France is one of the most visited countries in the world, with tens of millions of international tourists travelling to the European country each year. In 2014, 1 million Canadians decided to make France their holiday destination. The majority head to the capital Paris.
With the introduction of the new ETIAS visa waiver system, travelling to France will be easier than ever for Canadians. That is because the ETIAS travel authorisation will allow citizens of eligible countries to enter France and the rest of the Schengen area visa-free using a safer and more streamlined process.
In this article, Canadian travellers can find a list of some of the most iconic locations in France — emblematic buildings and museums that all tourists should visit while in the country.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris’ symbol
Perhaps the most iconic monument in Paris — and one of the most recognisable spots in the world — the Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of the French capital.
The Eiffel Tower (or dame de fer, “iron lady”, as the locals like to call it) was built in 1889 for the Paris International Exhibition. It was the tallest tower in the world, but Parisiennes originally did not like the architecture. Now, more than 7 million tourists visit it each year, making it the most popular paid-entrance attraction in the world.
Centre Pompidou, a modern monument for modern art
Built in 1977, the Pompidou Center was designed to represent modernity and technology. Its unique exterior — covered in colourful pipes and ducts — hides France’s most visited museum of modern and contemporary art.
Works of masters such as Picasso, Kandinskij, Dali, and Klein share the 6-level building with an average of 25 temporary exhibitions each year, a public library, a theatre, interactive spaces for children, and more. The rooftop terrace offers a superb view of the city and hosts a famous restaurant.
Palais du Louvre, one of the world’s most iconic museums
The palace, that was once the residence of the Kings of France, now hosts one of the largest and most famous museums in the world: the Louvre. Visitors can enter through its iconic glass pyramid entrance to admire more than 38,000 pieces of art.
There are so many masterpieces in the Louvre museum, that it would take days to see them all properly. Since most tourists have a limited time to visit, the best way to explore the Louvre is to plan ahead.
The most famous artworks in the Louvre include the Venus de Milo, the Liberty Leading the People, the Coronation of Napoleon, and of course, the Mona Lisa.
Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe
The celebratory Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to mark his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. It’s still a military symbol, with the eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier’s tomb being rekindled every evening at 6:30 pm.
The arch is located in a dominant position right at the top of the magnificent Champs-Elysees. Visitors can enter the monument, explore its 4 floors, and enjoy the breathtaking view of Paris from the terrace.
Père-Lachaise Cemetery, much more than a burial site
Locals call the Père-Lachaise cemetery la cite de morts (“the city of the dead”), an expression that gives a clear idea of how large and elaborate this emblematic spot in Paris is. Hundreds of thousands of tourists stroll around the over 30,000 graves hosted at the cemetery.
Visitors can expect rolling hills, thousands of trees and flowers and the tombs of historical figures, artists, and celebrities of all eras. Among the most visited resting sites are those of:
- Singer Jim Morrison
- Singer Edith Piaf
- Composer Frédéric Chopin
- Writer Marcel Proust
- Writer Oscar Wilde
- Writer Honore de Balzac
Can you visit Notre-Dame Cathedral?
The cathedral of Notre-Dame is considered by many a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Art lovers visiting Notre-Dame will be amazed by gargoyles, stained glass rose windows and towers. Guided tours are usually run every day and allow visitors to learn about the cathedral’s history.
Sadly, a fire broke out in the cathedral in April 2019. Although firefighters prevented the UNESCO World Heritage Site from collapsing, a great part of the roof was lost, including its iconic spire. Most of the religious artifacts, glassworks, and statues were saved, and many were removed from the building after the fire was extinguished.
The cathedral is now closed to the public and a protective barrier keeps the building out of sight.
Famous monuments outside Paris
Although Paris is the most iconic city in France, there are plenty of monuments outside the capital that are worth a visit. Mont Saint Michel in Normandy is a unique island surmounted by a monastery built in the 8th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has become one of France’s most famous landmarks, visited by over 3 million visitors each year.
The Southern town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard is the home of Pont du Gard, one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. The 3 levels of arches are over 2,000 years old and represent a fine example of the Romans’ extraordinary engineering and design skills.