Highlighting only the most exceptional examples of local and national historical, cultural and natural heritage, UNESCO World Heritage Sites make for some of the best travel destinations in the world, and with 41 to choose from in France alone, you won’t be spoilt for choice in this enchanting country. With its various cultural influences over the centuries, the South of France in particular has some especially interesting sites worth visiting. From medieval fortress towns to scenic canals: we’ve picked five of the best to explore during your time in the region, many within a short distance of our luxury French hotels.
One of the largest and more popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the south of France, Carcassonne is a bustling city bursting with rustic charm. From the 3km of medieval fortifications that make up its exterior, with their magnificent towers and turrets, to the fascinating town cathedral, Carcassonne is truly a place to behold, and you could easily spend a day here immersing yourself in the pure magic that fills the air of this wonderful city.
Pont du Gard
Crossing over the River Gardon, the Pont du Gard is a remarkable Roman aqueduct, and one of the oldest examples remaining today. Nestled in truly scenic surroundings of olive groves and rolling countryside, you’ll be filled with a sense of wonder the minute it enters your view. The Pont du Gard is over a thousand years old, dating back to circa 20BC, designed to carry water from the Fontaine d’Eure near Uzès to Nîmes, providing water for homes, fountains and public baths.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Avignon is home to a number of culturally and historically important buildings, and has plenty to see for those who wish to spend a day exploring a French town or city. It was home to the popes and antipopes in the 14th and 15th centuries, with its Papal Palace in particular being a draw for many – a visually striking structure of a vast size with dramatic medieval Gothic architecture. There are various other landmarks also worth a visit in Avignon such as the Bridge of Avignon, Petit Palais and the Cathedral Notre-Dame des Doms, though you can always just lose yourself in the city’s intriguing narrow and winding streets.
Canal du Midi
Connecting the Garonne River at Toulouse to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal du Midi is a tremendous feat of engineering which stretches for over 240km. Pierre-Paul Riquet designed this masterpiece back in the 17th century, which boasts bridges, locks, dams, tunnels, aqueducts and reservoirs – making it truly ahead of its time. Its monumental grandeur is only enhanced by the beauty of the surrounding towns, cities and countryside, making it a world heritage site definitely worth exploring.
Located just an hour north of Toulouse, Albi boasts a number of beautiful medieval buildings within its boundaries, and is an extremely pretty place to spend a day exploring. One of the highlights is the Sainte Cécile Cathedral, a towering Southern Gothic-style masterpiece perfected between the 13th and 15th centuries. The Pont Vieux (Old Bridge), a stone bridge with a thousand-year history, and the Palais de la Berbie, a magnificently preserved 13th century fortress, are also highly recommended.