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France

A guide to its main attractions
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Selected by piero scaruffi | Back to the travel page | Suggestions
My pictures of France
This page provides a list of the main things to see in France. "++" identifies the top attractions.
Legenda:
abbaye = abbey
basilique = basilica
bourg = town
chateau = castle
eglise = church
grotte = cave
place = square
quartier = quarters
ville = city

Northeast (Belgique, Allemagne)
Beauvais: cathedral (13th c), Saint-Etienne (choir)
Amiens (Pays du Nord): cathedral (1266) (+west portal, relief of central portal, facade, nave, eastern view, +choir)
Thiepval (Pays du Nord): Edwin Luytens' Memorial to the Missing (1925)
Arras (Pays du Nord): grand place, place des heros
Boulogne-Sur-Mer (Pays du Nord): ville haure
Saint-Omer (Pays du Nord): Basilica
Laon (Ardenne): ++cathedral (1151-1290) (nave, nave vault, six-part vaults, transept, exterior, facade, three-storey chapels, choir), +Chapel of the Templars (1160) in the garden of the museum
Loyon (Ardenne): +cathedral (1150-1235) (south transept, exterior of the transept, choir, facade)
Reims (Ardenne): ++cathedral (1211-1300) (choir, ambulatory, nave, southwest exterior, southeast view, facade, relief of central portal)
Troyes (Ardenne): quartier Saint-Jean, Saint-Urbain (1262) (choir)
Nancy (Lorraine): -Place Stanislas
Metz (Lorraine): +cathedral, +Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains (oldest church in France)
Luneville (Lorraine): -Chateau
Hunspach (Lorraine): +bourg
Alsace
Colmar (Alsace): ++bourg, +altar
Murbach: Abbey church (12th c)
Riquewihr (Alsace): +bourg, Dolder belfry
Kayserberg (Alsace): +bourg
Haut Konigsburg: +castle
Strasbourg (Alsace): ++cathedral (1439), ++Petite France, Chambre de Commerce, European Parliament, Place Kleber, Rohan Palace, Maison Kammerzell, Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune, Sant-Thomas, Pont Couverts, Barrage Vauban/ Vauban Dam
Northwest (Manche):
Pontorson: ++Mont-Saint-Michel
Saint-Malo (Bretagne): bourg
Fougeres: Chateau
Le Mans: cathedral (13th c)
Le Havre (Normandie): St Joseph cathedral
Bayeux (Normandie): cathedral
Rouen (Normandie): Saint-Ouen abbey (1250) (nave, choir, south aisle), Saint-Maclou (1514) (facade, nave), +Notre-Dame de l'Assomption
Les Andelys (near Rouen): +Chateau Gaillar
Caen (Normandie): Sainte-Trinite (1062), +Saint-Etienne aka Abbaye-aux-Hommes (1081)
Cerisy-la-Foret (Normandie): Church (1100)
Carnac (Bretagne): +megalithic complex with 3000 menhirs (a 30 minute bus ride from Auray which is a 1.5 hour train ride from Rennes, always open and free)
  • ++Gavrinis megalithic monument (a 30 minute bus ride plus boat from Auray, open at odd hours)
    Barnenez/Finistere megalithic monument
    Locmariaquer "grand menhir brise" (largest menhir)
    Central:
    Paris: click here
    Fontainebleau: Palace
    Poissy: +Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye (1929)
    Mantes (48 kms west of Paris): Notre-Dame
    Houdan (63km west of Paris): donjon of 12th c
    Soissons (100 kms northeast of Paris): cathedral (exterior, south transept, nave, choir)
    Rampillon (near Paris): cathedral (14th c)
    Chartres (near Paris): medieval houses, +cathedral (1225) (++royal portals, +west windows, exterior of north transept, relief of north transept, north transept window, +reliefs of south transept, nave pier with four colonnettes, four-part vault for each bay of nave and transept, ambulatory)
    Germigny-des-Pres (Loiret): Carolingian oratory of Theodulf (806)
    Amboise: Chateau (1495), first Chateau in France, Tomb of Leonardo in the castle's chapel
    Versailles (Isle): Chateau
    Vaux-Le-Vicomte (Isle): Chateau
    Azay-Le-Rideau (Touraine): Chateau
    Chambord (near Orleans): +Chateau (1547)
    Blois: Chateau (entrance)
    Saumur: Chateau
