In 2018, France has 43 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Provence has 8 listed sites, making it one of the richest regions in France.
Listed in 1981: the Roman Theatre and surrounding areas, and the Arc de Triomphe in Orange
The Roman Theatre in Orange, with exceptional vestiges dating from the age of Imperial Rome, has a 103m-long façade, and is one of the best-preserved major Roman theatres. The Arc de Triomphe in Orange was built between 10 and 25 AD, and is one of the finest triumphal arches of the Augustinian period with its bas-relief sculptures recounting the development of the Pax Romana.
With a double ticket you can visit the Roman Theatre and the nearby Art and History Museum, where the history of Orange is recounted from Antiquity to the 20th century. A wide range of multimedia tools (free audio-guide in 10 languages, a free application to download, a show called “The Ghosts of the Theatre”), enhance the visit, making the architecture in the sites and the history of public entertainment in Ancient Rome accessible to all. The show/visit “The Ghosts of the Theatre” blends optical theatre, video projections and music to bring to life the highlights and the people who have performed on the stage in this wonderful monument from Antiquity to today.
The new virtual tour of the theatre as part of a 50-minute guided visit includes a 6-minute “total-immersion” film. In a specially designed room, visitors can enjoy a total immersion experience with individual 360° video projections and a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift model with built-in sound). Spectators are transported back to 36 B.C. to see the foundation of the city of Orange and the theatre being built. Stone after stone, the theatre takes shape and unveils its majestic decorations.
Listed in 1981. Roman and Romanesque Monuments (Amphitheatre and Theatre) in Arles
Arles has the most Roman monuments after Rome itself: arenas, a Roman theatre and cryptoporticoes dating from the 1st century BC. The Constantine thermal baths and the Alyscamps necropolis bear witness to a second golden age in the 4th century. In the 11th and 12th centuries, Arles once again became one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean world and a major stage on the Way of Saint James. Inside the town’s walls, Saint-Trophime with its cloister and Montmajour Abbey, nearby, are major monuments of Provençal Romanesque art.
A range of 1 to 6-month “Monuments Passes” are available to access the 6 monuments (Amphitheatre, Roman Theatre, Constantine Thermal Baths, Cryptoporticoes, Alyscamps, Saint Trophime Cloister) and 3 museums (Réattu Museum, Camargue Museum, Musée de l’Arles Antique). “Arlestour”, a mobile app, makes it easy to visit the city, where alongside the UNESCO heritage sites, you can experience an exceptional cultural and historical heritage.
The city has a large number of classical and Renaissance mansions. The Van Gogh Foundation pays homage to the master and to major contemporary artists (Van Gogh painted almost 300 works in and around Arles and a walking tour has been dedicated to him). The Luma Foundation, located in an internationally unique new and refurbished site, including the famous 56-metre high resource building designed by the architect Franck Gehry, provides a vast area for contemporary creation in all its forms. A major international photography event takes place each year in the city, “Les Rencontres Photographiques”.
Listed in 1985: the Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard, a bridge dating from the 1st century AD, was a section of the 50km-long Nîmes aqueduct across the River Gardon. It stands 49 metres high, 275 metres long and has 3 rows of superimposed arches. It is the highest Roman aqueduct bridge in the world. The Roman hydraulics engineers and architects created a technical masterpiece, but also a work of art.
The Pont du Gard site is a vast 165-hectare “playground” with swimming areas on the River Gardon, and many cultural centres of interest to all members of the public.
Admission to the site includes a visit to the cultural areas. The museum, the biggest educational centre in France on the architectural achievement of Rome, tells the story of the Roman aqueduct with models, virtual reconstructions, multimedia screens and sound atmospheres bringing the visit to life. “Ludo” is an educational museum area for children and families. “Ciné”features documentaries and fictional films. Garrigue Memories is an open-air visit exploring the history of Mediterranean agriculture, with a look at the specific regional conditions and the vestiges of the Roman aqueduct.
