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IN PICTURES: Discover France's 14 favourite monuments

The Local France
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IN PICTURES: Discover France's 14 favourite monuments
The "Salle Ovale" of the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF) The Richelieu-Louvois Library before its renovation in Paris in 2016. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Looking to visit authentic historical and cultural sites in France? Check out the monuments that French people voted their personal favourites, with one in each French region.

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France will soon vote for its favourite historical monument, a yearly tradition which celebrates the unique cultural, historical and architectural heritage in each of France's mainland regions and its overseas territories.

The winner will be revealed on Wednesday in a TV special Le monument préféré des français (French people's favourite monument', similar to 'France's favourite village', also hosted by journalist Stéphane Bern.

In May, people are invited to nominate one monument per region in mainland France (pus one extra from France's overseas territories) and then later in the summer people vote again until 14 finalists are announced in late July.

After another round of voting in September, the public decides on their favourite monument.

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These are the finalists for 2023:

1. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes: Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica

Located in the city of Lyon in the Rhône département, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière overlooks the city. Built in 1872, the basilica is inspired by several different types of architecture, drawing from Byzantine, Gothic and Romanesque styles. 

It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is listed as a historical monument, registered to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Learn more about visiting the monument here.

This picture taken on October 15, 2020 shows the basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

2. Bourgogne-Franche-Comté: Cluny Abbey

Located in the Saône-et-Loire département in eastern France, the Cluny Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery, originally dedicated to Saint Peter.

The abbey was founded in 910 by William I, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Auvergne, known as William the Pious.

These days, it is no longer home to any monks, but it does contain a museum of art and architecture. 

You can find ticketing information here.

The Cluny Abbey photographed in 2010 (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

3. Brittany: Citadel of Port-Louis 

The Citadel of Port-Louis is located in the Morbihan département in western France. It was built during the 16th century by the Spanish, and later modified in the 17th century by the French. 

In the past, the citadel was used to defend the Lorient harbour, having been occupied by the Germans during World War II. It remained in use by the French military until 2007 and today it is used to monitor maritime traffic.

An aerial shot of the Citadel in 2007 (Photo by MARCEL MOCHET / AFP)

4. Centre-Val de Loire: Château royal de Blois

This royal château can be found in the city centre of Blois, at the heart of France's Loire Valley.

Once the residence of the French Kings as well as the Counts of Blois, the castle has a long and important history. In 1429, Joan of Arc visited the castle to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims.

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France's former queen Catherine de' Medici was exiled to Blois and died in the castle in 1589.

You can find ticketing information here.

A view of the courtyard of Blois castle in 2022, after winds and sands from the Sahara desert caused the building to appear in a unique colour. (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

5. Corsica: Citadel of Ajaccio 

Found in southern Corsica, the Citadel of Ajaccio was built in 1492 - the same year Christopher Columbus sailed for the Americas.

Originally a fortress, the Citadel was used for military purposes until recently. It was classified as a historical monument in 2012.

Here are the details for how to visit.

The Citadel of Ajaccio in front of the Monte d'Oro mountain on the French mediterranean island of Corsica in 2021. (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

6. Grand Est : Château fort de Sedan (Ardennes)

Located in the Ardennes département beside the Meuse river, the Castle fort of Sedan is the largest fortified castle in Europe, covering over 35,000 sq. metres. 

It even served as the headquarters for Emperor Napoleon III during the Franco-Prussian War.

You can find details for ticketing and how to visit here.

The castle fortress of Sedan in 2005 (Photo by ALAIN JULIEN / AFP)

7. Hauts-de-France: Domaine de Chaalis 

Found in the Oise département in northern France, the domaine of Chaalis is approximately 40 km away from Paris.

It is home to a what some call France's own 'Sistine chapel' as well as a museum, park and rose garden. Visitors can enjoy more than nine centuries worth of history.

Ticketing information found here.

The Abbey of Chaalis (Photo by GEORGES FESSY / INSTITUT DE FRANCE / AFP)

8. Île-de-France: Bibliothèque nationale de France Site Richelieu (National Library)

Paris has plenty of monuments for tourists to choose from, but for the 2023 competition the National Library was selected to represent the capital region.

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Known colloquially as the BNF, the Richelieu site, which takes up an entire city block, was selected as it where several precious objects, including a manuscript collection, and pieces of art are on display.

The national library traces its history back hundreds of years, at least until 1461.

The "Salle Ovale" of the Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF) The Richelieu-Louvois Library before its renovation in Paris in 2016. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

9. Martinique: Fort Saint-Louis

Representing France's overseas territories, the Fort of Saint-Louis is found in Fort-de-France, the capital city of Martinique. It has witnessed centuries worth of Caribbean military and cultural history. 

While there is still a French naval base in active use, guided tours are available. More information here.

10. Normandy: Haras national du Pin 

Though Normandy might be better known for its World War II history and beaches, this year the historical monument chosen was the 'Haras national du Pin', or the national stud located in the Orne département

It is the oldest national stud farm in France, with the original goal having been to build the 'Versailles of horses' and puts on spectacular displays of dressage and equitation skills. 

The site is open to the public for visits, more information here.

A groom presents Gallien, a Percheron stallion produced by crossing an American stallion and a Norman Percheron mare in 2003 in the courtyard of the Haras National du Pin (Photo by MYCHELE DANIAU / AFP)

11. Nouvelle-Aquitaine: The lighthouse of la Coubre 

Found on the coast of the Charente-Maritime, the lighthouse (or phare) of la Coubre is the tallest in the département at 64 metres high. 

Between the months of February to November, visitors can climb to the top. You can also visit its museum which tells the history of lighthouses in the Gironde estuary.

You can find ticketing information here.

12. Occitanie: The National Square of Montauban 

Found in the Tarn-et-Garonne département, the town of Montauban is known for its iconic red brick buildings and the Place Nationale de Montauban, which has ranked among the most beautiful squares in France.

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Built in the Middle Ages, the pedestrian plaza is now home to several restaurant terraces.

A 2019 installation of umbrellas above The National Square in Montauban, in southern France. (Photo by ERIC CABANIS / AFP)

13. Pays de la Loire: Trois-mâts (Three-masted) Belem 

Found in the Loire-Atlantique département and one of the most fascinating entries in the 2023 French monuments competition, the Belem is a three-masted barque ship from France.

She made her maiden voyage as a cargo ship in 1896, transporting sugar from the West Indies, cocoa, and coffee from Brazil and French Guiana to its home port in Nantes, France.

A few times a year, the ship offers events where visitors are able to come on board and explore. You can find more information here.

The Belem three-mast ship in 2003 (Photo by PATRICK BERNARD / AFP)

14. Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur: Antiquity and archeological sites at Vaison-la-Romaine 

Located in the Vaucluse département, the town of Vaison-la-Romaine is known for its Roman ruins, mediaeval town and cathedral, claiming to be the largest archeological site in France with over 40 spots to discover.

You can find visitor information here.

https://twitter.com/ProvenceGuide/status/1230404829303988236

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