France's cities: Cultural heritage that will take your breath away

  • Paris

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Franck Charel

    Paris

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Franck Charel

  • Lyon

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Phovoir

    Lyon

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Phovoir

  • Le Havre

    © Fabrice Moley - Office de Tourisme de l’Agglomération Havraise

    Le Havre

    © Fabrice Moley - Office de Tourisme de l’Agglomération Havraise

  • Bordeaux

    © S.duboscq

    Bordeaux

    © S.duboscq

  • Nîmes

    © Ville de Nîmes

    Nîmes

    © Ville de Nîmes

France's cities: Cultural heritage that will take your breath away

France’s cities proudly display the wealth of cultural treasures accumulated throughout their long histories. Throughout time, they have become adorned with impressive, picturesque and often stunning monuments.

Cities and monuments classified by UNESCO as World Heritage sites

  • Albi: Episcopal city
  • Amiens: cathedral of Notre-Dame
  • Arras: citadel
  • Arles: Roman and Romanesque monuments
  • Avignon and its historical center
  • Besançon : citadel,  urban surrounding walls and Fort Griffon
  • Bordeaux and it's Port de la Lune
  • Bourges: cathedral
  • Briançon : urban surrounding walls, Redoute des Salettes, Fort des Trois-Têtes, Fort du Randouillet, ouvrage de la communication Y and the Pont d’Asfeld
  • Carcassonne fortified historical city
  • Chartres: cathedral
  • Dijon: capital of Burgundy, close to the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay
  • Fontainebleau: palace and park
  • Le Havre: expressing heritage of the '50's, the city was reconstructed by Auguste Perret after the second World War
  • Lille: European capital of culture, in the Belfries country of Flanders and Wallonia
  • Lyon and its historical site
  • Nancy: the squares of Stanislas, de la Carrière and d'Alliance
  • Nîmes and the Pont du Gard
  • Paris and the banks of the Seine
  • Provins: city known for its medieval fair
  • Reims: Its Notre-Dame cathedral, Saint-Remi basilica and the Palais du Tau
  • Saint-Etienne: UNESCO city of design
  • Saint-Martin-de-Ré : surrounding walls and citadel
  • Strasbourg: historical center, cathedral and its Grande Île
  • Toulouse: L’occitane and its Canal du Midi
  • Versailles: palace, museum and parc 

The cities: breeding grounds for art and museums

There are more than 42,000 museums and monuments throughout France, 14,000 of which are classified by UNESCO.

The Louvre, the best known of all of France's museums, offers a truly unparalleled collection. Recently constructed outside the famous building, the glass pryamid built by the architect Pei is a renowned symbol of contemporary creativity.

The Carré d’Art in NîmesContemporary Art Museum in Bordeaux, Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris, Matisse Museum in Nice any many more illustrate the liberty given to artists to capture the times they lived in... whether large or small, traditional or unusual, they allow all to satisfy their thirst for discovery and knowledge.

If old stone structures don't happen to be your biggest interest, contemporary architecture is also represented at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Arche de la Défense and Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, as well as at the Cité Internationale in Lyon and  Piscine Museum in Roubaix.

Since culture and heritage should be accessible to all, several adapted services are available: a welcome in many foreign languages, special ticket prices, advance reservation system, personalized welcome in a group, for families, for people with disabilities or seniors.

Focus on...

Marseille

As the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Marseille has undergone a makeover including the construction of new buildings such as the MUCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée) and the creation of urban landscapes.

Nantes

Today, cities are increasingly focused on ecology. Urban planning is a priority to improve the quality of life of residents and thus eco-neighborhoods and green spaces are growing in number.

Spearheading this movement, the city of Nantes was voted the Green Capital of Europe this year. This mention recognizes 20 years of commitment to the sustainable development of the city and encourages it to continue its efforts in this area.

The nocturnal life of France's cities

Cities in France are not only full of impressive cultural and historical heritage, they are also full of people who like to get together in the evenings and relax!

France's cities have an impressive range of nighttime activities to offer. While bars, restaurants and nightclubs are of course staples, some other activities include:

  • Theatre and opera (the Garnier Opera in Paris, Grand Théâtre of Bordeaux, etc.)
  • Performances and one-man shows (Lido, le Moulin-Rouge,...)
  • Sporting events, in the vein of Roland-Garros
  • Festivals (Jazz in Marciac, Rock en Seine, Fête des Lumières in Lyon, etc.)
  • Theme parks (Parc Astérix, Disneyland)

Parks and gardens

From majestic parks to intimate gardens, from the distinctly French to the contemporary, France is an ideal setting for nature-lovers. Here are a few that are certain must-sees:

  • The gardens of  Versailles, where you can follow along with the itinerary created by Louis XIV to 50 fountains found throughout these exceptional gardens.
  • The Luxembourg gardens in Paris
  • Parc de la Tête d'Or in Lyon
  • Champ de Juillet in Limoges.
  • Parc de la Toison d'Or in Dijon where you can still see live marionette shows.
  • Parc de la Citadelle in Strasbourg
  • On the French Riviera, the gardens of the Ephrussi de Rothschild villa are true works of art.

Many cities also have their own botanical gardens.

Shopping in France's cities

Paris' reputation as the worldwide capital of fashion precedes it. All of your shopping needs can surely be fulfilled in Paris, but it doesn't stop there! 

  • Avenue Montaigne is without a doubt the most luxurious in the city: all of the top brands can be found here.
  • The Champs-Élysées: Some top brands can also be found here.
  • Large stores: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marché, etc.
  • If your wallet is beginning to hurt, make sure to check out Vallée Village: an outlet selling top brands.
  • For some bargain-hunting, visit the flea markets at Saint-Ouen or Porte-de-Vanves.
  • Not to mention of course the famous Braderie de Lille. 

As far as perfumes, Fragonard et Galimard in Grasse your best bets for finding that perfect scent.

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