Top 10 Most Visited Sites in France outside Paris

  • 01 of 10

    Château de Versailles near Paris

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    ••• Versailles on a Summer's Night. Atout France Nathalie Baetens

    Château de Versailles near Paris
    7.3 million visitors per year

    Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of France’s most famous palaces, a glorious honey-colored, imposing stone building transformed by Louis XIV from a royal hunting lodge to a statement of power and wealth. Designed to impress visitors, the Grand Apartments house the famous Hall of Mirrors, a giddy-making room of sparkling mirrors set in gold frames. The château was taken over in the French Revolution and stripped of its royal status in 1789. It became the Museum of the History of France in 1830.

    There’s a lot to see at Versailles apart from the château itself. Don't miss the Grand Trianon, a pretty, single-storey palace. Make time to walk through the vast gardens and down the Grand Canal which reflects the palace in its still waters. The Petit Trianon and park were the playground of Queen Marie-Antoinette, the place where she dressed as a shepherdess and escaped the formality of court life with her friends,...MORE who were not the pleasure-seeking empty headed aristos they've been portrayed as, but an impressive mix of literary and scientific figures.

    There’s also luxury shopping for perfume, gloves and great food at the Cour des Senteurs.

    It’s worth coming in the evening for the Fountains Night when a sound and light show makes the fountains dance to different tunes, ending with a grand fireworks display.

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  • 02 of 10

    Futuroscope Theme Park, Poitiers

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    ••• Futuroscope. Futuroscope_ACI/D LAMING

    Futuroscope Theme Park, Poitiers
    1.7 million visitors per year

    Futuroscope opened 25 years ago and has been astonishing, entertaining and teaching the young and the old ever since. One of Europe’s most successful parks, it offers rides and shows under different themes. Each year there’s something new, like the Time Machine where, strapped into your seat, 3-D glasses on, you take a trip through the great moments of history. Virus Attack takes you into the human body when it’s under attack from an imaginary virus. Or how about Dances with Robots where two of you are held in a giant robot arm to be twirled around to a DJ? Go into space with Mission Hubble; go under the seas with Deep Sea.

    The park's rides and attractions are accurate, researched using current medical knowledge of INSERM (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) unlike many other attractions.

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  • 03 of 10

    Omaha Beach American Cemetery, Normandy

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    ••• The peaceful American Cemetery in Normandy. © Mary Anne Evans, licensed to about.com

    Omaha Beach American Cemetery, Normandy
    1.6 million visitors per year

    The Americans landed on the beaches of Vierville-sur-Mer, St-Laurent-sur-mer and Colville-sur-Mer on June 6th, 1944. The D-Day Landing had begun and the name Omaha Beach, until then just an operational code name, became real. This was the worst of the D-Day battles with a well organised German defence mowing the troops of the 1st (5th Corps of the 1st) Army Division down as they came ashore.

    Today, the American Military Cemetery is a peaceful, moving place. It stands on a hill looking down to the long stretch of beach, and holds 9,387 American graves. The Visitor Center tells the story of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who died here, filling in their backgrounds so the numbers disappear and the personalities of the young men, their families and backgrounds become the most important element.

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  • 04 of 10

    Parc Asterix in Picardy

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    ••• Parc Asterix. Atout France/R-Cast

    Parc Asterix in Picardy
    1.5 million visitors per year

    There are 6 Worlds at Parc Asterix: Egypt, The Roman Empire, Welcome to Gaul, The Vikings, Ancient Greece and Travel through Time. Like the characters who first took us by storm in 1959 comics, the Park is huge fun. It's done with intelligent humor, made all the more appealing if you're already familiar with Asterix, Obelix, Gluteus Maximus, Crustacius, Cacofonix and the rest.

    36 attractions for the family include such delights as the rollercoasters Tonnerre de Zeus, and Goudurix, the watery Le Grand Splatch, lots of carousels and more.

    The Park is 30 kms north of Paris, and south of Compiegne and you get here by road, train and shuttle bus (which leaves Paris at 9am and returns at 6.30pm).