At the site a large number of events are also organised, including the Pont du Gard light show, from 15 May to 31 August; in June Les Fééries du Pont, a show blending sound, light, fireworks and video morphing; temporary art or science exhibitions; concerts, etc.
This convivial site on the banks of the River Gardon has a wide range of restaurants and shops. A multimedia guide is available in 8 languages.
Listed in 1955: the Historic Centre of Avignon with the Palais des Papes, the episcopal buildings (Notre Dame and the Doms gardens; Petit Palais Museum), the ramparts and the Pont d’Avignon.
The Palais des Papes
Nine popes had their court in Avignon. The Palais des Papes, the main mark of their residence here, was a symbol of the prestige of Christendom and the papacy’s temporal and spiritual power at the period. It is both a colossal fortress and a magnificent palace, and was seen by contemporaries as “the most beautiful and strongest building in the world” (Froissart). Today, it is the most important Gothic edifice ever built.
The Monument includes twenty-five rooms and areas open to the public: large state rooms, the scene of ceremonies and banquets, treasure rooms, chapels and private apartments containing priceless wall paintings. The painted decoration in the Saint John and Saint Martial chapels are attributed to the great Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.
Visitors can enjoy a new multimedia visit with a touch-screen tablet: Histopad. It provides a fun and interactive immersion experience, featuring a reconstitution of the rooms in virtual reality as they were at the time of the popes with wall paintings and furniture. Audio, video commentaries, maps to see where you are during the visit, together with sound and music content, and a treasure hunt enhance the interactive view of the images of the recreated rooms. The tablet is available in 7 languages (fr, en, ger, ital, spa, chin, jap).
Petit Palais Museum
The Petit Palais Museum is housed in the remarkable Archbishops’ Palace. The public can enjoy a visit to Italy and Provence from the 12th to the 16th centuries with an exceptional collection of Italian paintings on loan from the Louvre Museum (including work by the greatest artists, such as Botticelli or Carpaccio) and very rich collections of sculptures and paintings from the School of Avignon. The School of Avignon was one of the main centres for painting in 15th century France.
Pont d’Avignon / Saint Bénezet
The bridge was 920 metres long and had 22 arches. Construction was begun in the late 12th century and work continued for centuries afterwards. It was damaged several times and rebuilt as a result of climate change, which led to transformations in the River Rhone in the late Middle Ages. The reconstruction work finally came to a halt in the 17th century.
Today there only remain four arches, the Saint Bénezet chapel, which was crowned by the Saint Nicolas chapel in the 15th century, the Chatelet tower, controlling the drawbridge, and the Philippe Le Bel tower, controlling the entrance to the bridge from Villeneuve-les-Avignon.
Films, audio-guides in 11 languages, a museum area and a digital tablet are part of an exciting multimedia visit recounting the history of the town, the River Rhone, the legend of Saint Bénezet, the famous French song about the bridge sung the world over, and the reconstituted bridge shown in 3D in the landscape at different periods.
Listed in 1998: the Abbatial Church of Saint Gilles, as part of the Way of Saint James route in France.
There are 78 listed parts along the Way of Saint James in ten different French regions (64 buildings, 7 groups of properties and 7 path sections).
In the remarkable landscapes of Camargue bordering the Gard and Costière regions, the abbatial church owes its fame to the pilgrimages that developed from the 11th century around Saint Gilles and that became the fourth most important pilgrimage site in Christendom (after Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela). The façade of this marvel of Romanesque architecture represents the Old and New Testament. A remarkable bestiary and a frieze recount Christ’s Passion. The monumental crypt houses the tomb of Saint Gilles. Its famous spiral staircase is an architectural model.
Listed in 2008: the Mont-Dauphin stronghold and the fortifications in Briançon, part of a network of 12 major military sites designed by Vauban
This structure was created by Vauban on the orders of Louis XIV following an invasion by the Duchy of Savoy’s troops in 1692. Built in a star shape on the steep slopes of a desert plateau known as “mille vents” (“a thousand winds”), it defended Provence and Dauphiné by controlling access to the Durance Valley from Italy.
