A. Palace and park of Versailles
B. Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière & Place d'Alliance in Nancy
C. Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct)
D. Grande Île - Strasbourg
E. Paris, banks of the Seine

F. Historic centre of Avignon
G. Arles, Roman and Romanesque monuments
H. Episcopal city of Albi
I. Roman theatre and its surroundings and the triumphal arch of Orange
J. Historic fortified city of Carcasonne

K. Amiens cathedral
L. Chartres cathedral
M. Palace and park of Fontainebleau
N. Provins, town of medieval fairs
O. Cathedral of Notre-Dame, former abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims
P. Belfries of France

A. Palace and park of Versailles

Added to the list in 1979 - visited by Maarten in 1995 and Annick in 2008. Re-visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe and Túrin in 2013.

The palace of Versailles was the residence of the French kings from Louis XIV until Louis XVI. Numerous sculptors, architects, painters and other artists have created a unique, prestigious and monumental ensemble of the palace itself and its surrounding domain. This domain is an impressive complex of extensive formal gardens, the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon retreats and queen Marie-Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine, a pastoral place of leisure. Originally built by Louis XII in 1624 as a small brick château, it has been enlarged, modified and decorated for over 1.5 centuries until it became the colossal palace it is today: a model for the perfect royal residence.

Own impression

Annick: I visited the palace on a schooltrip, with 150 15 year olds to watch over. Therefore, inside the palace, I didn't notice all that much, since I was trying to keep track of my group of students. Not losing them in the mass of Japanese and American tourists was quite an assignment ;-) Making them not touch anything even harder ;-) In the gardens they got some free time, and so did I. I'm not all that fond of old furniture and golden ceilings, so the palace itself is not my cup of tea. The gardens are beautiful though, pitty the fountains didn't work.
My revisit was with Maarten, Febe & Túrin. I decided to focus on the park around Versailles. It was unknown to me and it was the only place our dog was allowed. I quite enjoyed my visit there. Strolling around the park and taking a look at the outside of the smaller castles was relaxing. The best part for me was the dreamlike world Marie Antoinette created for herself in les Hameaux de la Reine. I think every visitor to the castle should take more time out and explore the grounds around the gardens some more: they are well worth the effort!

Maarten: I visited the palace and gardens for the first time during a schooltrip when I was 16. Although I remember being rather overwhelmed by the grotesquery of the palace's interior, it didn't really leave a long-lasting impression. Coming back here in 2013, it were the gardens that impressed me the most. Our visit was too short though. I entered the palace with Febe, while Annick and Túrin explored the gardens. Obvioulsy, Febe lost her interest in the rather extensively decorated rooms within half an hour, and was being her silly self for the remainder of the visit. Although extremely cute, this didn't make the visit very easy and taking photographs became quite difficult. We did have a lot of laughs though, which made up for the hassle. Funniest moment: when Febe was queing with me to enter the grands appartements, while standing on my feet the whole time. The day ended in rain, so I couldn't visit the Hameau de la Reine, which I must admit I regret now, seeing the wonderful pictures my wife took.


Guard house at the entrance of the gardens (Allée des Matelots).

View of the palace from the gardens, with the bassin d'Apollon in the front.

Le Bassin du Nord and the north wing of the palace.

Febe enjoying herself on the Royal Court..

Relaxing on the steps of the Marble Court.

The Royal Court - view on State Apartments (first floor) and Mesdames' Apartments (ground floor).

Sunlight patterns at the upper level of Versailles' chapel.

The king's bedroom: I really wonder if it wasn't too bright to sleep in...

Hall of Mirrors. Quite a miracle I could find a moment when there were only 100 people in the picture...

The impressive Battles Gallery.

How romantic! Rowing boats on the Grand Canal.

The Grand Trianon.

Happy family in front of the Petit Trianon.

Fierce guard dog Túrin to defend Marie-Antoinette's Petit Trianon.

A world within a world within a world: the Hameau de la Reine.

Maison du Garde (Hameau de la Reine).

The Mill (Hameau de la Reine).

Vineyard (Hameau de la Reine).

Febe enjoying the sun in the Hameau de la Reine.

The Allée Royale and the palace after a heavy shower. Note the rainbow.

Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière & Place d'Alliance in Nancy

Added to the list in 1983 - visited by Maarten in 1996 and by Annick in 2004. Re-visited by Maarten, Annick and Febe in 2013.

Nancy is the oldest and most typical example of a modern capital, combining practicality for the inhabitants with the prestige and grandeur for its ruler. The city centre with its three squares (Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance) was constructed in the 18th century for the Duke of Lorraine, the Polish prince Stanislas Leszczynski. The alterations that were made at this time, directed by the architect Héré, fused the old and the new city of Nancy. It is considered a masterpiece of the creative mind.

Own impression

Annick: My first time in Nancy was only a quick stop along the way south to Courchevel in the French Alps. We made sure we had the time for a more elaborate stop the second time around. We strolled around in the area of the three squares that make up the worldheritage site. It was a clouded summer day and people where slowly gathering in the city centre because of an ongoing outdoor classical musical festival (Nancyphonies). This certainly added to the atmosphere a lot. I quite liked strolling around there. Most people just visit Place Stanislas, because of its golden fountains and fences and its impressive buildings. I quite liked the lesser known Place d'Alliance though. Reminded me a bit of Place des Vosges in Paris.

Maarten: My first visit to Nancy was short: when I came back from Strasbourg (schooltrip in 1996), our bus stopped briefly at Place Stanislas for us to be able to take some pictures (although it seems I don't have any from that time). I didn't really bother much in those days. I am glad we made a second visit to the city and its 3 heritage squares. Although it really still isn't my favourite architectural style, the two "greener" squares (Pl. de la Carrière and Pl. d'Alliance) made up for the rather formal Place Stanislas. On this latter square, it were the details of the fountains' sculptures and the triumphal arch which I liked the most. And I really need to add here that, although not all World Heritage, the city has much more beautiful places to be explored...


