Iconic Landmarks & Monuments in the South of France

Are you interested in the history of France? Besides heading to the most popular destinations in the heart of the country, you can get to know the most important people and historical events from the monuments in the South of France.

Plaza de la Republica, Arles

Statues and Monuments in South of France

Like in Paris, we also passed a couple of statues and monuments in south France. Sadly, we were not able to stop by all of them. So we suggest going on a walking tour with a guide to get a deep dive into the people and monuments’ stories.

Monuments are not just statues. Some of them are buildings and entire walled cities or more. Southern France has several monuments to check out, most of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites too.

While some monuments are only available for a visit, others are still used for exhibitions, concerts, etc., until today. Here are some of the most popular and favorite monuments we recommend visiting on your trip to the South of France.

Pont du Gard Aqueduct Monument

The Pont du Gard is ideal for those who, like us, enjoy walking tours. The three-level, 50-meter-high aqueduct allows the Gardon river to flow.

Visitors can walk through the Pont du Gard and enjoy the beautiful scrubland, flowers, and views of the Gardon River. While visiting the aqueduct, you may notice the yellow limestone. It is known as the Pierre de Vers, a soft yellow limestone.

Arches of the Pont du Gard in Nimes South of France

The Roman-built aqueduct assisted the people of Nimes in transporting water across the Gard River. You can book a ticket online here.

Centenary Monument in South of France

The Centenary Monument is what most visitors envision when they think of a monument. The statue is made of bronze and stands facing the sea in the colors of the French flag.

The Monument du Centenaire commemorates Nice’s accession to France and the creation of the Department of Alpes Maritimes. If you zoom in, you can see the status taking an oath, symbolizing the city of Nice’s motto, Nissa Fidelissima.

People usually head to the entrance to admire the Monument du Centenaire before watching a free movie or show at the Théâtre de Verdure.

Albi Cathedral

The Albi Cathedral, also known as the Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, represents the church’s power in the town. It is also an architectural wonder in Southern France, with its beautifully decorated ceilings of Catalan and Flemish designs and French Gothic interior.

When you enter, you will notice the impressive jube commissioned by Louis I of Ambois. In the 15th century, he was the Archbishop of Albi. On the other hand, the cathedral was built after the suppression of the Albigensian Heresy.

When visiting the Albi Cathedral, stop at the Toulouse Lautrec Museum to see Henri de Toulouse’s paintings Lautrec and other works.

Tropaeum Alpium Monument in South France

The Trophy of Augustus is a monument commemorating Emperor Augustus’ victory over the Liguarians over 2000 years ago. The Liguarians had attacked merchants along trade routes.

It is still one of the most visited monuments in Southern France today. The Tropaeum Alpium was a monument and a fortress that Louis XIV turned into a quarry in the 16th century.

People, particularly husbands, would go to the Trophy of Augustus if they suspected their wives of infidelity and sought the oracle’s advice.

Triumphal Arch of Orange and Orange Amphitheater

The Orange Amphitheater is still used today for shows and concerts. With its open design, people can easily view any show scheduled for the day. During the Roman Empire, it was also used for performances. It was one of Emperor Augustus’ proudest monuments. 

Ancient Roman Theater of Orange, South of France

The Triumphal Arch of Orange is just a few steps away from the Orange Amphitheater. It is one of the Triumphal Arch all over France and was made during the reign of Emperor Augustus. 

We recommend staying here and watching a show. You can find tickets and schedules here

Maison Carrée

The hexastyle of the Maison Carrée in Nimes is a monument building you may have seen in several Greek temples. Are you familiar with the Aphaia at Aegina? The Maison Carree also has a facade of six columns.  

The Maison Carrée was built to honor the goddess Roma, and Gaius and Lucius. They were patrons of colonia along with their mother, Julia, the daughter of Agrippa and Augustus.

Like the Tropaeum Alpium, it also went through a change of use. The Visigothic kings used the Maison Carrée as an extension of their palace. 

You can climb the stairs and take a photo at the entrance, but you can appreciate its beauty more from the outside. A couple of restaurants surround the monument too, so if you get hungry, you can sit down, admire this beautiful Roman architectural wonder, and eat. 

Pont Saint Benezet

Among the monuments in the South of France, Pont Saint Benezet has one of the most intriguing stories. In the 12th century, Bénezet, a shepherd, built the bridge.

According to legend, the Bénezet heard voices instructing him to construct the Saint Bénezet bridge. Unfortunately, only four of the 22 arches survived to this day. The World Heritage site is still a popular tourist destination.

Pont Saint Benezet monument of South France

Over 300,000 people visit the Pont Saint Benezet each year, and you may find yourself surrounded by several of them on the bridge. Make the most of your visit by taking in the Rhône River and walking around town.

Arenes de Nimes

The Arenes de Nimes amphitheater is another must-see for epic shows. People cheered on people hunting animals and watched gladiator fights here in the first century AD.

