark the centennial of the French Revolution.
When it was built, the Eiffel Tower’s had 312 met in height and it became the tallest building in the world, until 1929 when was built the New York’s Chrysler Building. Today the Eiffel Tower is 324 m. tall due to the later addition of antennas, making it the tallest building in Paris and the fifth tallest in the world.
The Eiffel Tower is open daily, 9:30am-11pm (to midnight from 1 Jan to 12 June and 1 Sept to 31 Dec). Adults pay €8.10 for entry to the second floor via lift (€6.40 for ages 12-24, €4 for ages 4-11), €13.10 for top floor entry (€11.50 for ages 12-24, €9 for ages 4-11) and €4.50 for stairs entrance to the second floor (€3.50 for ages 12-24, €3 for ages 4-11).
Other historical monuments in France are:
- The Georges Pompidou, center and museum of art
- Notre Dame Cathedral, Strasbourg
- La Villette science museum, Paris
- Château de Versailles
- Mont Saint Michel, Normandy
- Musée d’Orsay, Paris
- Les Baux de Provence
- Village of Riquewihr (Alsace)
- The ramparts of St. Malo (Brittany)
- Notre Dame cathedral, Reims (Champagne)
- Notre-Dame cathedral, Chartres (Centre)
- The Pont du Gard (near Nimes, Languedoc)
- The Arc de Triomphe, Paris
- Basilique de Vézelay, Burgundy
- The Catacombs of Paris