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FRENCH HISTORY

Where to find France’s 12 Statues of Liberty

Most people think of New York when they think of the Statue of Liberty, but in fact there are representations of the famous torch-bearer all over France too. Here's where to find them.

The Statue of Liberty stands tall above New York.
The Statue of Liberty stands tall above New York. France has many replicas of its own. (Photo by BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The Statue of Liberty, towering 93 metres tall on New York’s Liberty Island, is a global icon. 

It shows the figure of Libertas, a Roman goddess, holding a torch in her right hand and the US Declaration of independence in the other. Shackles and chains lay broken at her feet. For centuries, the statue was seen as a symbol of freedom for immigrants crossing the Atlantic in search of the American dream. 

READ MORE Eleven things the French have given America

The statue itself was gifted to the United States by France in the 1880s as a way to commemorate the alliance between the two countries that stretched back to the American Revolution against the British – during this conflict, France sent more soldiers than the Americans and the British combined. 

In diplomatic circles, American often refers to France as “our oldest ally”.

The statue was the brainchild of a French political thinker and anti-slavery activist, Édouard de Laboulaye, who thought that the United States deserved a gift after abolishing slavery. He believed that America should serve as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world and his gift also contained a dig at the French political establishment, which at the time was ruled with an iron-fist under Napoleon III. 

The statue itself was designed by a French sculptor called Frédéric August Bartholdi, while the engineering was handled by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame). Pieces of the statue were constructed in Paris and shipped to New York and before being assembled.

READ MORE Campaign launched to fund new Statue of Liberty in Brittany

Considering the French concept and craftsmanship behind the celebrated design, it is perhaps no surprise that replicas of the famous statue soon began springing up all over France.

France has at least 12 copies of the Statue of Liberty – or La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty illuminating the world) in French. 

Here is where you will find them: 

Paris 

The most famous replica of the Statue of Liberty sits on the Île aux Cygnes on the Seine river in the city centre. This version was actually a gift from the United States to France in 1889, to celebrate 100 years since the French Revolution. The tablet carried by Lady Liberty is different to the New York statue and carries the dates of the US Declaration of Independence and the date of the storming of the Bastille – 14th July 1789. 

This statue was originally faced East, giving the lady a nice view of the Eiffel Tower – in 1937 however, she was turned towards the west to face her older sister in New York. 

 
A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on Paris' Ile de Cygnes during sunset

A replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on Paris’ Île aux Cygnes during sunset (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Because the statue on the Île aux Cygnes is easily accessible via the Grenelle bridge in the 15th arrondissement, it is regularly used by people trying to make a striking visual protest.

Amnesty International activists protest the continued operation of Guantanamo bay, behind the Statue of Liberty on the Île aux Cygnes (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Bartholdi himself also built a 1/16 scale replica of the Statue of Liberty for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. This model now stands proud in the entrance hall to the Musée d’Orsay – a bronze replica of this model can also be found in the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

The Statue of Liberty is pictured during a ceremony at the Quai d’Orsay museum in Paris. (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON / AFP)

There is also a life size copy of the Statue of Liberty torch – known as the Flame of Liberty – on the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. It was gifted to France by the United States. The flame has since become a memorial to Princess Diana, who died in the tunnel following a car crash in 1997. 

The Liberty Torch in Paris now serves as an unofficial memorial to Princesse Diana.

The Liberty Torch in Paris now serves as an unofficial memorial to Princesse Diana. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)
 

Outside Paris

Bordeaux

Bordeaux’s Place Picard has had a turbulent history when it comes to the statue. In 1888, Bartholdi himself donated a replica to the city, which was mounted in this square. This version was seized and melted down by the Nazis during WWII. It was eventually replaced in 2000 and a plaque was later added to commemorate victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Since being mounted, this new statue has been repeatedly vandalised – and local legend has it that a prankster once organised a spate of stunts, arriving in the dead of night to dress it in a burqa, a Guantanamo prisoner’s outfit and in a housekeeper’s uniform. 

Nice

The Statue of Liberty in Nice is not much more than one metre tall. It was one of the first models of the statue ever made by Bartholdi, who began building small and progressively got bigger and bigger until the New York version was made. You can find it on the Quai des Etats-Unis on the seafront.

Barentin

You can find a 13.5 metre replica of the statue in the northern French town of Barentin, near Rouen. It was built as a prop for a film called Le Cerveau (The Brain), which starred the late actor Jean-Paul Belmondo. It is made out of polyester and resin and sits outside a McDonald’s. 

