France's towns and cities are proud of their many cultural treasures, which have been accumulated during the course of their long history. Over the centuries, they have acquired a vast array of impressive, attractive and often spectacular monuments.
Towns and cities on UNESCO's list of World Heritage
Eight of France's towns and cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites :
- Paris and the banks of the Seine
- Lyon and its historic quarter
- Strasbourg, with its historic centre, cathedral and Grande île
- Avignon and its historic centre
- Carcassonne, a fortified medieval city
- Provins, a town famous for its medieval fair
- Le Havre and its 1950s architecture, a town rebuilt by Augustin Perret after the Second World War
- Bordeaux, and its Port de la Lune
As well as towns and cities near major UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Angers, with its château, the gateway to the Loire Valley
- Amiens, in the Picardy region, renowned for its superbly restored cathedral
- Avignon, in Provence, with its historic centre dominated by the famous Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
- Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, a stone's throw from the Cistercian abbey of Fontenay
- Lille, European Capital of Culture, close to the Pays des Beffrois (Land of Belfries) in Flanders and Wallonia
- Nancy, with its impressive square, the Place Stanislas
- Nîmes and the Pont du Gard
- Reims, Champagne capital and home to four listed monuments
- the old Occitan city of Toulouse and the Canal du Midi
- Versailles, with its palace and gardens
Facts and figures relating to cities and culture
In 2004, Lille was designated as the European Capital of Culture, with twelve months of festivals, exhibitions and events. Marseille has also been designated the European Capital of Culture in 2013.
France is home to 42,000 museums and monuments, 14,000 of which are officially classified. The Louvre contains the most impressive collection of art anywhere in the world. The relatively recent addition of the glass pyramid designed by the architect Pei in front of the museum is a symbol of the city's contemporary creativity.
It is also a reminder of the fact that France is a living museum that is constantly changing, and it is a country where both the past and present are equally valued. The Carré d’Art in Nîmes, the Centre d’Art Plastique Contemporain in Bordeaux, and the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris are just a few examples of the freedom given to artists to interpret and express the age in which they live. Regardless of their size, or whether they boast a traditional or eclectic style, these contemporary art museums offer something for everyone.
If the thought of old buildings turns you to stone, you may find contemporary architecture more appealing: examples include the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Arche de la Défense, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, all of which are in Paris, as well as the Cité Internationale in Lyon and the Musée Piscine in Roubaix.
In fact, it could be argued that cities create culture and that these cities themselves constitute a permanent and timeless exhibition of artistic expression. Because culture and heritage need to be accessible to visitors from all walks of life, a full range of services has been created to meet the needs of these different visitors: multi-lingual staff and information, special admission fees, an advance booking system, personalised service for groups, families, and disabled and older visitors.