Part of the allure of Paris is the wealth of beautiful architecture that can be found on the streets. Structures like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral are as iconic as you can get, but France has plenty of striking buildings away from the capital.
If your travels lead you to explore more of this fantastic country, journeying to places like Lyon, Bordeaux and Nice, you’ll discover further feats of architecture that are more than worthy of your admiration. Here are just a few that shouldn’t be missed.
Palais de la Bourse, Bordeaux
One of the biggest reasons to visit Bordeaux is the lure of food and wine, but the architecture here is just as mesmerising. Once the business exchange for the city, the Palais de la Bourse now hosts formal functions and conferences in its various different rooms. The view from the outside is stunning, though, as two wings sweep away from the centre in dramatic fashion. The spectacle is made all the more brilliant by a shallow film of water which covers the square and reflects the palace perfectly.
Fourvière Basilica, Lyon
Built in honour of the Virgin Mary as a thank you gift for ridding the city of the Black Death, this breathtaking church sits at the highest point of Lyon, allowing Mary to look down from her position atop the bell tower. She is said to ward off evil and has been credited with cutting short disease epidemics and potential invasions in the past. Affectionately known as the ‘upside down elephant’, Pierre Bossan bucked the trend for Gothic architecture when he designed this Romanesque and Byzantine masterpiece.
Chateau de Chambord, Loire Valley
Rural France is littered with alluring chateaux that take you back to an era of extravagance and indulgence. The Loire Valley is one of the best places to find these architectural gems and the Chateau de Chambord is the largest in the region. Built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I, it stands on 13,000 acres of land and adjacent to a peaceful lake. Its imposing structure features towers on all four corners and it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some even say that the Loire River was diverted to make room for it.
Rouen Cathedral, Rouen
With the largest spire of any church in France, the Rouen Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in the region. Its façade is used as a backdrop for amazing light and illumination shows that bring the building to life throughout the summer. Inside, the Bookseller’s Stairway and the statues of saints are definite highlights.
Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley
We just couldn’t leave this magical castle off our list, as it looks like something straight out of a fairytale. Spanning the River Cher with majestic arches across the water, the Château de Chenonceau was a gift from Henry II to his mistress but was later claimed by his wife, Catherine de Medici, after the king passed away. Its blooming gardens have helped to make it the most visited chateau in France and its striking structure means it has become an iconic image of the area.
Cite du Vin, Bordeaux
Proving that a building doesn’t have to be old to be considered beautiful, the Cite du Vin rounds off our list and takes us back to where we started, Bordeaux. Although the architect claims that it “does not resemble any recognisable shape because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city”, it looks rather like a carafe and stands out from the city’s skyline as an exciting, modern attraction. Essentially a wine museum, it features exhibits on viticulture in Bordeaux and around the world, along with a tasting room and library of wines from across the globe.
If you would like to see any of these impressive buildings for yourself, we can help you plan an inspiring trip to France. Call our team on 0800 988 3369 for a tailor-made quote or click here to contact us through the website.