The 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites In France


Last Updated on 12/05/2022 by Alfred

How many French sites are classified by UNESCO? What are they? In this article, you will know about the UNESCO sites in France region by region!

“To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must have Outstanding Universal Value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria.”– UNESCO.

On July 4, the “Tectonic High Place Chaîne des Puys – Limagne Fault” achieved recognition by UNESCO.

The Auvergne natural property is now one of 44 French sites enshrined on the World Heritage List.

An inscription allowed France to then place itself on a par with Germany in the number of UNESCO sites behind Italy (53), China (52), and Spain (47).

The European Heritage Days takes place from 15 to 16 September.

The 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites In France

1. Historic site of Lyon (1998 – Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes)

Lyon’s long history is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and numerous historic buildings.

2. Tectonic hotspot Chaîne des Puys – Limagne fault (2018 – Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes)

The latest World Heritage site, the property, is an exceptional example of continental rupture.

3. Basilica and hill of Vézelay (1979 – Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)

The Basilica of Sainte-Madeleine, a monastic church of the twelfth century, is a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque art both in its architecture, portal, and carved capitals.

4. Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay (1981 – Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)

Founded in 1119 by Saint Bernard, the Burgundian abbey of Fontenay illustrates the idea of autarky of the first communities of Cistercian monks.

5. From the great saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the royal saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the production of ignigen salt (1982 – Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)

The Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans was designed to allow a rational and hierarchical work organization. 

The Saline de Salins houses an underground gallery of the thirteenth century with a hydraulic pump of the nineteenth still in operation.

6. The climates of the Burgundy vineyards (2015 – Bourgogne-Franche-Comté):

The climates are parcels of vines precisely delimited on the slopes of the Côte de Nuits and Beaune, south of Dijon. 

The site is a remarkable example of wine production developed since the early Middle Ages.

7. Prehistoric palafittic sites around the Alps (2011 – Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)

These settlements constitute a unique group of 111 vibrant and well-preserved archaeological sites; they represent important sources for studying the first agricultural societies in the region.

8. Places Stanislas, de la Carrière et d’Alliance in Nancy (1983 – Grand Est)

Nancy, the temporary residence of a kingdomless king who became Duke of Lorraine, Stanislas Leszczynski, is paradoxically the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital where an enlightened monarch is concerned about public utility.

9. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Basilica and Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palais du Tau, Reims (1991 – Grand Est)

The exceptional use of new architectural techniques of the thirteenth century and the harmonious marriage of carved decoration with architectural elements have made Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral one of the masterpieces of Gothic art.

10. Champagne hillsides, houses, and cellars (2015 – Grand Est)

These are where the method of making sparkling wines was developed, thanks to the second fermentation in the bottle. 

This property clearly illustrates how this production has developed from a highly specialized craft activity into an agro-industrial company.

11. Strasbourg: from the Big Island to the Neustadt, a European urban scene (1988 – Grand Est)

The double influence of this property has made it possible to create a specific urban scheme in Strasbourg, where the perspectives created from the cathedral open onto a unified landscape organized around rivers and canals.

12. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an exceptional contribution to the Modern Movement (2016 – Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

A set of 17 sites, spread over seven countries, built over half a century, throughout Le Corbusier called “patient research.” 

These masterpieces of human genius also attest to the internationalization of architectural practice on a global scale.

13. Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (1998 – Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Normandy, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Centre-Val de Loire, Île-de-France, Occitanie, Hauts-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur):

Throughout the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela was the most important of all destinations for countless pilgrims from all over Europe. To reach Spain, pilgrims had to cross France. Today, the tradition still lives on.

14. Fortifications of Vauban (2008 – Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Normandie, Bretagne, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Occitanie, Hauts-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

Vauban played a major role in the history of fortifications by influencing military architecture in Europe and other continents until the mid-nineteenth century. 

Vauban’s work includes 12 fortified buildings and constructions along France’s northern, eastern, and western borders. 

These sites are inscribed as witnesses to the heyday of classical bastioned fortification, typical of Western military architecture.

15. Amiens Cathedral (1981 – Hauts-de-France)

In the heart of Picardy, the cathedral of Amiens is one of the largest “classical” Gothic churches of the thirteenth century.

16. Belfries of Belgium and France (1999 – Hauts-de-France)

Twenty-three belfries located in northern France, and the belfry of Gembloux, Belgium, were inscribed in 2005 as an extension of the 32 Belgian belfries registered in 1999 under the name of Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia.

17. Nord-Pas-de-Calais mining basin (2012 – Hauts-de-France)

The site testifies to the research of the model of the workers’ city and illustrates a significant period in the history of industrial Europe.

18. Palace and Park of Versailles (1979 – Île-de-France):

Privileged place of residence of the French monarchy from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, the Palace of Versailles, embellished by several generations of creators, was for Europe for more than a century the model of what was to be a royal residence.

19. Palace and park of Fontainebleau (1981 – Île-de-France)

Used by the kings of France from the twelfth century, the hunting residence of Fontainebleau was transformed, enlarged, and embellished in the sixteenth century by Francis I, who wanted to make it a “new Rome.” 

