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Currently, there are 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France. 39 cultural, 4 natural, and 1 mixed.
Map of World Heritage Sites in France
France UNESCO Sites
Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe (1983)
This Romanesque Church was built during the 11th century and features murals created around the same time. And yet, those murals remain preserved and intact to this day. Aside from the murals, the fact that the different parts of the church were built across different centuries also makes it a remarkable architectural and cultural feature.
Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay (1981)
This former Cistercian Abbey is located in Cote-d’Or, France. It was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France in 1981. The Abbey features a Romanesque style and is considered as one of the oldest and most complete abbeys in Europe. All parts of the complex remain intact until today except for the refectory.
Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments (1981)
This is a collection of monuments in the city of Arles in France. The site is collectively recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France. The protected area spans up to 65 hectares and includes the following: Arles Amphitheater, the Roman Theatre, The Thermes of Constantine, Cryptoporticus and Roman forum, The Alyscamps, Ramparts of the Roman castrum, The Church of St. Trophime and its cloister, and the Roman exedra.
Vezelay, Church and Hill (1979)
This is a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery located in Burgundy, France. The former Benedictine abbey church is now the Basilica of Saint-Marie-Madeleine. It is recognized into the UNESCO list in France for its outstanding showcase of Romanesque art and architecture. You can find relics of Mary Magdalene inside the basilica.
This cultural site recognizes the 56 historical buildings and towers as inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France and Belgium. These architectural features showcase the influence of historic Flanders community into the said countries. The tower structures included in the list are either civic or religious towers.
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon (2007)
This port city is located along the Garonne River in southwest France. The municipality, together with the metropolis center, is recognized into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France. It is the sixth-largest metropolitan area in France. This city has the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France outside of Paris. It is also the capital of the wine industry in France since the 8th century.
Canal du Midi (1996)
This canal is another cultural site included on the list of UNESCO sites in France. It stretches up to 241 kilometers in length along Southern France, which is deemed as one of the greatest construction works for the 17th century. The canal was built to connect the various points of navigable waterways along the Mediterranean and Atlantic. It was also motivated by the wheat trade. In addition, Canal du Midi is one of the oldest canals still in operation today.
Amiens Cathedral (1981)
The Amiens Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, is located in Amiens, France. It is a Roman Catholic Church and serves as the seat of the Diocese of Amiens. It features a French Gothic architectural style that aims to maximize the internal dimensions to reflect the beliefs of the Roman Catholic. In particular, the stone-vaulted nave reaches up to 42.30 meters in height, which many believed helped to bring in more light and get the worshippers closer to the heavens. The cathedral was built during the 1220 but was recognized into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1981. The stained glass in the church were mostly preserved, which became popular in the 13th century for their quality and quantity.
Bourges Cathedral (1992)
This is another Roman Catholic Church listed onto the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Bourges in the Centre-Val de Loire province. The site of the cathedral used to be the Gallo-Roman walled city. The present cathedral was also built to replace the mid-11th-century structure. The cathedral was one of few structures to have survived the Revolution in France and the French Wars of Religion.
Chartres Cathedral (1979)
This is another Roman Catholic Church noted for its cultural value in France. The Chartres Cathedral features a French Gothic architectural style and was constructed sometime between the late 1100s to mid-1200s. The cathedral is noted as a masterpiece and features a “high point of French Gothic art”. The exceptional state of preservation for the cathedral is also worth nothing; the majority of the church’s original stained glass windows remain intact and the architectural features remain untouched (most of it) since the 13th century.
Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims (1991)
The Former Abbey of Saint-Remi in France earns its spot in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France for its cultural importance. The cathedral was founded in the 6th century and housed the relics of Saint Remi. The basilica at the present was once the abbey church and was consecrated by Pope Leo IX during the mid-11th century.
The Causses and the Cevennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape (2011)
This region is deemed as culturally valuable to France since the conditions in the area reflect the evolution of different types of Mediterranean agro-pastoral systems employed by the region. According to the UNESCO site, the site “[bears] unique testimony to a cultural tradition” and “human interaction with the environment”.
Historical Center of Avignon: Papal Place, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge (1995)
The city of Avignon was the seat of the papacy during the 14th century in South France. The historic center recognized by UNESCO comprises of several notable sites including the Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and the Avignon Bridge.
Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (1998)
The Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France for its important role in the cultural and religious exchange in the Middle Ages. The routes and several other monuments that it encompasses were followed by the pilgrims. Hence, there is a total of 78 structures included in this UNESCO heritage site listing.
Episcopal City of Albi (2010)
This UNESCO World Heritage listing is a collection of architectural monuments and structures during the Medieval times, along with some urban ensembles. Some of the sites that were built during the 10th to 13th centuries are still present today – the Old Bridge and Saint-Salvi quarter. The fortified 13th-century church in the city demonstrated the power of the Roman Catholic clergy around that time.