The fortress ceased to be of use when the border was moved eastwards in 1713. The town that Vauban had planned remained unfinished but an unusual village now thrives in the middle of the stronghold. As it was never besieged, the pink stone ramparts and bastions and the military buildings are perfectly preserved and offer a unique immersion in 18th-century military life.
The Centre for National Monuments offers tours of the fortifications and old military buildings all year round.
The Vauban fortifications in Briançon
This exceptional site is a chance to appreciate the genius shown by Louis XIV’s famous military engineer. Plans for the defensive fortifications were drawn up by Vauban during his visits to Briançon in 1692 and 1700.
On a rocky peak at an altitude of 1326 metres, the upper town of Briançon stands out as a unique example of mountain fortifications. It is encircled by ramparts and crowned by high-altitude strongholds, making it impregnable.
Seven works were awarded recognition for their authentic aspect, their preserved state, their representative nature and the renovations undertaken on them: the Salettes Fort, the Asfeld Bridge, the Trois Têtes Fort, the Dauphin Fort, the Randouillet Fort, the Y communication; as well as the city walls and the work conducted inside the walls: the collegiate church, Place d’Armes and the two powder stores.
The Tourist Office organises several different kinds of visits.
The Essentials, the Original visits, the Spectacular visits (with musicians and actors bringing to life the fortress atmosphere).
Listed in 2014: the Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, known as the Chauvet Cave
In a limestone plateau criss-crossed by the meanders of the River Ardèche, the cave contains the world’s oldest paintings known to date (from the Aurignacian period, between 30,000 and 32,000 BC). Over 1,000 paintings, with anthropomorphic or animal patterns have been found on the walls. The exceptional artistic quality can be seen in a wide range of techniques, in particular the mastery of stump drawing, the combination of painting and engraving, the anatomical accuracy, and the three-dimensional representation of movement. Among others, there are depictions of dangerous animals that would have been hard to observe close up at the time (mammoths, bears, spelaea lions, rhinoceroses, bisons, aurochs), over 4,000 remains of animals from the palaeolithic period and a range of human footprints.
For reasons of conservation, the cave is not open to the public, which is why the Caverne du Pont d’Arc was created. it is the biggest cave replica in the world in a 20-hectare park. Through a 3D copy of the original, in an artificial cave with a floor area of 3,500m² and 8,200m² of walls and vaults, the underground atmosphere (floors, walls and ceilings, acoustics) as well as the palaeontological and artistic decoration and remains (colours, dimensions, textures, rock formations, etc.) have been faithfully recreated. The Aurignacian gallery rounds off the visit to the replica of the cave. Here the public can explore the prehistoric world through a large number of fun and interactive multimedia tools. Visitors can explore the environment, the fauna and flora that men and women experienced in the area near the cave some 36,000 years ago with an immersive film, touch-screen terminals, woolly rhinoceros, mammoths, Irish elk and stuffed steppe bisons.
A range of visits are on offer to the cave (non-guided visits with “finders”, large-format visits, discount visits), as well as a large number of activities (conferences, prehistoric workshops, themed hikes, etc.).
Listed in 2016: the Cité Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille along with 16 other sites awarded for the exceptional architectural contribution of Le Corbusier to the modernist movement.
The Cité Radieuse is the work of the Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier. The First Habitation Unit (of a series of 5) was built from 1947 to 1952. A laboratory for a new “housing system”, the Cité Radieuse included 337 flats of 23 different kinds, representing a form of accommodation that was very comfortable and modern for the time. To these individual areas were added a large number of “dwelling extensions”, designed for a new way of living together, with an indoor shopping street, a bookshop and publisher, a bar, a hotel, a Design Concept Store, a bakery and, on the roof-terrace, an infants school and a gym that since June 2013 has been Le MaMo (Centre of contemporary art). There is also a 2.8-hectare park with play areas.
The Tourist Office organises visits of the Habitation Unit with a guide. The visit includes the various hall areas, the shopping street and the roof-terrace, as well as exclusive access to an apartment listed as a Historic Monument. Reservation required (no visits on public holidays). A maximum of 10 people per group.