Surrounded by a vast park, the castle, inspired by Italian models, was between Renaissance art and French traditions.

20. Paris, banks of the Seine (1981 – Île-de-France)

You can see the evolution of Paris and its history from the Seine; Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle are masterpieces of architecture. 

The wide avenues and squares that Haussmann built influenced the urban planning of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries worldwide.

21. Provins, medieval fair town (2001 – Île-de-France)

The medieval walled city of Provins is located in the heart of the ancient region of the powerful Counts of Champagne. 

Provins has managed to preserve its urban structure, specially designed to host fairs and activities.

22. Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret (2005 – Normandy):

The city of Le Havre was heavily bombed during the Second World War. According to a team led by Auguste Perret, the destroyed area was rebuilt between 1945 and 1964. 

Le Havre is exceptional for its unity and integrity in urban planning and construction technology among the many post-war cities.

23. Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay (1979 – Normandy and Brittany)

Or the “wonder of the West,” rising on a rocky islet amid strikes and powerful tides. 

Construction of the Benedictine abbey in Gothic style, dedicated to the archangel St. Michael, that continued from the eleventh to the sixteenth century while adapting to a complex natural site, was a technical and artistic feat.

24. Chartres Cathedral (1979 – Centre-Val de Loire)

 The cathedral of Chartres was built in part in 1145 and rebuilt 26 years after the fire of 1194. It is the monument par excellence of French Gothic art. Its vast nave is designed in the purest ogival style; its porches and stained-glass windows make it an exceptional masterpiece and have been remarkably well preserved.  

25. Bourges Cathedral (1992 – Centre-Val de Loire)

The Cathedral of Saint-Étienne de Bourges, built between the end of the twelfth and the end of the thirteenth century, is one of the great masterpieces of Gothic art. Beyond its architectural beauty, it testifies to the power of Christianity in medieval France.

26. Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes (2000 – Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire)

The Loire Valley is an exceptional cultural landscape, including historic towns and villages, great architectural monuments – castles – and cultivated land, shaped by centuries of interaction between people and their physical environment, including the Loire itself.

27. Prehistoric sites and ornate caves of the Vézère valley (1979 – Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

The prehistoric site is of exceptional interest from an ethnological, anthropological, and aesthetic point of view. Its parietal paintings, such as the Lascaux cave, whose discovery (in 1940) marked a date in prehistoric art history.

28. Abbey church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe (1983 – Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

Nicknamed the “Romanesque Sistine,” the Poitevin abbey of Saint-Savin is decorated with many beautiful murals of the eleventh and twelfth centuries that have come to us in a state of remarkable freshness.

29. Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion (1999 – Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

Viticulture was introduced to this fertile region of Aquitaine by the Romans and intensified in the Middle Ages. 

It is an exceptional landscape dedicated to viticulture, whose towns and villages have many quality historical monuments.

30. Bordeaux, Port de la Lune (2007 – Nouvelle-Aquitaine)

The historic center of this port city located in the southwest of France represents an exceptional urban and architectural ensemble created during the Enlightenment, whose values lasted until the first half of the twentieth century.

31. Pont du Gard (1985 – Occitanie)

The Pont du Gard was built shortly before the Christian era to allow the aqueduct of Nîmes, nearly 50 km long, to cross the Gardon. 

By imagining this 50 m high bridge with three levels, the longest of which measures 275 m, Roman hydraulic engineers and architects have created a technical masterpiece that is also a work of art.

32. Canal du Midi (1996 – Occitanie)

With its 360 navigable km linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and its 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels, etc.), the Canal du Midinetwork, built between 1667 and 1694, is one of the most extraordinary civil engineering achievements of the modern era, which paved the way for the industrial revolution.

33. Pyrénées-Mont Perdu (1999 – Occitanie) 

This exceptional mountain landscape, which radiates on both sides of the current national borders of France and Spain, is centered on the peak of Mont-Perdu, a limestone massif that culminates at 3,352 m. 

This site is also a pastoral landscape that reflects an agricultural way of life once prevalent in the mountainous regions of Europe.

34. Historic walled city of Carcassonne (1997 – Occitanie)

Since the pre-Roman period, fortifications have been erected on the hill where Carcassonne is now. In its current form, it is a remarkable example of a fortified medieval city with a huge defensive system surrounding the castle and the main buildings associated with it, the streets, and the superb Gothic cathedral.

35. Episcopal City of Albi (2010 – Occitanie)

In the 13th century, the city became a powerful episcopal city after the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars. 

With an original Southern Gothic style based on bricks in locally made red and orange tones, it reflects the blossoming of a medieval architectural and urban ensemble.

36. The Causses and the Cévennes, cultural landscape of Mediterranean agro-pastoralism (2011 – Occitanie)

Located south of the French Massif Central and constitutes a landscape of mountains woven with deep valleys. 

The villages and large stone farms situated on the deep terraces of the Causses reflect the organization of the great abbeys from the eleventh century.

37. Arles, Roman monuments and Romanesque (1981 – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

Arles offers an exciting example of the adaptation of an ancient city to the civilization of medieval Europe. 