The Arenes de Nimes has been well preserved and continues to host concerts. As a traveler, you can also admire the arena’s architecture, history, and multimedia shows about the Arenes de Nimes.

Roman Theater of Arles

The Arles Arenas or Arles Amphitheater has two tiers capable of seating 20,000 people. It was once a place for entertainment like hand to hand combats and chariot races.

The Roman Amphitheater of Arles is also oval like most arena monuments mentioned in this list. Today, the Roman Arenas still hosts concerts and other shows.

Inside the Roman Theater of Arles in South of France

Constantine’s Baths

The spa complex in Arles is another monument along the Rhone River. People completed and used it during Constantine I’s reign early 4th century. You can still see the remains of the baths today.

Eglise St. Trophime

The interior of the Eglise St. Trophime may be one of the most exciting we’ve ever seen in a church. While some old churches have sculptures on their facades, you can find them inside Arles’ Eglise St. Trophime.

The Last Judgment sculpture is the church’s main attraction and an iconic example of Roman sculpture. The small but high windows and low collateral aisles are some of the distinctive features of the church.

Les Alyscamps

Les Alyscamps is a one-of-a-kind monument in the south of France. It is a necropolis and has been the main burial ground in Arles for over 1,000 years.

Many people were buried here, including Arles’ first bishop, Saint Trophimus. The toms are said to be stacked up to three layers deep.

It also served as a source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin’s paintings. In October 1888, they went to the necropolis and painted side by side.

Roman Ruins of Vaison-la-Romaine

Vaison-la-Romaine is a medieval city in southern France, specifically Provence. However, you can only see the village’s ruins. Only two public access points are available: Puymin and La Villasse.”

It is also close to the Théo Desplans Archaeological Museum, which houses everyday object collections, the House of the Wreathed Apollo, and the Maison à la Tonnelle.

Several times, the city was rebuilt. On the remnants, you can even see the 20-year evolution of the town. While visiting, you can also enjoy a glass of good wine and cheese.

Tour Magne, a Monument in South France

Tour Magne is one of the remaining creations under the reign of Augustus. The towers were used during the Hundred Years’ War to defend against the English.

At the top of Tour Magne, you can see the trade routes. Then, the tower was used as a telegraph relay station in 1832 and was vital in sending letters. Nowadays, it has become one of the monuments visited by many.

After restoring the interior of Tour Magne, you can climb the 140 steps up to the top and see the panoramic views for Nimes.

Castle, Cathedral, and Abbey Monuments in South of France

Castles, abbeys, and other religious icons are also among the monuments in the South of France. If you enjoy palaces and other architectural marvels as much as I do, here are some monuments to visit during your trip.

Chateau d’If

Chateau d’If was once a famous castle with some of Marseille’s most beautiful views. It is perched atop a limestone island, making it an intimidating setting for a state prison. It housed inmates such as Philippe Égalité and the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask, imprisoned by Louis XIV in 1524.

It was already well-known for its inmates, but its popularity skyrocketed after the publication of The Count of Monte Cristo in 1844, a story about a sailor who was wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years and made the most daring escape.

Explore the Chateau d’If and other museums in Marseille with a city pass. 

Carcassonne Fortress

The Porte Narbonnaise, Porte Saint-Nazaire, Porte d’Aude, and Porte de Rodez are the four gates of the Carcassonne Fortress. You can book the Carcassonne Fortress tickets online in advance.

The Porte Narbonnaise is the most popular entry point for tourists, but it also has large towers, whereas the Porte Saint-Nazaire has a defense system with fortified doors, machicolation, and pitfalls.

Carcasona al atardecer

The Porte d’Aude has false passages to trap enemies as you travel west. The Porte de Rodez served as a trade route entrance on the castle’s northern side. Get to know more about the Fortress with a guided tour.

Berbie Palace

The palace has a large garden where visitors can walk around and relax, and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum exhibits drawings, lithographs, and other works by several contemporary artists.

Despite being the site of the ancient bishops’ palace, it has seen and survived sieges. It represents the city’s religious and military power.

Berbie Garden features terraces and a spatial design in the old French style, with hedges and blooming flowers. Visit during the spring season to see the most beautiful views of the garden. There are also statues of the four seasons and Bacchus.

Basilica Saint-Sernin

The church honors the first bishop of Toulouse, Saint Saturnin. The church showcases the wide naves and wooden canopy with gold leaf and marble. The tympanum shows the Ascension of Christ with the angles and the twelve apostles made in Pyrenean marble.

The crypts and tower house the relics of saints that attracted many pilgrims. I recommend checking the tower during your trip.

Palais des Papes

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as the Pope’s Palace, is one of Avignon’s largest medieval architectural wonders. It also features Gothic details and the 14th-century Pope’s residence.

The Great Chapel, Banquet Hall, Papal Bedroom, and Grand Tinel are all must-see rooms in the Pope’s Palace.

Lyon Cathedral

Lyon also has a Cathedral that combines Roman and Gothic architectural details. As we entered through these huge oak doors, we were welcomed by the stunning clock. The windows are adorned with rose stained glass dating back to the 12th century. 