France gave America the Statue of Liberty - America gave France McDonalds.

France gave America the Statue of Liberty – America gave France McDonald’s. The two symbols come together in the northern French town of Barentin. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

READ MORE Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of French New Wave cinema, dies at 88

Colmar

A 12 metre version of the statue stands in Colmar, eastern France, which is the city where Bartholdi was born. This replica was dedicated in 2004, to mark the centenary of the sculptor’s death. 

The Statue of Liberty in Colmar was given a new outfit by yellow vest protestors back in 2019. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)
 
Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

A gold-covered iron replica of the statue can also be found in the French town of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

It stands at 2.5 metres tall – just a little over the size of one of the index fingers of the original statue. 

Poitiers

Another model of the statue can be found in the south west town of Poitiers. It was built in 1903 as a memorial to Jean-Baptiste Breton – a French general who was guillotined for plotting against Louis XVIII (a French king restored after the revolution). 

Lunel

The original replica that once stood in the small town of Lunel, in south east of France, was melted down for weapons during WWII. A new version was inaugurated in 1989 to mark two centuries since the passing of the French revolution. 

Chaumont

A miniature replica can also be found at the Chaumont military base – this served as a  home to the US air force during the Cold War. Today, it is occupied by a French artillery regiment but the mini Statue of Liberty remains.

Roybon

An original replica made by Bartholdi himself is also displayed in the town of Roybon, near Grenoble. Local authorities are currently fundraising to renovate the now rather weather-beaten art work. 

The Statue of Liberty in Roybon is crying out for some maintenance work.

The Statue of Liberty in Roybon is crying out for some maintenance work. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

Châteauneuf-la-Forêt

Another Statue of Liberty can be found in the village of Châteauneuf-la-Forêt, near the city of Limoges. It rests atop a plinth inscribed with the names of village residents who lost their life fighting in the two world wars. 

International locations 

There are other Statue of Liberty replicas in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, the United States and Vietnam. 

Have you seen other representations of Lady Liberty in France? Share your sightings in the comments below.

Member comments

  1. Hey, you missed one in Lugné, part of the commune of Cessenon-sur-Orb about 30km north west of Béziers. It’s about 2.5m tall.

  2. There was also one in the Musée des Arts et Métiers when I visited a few months ago. A second one at that museum used to be out in the courtyard, but I believe that’s the one that was given to the US recently…

  3. There’s one in Ourville-en-Caux, too – from French Wikipedia:
    Réplique bleutée de la statue de la Liberté.
    Elle est érigée sur un giratoire de la commune, au carrefour des routes de Fauville-en-Caux, du Grand Bosc et du chemin du Petit Bosc.

  4. The U.S. Statues of Liberty is a gift from the people of France, not the French government. The statue honors, “the Alliance of the Two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship.”

    Liberty Island and the pedestal were funded by large numbers of small donations, from The American People, not the U.S. govt.

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TRAVEL NEWS

13 of France’s best hiking and cycling routes

There’s no better way to explore the great French countryside than on foot or on two wheels. Fortunately, walkers and cyclists are well-catered for - here are our recommendations for the best routes (one for each region).

13 of France’s best hiking and cycling routes

Grand Randonees, local walks and vélo routes – France is full of them. In fact, it is estimated that there are 100,000 kilometres of walking trails in France, crossing the country in all directions offering spectacular views, lungfuls of fresh air and a beauty-filled and accessible way to keep fit and healthy.

We’ve selected 13 walks and cycle routes, one from each region, ranging from the gentle and easy to the incredibly difficult. There’s even a donkey in one of them;

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Chemin de Stevenson hiking trailThe GR70 is the unprepossessing official name of an epic route also known as The Stevenson Path, named in honour of the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, who travelled along it in 1878 and wrote about it in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (the donkey was called Modestine, by the way). 

It runs roughly north-south for 272 km from Puy-en-Velay to Alès, crossing through the Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Lozère, and Gard departments, although obviously you don’t have to do the whole 272km in one go.

The Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson promotes the trail and maintains an accommodation list.

Brittany

Sentier des douaniers hiking trail  – A well-known route steeped in history, salt and sea spray. GR34 – to give it its official route name – starts from Mont-Saint-Michel and ends in Saint-Nazaire, following the stunning Brittany coastline out to Brest at the western tip and then back east.

