UNESCO in France
France is fourth in the world when it comes to having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with 41 in total. Covering a wide range of places, they all share one common feature: they offer something extraordinary. Even the French cuisine has been declared a “World Intangible Heritage” by UNESCO, so you know you’re in for something special when you visit this unique and mesmerising country.
By taking one of our frequent ferries to Calais, Dunkirk or Dieppe, you’re in the perfect location to explore all that France has to offer. Alternatively, head from Newcastle to Amsterdam and drive down to France. And whether you choose to utilise France’s great public transport system or decide to take your own vehicle, you’re sure to have a fantastic time discovering some of France’s greatest UNESCO sites.
Here’s our list of some of the best, and lesser known UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France.
Header image credit: Robert Brands
Carcassonne is a fortified medieval citadel in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
Set high up on a hill, this ancient walled city with its drawbridges, towers and atmospheric cobbled streets is a must-see on any trip through this part of southern France.
Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation. Its medieval core, the cité, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
Image credit: Kevin
Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard is a 1st century AD Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River in southern France. It is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and is also one of the best preserved. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of France’s top 5 tourist attractions with over 1 million visitors every year. Should you get the opportunity, a visit to this world-renowned landmark offers spectacular views as well as an informative visitor centre where you can learn about the great Roman ingenuity.
Image credit: Tiberio Frascari
Canal du Midi
This 360-km network of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 locks, aqueducts, bridges and tunnels is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times.
The Canal du Midi was designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet and built between 1667 and 1694, and paved the way for the Industrial Revolution in France.
It was considered at the time to be one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century and it was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.
Image credit: Pierre de Sable
Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs
The fortified medieval town of Provins was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. It was home to one of the Champagne fairs that were crucial to the medieval European economy, when the city was under the protection of the Counts of Champagne. Make sure you visit the César Tower, a 12th century octagonal dungeon with a square floor, and La Grange-aux-Dîmes, a 13th century merchant's house that now houses a museum. Other highlights include L'Hostellerie de la Croix d'Or, which is the oldest inn in France, and the old town underground, filled with medieval basements open to the public.
Image credit: Ken & Nyetta
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