The view of Pont d’Avignon, from across the river Rhône, with the Palais des Papes in the background

12 UNESCO Sites to visit in France

In Europe, France, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

So many of our favourites to choose from

Where ever we travel around the world Gary and I always look out for UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the local region. 

As you know, some are more obvious than others and often draw sizeable crowds. However, there may be some of these little gems that have not already popped up on your radar.

Place du Palais, Avignon, France

Place du Palais, Avignon

So, if you’re travelling north, south, east or west through France keep an eye out for one or two of these magnificent places.

Quick Links

A helpful guide

I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.


Arles, Roman Monuments

Arles was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1981. It has some wonderful ancient monuments amongst its streets, the one we loved was the impressive amphitheatre which was built in 90 AD. 

Sitting high above the town the Roman amphitheatre would once have seated 20,000 people amongst it is 120 arches and galleries. You can even catch a play here during the summer. 

The Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, Provence, France

The Roman Amphitheatre in Arles

Arles is in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the south of France, you may also recognise it from some paintings by Vincent van Gogh.


Pont du Gard, Roman Aqueduct

The Pont du Gard is an unbelievably impressive feat of Roman engineering. It spans the Gard river and was built across three levels to feed into the nearby city of Nîmes, in the southern region of Occitanie.

From the river's edge, a fine view of the Pont du Gard, France

From the river's edge, a fine view of the Pont du Gard

The bridge stands at an incredible 50 metres high and at its longest point across the river is 275 metres. Take a stroll across it, to really appreciate the incredible view from the other side of the Gard river. The Pont du Gard was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.    



Mont-Saint-Michel along the Normandy coastline must be one of Frances’s most iconic sights. Standing on an island just off the shoreline, the Gothic-style Benedictine Abbey is incredibly eye-catching. It was built between the 11th and 16th centuries and around the feet of the abbey is a little village which is home to around 50 residents.

The view of Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

The view of Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy

Mont-Saint-Michel was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979 and over the years has become extremely popular with visitors. It’s wise to arrive as early as possible and make the most of the park and ride facilities. 

Why not?

Start creating your own French adventure and discover some the enchanting UNESCO World Heritage sites for yourself, by flying easyJet or British Airways. These are just a couple of options that you can take to the beautiful country.

Or alternatively, jump on Le Shuttle and tour through France under your own steam.


The historic city of Lyon

Lyon, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France, has numerous locations within the city that come under the UNESCO World Heritage site umbrella. They include the Roman district and Fourvière, the Renaissance district in Vieux Lyon, and the silk district of Croix-Rousse, which are all located across the two hills of the city.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Lyon, France

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Lyon

It’s definitely worthwhile spending a few days in Lyon as this incredible city is known as “the belly of France” and has some amazing gastronomic treats. I say treats, I don’t think I’ll be trying the tripe again, but hey, never say never.



To be more specific this UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of three components, the Champagne Hillsides, the Houses and Cellars. Gary and I enjoyed a fantastic week-long road trip around this region, touring across the vineyards and staying at Troyes, Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne.

Vineyards just outside Hautvillers, Champagne, France

Vineyards just outside Hautvillers

The historic vineyards included in the UNESCO list are around Hautvillers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Take a wander along the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, to get a taster of the incredible Champagne Houses and why not visit one of their underground cellars.

Maison de Venoge of the Rue de Champagne, Epernay, France

Maison de Venoge of the Rue de Champagne, Epernay

Champagne is a relatively recent recruit to the list and was only added in 2015.


Amiens Cathedral

Our Lady in Amiens in the Picardy region is a stunning 13th-century Gothic cathedral and is the largest in France. Its vaulted nave is incredible and stands 138.8 feet (42.3 metres) high.  The cathedral was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1981.

The vaulted nave in the Cathedral, Amiens, France

Inside the Cathedral in Amiens

The Weeping Angel, Amiens, France

The Weeping Angel

Keep an eye out for the sculpture of the Weeping Angel near the back of the church, it was created in 1636 by Nicolas Blasset. You can see that the little angel with its outstretched wings, is leaning on the top of a skull.


Paris, Banks of the Seine

I really couldn’t compile this list and not include Paris, and is there a better place than the banks of the River Seine? I don’t think so, it’s truly beautiful. This part of Paris was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991.

A boat trip on the Seine, Paris, France

A boat trip on the Seine

I could stroll along the Seine all day enjoying the most incredible views and architecture. From the Ile St Louis to the Eiffel Tower, and the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais. What makes it even more special are all the little stalls lined along the river banks, selling books, souvenirs and pieces of art.



Nancy in the Lorraine region of France is a lovely city, and notably the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Place Stanislas, it is beautiful. What I loved about it was the perfection and elegance of the buildings, all symmetrically surrounding the pedestrianised square.

Place Stanislas, Nancy, France

Place Stanislas, Nancy

It was built between 1752 and 1756 and beyond the attractive facades is the City Hall, Opera House, and a fine arts museum. Also inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1983 is the Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance. Just off to the north of Place Stanislas is Nancy’s own Arc de Triomphe, Arc Héré, which was named after the architect who led the design of the squares. The archway leads onto Place de la Carrière

Arc Héré, Nancy, France

Arc Héré, Nancy

In our opinion

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Reims Cathedral

Reims is in the Grand Est region and also has the Champagne vineyards on its doorstep. So there are many reasons to visit Reims, although the incredible Cathedral of Notre-Dame in the heart of the city, is a site that was inscribed by UNESCO in 1991

It was built during the 13th-century in French Gothic style and was used for the crowning of several kings.

If you are able to visit during the summer months, the cathedral holds an evening sound and light display across the façade and depicts the rich history of Reims, it’s impressive to watch.

It was built during the 13th-century in French Gothic style and was used for the crowning of several kings. If you are able to visit during the summer months, the cathedral holds an evening sound and light display across the façade and depicts the rich history of Reims, it’s impressive to watch.

The Cathedral at night


Historic centre of Avignon

Avignon is a remarkable place, we headed to the south of France in 2008 and immediately Avignon was at the top of my list, to me it just shouts Provence. It doesn’t surprise me that the whole historic centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site 

Pont d’Avignon, Avignon, France

Pont d’Avignon

I could never tire at admiring the incredible view of Pont d’Avignon and the historical city beyond, it’s such an iconic view. I feel like a return visit is in order.


Strasbourg, Grande-Île

Strasbourg is in the Grand Est region of France and about a stone’s throw from the German border. So, you can imagine that the beautiful town also has a strong German influence, particularly in its architecture and food.

Petite France, Strasbourg, France

Petite France

The Grande-Île (Large Island) area is full of so much character, cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings and is incredibly picturesque. You can truly understand why UNESCO World Heritage added to their list in 1988.

Strasbourg - Capitale de Noël, Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg - Capitale de Noël

Strasbourg is a lovely place to visit all year around, however, if you get the opportunity to visit at Christmas then you’re in for a treat.



The fortified city of Carcassonne is in the Occitanie region and can be seen for miles around. It is an incredible sight; there has been a fortification on this hill since the pre-Roman period. Around its 3km of surrounding medieval walls are 52 towers, you must take a wander inside it’s like entering into another world, wandering through the cobbled streets.

The fortified city of Carcassonne, France

The fortified city of Carcassonne

The Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997 and must see if you are in the southern region of France.

Inspired to explore France’s UNESCO World Heritage sites?

The history and incredible architecture that can be found in this beautiful country are impressive.

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