Archaeology Travel guide France

From the Palaeolithic cave art in the Dordogne and the megalithic structures of Neolithic Brittany, through the later prehistoric periods of the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Roman occupation of Gaul, the Medieval and Renaissance and the vast number of castles and churches standing still today in various states of repair, and the numerous memorials from two World Wars, there is no questioning that France has some of the most iconic archaeology and history in the world.

Reasons to Visit France

Ice Age Cave Art,

Gothic Cathedrals,

Museums & Art Galleries,

… food & wine.

Interesting Things to Know About France

France is not only a country in western Europe, it also includes overseas territories in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Metropolitan France is the third largest country in Europe. France is regularly the world’s most visited country, with Paris usually always in the top three most visited cities in the world. The Louvre Museum, at the historic centre of Paris, is the most visited art gallery and museum in the world. Gard du Nord is the busiest train station in Europe. But it is Marseilles that is the oldest city in France, having been established around 600 BC.

France is popular for its immense cultural, historical and gastronomic heritage. As of 2021 there are 49 sites in France on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Of these, 42 are cultural and 6 are natural, with one that is mixed. There are a further 37 sites that are on the tentative list. The gastronomic meal of the French was added to the list of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

Over the last 2,000 or so years Metropolitan France has undoubtedly witnessed more than its fair share of war and conflict. The first recorded being the Gallic Wars between 58 and 50 BC when the Roman general Julius Caesar fought to subdue the peoples of Gaul. Since then there have been numerous Anglo-French conflicts, from the Capetian-Plantagenet rivalry from the mid 12th to mid 13th century, the first Hundred Year’s War from 1337 to 1453, and the second Hundred Year’s War from 1689 to 1815. The French Revolution, which started in 1789. And the two World Wars, from July 1914 to November 1918 and September 1939 to August 1945. The sites of these conflicts, from the battlefields of Alesia to the many memorials of World War I and II attract many visitors each year.

Most visitors to France know that it was the Montgolfier brothers who invented the hot air balloon and launched the first confirmed human piloted ascent in 1783. Many other useful inventions were made in France, from the use of sealed glass jars and then tin cans to preserve food, to the hair-dryer. Braille was developed by Louis Braille, while the stethoscope was invented in a Parisian hospital in 1816 by René Laennec.

The final breakthrough in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs was made by the French philologist Jean-François Champollion. Musée Champollion, in the decipherer’s birth town of Figeac, is devoted to the town’s most famous son and the history of writing.

Find Places to Visit in France

Featured Destination

BURGUNDY
From Solutré to Sens, 20,000 years of History

As one of France’s world-famous wine producing regions, the Burgundy region is as internationally renowned for its wide ranging historical  heritage as it is for its gastronomic traditions. Although taking its origins in the medieval Kingdom of Burgundy, with the city of Dijon a European centre of arts and science in the Middle Ages, Burgundy has one of the most important Stone Age site in France. 

Five Popular Attractions in France

Mont Saint Michele at dusk France
Mont Saint Michel
Monets House Summer
Monet’s House & Garden
Lascaux Hall Of Bulls
Lascaux
Versailles Royal Courtyard
Palace of Versailles
Louvre Classical Gallery
Louvre Museum

Explore France more deeply

Where to Go in France

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

From the Alps in the east to volcanic peaks in the west, with the Rhône Valley in between. From Roman ruins to Romanesque churches, medieval towns and castles.

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

The heartland of the Kingdom of Burgundy that since the Middle Ages has been home to important monasteries, including Cîteaux, Cluny and Vézelay.

Brittany

Brittany has the greatest concentration of megalithic sites anywhere in the world. But also interesting Roman sites and striking medieval walled towns.

Centre-Val de Loire

A region well known for it stretch the Loire Valley and the numerous, extravagant châteaux situated along the course of this magnificent river.

Corsica

Just north of Sardinia, Corsica was created from a series of volcanic eruptions; it is the most mountainous of all the Mediterranean islands.

Grand Est

Comprising the formers regions of Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine, Grand Est is also Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament.

Hauts-de-France

The northernmost region of France is known for the finest concentration of Gothic art and architecture as well as the more sombre First World War sites.

Île-de-France & Paris

The world’s leading tourist destination, with 4,000 historical monuments, 140 museums, including the Louvre Museum and the Palace of Versailles.

Normandy

Roughly equivalent to the historic Duchy of Normandy, today visitors come for the Bayeux Tapestry, Mont Saint Michel, D-Day Beaches and Monet’s home in Giverny. 

Nouvelle-Aquitaine

The indirect successor of Eleanor’s historic Duchy of Aquitaine, also known for the most well known decorated Ice Age cave of Lascaux. 

Occitanie

A popular destination, with a Mediterranean shoreline and two mountain ranges, the Roman Pont du Gard and the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne.

Pays de la Loire

Over 250 km of the Loire River run through this region to the Atlantic Ocean, along which a majority of the castles of the Loire Valley are to be found.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Both a geographic region and a historic province, taking its name from the Roman Provincia Romana, Provence has a distinct cultural and historical identity.

Historic Cities in France

Amiens

Bordeaux

Nice

Paris

Rouen

What to See in France

Rock Art & Cave Art

In the limestone caves of south western France are some of the most well known images created by Stone Age people. Those in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne are almost certainly some of the most visited rock art sites in the world. But there are also caves open to the public in other areas, including the Lot and the Pyrénées. Less well known are the open air Bronze Age rock engravings in the Vallée des Merveilles.

Prehistoric Megalithic Sites

Roman Sites & Museums

Fortresses, Castles & Palaces

France is known for the many forts and fortresses, castles and châteaux, palais and palaces. From the Palace of Versailles to the extravagant royal castles of the Loire Valley, the ruined castle forts of the Cathars to the many picturesque fortified Medieval towns such as Carcassonne in the south and Vitré in the north. Millions of visitors travel to France each year to see this hugely diverse and fascinating architectural heritage. Such is the interest in these buildings that a multidisciplinary team came together in the 1990s to construct a castle fort in a forest in Burgundy.

Second World War & the Holocaust

Egyptian Revival & Ancient Egypt

Franc has not one but two ancient Egyptian obelisks. Most know of the Luxor Obelisk on the Place de la Concord in Paris. Another, brought to France hundreds of years earlier now stands in the Place de la Republique in Arles. 

Popular Tours & Activities in France