From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Sat (1982)
This property was built for by Claude Nicolas Ledoux during the late 18th century during the time of Louis XVI’s reign. This served as the first major industrial architecture achievement that reflected the progress of the Enlightenment during that time. The complex showcased a rational and hierarchical organization of work that was ahead of its time.
Fortifications of Vauban (2008)
This cultural site consists of 12 buildings and sites that are located along the borders of France. These sites are recognized by the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France as they showcase a fine example of the works of military engineer Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban. The properties include a collection of citadels, bastion walls, and bastion towers.
This area is part of the Route to Santiago de Compostela that is recognized into the list of UNESCO sites in France. The site was granted a special status as jurisdiction by the time of the English rule during the 12th century. The landscape is noted for its wine-growing potential and several historic monuments and towns.
Located in the Normandy region of France, Le Lavre is located along the banks of River Seine. The modern city is heavily influenced by the maritime traditions and employment due to its location and value as the second largest port in the country. The city was bombed during the Second World War but was rebuilt by Auguste Perret with the help of his team from 1956 to 1964. UNESCO recognized how the site was able to reconstruct itself and the remarkable blend of historic structures with new town ideas and planning.
Located in Normandy, France, Mont Saint-Michael is a cultural site added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France. The island itself served as the site of strategic fortifications during the ancient times. It is also the seat of the monastery of the same name. Due to the geographical location of the commune, it was accessible to pilgrims during low tide. But when the tide grew, it also proved inaccessible making it a great defensive structure.
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau (1981)
The Palace of Fontainebleau in Paris is one of the largest French royal chateaux. It features a medieval architectural style and served as the residence to various French royals including Louis VII and Napoleon III. Today, the palace is open to tourists as a national museum and was recognized as a UNESCO site for its cultural value.
The Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France is a royal chateau that was built during the 11th century. This small but wealthy village of Versailles served as the seat of power in France during the late 1600s. Aside from its importance as a symbol of absolute monarchy in France, the Palace of Versailles and its surrounding park was notable for its elaborate embellishments. The sculptures, decorations, and landscaping in the park is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Paris, Banks of the Seine (1991)
This area comprises several notable attractions in France including the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. The River Seine and its bank showcase the evolution of France and the architectural masterpieces surrounding it.
Place Stanislas, Place de la Carriere, and Place d’Alliance in Nancy (1983)
Also known as place Stan, this pedestrianized square in the city of Nancy is an architectural ensemble in France. This collection of sites was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France in 1983. It is also noted as being the oldest and purest example of a modern capital wherein the monarchy was adherent to the needs of the public. Architect Here and his team led the building of the sites from 1752 to 1756 wherein they succeeded in building a city that showcased the prestige of its monarchy while still being functional.
Pont due Gard – Roman Aqueduct (1985)
This ancient Roman aqueduct crosses the Gardon River and is located in Gard, France. This arch bridge is made out of Shelly limestone and was constructed sometime around the 4th or 6th century AD during the time of the Roman colony. Along with the collapse of the Roman Empire, the bridge also fell into disuse.
Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs (2001)
Provins is a town of medieval fortification. The town bore witness to the earlier developments involving international trading fairs and the wool industry. The urban structure of Provins has been well-preserved and is noted for its construction that was designed with hosting fairs and other activities in mind.
Historic Site of Lyons (1998)
The city of Lyons’ history dates to as far back as the 1st century BC when the Romans founded it. It has played an important role in the political, cultural and economic development in Europe. It is visually evidenced by the host of historic buildings found all over the city.
This is a collection of pre-historic dwellings and settlements near the Alps mountains. These settlements range from 5000 to 500 BC old. Most of these dwellings are located near rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. There are 111 sites in total that include those found in Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vezere Valley (1979)
The Vezere Valley is home to 147 prehistoric sites that date back to the Paleolithic period. It is home to the 25 decorated caves that makes it an important anthropological and ethnological site both in the cultural and aesthetic point of view. The Lascaux Cave contained cave paintings of animal figures that were both in rich colors and had a life-like quality to them.
Strasbourg – Grande Ile (1988)
The Grande Ile (also known as Big Island) is protected by two arms at the River III. It also serves as the historic center in the Alsatian capital. What makes it impressive is that it has a huge collection of historic monuments and buildings that is unique to such a small area. It has four ancient churches, Palais Rohan and a cathedral that constitute the characteristics of a medieval town.
Roman Theatre and its surrounding and the “Triumphal Arch” of Orange (1981)
The ancient theater of Orange is located in the Rhone Valley in France. The façade of the theater is one of the best preserved Roman theaters in Europe. The Roman arch, on the other hand, was built during the 10 to 25 AD, that was a triumphal arch built during the reign of Augustus.
