What are the most visited sites in France? What are the remarkable places to discover when visiting France? What are the most visited historical monuments, religious buildings, museums and other cultural sites of French heritage on the site? I gather in this list the most popular places, those which are often sold out during the holidays and do not empty throughout the year (when France is not confined because of Covid-19 of course…). These famous places attract travellers from all over the world and make metropolitan France a country particularly rich in tourist attractions. One goes there to cultivate oneself, to entertain oneself or quite simply for the pleasure of the eyes.
The most touristic French places
If Paris is obviously the city that concentrates the most prestigious monuments and has the most visits, the French heritage extends over its entire territory. Each region of France has an impressive tourist capital, be it historical, architectural, scientific, artistic or natural. Here is the list of the 75 places that have made the most entries in France in 2017-2018.
Notre-Dame de Paris (before the fire)
The most visited site in France has been temporarily damaged since the fire on 15 April 2019. This Gothic jewel, emblem of Paris, is located on the Ile de la Cité in the heart of the ultra-tourist district of Paris. It took two centuries to erect Notre-Dame (12th to 14th century) but a few minutes to partially destroy it. Deprived of its spire and part of its frame, it should be rebuilt in 2024 if all goes well (and there is no lack of budget!). If visits inside the cathedral are no longer possible during the work, travellers continue to flock to the square, which will soon be open to the public.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
At the top of the Montmartre hill in Paris, the monumental Basilica of the Sacred Heart fascinates. Perched at an altitude of 130 metres, its white Romano-Byzantine façade dominates Paris. It is one of the most famous and recognizable monuments of Paris, the one you see on every postcard. What attracts so many visitors, beyond its interior and exterior architecture, is its incredible panoramic view of the capital. Inside the building has the largest mosaic of France on its ceiling. The Sacré Coeur district is very touristy, for its steep streets and the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret nearby.
The Louvre Museum in Paris
The largest museum in Paris is one of the most famous in the world. The Louvre has a breathtaking collection of 35,000 jewels! Works of Western art but also treasures of ancient Eastern civilizations, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, graphic arts and Islamic arts. The paintings that have made her famous are The Mona Lisa, The Raft of the Medusa and the Venus de Milo. The Museum is 8 centuries old and has seen its architecture evolve over the years. It is its glass pyramid, illuminated at night, which is so popular with tourists. Its very touristic area takes visitors to the banks of the Seine, in the rue de Rivoli but also from the Tuileries garden to the Champs-Elysées via the Place de la Concorde.
The Domaine de Versailles (Yvelines – Ile de France)
The Palace of Versailles and its gardens occupy the 4th place in the ranking of the most visited French sites. Official residence of the Kings of France, the Versailles estate is one of the most illustrious monuments of French heritage. It is located in the Yvelines department, 16 kilometres south-west of Paris. The Park of Versailles covers an area of 1070 hectares, enough to keep visitors busy after visiting the castle, its apartments, its Hall of Mirrors and its courtyards. The estate’s park is made up of formal gardens, adorned with statues, canals, fountains and exceptional buildings.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris
The Eiffel Tower, the flagship monument of the city of Paris is not the most visited, but it still counts one visitor every 4 seconds! Not to mention all those who simply approach it, photograph it, admire it, without going through the ticket office. The one called the Iron Lady was built by Gustave Eiffel and his team in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition. The Eiffel Tower culminates at 324 meters from where it dominates the city of Paris and its surroundings, offering one of the most prized views by tourists. You can climb to the top by the steps or by the elevator. There are 1665 steps from the forecourt to the top but the stairs between the 2nd floor and the top are not open to the public. In the surrounding area, visitors discover the Champ-de-Mars park and the banks of the Seine.
The Centre Pompidou de Beaubourg in Paris
The Georges-Pompidou National Centre for Art and Culture (CNAC) is more commonly known as the “Centre Pompidou” or even “Centre Beaubourg”. It is a polycultural establishment renowned for its innovative architecture, which has given rise to much controversy. Created from an idea by President Georges Pompidou, the Centre Pompidou is an original cultural institution entirely devoted to modern and contemporary creation. Here, the visual arts rub shoulders with books, drawing, music and cinema. The centre has one of the three most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the world, along with that of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Tate Modern in London. In the heart of Paris, it is located between the Halles and Marais districts. One goes there above all to admire the crazy building, take its funny tunnel and discover the permanent and temporary exhibitions, always of high quality.
The Musée d’Orsay in Paris
The former Orsay railway station, now converted into a museum, has the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world and all the artistic creation of the Western world from 1848 to 1914. The Musée d’Orsay is one of the largest museums in Europe and represents the art of the 19th and 20th centuries in all its diversity: paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, graphic arts, photographs, etc. The most famous works are those of Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Gustave Courbet, Cézanne, Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. The museum fascinates as much for its architecture as for its collection. Located in the heart of prestigious Paris, it is situated along the Seine, facing the Tuileries gardens. It is thus part of the great cultural promenade for all tourists who wish to discover Paris.
The Cité des sciences et de l’industrie de La Villette in Paris
The Cité des sciences et de l’industrie (CSI) is the flagship cultural centre of the immense La Villette Park north of Paris. It is an establishment specializing in the dissemination of scientific and technical culture and is aimed at families with the aim of arousing the interest of citizens in the social issues related to science, research and industry. Coupled with l’Géode, the site is installed on the former abattoirs of La Villette, in the 19th district of Paris. Together with the Cité de la musique and the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris, a walk in la Villette is as instructive as it is peaceful and recreational.
Le Mont St Michel (Manche, Normandy)
The Mont-Saint-Michel is a commune of the English Channel in Normandy. Nowadays, its name refers to the rocky islet on which the 80-metre high Saint Michel Abbey is built. A major stopover on the road to Compostela, this world-famous French tourist site is especially renowned for its magnificent bay and the unusual character of its location. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is the scene of the highest tides in continental Europe, so at certain times of the year the tide rises and the Abbey becomes an island on the water.