It preserves impressive Roman monuments, the oldest of which – arenas, ancient theater, cryptoporticos – date back to the first century BC. J.-C.

38. Ancient theatre and its surroundings and the “Arc de Triomphe” of Orange (1981 – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

In the Rhone Valley, the Ancient Theatre of Orange, with its 103 m long façade wall, is one of the best-preserved of the great Roman theatres. 

The Roman Triumphal Arch of Orange is one of the most beautiful and exciting provincial triumphal arches of the Augustan period.

39. Historic Centre of Avignon: Palais des papes, episcopal complex and Pont d’Avignon (1995 – Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

This city in the south of France was the seat of the papacy in the fourteenth century. The palace of the Popes, a fortress of austere appearance, dominates the city; but still: its belt of ramparts, the remains of a bridge of the twelfth, the Petit Palais, and the Romanesque cathedral Notre-Dame-des-Doms complete to form an exceptional monumental ensemble that testifies to the prominent role played by Avignon in Christian Europe in the fourteenth century.

40. Gulf of Porto: Calanche de Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve (1983 – Corsica)

The reserve, which is part of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica, occupies the peninsula of Scandola. 

Its vegetation is a remarkable example of maquis. There are gulls, cormorants, and sea eagles. With inaccessible islets and caves, the transparent waters are home to rich marine life.

41. Pitons, cirques and ramparts of Reunion Island (2010 – Reunion)

This property coincides with the central zone of the Reunion National Park, an island composed of two volcanic massifs located southwest of the Indian Ocean. 

Dominated by two volcanic peaks, the site presents a great diversity of escarpments, gorges, and wooded basins that create a spectacular landscape.

42. Lagoons of New Caledonia: reef diversity and associated ecosystems (2008 – New Caledonia)

Located in this French archipelago in the South Pacific, it represents one of the three largest reef systems in the world, home to intact ecosystems populated by exceptional marine biodiversity, large predators, and a considerable number of different large fish. 

They provide habitat for several iconic or endangered marine species.

43. Taputapuatea (2017 – French Polynesia)

Located on the island of Ra’iātea, in the heart of the “Polynesian Triangle.” This property’s heart is the Marae Taputapuātea, a political, ceremonial, and funerary center. 

Widespread in Polynesia, marae were spaces of connection between the world of the living and that of ancestors and gods. Taputapuātea provides an exceptional testimony to 1,000 years of Mā’ohi civilization.

A different scenario for many monuments on the tentative list.

Since the creation of the World Heritage List in 1978, there have been, to date, 1092 classified sites around the world and 44 classified in France.

Indeed, obtaining this status is not easy; at issue: is a selection procedure imposed by the committee. 

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must have Outstanding Universal Value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria.

Very large sites are being rejected: 2 months ago, the regional press of the South of France expressed its disappointment at the decision of UNESCO to “Postpone the examination of the nomination of the Historic Urban Ensemble of Nîmes, on the World Heritage List.” 

Despite the conservation of all the Roman buildings and their archaeological remains, the enthusiasm of the local population was not enough to register the ancient city as a classified site.

A similar return to square one for 11 of the 30 properties that applied for the 42nd World Heritage Committee was held in Bahrain between 24 June and 4 July. 

The latter is then placed in the tentative list of properties that each State Party intends to propose.

To date, 37 French sites are the city encouraged to reassess their file to one day be able to integrate the list – among them:

● The Camargue

● Mouths of Bonifacio

● Ecrins National Park

● Port-Cros National Park

● Salt marshes of Guérande

● The Mediterranean shore of the Pyrenees

● Harbor of Marseille

● The ancient cities of Narbonnaise and their territory: Nîmes, Arles, Glanum, aqueducts, via Domitia

● Cerdanya Railway

● Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales, Meudon

● Hangar Y

● Former Menier chocolate factory in Noisiel

● Cordouan Lighthouse

● The old center of Sarlat

● Arsenal of Rochefort and fortifications of the Charente estuary

● Set of concretion caves in the South of France

● Vanoise National Park

● Massif du Mont Blanc

● Megalithic sites of Carnac

● Cathedral of Saint-Denis

● Rouen: half-timbered urban complex, cathedral, Saint-Ouen church, Saint Maclou church

● Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte

● The bastioned cities of the Netherlands in north-west Europe

● The forest massif of Fontainebleau

● Montagne Sainte-Victoire and Cézanian sites

● Volcanic and forest areas of Martinique

● The city of Carcassonne and its mountain sentinel castles

● The National Nature Reserve of the French Southern Territories

● The Charolais-Brionnais, cultural landscape of cattle breeding

● The Mediterranean Alps

● Europe’s major water cities

● The Marquesas Islands

● Les Plages du Débarquement, Normandy, 1944

● Metz Royale and Impériale, power issues, stylistic confrontations, and urban identity

● Nice, the new city born of tourism, or the invention of the Riviera

● Nîmes, Antiquity in the present

● Funeral sites and memorials of the First World War (Western Front)

When will they be added to the UNESCO heritage list?

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Alfred

Alfred is the author behind the Travelvibe travel blog and is always searching for the quieter, less-visited corners of the world.

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