Convent of the Jacobins

The Dominican monastery was built with bricks and the same process as most cathedrals in the kingdom of France. It is also one of France’s most important symbols of the southern Gothic wonders. 

The St Thomas Aquinas relics found inside the Convent symbolize Pope Urban V’s support to the preachers in introducing the people to their religion. Today, the relics are still inside the church. 

Sadly, the Convent no longer hosts masses, but you may be lucky enough to see exhibitions. We were amazed at the high ceilings and high glass windows. 

Abbey de Montmajour

The Abbey de Montmajour is adorned with a Romanesque facade and details and is a home of monastic life. It was the Benedictine monks that founded the monastery in 948. Despite being a religious building, it was fortified with watchtowers.

You can join art exhibitions held in the church occasionally or visit the monk cemetery nearby. The abbey also offers views of the Alps, which even Vincent van Gogh admires. 

Cathar Castle Ruins

Found on a rocky top in the village of Lastours, you can find the Châteaux de Lastours. The Cathar castles are four castles named Cabaret, La Tour Regine, Quertinheux, and the Surdespine. The Quertinheux is separated from the other three castles.

The Cabaret has the barbican defense system, while the La Tour Regine is the smallest among the four but has the largest cistern. The Surdespine is known for its semicircular arched windows and being the least maintained. The one on the rocky outcrop is the Quertinheux castle. 

The Duke’s Castle

The Duchy of Uzè has experienced a series of ownership transfers. It was built to be a home of Antoine de Crussol before it was sold, misused, and then used as a school. 

Finally, it was restored and became the home of the current Duke of Uzès, Jacques de Crussol d’Uzès. He is the 17th Duke in line and has continued to take good care of the Duchy of Uzè. 

It is still a private home, so you can only visit a few places in the castle. 

Les Baux Castle

Another castle monument that offers a panoramic view of the Alpilles is the Les Baux Castle. Situated at the rocky top, it sees the Les Baux de Provence village. The castle’s ruins remain, and travelers can wander along them. 

vista de Les-Baux-de-Provence

Palais Idéal

A castle monument you should visit is the Palais Idéal. It was the creation of the eccentric Ferdinand Cheval. Without knowledge of architectural designs, he spent 33 years and used stones and pebbles. 

Ferdinand Cheval was a French mail carrier who dreamed of creating this wonder for years. Today, it is one of the most unique monuments in the South of France. You can find inspiration from different cultures from Cambodia, Egypt, and India all over the castle. 

Senanque Abbey

The Notre-dame de Senanque Abbey is one of the wonders of Provence. The abbey was built in a Cistercian style architecture consisting of a church, cloister, a heated room, and a chapter house.

The Notre-dame de Senanque Abbey continues to house monks and has withstood several challenges in maintaining it and the wars of religion during the 17th century when monks were hanged. 

It continues to represent Cistercian architecture and farms Lavandin, a hybrid of true lavender and lavender aspic. We recommend visiting the place from the end of June to see them in full bloom. By late July, they harvest the Lavandin to produce essential oils. 

If you want to visit other Lavender fields including the one in the Senanque Abbey, you can book a Lavender Day Tour here.

How to Get to See Monuments in the South of France?

Guided tours often pick you up from a certain place to get you to your destination, but if you want to travel at your own pace, rent a car to visit these renowned monuments

Another way to get to Southern France is via a train station. Book a flight to Paris, France. From Charles de Gaulle airport, take the train to the Avignon train station. 

You can also hop on a flight to Marseille and ride the local train. 

driving in toll route in france

Getting to the South of France

You can easily tour the different cities in the South of France with a rental car. See the French countryside or drive along the Monaco Grand Prix route for fun. 

Riding the train can get you to different rural areas. Some routes also pass into the mountains and over the Italian border, offering beautiful views that locals see. 

If you only stay in one place, tour on foot or ride a bicycle. Ask locals for recommendations and find hidden gems yourself. 

White car in the lavender field in the South of France

Day Trips to See Monuments in South of France

Full-Day Roman Sites and Historical Places

There are several Roman historical sites in the area. Furthermore, the majority of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The guided tour includes admission to the Orange Amphitheater, transportation in an air-conditioned minibus, and an audio guide.

Private Walking Tour to See Monuments in South of France

The private 2-hour guided walking tour of Nimes will introduce you to the city. See the magnificent Amphithèatre, the Temple of Diane, and other Roman structures and bridges.

How Many Monuments Are There in France?

If you think the South of France has so many monuments to see, the whole country of France has over 40,000 official monuments! It has a lot compared to other countries in Europe.

Travel Insurance for the South of France

Planning to visit all the monuments in South of France? You have to go to several places to complete the whole tour, and for long and short vacations, we always prepare ourselves for emergencies. 

Make sure to get travel insurance and make your South of France trip safe and memorable. Click on the link to get a 5% OFF. 

Plan Your Trip to the South of France

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