National Monuments of France
There are 85 designated national monuments in France, places of historical importance that are now looked after by the state for the benefit of all.
The national Monuments cover a wide range of buildings and structures, from archaeological sites and prehistoric caves to renaissance castles and buildings housing items relating to important people in France's history (eg the collection related to Marshall Foch).
You can see a map showing the national monuments at the bottom of this page.
This Mediterranean port town built in the 13th century to protect France is still surrounded by almost two kilometres of ramparts with 20 towers - you can follow the 'rampart walk for the entire distance.
See Aigues-Mortes for details.
Amiens: Towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Amiens (Somme : Picardy)
One of the most impressive gothic style monuments in France the cathedral at Amiens is also notable for being the biggest. It is the splendid towers that have been listed as a national monument - these can be entered for very good views across the city center.
See Amiens Cathedral for details.
Angers: Angers Castle (Maine-et-Loire : Pays-de-la-Loire)
A very large castle in the center of Angers which combines traditional medieval defences and towers with subsequent interior enhancements in the apartments and gardens to make the castle more comfortable to live in. Angers castle is best known for the 14th century Apocalypse Tapestry - at over 100 metres long it is the largest medieval tapestry in the world.
See Angers for details.
Arles: Roman villa of Montmajour (Bouches-du-Rhone : Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur)
Developed over more than eight centuries, the oldest part of the benedictine Montmajour Abbey is represented by a very ancient (10 th century) structure, a roman style cloisters and an abbey church. The substantial monastery of Saint-Maur was added in the 18th century.
Montmajour Abbey is a few kilometres outside Arles.
Assier: Assier Castle (Lot : Midi-Pyrenees)
An important example of 16th century renaissance style architecture for the Midi-Pyrenees region, unfortunately a substantial part of the castle is no longer standing although there is enough to get an idea of the original splendour of the castle.
Situated in the countryside about 15 kilometres north-west of Figeac.
Azay-le-Rideau: Azay-le-Rideau Castle (Indre-et-Loire : Centre)
Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is a very lovely example of the early renaissance style of architecture made especially attractive by its scenic setting - it was built on an island in the Indre river. The architect incorporated the latest trends in both Italian and french styles in the design to great effect.
See Chateau Azay le Rideau for more information.
Besancon: Astronomical clock of Besancon (Doubs : Franche-Comte)
The 19th century inventiveness of a certain Auguste Verité created this remarkable 'clock' with its 57 faces giving information about everything from tides to movements of the moon and also an 'automata' and requiring more than 30000 moving parts!
See more highlights in the town at Besancon.
Bordeaux: Tower of Pey-Berland (Gironde : Aquitaine)
The 15th century gothic style Pey-Berland Tower is next to Bordeaux Cathedral of Saint-André and is the belltower for the cathedral. Interestingly it was built slightly apart from the main cathedral to avoid the risk of vibrations from the bells causing structural damage to the cathedral itself. From the tower there are some of the best views across the city.
See Bordeaux for details of this and other monuments.
Bouges-le-Chateau: Bouges Castle (Indre : Centre)
A recommended detour from Valencay to the north-west, Bouges castle is a good example of Louis XV architecture. The furnishings and carefully planned gardens are among the highlights of a visit, and there is also an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages.
Bourg-en-Bresse: Brou royal monastery (Ain : Rhone-Alpes)
The monastery at Bourg-en-Besse is an example of the so-called 'flamboyant gothic' style of architecture built in the early 16th century. Flemish artisans were brought in to create the many ornamental highlights of the church such as the altarpiece, stained-glass windows, tombs and statues. There is also a museum dedicated to the history of the monastery.
See also Bourg-en-Bresse.
Bourges: Palace Jacques Coeur and Crypt and towers of Bourges Cathedral (Cher : Centre)
There are two listed National Monuments in Bourges:
The Jacques-Coeur Palace: built in the 15th century for a rich financier and considered as one of the most impressive examples of 'non-religious' flamboyant gothic style architecture in France, especially the eastern facade of the palace.
Towers of Bourges Cathedral: also in gothic style, the cathedral at Bourges is one of the best examples in France. As well as the cathedral itself the staned glass windows (12th -14th century) are a particular highlight.
See Bourges for more information.
Bussy-le-Grand: Bussy-Rabutin Castle (Cote d'Or : Burgundy)
East of Fontenay Abbey, the castle at Bussy-Rabutin is also in an attractive wooded setting. Particular highlights include the grand apartments in the castle designed by the Count of Bussy who lived in the castle and wrote his 18th century memoirs of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.
Cadillac: Cadillac Castle (Gironde : Aquitaine)
The castle at cadillac was built in the early 17th century as a noble reesidence, then used in the first half of the 19th century as a women's prison. You can still see aspects from both of these periods in the castle, providing interest by the dramatic contrast created by the two characteristics.
Carcassonne: Fortified town of Carcassonne (Aude : Languedoc-Roussillon)
Perhaps the best known and most complete fortified town in the world, the castle and fortifications we see today at Carcassonne largely date in origins from the 13th century, although substantial (and sometimes controversial) renovations were carried in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc.
You can walk along the ramaprts and walls and there is also an explantory video explaining the 800 year history of Carcassonne.
See Carcassonne for details.
Carnac: Megalithic site of Carnac (Morbihan : Brittany)
The very important prehistoric stone alignments at Carnac cover a very extensive area (about 100 acres for the main alignments) and frequently follow a carefully laid out plan. The exact reasons for the alignments, created over a period of several thousand years, may still be unclear in many respects but that doesn't diminish their unique appeal and fascination.
See Carnac for details.
Carrouges: Carrouges Castle (Orne : Normandy)
Half castle, half manor house, Carrouges Castle in Normandy still feels like a family home to visit (if rather larger than most). At the castle you will also see some lovely furnishings and decorations, and enjoy exploring the extensive grounds that surround the property and are now carefully laid out and maintained gardens.
Champs-sur-Marne: Chateau of Champs-sur-Marne (Seine-et-Marne : Paris)
The castle at Champs-sur-Marne is a good example of the grand architecture common among landowners in the early 18th century. The style continues both inside the castle with its furniture, panelled walls and paintings and in the surrrounding parkland which is one of the most impressive parks in the region.
Note: the castle is closed for renovation until at least 2013 but the park is open as usual).
Chareil-Cintrat: Chareil-Cintrat Castle (Allier : Auvergne)
This 16th century castle contains a great deal of decorative highlights. In particular there are a substantial number of 16th century wall murals telling stories from mythology and other subjects. Outside the castle you can see ancient vines that have been collected from the vineyards of Saint-Pourcain and Chareil.