The Loire Valley Between Sully-Sur-Loire and Chalonnes (2000)
This cultural landscape is an outstanding showcase of the beauty of this historic town. It consists of great architectural monuments, villages and cultivated lands that showcased how the inhabitants of the land interacted with its physical environment, specifically Loire River.
Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne (1997)
This medieval citadel in the city of Carcassonne was founded during the Roman-Gallo period. The history of the city is about 2,500 years wherein it has seen various colonizers and rulers along the way. The Roman defenses were the most notable feature of the city, which basically transformed it into a fortified town.
Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve (1983)
This nature reserve along the Scandola Peninsula serves as an important natural site in France. Hence, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France in 1983. The impressive porphyritic rock mass is one of the most notable features in the area. Furthermore, its vegetation is the best example of a scrubland in the region. There are several wildlife species found here such as sea eagles, seagulls, and cormorants.
Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Systems (2008)
There are six marine clusters included in this serial site complex. It features a huge diversity in terms of coral reef systems and marine life. The lagoon, in particular, showcases exceptional natural beauty. From the corals and fish species, it offers continuum habitat to all living things in the region.
The Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of Reunion Island (2010)
This site is part of the La Reunion National Park, which measures about 100,000 hectares in land area. This particular site covers about 40% of the park wherein there are two towering volcanic peaks, cliff-rimmed cirques, and massive walls, along with a rugged terrain. This serves as a natural habitat for a wide range of living things, particular endemic plant species.
Pyrenees – Mont Perdu (1997)
This mountain was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France for its exceptional mountainous landscape. The mountain and its surrounding park are located along the borders of France and Spain. The French side of the mountain features abrupt northern slopes, which is a classic example of geological landforms. It is also a pastoral landscape that reflects the way of life and tradition within the region.
Nord-Pas Calais Mining Basin (2012)
This site was enlisted into the UNESCO list in 2012 for its cultural importance in depicting the history of industrialization in this part of Europe. The area was influenced by over three centuries of coal extraction and it is evident in all parts of the region. You will find various lift infrastructures, mining pits, coal transport infrastructure, mining villages, railway stations and more.
Decorated Cave of Pont d’ Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’ Arc, Ardeche (2014)
This site is located on the limestone plateau of the Ardeche River in France. It is a culturally important site since this is where ancient figurative drawings were found and were believed to have been dated back to prehistoric times. Over 1,000 images were found on the walls of the caves that showcase prehistoric fauna and species and other examples of human footprints.
The Climats, Terroirs of Burgundy (2015)
This site consists of precisely delimited vineyard parcels along the slopes of Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune. The natural conditions, vine types, and human cultivation combine to forming the unique features of the vineyards in the region. Eventually, they have been known for the type of wine they produce. The site, therefore, earns a spot in the UNESCO list for its outstanding showcase of grape cultivation and wine production from the time of the Middle Ages.
Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars (2015)
The site is recognized by UNESCO since this is where the method of producing sparkling wine originated from. There are three distinct ensembles that form the site: 1) historic vineyards of Hautvillers, Ay, and Mareuil-Ay, 2) Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims, and 3) the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol.
Taputapuatea is a sacred and cultural site in the French Polynesia, which is an overseas territory of France. The cultural site is home to several temples and archaeological sites. The Taputapu?tea marine complex is the primary feature within this cultural site and also the central temple in East Polynesia. It was built in the 14th and 18 centuries. To this day, this is a living culture. Even though it fell into a state of disrepair during the arrival of the Europeans, it was restored in the late 20th century.
Chaine des Puys – Limagne Fault Tectonic Arena (2018)
Situated in the center of France, the property comprises the long Limagne fault, the alignments of the Chaîne des Puys volcanoes and the inverted relief of the Montagne de la Serre. It is an emblematic segment of the West European Rift, created in the aftermath of the formation of the Alps, 35 million years ago. The geological features of the property demonstrate how the continental crust cracks, then collapses, allowing deep magma to rise and cause uplifting at the surface. The property is an exceptional illustration of continental break-up – or rifting – which is one of the five major stages of plate tectonics.
French Austral Lands and Seas (2019)
The French Austral Lands and Seas comprise the largest of the rare emerged land masses in the southern Indian Ocean: the Crozet Archipelago, the Kerguelen Islands, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands as well as 60 small sub-Antarctic islands. This “oasis” in the middle of the Southern Ocean covers an area of more than 67 million ha and supports one of the highest concentrations of birds and marine mammals in the world. In particular, it has the largest population of King Penguins and Yellow-nosed albatrosses in the world. The remoteness of these islands from centers of human activity makes them extremely well-preserved showcases of biological evolution and a unique terrain for scientific research.
View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.