In France, a unique, wealthy heritage remains from yesterday's wars. Military cemeteries, commemorative monuments, battlefield ruins and museums help keep collective memory alive.
In Paris the Arc de Triomphe is the most visited commemorative site. It houses the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose flame is lit each evening at 6:30pm, an act of respect to those who died in combat. From its terrace, admire the view of the Champs Elysées, as awe-inspiring at night as in daytime.
Not very far from the arch, the Musée de l’Armée (Military Museum) welcomes visitors from inside the Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids). Here, a new chronological circuit focuses on three important periods of France's history: Louis XIV's royal army, Napoleon the First's imperial army, and Charles de Gaulle and the modern Republic's army.
On the Left Bank, the Pantheon is dedicated to remembering the nation's celebrated individuals. Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola, Pierre and Marie Curie are among those buried there.
In Nantes, head to the Quai de la Fosse, from where, in the 17th to 19th centuries, ships set sail on their triangular trade routes to Africa and the French West Indies. Today, it houses the Mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage (Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery).
The Caen Memorial in Normandy is one of Europe's major commemorative sites. In the same region, take the time to admire the famous Bayeux Tapestry, listed on UNESCO's "Memory of the World" register.
In Eastern France, the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Museum of Resistance and Deportation) in Besançon allows you into its Citadel, where one hundred members of the resistance were shot down during the Occupation.
Another must for those fascinated by 20th-century history is the Charles de Gaulle Memorial in Haute-Marne, built at the foot of the impressive Cross of Lorraine, only 500 meters from the General's grave and from his family home, La Boisserie.
Nearby Pont du Gard, the "Memories of Garrigue" exhibit will help you better understand the Mediterranean landscape through the people who live there.