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Already 6 winners

France may have 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites, but it has almost 10 times as many wonders scattered across its territory: there are some 44,000 listed historic monuments in the world's 1st tourist destination! Some of them have also earned the title of "Favorite Monument of the French » thanks to Stéphane Bern's popular TV show. (Re)discover which ones.

Religious, civil, military or royal heritage...

While the common denominator is that they all belong to the built cultural heritage, the monuments most acclaimed by the French are highly varied in nature: type of construction (church, castle, boat, station...), period of construction (from prehistory to contemporary architecture), origins, location... 

There's something for everyone, and this richness is perfectly illustrated by the list of the first 6 winners.

2014: Monastère Royal de Brou
Located in Bourg-en-Bresse in the Ain département, this 16th-century monastery is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Its flamboyant Gothic church is admired for its remarkable sculptures, but the 100,000 annual visitors are also sensitive to its moving history: the monastery was built by Marguerite of Austria as a tribute to her late husband, the Duke of Savoy, with whom she is now buried. Since 1922, this major tourist attraction in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has also housed the Brou Museum in the wing of one of its cloisters. A fine museum notably known for its rich collection of Flemish and French painting ranging from the 15th century to modern art.

2015 : The Arras belfry

Already one of the 23 belfries on UNESCO's World Heritage List, this monument, rebuilt twice since its erection in 1554, also won over the public in the 2nd edition of the "Mister Heritage" program.

A jewel in the crown of the Hauts-de-France region, it has served a number of functions since the Middle Ages: as a watchtower monitoring the surrounding area and sounding the opening and closing of the gates of Arras, as a prison, as the bell tower of the town hall, as a repository for archives...

In any case, it is a remarkable testimony to Gothic architecture, with its slender structure and carefully crafted architectural details. One of the nuggets of the Pas-de-Calais region, from its 75-metre height, it offers a fine panoramic view.

A historic monument is historic before it is beautiful.

Francis Salet, historien de l’art

2020: the Citadelle and the Lion of Belfort

This quotation fits in well with the 3rd winner of the program, which from 2016 to 2019 was a ranking of the "French people's favorite village", but returns to its original format in 2020.

La Citadelle played an important role in the history of its region (Burgundy-Franche-Comté), notably with its heroic resistance to the Prussian invasion during the Franco-Prussian war of 1871-71. It is this courage that the Lion of Belfort, France's largest sculpture, represents today. Placed in front of the citadel designed by the military architect Vauban in the 17th century, the work of Auguste Bartholdi (creator of the Statue of Liberty) is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the historic defensive monument it protects.

2021: Nancy's Place Stanislas

The Place Stanislas was inaugurated in 1755 (with wine flowing from the fountains!) by King Stanislas of Poland in honor of his son-in-law Louis XV.

Originally called Place Royale, it embodied the architectural grandeur of 18th-century France, with its gilded gates, triumphal arch and, on its sides, the City Hall, Fine arts Museum and Opéra-Théâtre of Nancy.

Events, festivals, ceremonies... all year round, it is the hub of cultural life in this beautiful town in Meurthe-et-Moselle, and for over 2 centuries has been an essential part of the Grand Est region.

... but still unique and historic

2022: Cherbourg Transatlantic Station and Le Redoutable submarine
The proof is in the form of a "monument" made up of 2 distinct elements: a site associated with the era of the transatlantic liners (it was from this Art Deco-style station that the Titanic's passengers set off on their ill-fated crossing to the USA) and a submarine illustrating French expertise in nuclear technology.
Linked by maritime history, these 2 monuments located in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin (Normandy) offer visitors a journey back in time between the Belle Epoque and the modern era, with Le Redoutable in service until 1991. It is now open to visitors at the Cité de la Mer: a unique opportunity to understand life on board a submarine and to awaken (and reassure) the traveler in you, maritime safety having - fortunately - greatly evolved since the invention of liners inviting people to cross the Atlantic from Cherbourg.

2023: Sedan castle

We end this reminder of the French people's favorite monuments with the latest winner, revealed, as is customary, a few days before the European Heritage Days. This time, it's the Ardennes department that has won the title, thanks to one of Europe's largest medieval fortified castles.

Built in the 15th century, the 35,000-square-meter site features many of the typical characteristics of a fortified castle (ramparts, towers, moats, etc.), as well as a chapel and museum. The latter retraces the tumultuous history of the Grand Est region and the specificities of the medieval way of life. So there's more than one good reason to visit Sedan!

To find out about the show's other finalists, click here: you're sure to find other great ideas for year-round visits in France.

Valérie from Comme des Français


Staying with atypical heritage