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  • 05 of 10

    Puy du Fou Theme Park, Vendee

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    ••• Jousting at Puy du Fou.

    Puy du Fou Theme Park, Vendee, Atlantic Coast
    1.4 million visitors per year

    This is my favorite theme park in France, set in the glorious Vendée region of west France. It has everything, from a superb falconry show (Puy du Fou is now the national center for birds of prey) to knights in armor charging at each other just feet away from where you're sitting. Don’t miss the chariot races in the grand arena, and if you want really to immerse yourself in history, book a stay at the Hotel of the Field of the Cloth of Gold…or the Roman villa…or…

    More Attractions in the Area

    • Noirmoutier Island
    • Guide to the Vendee Region
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  • 06 of 10

    Mont St-Michel in Normandy

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    ••• Sunset over Mont St Michel. Atout France/Jerôme Berquez

    Mont St-Michel in Normandy
    1.3 million visitors per year

    For long one of the most sacred sites in Europe, Mont St-Michel has recently been attracting attention with the creation of a hydraulic dam scheme and the removal of the causeway. Mont St-Michel is once again an island which you reach by a slender bridge or a shuttle. It has restored some of the mystical element to this extraordinary monastery and church off the coast of Normandy.

    More on the Area

     

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  • 07 of 10

    Millau Viaduct, Midi-Pyrenees

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    ••• Millau bridge. Getty/Michel Gounot / Godong

    Millau Viaduct, Midi-Pyrénées
    1.2 million visitors per year

    The Autoroute A75 (also known as la Méridienne) runs from north of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne south to Beziers, crossing the Massif Central in central France. It’s a free motorway, except for the crossing over the Millau Viaduct, a magnificent bridge that seems to float above the Tarn river valley below. It was dreamt up by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the British architect Lord Norman Foster. It’s currently (records are made to be broken) the tallest vehicle bridge in the world and taller than the Eiffel Tower at its tallest point.

    More about the Region

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  • 08 of 10

    Château and Musem of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes

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    ••• Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, Pays de la Loire. Mary Anne Evans

    Château and Museum of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes
    1.3 million visitors

    The gracious building in the middle of Nantes has a fairytale quality about it. Built in the 15th century, its brick-walled rooms and towers now houses an excellent museum that tells you the story of Nantes and its colorful history. Nantes is a fabulous city, often overlooked particularly by foreign visitors, but well worth a visit for attractions like the machines they manufacture here.

    More about Nantes

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Chenonceau Château, Loire Valley

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    ••• Chenonceau Chateau at night, Loire Valley. © Atout France/Maurice Subervie

    Chenonceau Château, Loire Valley
    900,000 visitors per year

    Chenonceau is quite enchanting. Built over the river Cher, the Ladies’ Château, as it was known, is a gracious white stone castle. It was the perfect setting for Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henri II. In 1551 she created the garden criss-crossed by two paths. It’s beautiful in spring and autumn when the beds blaze with colors. In 1559 Catherine de Medicis took over the château, built the two-storey gallery on the bridge and created her own garden. If you can, go during July and August when the gardens are illuminated.

    The Loire Valley

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  • 10 of 10

    Domaine de Vizille, Museum of the French Revolution

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    ••• Domaine de Vizille. Domaine de Vizille

    Domaine de Vizille, Museum of the French Revolution
    800,000 visitors per year

    I can almost guarantee that you won’t have heard of this one. It’s very French and tucked away near Grenoble in the Isère department of the Dauphine region. The original chateau was built in the 14th century, then added to over the centuries. Together the castle and parks make up a huge, green, leafy area surrounded by a 4.5 mile-lon wall. But what really draws the crowds, particularly the French, is the Museum of the French Revolution, installed here in 1989.  The collections cover the Revolution pretty comprehensively, with paintings and sculptures of the major figures at the time. There are also artefacts produced after the Revolution as well as objects related to Napoleon and his descendants.

    Domaine de Vizille, Musée de la Révolution Française
    Place du Château
    38220 Vizille
    Tel. : 00 33 (0)4 76 68 07 35
    Website (in French)