France’s most loved monuments revealed

Tens of thousands of French TV viewers have voted for their favourite monument and on Tuesday it was revealed that a stunning belfry in a northern French town had scooped the award. Here's a look at the top four.

France's most loved monuments revealed
Can you recognise France's favourite monument? Photo: Tourisme de Arras/Flickr

France is not short of stunning monuments but how many of you have visited, or even heard of the Belfry in the town of Arras?

Not only is it part of an Unesco World Heritage site but the striking building is also the new owner of the title “France’s favourite monument 2015”.

It was crowned the winner of the award on France 2 TV on Tuesday night as the programme “Le Monument prefere des Francais” reached a climax.

The Belfry in Arras saw off some stiff competition from some of the country's most treasured but perhaps least heard of landmarks. 

Around 130,000 votes were cast but the Belfry came out the clear winner, thanks in part to a huge social media campaign.

“This award is a great pride for the town,” said the mayor of Arras Frédéric Leturque. “In the northern cities the Belfry plays a particular role, it is the symbol of the Republic and democracy. The monument is in the heart of the city and the life of the city takes place around it.

“It’s a wonderful recognition that will enhance social cohesion.”

Presenter of the show Stéphane Bern hopes the award will boost tourism in Arras, pointing out that up until the town is often just a place visitors pass  through.

The Town Hall hopes the publicity surrounding the Belfry will persuade people to at least spend a night in the town.

The decision to build the Belfry was taken back in 1463, but it was not completed until 91 years later. The 75-metre Gothic tower stands above the Town Hall in Arras and peers over the town’s famous Place des Héros.

The Belfry was destroyed by bombs in 1914 but it was rebuilt “brick by brick” by the determined people of Arras.

Visitors who are not fearful of heights can climb to the top of the Belfry to get magnificent views over Arras and the nearby countryside.

In second place came the spectacular Roman Catholic Cathedral in Puy-en-Velay, in the Auvergne region of central France. In 1998 it was made part of an Unesco World Heritage site that came under the umbrella of pilgrimage sites in France on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

And in third place was the Gare Maritime de Cherbourg, located at the top of Cotentin peninsular in Normandy, that used to be the end of the rail line from Paris Gare St Lazare. In its hey day thousands of passengers would disembark boats and head into the French capital by train, via the Gare Maritime.

And in fourth were the medieval ramparts around the Brittany town of St Malo that protect the town from the sea. The ramparts are one of the reasons St Malo is such a popular tourist attraction.

(Photo: Corinne Queme/Flickr)

And lastly, here is the winner from last year's Favourite French Monument, the Monastère royal de Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, south east France.

The programme was hit by tragedy earlier this year when a girl died during the filming of the show at the CapFerret lighthouse. 

As a result the lighthouse on the Atlantic coast was withdrawn from the running.

A full list of the entries is below.

 ALSACE / Le Palais Rohan – Strasbourg

– AUVERGNE / La cathédrale Notre-Dame – Le Puy-en-Velay

 BASSE-NORMANDIE / La Gare Maritime Transatlantique – Cherbourg

 BOURGOGNE / Le château de Bazoches

– BRETAGNE / Les remparts de Saint-Malo

– CENTRE / Le château d’Ussé – Rigny-Ussé

– CHAMPAGNE-ARDENNE / La Croix de Lorraine et le Mémorial Charles de Gaulle 


– CORSE / La citadelle de Calvi – Calvi

–  FRANCHE-COMTE / La chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Le Corbusier  – Ronchamp

– HAUTE-NORMANDIE / L’Abbaye de Jumièges – Jumièges

– ILE-DE-France / L’Hôtel national des Invalides – Paris

– LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON / Le canal de la Robine – Narbonne

– LIMOUSIN / Le château et Haras national de Pompadour – Arnac-Pompadour

– LORRAINE / Le Moulin de la Blies – Musée des techniques faïencières – Sarreguemines

– MIDI-PYRÉNÉES / Le viaduc de Millau – Millau

– NORD-PAS-DE-CALAIS / Le beffroi d’Arras

– PAYS-DE-LA-LOIRE / Le passage Pommeraye – Nantes

– PICARDIE / Le baliseur Somme II – Saint-Valery-sur-Somme

– POITOU-CHARENTES / La place forte de Brouage – Hiers-Brouage

– PROVENCE-ALPES-CÔTE-D’AZUR / La basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde – Marseille

– RHONE-ALPES / La caverne du Pont d’Arc – Vallon-Pont-d’Arc




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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

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Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.