It (mostly) follows old customs paths (hence the name which means customs officers’ path), in use up to the early 20th century, that allowed officers to patrol the coast from their guardhouses, which were at key observation points on the Brittany coast

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Voie des Vignes cycle pathFrom Beaune to Santenay to Nolay, the 22km Voie des Vignes (Way of the Vines) meanders its gentle way along vineyard paths, crossing the Unesco World Heritage-listed Climats of Burgundy.

Ideal for a family day out in the fresh air, or as a way of working up an appetite for some of Burgundy’s most famous produce.

Centre-Val de Loire

La Vallée du Loir cycle path – This 330 km cycle path (the V47) starts at the source of the river between Beauce and Perche and ends of the banks of Loire at Angers.

If you still have some energy left, however, you can keep going because at this point it joins up with the older La Loire à Velo cycle path.

Corsica

The GR20 hiking trailNot for the faint-hearted, this one. The GR20 – so hard it doesn’t even get a friendly name – is recognised as one of France and Europe’s most difficult hiking challenges, running 180km from Calenzana in the North to Conca in the South.

The full route takes about 16 days to walk, and features steep climbs and descents in the north and tricky exposed ridges further south. You do get to enjoy the gorgeous and dramatic landscape of Corsica while you do it, however.

Grand-Est

La Meuse à vélo cycle path – The Meuse Cycle Route – EuroVelo 19 – follows one of the most important rivers in Europe and welcomes cyclists of all levels. 

It runs from the plateau of Langres via Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam, offering ever-changing scenery, with charming towns and villages on both banks of the river. In total the path is 1,050km long and takes in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Hauts-de-France

Sentier du Littoral hiking trailIt’s officially known as the GR120, and its more prosaic name is no more inspired – Sentier du Littoral translates as Coastal Path – but this trail, which stretches along the Côte d’Opale, from the Belgian border to Berck-sur-Mer offers breathtaking views of the Baie de Somme.

Ile-de-France

La Seine à Vélo cycle pathThe 260km cycle route, connecting the capital to Le Havre in Normandy, takes in Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny, the Museum of Impressionism, and Château de Malmaison, the former home of Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Josephine.

Normandy

The Pays Tour de la Suisse Normande hiking trailFrance celebrates its village préféré, its celebrity préféré, it’s book préféré – and it’s hiking route préféré.

In 2023, this route, which runs through Calvados and Orne was voted France’s favourite hiking trail, beating the GR120 (you may remember that as the Hauts-de-France walk listed here) and the GR71C Tour de Larzac.

You’ll need to be reasonably fit to do some of the hillier sections, but the views – particularly Rochers de la Houle, the Pain de Sucre, the Roches d’Oêtre – are worth the effort.

Nouvelle Aquitaine

Le Canal de Garonne à vélo cycle pathAt 193km long, the Canal de Garonne à vélo – which runs from Bordeaux to Toulouse along the banks of the river after which it is named – is the longest greenway (voie verte) in France, and part of the Canal des 2 Mers route which connects the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Occitanie

Passa Païs cycle path  – The Passa Païs is an 80km greenway that crosses through the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc, along the route of a former railway line, while enjoying a rich mosaic of landscapes.

Pays de la Loire

Île d’Yeu cycle path and hiking trail – Just off the Vendée coast, you’ll find the tiny Île d’Yeu. You’ll need to take a ferry to get there, but – once there – you’ll find it is perfect for cycling or walking pretty much all year round. 

You can bike to the beach, to the market in Port-Joinville or Saint-Sauveur. Or visit the Grand Phare or the Old Castle, enjoy a break at the small Port de la Meule, and admire the sunset at Pointe du But. Your choice.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Via Venaissia cycle route and hiking pathAn easy one to finish with. The short, family friendly Via Venaissia route follows, in part, the old railway line that linked Orange to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which was last in use in 1938.

The 14-kilometre greenway reserved for cyclists and walkers takes in the exceptional views of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail massif.

And a bonus one  . . .

The famous Camino de Santiago ends in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, but one of the routes (Le Puy Camino) begins in France’s Auvergne area and meanders through the south west of the country before crossing the border into Spain.

You don’t have to go all the way to Spain, of course, there are lots of lovely sections in France, all well marked with the route’s logo of a shell. Some people just treat it as a hike, while others do it as a religious pilgrimage sometimes accompanied by a donkey, which explains why you’ll sometimes see a donkey tied up outside a supermarket, post office or tabac in south west France.

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