Its rich and intriguing history also means that it has so many monuments that define or honor important events and people.
From a much-criticized “monstrosity” to a natural landmark or even a grand palace, here are some of the finest and famous French monuments that you must visit.
Things you'll find in this article
- 12 Famous French Monuments That You Must Visit
- 1. Arc de Triomphe, Paris
- 2. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
- 3. Grande Arche de la Défense, Puteaux
- 4. The July Column, Place de la Bastille
- 5. The Millau Viaduct
- 6. Mont Saint-Michel
- 7. Canal du Midi, Toulouse
- 8. Notre Dame de Paris
- 9. The Panthéon, Paris
- 10. Pont du Gard, Nimes
- 11. Château de Versailles
- 12. Palais des Papes, Avignon
12 Famous French Monuments That You Must Visit
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1. Arc de Triomphe, Paris
One of the most recognizable monuments in France and not just in Paris is the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. It was built in 1836 to honor the soldiers who perished while protecting France during both the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.
Underneath the Arc, visitors will also find a memorial for World War I called The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Situated at the Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is regarded as a fine example of Roman architecture.
2. The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Without a doubt one of the most iconic French monuments, the Eiffel Tower is the ultimate Parisian symbol.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the tower was inaugurated during the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Many influential Parisians at that time called this an eyesore.
Today, it remains to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, an ultimate symbol of Paris and a beloved tourist destination.
3. Grande Arche de la Défense, Puteaux
A symbolic structure that’s also called La Grande Arche de la Fraternité or La Grande Arche, it is one of the must-see French monuments. Its name translates to the Great Arch of the Defense or the Great Arch of the Fraternity.
Designed by Johan Otto V. Spreckelsen, it was part of a competition in 1982. It was finished in 1989, as a monument built to honor the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
Located in Puteaux, an island in the Seine, Grande Arche is at the end of the Axe Historique, a “line” of monuments that stretches through Paris.
4. The July Column, Place de la Bastille
The July Column is a French monument that celebrates the Trois Glorieuses, or the “three glorious” days of 27–29 July 1830.
These dates saw the fall of King Charles X of France and the start of the “July Monarchy” of Louis-Philippe, King of the French.
Constructed between 1835 and 1840, it stands in the center of the former site of the Bastille prison, now called Place de la Bastille in Paris.
Also known as Colonne de Juillet, the structure is 47 meters high. It consists of 21 cast bronze drums on a white marble base and topped by a statue called La Génie de la Liberté (the Spirit of Freedom).
5. The Millau Viaduct
One of the newest monuments in France that easily became a must-see is the impressive Millau Viaduct.
This stunning multi-span bridge was opened in 2004, in Millau in Southern France. At 343 meters high, it is taller than the Eiffel Tower and stretches to about 2,460 meters.
Made of concrete and steel, the Millau Viaduct holds the distinction of being the tallest bridge in the world.
6. Mont Saint-Michel
The fact that Mont Saint-Michel was among the first places to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site makes it such an iconic French monument. It is an island, a fortress, and a church in one.
This Normandy wonder is the third most visited place in France. It is completely surrounded by water, and can only be accessed during low tide.
7. Canal du Midi, Toulouse
A remarkable feat of civil engineering, Canal du Midi is one of the must-visit monuments in France.
Located in the southern city of Toulouse, the Canal du Midi connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
From Toulouse to the Étang de Thau, the canal spans 240 kilometers. It was constructed at the end of the 17th century and was originally built to transport goods.
8. Notre Dame de Paris
Regarded as one of the most important cathedrals in France, Notre Dame de Paris is also one of the most famous in the world.
Built in 1163, this medieval Catholic cathedral is said to be one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture.
It is located on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Notre Dame is known as the most visited monument in Europe, even after the April 2019 fire.
The affected areas are slowly being reconstructed based on an accurate reconstruction plan.
9. The Panthéon, Paris
Another must-visit French monument located in Paris is The Panthéon. It was built around 1757 by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflé as the Church of Sainte-Geneviève.
Later on, during the French Revolution, the church was secularized. It is now the final resting place of many French luminaries.
The Panthéon’s illustrious crypt contains the remains of famous French personalities such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and Voltaire.
Be sure to check out the replica of Foucault’s pendulum here and see how it gave evidence of the earth’s rotation.
10. Pont du Gard, Nimes
The aqueduct bridge is said to be constructed in the 1st century A.D., making it one of the oldest French monuments.
Regarded as an architectural masterpiece, Pont du Gard was built on three levels, with various arches on each. It was initially built to bring water to the region and is now one of the most famous bridges in France.
11. Château de Versailles
The grand and opulent Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles, is one of the most historic monuments in France.
Built in 1631, this grandiose château was the home of French Kings for over a century.
After the 1789 French Revolution, the palace ceased to be a residence. It was reconstructed and restored, and now one of the most visited places in France.
It is known for its massive garden, the exquisite royal apartments, the Grand Gallery including the Galerie des Glaces, or Hall of Mirrors, a chapel, and two smaller palaces.
12. Palais des Papes, Avignon
Situated by the banks of the Rhône River in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region, the Palais des Papes is an important French monument.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also the largest medieval fortress and gothic palace in Europe. The palace was built in Avignon in 1252, from a design by two of France’s best architects, Pierre Peysson and Jean de Louvres.
The opulent ornamentation, meanwhile, was the work of Italians Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti. The palace became the seat of the papacy for several decades before it returned to Rome.
Today, it is one of the most visited attractions outside of Paris. Some of the best things to see in Palais des Papes are the ceremonial halls, private apartments of the popes, and Matteo Giovannetti’s frescoes in the chapels.
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Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. France remains special to me, however. From architecture, history, and arts – France is truly an amazing place.