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10 Famous Landmarks to visit in France

Eiffel Tower In Paris
Picture credit: Canva

France is a treasure trove of remarkable sites and experiences, each region offering something unique. If you're planning your next trip via ferry to France, here's a list of the top 10 famous landmarks that should be on your itinerary.

1. Eiffel Tower

No visit to France is complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Standing proudly in the heart of Paris, this iconic structure attracts around 7 million visitors annually. Originally built for the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel Tower was intended to be dismantled after 20 years. However, Gustave Eiffel's determination saved it from demolition, and today, it remains a symbol of Paris.
Visitors can explore its base, ascend to the first or second floors for panoramic views, or dine with a view of the city. The Eiffel Tower also features a unique experience on its summit, where you can visit a reconstruction of Gustave Eiffel’s office, showcasing a wax figure of the engineer himself. The nightly light show, where 20,000 bulbs illuminate the structure, is a must-see spectacle that adds to the magic of Paris.

2. Palace of Versailles

Just outside Paris lies the opulent Palace of Versailles, once a royal hunting lodge and now a grand museum. The palace is renowned for its Hall of Mirrors, featuring 357 mirrors reflecting its gorgeous gardens. The 2300-room palace offers a glimpse into French history, while the expansive gardens, complete with the Orangery and intricate fountains, provide a serene escape.
Beyond the main palace, visitors can explore the Grand and Petit Trianons, smaller palatial retreats within the estate. Marie Antoinette's Hamlet, a rustic retreat built for the queen to escape court life, is another highlight. The Estate of Versailles is not just a historical site but a vibrant cultural venue, hosting musical fountain shows, classical concerts, and art exhibitions throughout the year.

3. Mont Saint-Michel

Located where Normandy meets Brittany, Mont Saint-Michel is a breathtaking island topped with a majestic abbey. Known for its extreme tidal variations, the mount can be reached by foot when the tide is low, but caution is advised. The abbey, founded in 966, offers guided tours, and the island's winding streets are filled with charming shops, restaurants, and museums.
Mont Saint-Michel's abbey, a marvel of medieval architecture, includes the stunning Gothic-style church and cloisters. The panoramic views from the top are unparalleled, showcasing the surrounding bay's dramatic tides. Visitors can also enjoy the island’s unique atmosphere by staying overnight in one of the quaint hotels, allowing for a quieter exploration of the site after the day-trippers have left.

4. Chateau de Chambord

In the Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord stands as the largest and most magnificent castle. Commissioned by Francis I as a hunting lodge, the chateau showcases French Renaissance architecture. Visitors can explore 60 of its 426 rooms, admire the Leonardo da Vinci-inspired double helix staircase, and stroll through the extensive gardens and parklands, which are larger than inner Paris.
The chateau also offers an insight into Renaissance innovations with its elaborate roofline, featuring a forest of chimneys and turrets. The estate includes a vast park that is home to wild boar and deer, and visitors can rent boats to paddle around the chateau’s moat.

5. Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps at 4810 metres, offers a natural spectacle accessible from Chamonix. While summiting the mountain is a challenge reserved for the fit and experienced, a cable car ride to the Pic du Midi provides breathtaking views. The area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities like skiing, paragliding, and hiking.
In addition to the scenic views from the Aiguille du Midi cable car, visitors can experience the Vallée Blanche, a 20-kilometre off-piste ski route that descends from Mont Blanc. The region also hosts the annual Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a gruelling endurance race that attracts athletes from around the world. The Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier, is another must-see, accessible by the Montenvers Railway.

6. The Dune of Pilat

The Dune of Pilat, located in the Arcachon Bay area, is the tallest sand dune in Europe. Stretching over 500 metres in width and reaching heights of 110 metres, this natural wonder offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the vast Landes forest on the other. Climbing the dune is a popular activity, rewarding visitors with an incredible panorama.
The Dune of Pilat is also a hotspot for paragliding, providing an exhilarating way to take in the landscape. The surrounding area is rich in biodiversity, making it a fantastic location for nature walks and bird watching. Nearby, the quaint village of Pyla-sur-Mer offers charming cafés and seafood restaurants where you can relax after exploring the dune.

7. Millau Viaduct

The Millau Viaduct, spanning the Tarn Valley, is a modern engineering feat. As the world's tallest multi-span bridge and longest suspended bridge, it reaches 343 metres in height. The viaduct blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape and offers picture-perfect views from various vantage points.
In addition to its architectural brilliance, the Millau Viaduct is part of a picturesque region known for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and paragliding. The nearby town of Millau is famous for its charming markets and local cuisine. Visitors can also explore the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring dramatic limestone plateaus and deep river gorges.

8. Provence Lavender Fields

The lavender fields of Provence are a visual and aromatic delight, best visited between late June and early August. The Valensole Plateau is particularly famous for its picturesque fields, framed by sunflowers and wheat. The region also boasts vineyards, olive groves, and the Museum of Lavender, which provides insights into the cultivation and uses of lavender.
Beyond the lavender, Provence offers quaint villages like Gordes and Roussillon, each with its own unique charm. The region is also known for its vibrant markets, where you can buy local products like honey, olive oil, and lavender-based cosmetics. Wine tours in the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape regions add another layer of enjoyment to your visit.

9. Carcassonne

Carcassonne, a medieval fortress city in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, is one of the most striking landmarks in France. The Cité de Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its double-walled fortifications and 52 towers, offering a journey back in time. Visitors can explore the castle, the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, and the charming cobblestone streets within the walls.
The city also hosts numerous festivals, including the summer Carcassonne Festival featuring music, theatre, and fireworks. The Canal du Midi, another UNESCO site, runs near Carcassonne, providing opportunities for picturesque boat rides and cycling tours. The local cuisine, featuring cassoulet, a traditional slow-cooked casserole, is a must-try for food enthusiasts.

10. The Louvre

The Louvre in Paris is the world's largest art museum, home to approximately 38,000 objects, including the famous Mona Lisa. Set along the Seine, the museum is instantly recognizable by its glass pyramid entrance. Visitors can explore its vast collection through guided tours or self-guided trails, with quieter times recommended during December and January.
The Louvre’s extensive collection spans various civilizations and historical periods, from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance. In addition to the Mona Lisa, highlights include the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the vast Napoleonic Apartments. The museum also offers workshops and educational programs, making it an enriching experience for visitors of all ages.

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