    Tours: Cathedral (16th c)
    Rigny-Usse' (near Tours): Chateau d'Usse'
    Fontevrault: Abbey's kitchen (12th c)
    Chenonceaux (Touraine): Chateau
    Loches (Touraine): +Medieval town
    Saint-Benoit-Sur-Loire (near Orleans): +Abbey (1218)
    Ancy-Le-Franc (Bourgogne): Chateau
    Sens (near Troyes): +Saint-Ethienne (12th c) (first cathedral that was Gothic throughout, ambulatory, choir, south aisle, nave)
    Auxerre (near Troyes): +Tour de l'Horloge
    Pontigny (near Troyes): +Abbey (1180)
    Autun (Bourgogne): +cathedral (1135) (++Gislebertus' tympan, +chapiteaux)
    Chateau de Sully (near Autun): Chateau
    Tournus: St Philibert's Church (1120)
    Beaune (Bourgogne): Hotel-Dieu/ Hospital (1451)
    Cluny (Bourgogne): Abbey
    Dijon (Bourgogne): cathedral, Chartreuse of Champmol (portal, The Well of Moses), Musee de Beaux-Arts (tomb og Philip the Bold)
    Marmagne (near Orleans): +Abbey of Fontenay (1147)
    Semur-en-Auxois: old town
    Vezelay (Bourgogne): Basilica (1120-1200) (+tympanum "Mission of the Apostles", +chapiteaux, choir)
    Bourges (near Orleans): +cathedral (1195-1250) (nave, east end, aisle, choir, facade, southeast flank), courtyard of the house of Jacques Coeur (1451)
    Issoire: cathedral (12th c) (reliefs on lintels)
    Nevers: Saint Etienne (1097)
    Paray-le-Monial (Bourgogne): Sacre-Coeur
    East (Alps)
    Ronchamp: +LeCorbusier's Notre-Dame-du-Haut (1955)
    Arc-Et-Senans (Franche-Comte): Salines Royales
    Besancon (Franche-Comte): Citadelle
    +Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans (32 km south-west of Besancon)
    Lyon: vieux-Lyon
    Firminy: +LeCorbusier's church
    Eveux-sur-Arbresle: Le Corbusier's Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette (1960)
    Clermont-Ferrand (west of Lion): +Notre Dame du Port (12th c)
    Lyons: Calatrava's Satolas TGV Station
    Bourg-en-Bresse (50 km north of Lyons): +church of Brou (16th c) (nave, choir, tomb of Margaret)
    Chamonix (Savoie): Mont-Blanc
    Bourg-Saint-Maurice: Charlotte Perriand's Les Arcs ski resort
    West (Atlantique)
    Poitiers (Poitou): +Notre-Dame (1130), +baptistery of St Jean (7th c), nearby St-Jouin-des-Marnes (1130), +Futuroscope
    Aulnay-de-Saintonge: +Eglise St-Pierre (12th c)
    +Saint-Savin sur Gartempe (45 kms from Poitiers): +Church (1115) (nave, +murals)
    La Rochelle (Poitou): bourg
    Saintes (Poitou): bourg
    Saint-Savin (Poitou): Church
    Bordeaux (Bordelais): Place de la Bourse, Grand Theatre (with Rodin's ceiling fresco Apollo and the Muses), Porte deu Palais
    Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac: Caves of Rouffignac (wall paintings of 20,000 BC)
    Montignac (north of Toulouse, east of Bordeaux): +Caves of Lascaux
    Perigueux: Cathedral (12th c)
    Saint-Emilion (Bordelais): bourg
    Angers: Chateau d'Angers, cathedral
    South-west (Pyrenees)
    Eyzies-de-Tayac (Agenais): grottes
    Cahors (Agenais): ponte Valentre`
    Sarlat (Aginais): +bourg
    Rocamadour: bourg
    Moissac (Agenais): +Saint-Pierre (1120, porch, +reliefs of south portal, +sculptures of cloister, +cloister capitals)
    Toulouse (Pyrenees): vieux quartier, ++St Sermin (1125), Church of the Jacobins (+pillars of the choir, southeast view)
    Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies (150 kms from Toulouse)
    Prades: +Abbey of St-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint Martin-du-Carnigou monastery (1026)
    Abbi (80 km northeast of Toulouse): cathedral (14th c) (nave, southeast view)
    ++Carcassonne (between Toulouse and Prades): ramparts, bourg, Saint-Nazaire (1321) (nave, choir)
    South
    Le Puy-en-Velay (Auvergne): bourg, +Chapelle Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe
    Albi (Rouerge): +St Cecilia cathedral
    Salers: Chateau de Val
    Conques-en-Rouergue (Aveyron): +Abbey de Sainte-Foy (1120) (++reliquary statue of St Foi, and tympanum sculture above west facade portal)
