The best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France

Pont du Gard, photo by Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr

It’s not difficult to find interesting places to visit while you’re spending your holiday in France, any travel brochure has lots of good tips on the subject. Some travel attractions like the Louvre, Versailles or the Eiffel Tower are so famous that they don’t even need an introduction, and even people who have never visited France know about them. But thirty seven sites are inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is more than enough proof that they are worth visiting. Most of these are cultural sites, so traveler who just can’t get enough of French life and culture in general will love them fore sure. Here are some of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France, for those travelers who don’t have the time to visit all thirty seven of them.

Pont du Gard, Gard department

It is hard to believe that the magnificent three-tiered Pont du Gard, over the Gard river in southern France is not a work of modern architecture, but a masterpiece of ancient Roman engineering. The bridge supported the Nimes aqueducts, which is no less impressive, and its construction began sometime in the first century BC. The aqueduct functioned until the 9th century, and today it is the second best preserved aqueduct in the world, and by far the tallest. The sight of the gracefully curving arches that traverse the river is a sight that must not be missed.

Bourges Cathedral, Bourges, Cher department

Bourges Cathedral, photo by Joel Bez on Flickr

Notre Dame might be the most famous cathedral in France, but it is by no means the only one, and its beauty has countless rivals all over the country. The Bourges Cathedral stands on a site where churches have stood since Carolingian times, but the present cathedral dates back to the 12th-13th centuries. The west facade of the cathedral is particularly stunning, and the interior doesn’t disappoint either. The stained glass windows are especially fetching.

Vézelay Abbey, Vézelay, Yonne department

Vézelay Abbey, photo by Adrienne Alix on Flickr

Vast medieval abbeys are not an uncommon sight in France, but the one at Vézelay is definitely among the best you can see.  By the early Middle Ages, the abbey was already the point of departure points for French pilgrims walking the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route. One of the most fascinating elements of the abbey is the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene, whose decorations are some of the finest examples of Burgundian Romanesque art.

Royal Salt Works, Arc-et-Senans, Doubs department

It’s is strange to think that a former factory would become one of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France, but once you take a look at the Royal Salt Works, you’ll even believe that working in the salt industry in the 18th century wasn’t so bad. The Salt Works is the brainchild of famous architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, who based his project on Enlightenment philosophy. Consequently, the half moon shaped complex is a pretty sight to say the least.

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