10 Must Visit Sites in France (besides Paris!)
This is a guest post written by a fellow blog writer Glory.
While most people focus on beautiful Paris and all the city of lights has to offer, there are so many other spectacular sites in France, offering both man-made and natural beauty. From Gothic cathedrals to the famous châteaux of the Loire valley to the natural wonders of the Alps, France offers something for everyone from history buffs to art and architecture fans to nature lovers.
1. Sénanque Abbey
The Abbaye Notre Dame de Sénanque, built in 1148, is a remarkably beautiful monastery, close to the hilltop town of Gordes. Arriving during the summer months when the lavender fields are in bloom makes the hassle of summer crowds and heat worth it. With a history of thriving and in decline, the monastery is still active today. Arrive in time for Vespers: even if you aren’t religious, it is a moving and spiritual experience.
2. Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley
The Château de Chenonceau, located in the Loire Valley in France, exemplifies ladylike elegance, from its impeccable profile to its extravagantly decorated interiors. With bright white facades, turrets and its iconic bridge, the Château de Chenonceau is a Renaissance masterpiece. Its highly sophisticated polish is due in part the impact of the great ladies of history on its architecture, in particular, the “builder queen”, Catherine de’ Medici. Particularly known for the influence of women on its design, it is known as the Ladies’ Château.
3. Cliffs of Étretat, Normandy
The town of Étretat is a cute little resort town with a fine pebble beach for relaxing. However, its biggest attractions are the famous chalk cliffs and the arched rock formations. The coast is 80 miles long, and along the way, you will find natural wonders that have inspired travellers and artists, such as Claude Monet.
4. Mont St. Michel, Normandy
Located off France’s northwestern coast in Normandy, the UNESCO designated World Heritage site of Mont Saint-Michel is both a man-made and natural miracle. Built in 708 A.D., its strategic position has contributed to its nearly perfect preservation: as the tide went out, pilgrims could successfully make the trek to the spectacular Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. However, as the powerful tide rolled in, would be assailants were driven off or drowned. Visitors today wind their way up through narrow streets and small houses to the top, where the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is perched high above.
5. Mont Blanc, Chamonix
4,810 meters (15,781 ft) of rock, snow, ice rise magnificently above the quaint and international ski resort of Chamonix. Not for the faint of heart, the ride both up to the top and the subsequent trip down, via skis or snowboard, is thrilling.
6. Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct), Occitanie
The Pont du Gard is a magnificent example of ancient architecture and one of the most awe-inspiring Roman sites in the area. The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct built to transport water from a spring in nearby Uzès to serve the bustling Roman town of Nîmes, which in the 1st century A.D. had a population of 20,000. You can visit the site and view the ancient aqueduct from several angles, plus take in the beautiful view. There is a fee to enter the site and for an additional fee, you can walk across the top level of the aqueduct. The Pont du Gard crosses the Gardon river, and many people take the opportunity to picnic and swim right at the base.
A small village on the border of Normandy, Giverny is most famous for being the site of Claude Monet’s beloved riverside house and garden, open to the public today. Visitors can perfectly imagine the artist painting his famous garden from the water lilies, weeping willows and the signature Japanese bridge gardens. The house itself is picturesque with green shutters and ivy creeping along the surface.
8. Colmar, Alsace
Situated in the northeastern region of France, Colmar is a delightful town, with its half-timber buildings, colorful facades and pretty canal. Visitors can enjoy wandering the cobblestoned streets or floating by canoe down the canal. The provincial town is an iconic example of the charming Alsace region.
9. Arènes de Nîmes, Nîmes
When people think of Roman architecture, they often think of the Colosseum in Rome. However, the Arènes in the southern city of Nimes is the best-preserved colosseum in Continental Europe. Built in 70 A.D., it seated 24,000 and served as a public event theatre built by the Romans as well as a gladiator fighting arena. Nowadays, concerts are held here year-round.
10. Reims Cathedral, Reims, Normandy
Fans of French Gothic architecture will love this cathedral, built between 1211-1345. The cathedral has a storied history, as it is famous for the coronation of many kings of France. Although largely spared during the French Revolution, it was severely damaged during World War I and then restored in the 20th century.
About the author:
Glory is a Los Angeles based writer and blogger – formerly residing in Paris, France and possessing a Master’s in Architecture, she writes about inspiring Art, Architecture and Cultural Travel to Europe. You can read more at www.gscinparis.com.