    La Convertoirade (Aveyron): vieille ville
    Saint-Come d'Olt (Aveyron): vieille ville
    Montpellier (Languedoc): vieille ville, Hadid's Herault Culture Sport
    Hauterives: +Ferdinand Cheval's "Le Palais Ideal"
    Gellone: Monastery of Saint-Guillaume-le-Desert (12th c)
    Gard (Ardeche): pont
    Nimes (Ardeche): Maison Carree, Jardin de la Fontaine
    Aix-En-Provence (Provence): cathedral
    Tarascon (provence): Chateau
    Senanque (provence): +Abbey (12th c)
    Arles (Provence): bourg, Saint-Trophime (1140, reliefs of cloister)
    Orange (Provence): +Roman theater (50 AD), + Roman monumental arch with decoration of Celtic armour
    Avignon (Provence): +Palais des Papes (+Room of the Deer)
    Villages of Provence: Goult, Gordes, +Lacoste, Bonnieux, etc
    +Chauvet Cave (50 kms north of Avignon)
    Les Baux (Provence): ++bourg
    Le Thoronet (Provence): ++Abbey (12th c)
    Saint-Gilles-du-Gard (Provence): Church (facade of 1130)
    Verdon (Provence): +grand canyon
    Riviera between Nice and Menton (Cote d'Azur): +corniches
    Nice: Old town, Promenade des Anglais, St Nicholas Russian Orthodox cathedral,
    Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat: Cocteau's art at Villa Santo-Sospir
    Villefranche-sur-Mer: Cocteau's art at Chapelle Saint-Pierre
    La Turbie: Roman monument
    St-Paul-de-Vence: medieval fortified village, +Fondation Maeght
    Vence: Matisse's Chapel du Rosaire
    Villeneuve-Loubet: +Pyramidal buildings of Marina Baie des Anges by Andre Minangoy (1960)
    Marseilles: Hadid's CMA CGM Head Office, Palais Longchamps (1869), LeCorbusier's Unite d'Habitation (roof terrace), +Notre Dame de la Garde
    Millau Viaduct (2004)
  • Pictures
    Best churches:
    Chartres cathedral
    Notre Dame, Paris
    Notre-Dame-du-Haut, Ronchamp
    Strasbourg cathedral
    Mont Saint-Michel abbey
    Reims cathedral
    Amiens cathedral
    Sacre Coeur, Paris
    Bourges cathedral
    St Sermin, Toulouse
    Laon cathedral
    Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseilles
    Rouen cathedral
    LeMans cathedral
    Albi cathedral
    Metz cathedral
    Stained-glass windows of Strasbourg cathedral. Narthex, lower bay on the south: the Last Judgement. Narthex, lower bay on the north: 12 episodes from the Book of Genesis (Adam and Eve, the original sin, the expulsion from Paradise, Noah's ark, etc) North side of nave, five lower bays (oldest stained glass of the cathedral from 1180): nine Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. North side of nave, upper bays (1250-1275): 84 saints. South side of the nave: a row of female saints, a row of soldiers, popes, bishops. South Transept: pillar of the angels (8 angels and 4 four evangelists). Pulpit sculpture by Hans Hammer (1485).
    Astronomical clock (1842, the 16th century original is at the Strasbourg Museum of Decorative Arts): it indicates solar time, the day of the week (each represented by a god of mythology), the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac, the phase of the moon and the position of several planets. It sits on statues of Apollo and Diana presenting a circular calendar of the liturgical year, and is surrounded by painted symbols of Greece, Assyria, Persia and Rome. It is topped by a celestial globe in a sky of painted stars (the 1,022 stars identified by Ptolemy) which makes a complete revolution every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. Figures of the four seasons surround a mechanical astrolabe, which indicates the location of the planets according to Copernicus, and is surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. The astrolabe is topped by a globe depicting the Church and the Antichrist confronting each other, by two levels of animated mechanical figures, and by Jesus and the four evangelists.