UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France

Place Stanislas

Nancy, the temporary residence of a king without a kingdom – Stanislaw I Leszczynski, later to become Duke of Lorraine – is paradoxically the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital where an enlightened monarch proved to be sensitive to the needs of the public. Built between 1752 and 1756 by a brilliant team led by the architect Héré, this was a carefully conceived project that succee ...
Founded: 1756 | Location: Nancy, France

Château de Fontainebleau

The architecture and decor of the Fontainebleau palace exerted considerable influence on the artistic evolution not only of France but also of Europe. François I intended to make a new Rome of this royal residence. It was in this spirit that he brought artists of renown from Italy, whose intervention marks the decisive stage in the introduction of the aesthetic formulas of the Renaissance into France. Used by the kings ...
Founded: 1528 | Location: Fontainebleau, France

Arles Amphitheatre

The two-tiered Roman amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times. Built in 90 AD, the amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators, and was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting as well as plays and concerts in summer. The building measure ...
Founded: 90 AD | Location: Arles, France

Palais des Papes

The Palais des Papes is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394. The pal ...
Founded: 1252 | Location: Avignon, France

Neuf-Brisach

Neuf-Brisach is a fortified town intended to guard the border between France and the Holy Roman Empire and, subsequently the German states. It was built after the peace of Ryswick, in 1697, that resulted in the loss to France of the town of Breisach, on the opposite bank of the Rhine. The town"s name means New Breisach. Work began on the fortified town in 1698, to plans drawn by Vauban, a military engineer at the se ...
Founded: 1698 | Location: Neuf-Brisach, France

Albi Cathedral

Albi Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Albi a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built as a fortress in the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade. Begun in 1287 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world. The present cathedral was preceded by other buildings. The first dated from the fourth century and in 666 was destroyed by fire. The second i ...
Founded: 1287-1480 | Location: Albi, France

Arles Roman Theatre

Arles Roman Theatre was built in the time of Augustus and. It had a capacity of seating for 8,000 on 33 tiers of steps. In the early Middle Ages the theater was used as a quarry, and with the material it provided the town wall was erected. Of the rear wall of the stage only a few stumps of pillars and two more or less complete columns remain. Since the theater is now used again during the summer it is protected on the out ...
Founded: 90 AD | Location: Arles, France

Agen Cathedral

Agen Cathedral's (Cathédrale Saint-Caprais d'Agen) visible structure dates back to the 12th century. It was built as a collegiate church of canons dedicated to Saint Caprasius, on the foundations of a basilica sacked by the Normans in 853 but thereafter restored. Sacked again in December 1561 during the Wars of Religion, by two years after the countrywide coup d'état that took place in 1789, the cathedral had come to s ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Agen, France

Fort Médoc

Built on marshy land on the Left Bank of the Gironde, opposite Fort Pâté, Fort Médoc was a key part of Vauban"s three-point defence system. Its purpose was to block the passage of ships between Île Pâté and Cussac in the Médoc. Fort Médoc was built in 1689-1690 on low-lying terrain with alluvial soil. The artillery battery was pointed towards Blaye and most of the ...
Founded: 1689-1690 | Location: Cussac-Fort-Médoc, France

Arras Citadel

Built by Vauban between 1667 and 1672, the purpose of Citadel of Arras was to protect the city from the attacks (Spanish troops coming from the Netherlands). It has been nicknamed La belle inutile (the beautiful useless one) by residents as it has never been directly involved in heavy fighting and didn"t keep the Germans form occupying the city in either Word War. Since 7 July 2008 it is part of the UNESCO World Heri ...
Founded: 1667-1672 | Location: Arras, France

Notre Dame du Haut

The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp is one of the finest examples of the architecture of Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and one of the most important examples of 20th century religious architecture. It was built between 1953 and 1955. The chapel is a working religious building and attracts 80,000 visitors each year. Notre Dame du Haut is commonly thought of as a more extreme design of Le Corbusier’s l ...
Founded: 1953-1955 | Location: Ronchamp, France

Blaye Citadel

The fortified citadel at Blaye, standing on the opposite bank of the river Gironde to Fort Médoc, forms, along with Fort Paté, the region's 17th-century defence against river attack. Built by Vauban, together this group are named the Fortifications of Vauban and are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site of the citadel saw its first castle in the 7th century. Vauban's fortress though was built ...
Founded: 1689-1692 | Location: Blaye, France

Abbey Church of Saint Foy

The Abbey Church of Saint Foy in Conques was a popular stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The main draw for medieval pilgrims at Conques were the remains of Saint Faith (St. Foy), a martyred young woman from the fourth century. The original monastery building at Conques was an eighth-century oratory built by monks fleeing the Saracens in Spain. The or ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Conques, France

Arles Obelisk

The Obélisque d"Arles is a 4th-century Roman obelisk, erected in the center of the Place de la République, in front of the town hall of Arles. The obelisk is made of granite from Asia Minor. It does not feature any inscription. Its height together with its pedestal is approximately 20 m. The obelisk was first erected under the Roman emperor Constantine II in the center of the spina of the Roman circus ...
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Arles, France

Arras Town Hall

The Gothic town hall of Arras and its belfry were constructed between 1463 and 1554 and had to be rebuilt in a slightly less grandiose style after World War I. The belfry is 75 meters high and used to serve as a watchtower. Nowadays tourists can enjoy ascending the belfry. The belfry of the town hall is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of The Belfries of Belgium and France (the group of 56 historical buildings).
Founded: 1463-1554 | Location: Arras, France

Sainte Marie de La Tourette

Sainte Marie de La Tourette is a Dominican Order priory on a hillside near Lyon designed by architects Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis. It was constructed between 1956 and 1960. Le Corbusier"s design of the building began La Tourette is considered one of the most important buildings of the late Modernist style. In July 2016, the building and several other works by Le Corbusier were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage ...
Founded: 1956-1960 | Location: Lyon, France

Historic Site of Lyons

The Historic Site of Lyons was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The long history of Lyons, which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. as the capital of the Three Gauls and has continued to play a major role in Europe"s political, cultural and economic development ever since, is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and the many fine historic buildings from all periods. The specific reg ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Lyon, France

Briançon Fortress

The historical centre of Briançon is a strongly fortified town, built by Vauban to defend the region from Austrians in the 17th century. Its streets are very steep and narrow, though picturesque. Briançon lies at the foot of the descent from the Col de Montgenèvre, giving access to Turin, so a great number of other fortifications have been constructed on the surrounding heights, especially towards the ...
Founded: 1692 | Location: Briançon, France

Fort Paté

Fort Paté is a small oval battery on an island in the middle of the river Gironde, just big enough to hold the soldiers who defend it. It was built between 1685 and 1693 as part of the verrou de Blaye, a system of three forts built to seal the river against enemy ships. The fort was situated so as to support the river batteries at Blaye on the right bank and Fort Médoc on the left bank. The island used to b ...
Founded: 1693 | Location: Blaye, France

Longwy Fortress

The original Longwy village developed on a widened plateau and was eventually linked to the Chiers valley, divided into two towns: Longwy-Haut (the Old Longwy) and Longwy-Bas (in the valley of the river). In the 15th century, the castle of Longwy was one of the most important in the region. It was partially destroyed in 1646 during the Thirty Years War, during which Longwy became French. The town and the castle all disapp ...
Founded: 1678 | Location: Longwy, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.