Beautiful lantern at Place Stanislas.

City Hall of Nancy on Place Stanislas.

Neptune's fountain by Guibal (Place Stanislas).

Arc de Triomphe by Héré, leading to Place de la Carrière.

View of the top of the impressive Arc de Triomphe.

Entrance of Place de la Carrière.

Febe's first photograph: mom and dad on Place de la Carrière.

Fountain of Amphitrite by Guibal (Place Stanislas).

Detail of Guibal's fountain of Amphitrite.

Febe relaxing after a long walk (background: city hall).

Place d'Alliance.

Detail of the fountain on Place d'Alliance.

Selfie in a hemisphere (at Place d'Alliance).

Pont du Gard (Roman aqueduct)

Added to the list in 1985- visited by Maarten in 1994 and Annick in 2003

The Pont du Gard is part of a Roman aqueduct, once leading fresh water from Uzès to Nîmes (almost 50 km long!). It is an architectural masterpiece built around 19 B.C. During the Middle Ages it was used as a passenger crossing for pedestrians over the river Gard.

Own impression

Annick: I visited the Pont du Gard by taking a long walk leading up to the aquaduct in the end, and I can only say: if you have the time, do so as well. It is a way nicer approach than drive up to the (expensive; 15€) parking site and walk the 100m amongst masses of tourists.
The bridge is an amazing reminder of Roman times, and the fresh, cold water of the Gard is a welcome refreshment after the long walk. A must-see if you are anywhere nearby in the Provence. Take a pic-nic if you can, and put on your bathing suit. One of the nicest places in Europe to go for a swim!

Maarten: Together with the boy's choir of my secondary school, I went to the Pont du Gard when we visited the nearby choir of Bagnols-sur-Cèze. Standing on top of this huge Roman structure was great and exciting. I also enjoyed the sights and scents of the Provence scenery, with its herbs and rocky underground around it.


Arrived at the end of our walk: the Pont du Gard in all it's glory!

Roman architectural masterpiece.

One of the nicest spots in Europe to take a refreshing swim.

Maartens picture, with the choir group. No digital cameras in that era yet ;-)


Grande Île - Strasbourg

Added to the list in 1988 - visited by Maarten in 1995 and by Annick in 1997. Re-visited by Maarten, Annick and Febe in 2013.

The island of Grande Île forms the historical centre of Strasbourg. It houses a cathedral, four ancient churches and the Palais Rohan, which was the former residence of the prince-bishops. It is a perfect example of a medieval town and it gives us an idea of 15th-18th century Strasbourg.

Own impression

Annick: The first time I visited Strasbourg was on a schooltrip, visiting the European parliament. I have no pictures of that trip and only vaguely remembered what it looked like. Coming back from Firenze, we practically passed there, so it was a good idea to stretch our legs after a long night driving home. The city centre was pretty remote (we were there quite early in the morning) and it felt very relaxed there. The cathedral is massive and it's quite impossible to get it into one picture. I mostly loved the waterfronts in the city.

Maarten: as a 16-year old, I had a serious interest in old buildings. However, my interest stopped somewhere at the end of the Roman empire. So Strasbourg was not really my cup of tea. However, in those days I reckoned the Cathédrale-de-Notre-Dâme de Strasbourg to be the most beautiful cathedral I had ever seen. Although it seems to be incomplete (one tower missing), it's an immense structure and it is delicately decorated. I came back here in 2013, after a whole night of driving. I was quite desoriented and extremely tired, but we needed to get some fresh air and Strasbourg was on our road, so we decided to stop here for a few hours. The cathedral disappointed me. On the other hand, I really loved the waterfront along the river, with the swans adding to the elegance of the whole picture.


Febe standing in the quartier des Tonneliers.

Medieval houses in the city centre.

Mother and daughter in front of the cathedral.

The picture Annick was taking in the photograph on the left.


The beautiful portal of the Strasbourg cathedral.

Statues at the cathedral's entrance.
Statues at the portal Saint-Laurent.
Funny though sad-looking gargoyle.

Two evil-looking gargoyles.

Sheepy gargoyle.

Front of the Palais Rohan.

Palais Rohan inner court.

Elegant swan on the river Ill.

The 15th century Kammerzell House.

Paris, banks of the Seine

Added to the list in 1991 - visited by Maarten, Annick & Túrin in 2009

The world heritage in Paris coveres the whole area of the river banks of the Seine, who are packed with masterpieces. The Louvre, the Eiffeltower, Place de la Concorede, Notre-Dâme, Sainte-Chapelle, the Arc du Triomphe... It is hard to decide which one has the most "grandeur"!

Own impression

Annick: Ah! Paris! For me this was my 6th visit to Paris, a city that always feels like my second home... Without any doubt it is the most beautiful city in the entire world, at least in my humble opinion. I've seen the city in summer, fall and winter - even at Christmas time. Now only springtime is on my list! It is hard to say which is the nicest spot, but I'm quite fond of the Jardin du Luxembourg and the plaza with the enormous fountain in front of the St. Sulpice.
If you visit Montmartre, don't forget to stop by the magnificent little Dalí museum, just around the corner of Place du Tertre. Oh, and eat out in the evenings in the Quartier Latin.

Maarten: I've been in Paris twice. The first time, I hated it (schooltrip), but fortunately my wife convinced me to do a second trip, which was great! Túrin suffered slightly from the heat, but there are enough fountains in the city to keep the dog happy ;-) Paris mixes cosy places (Place du Tertre), world class musea (the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musée d'Orsay, small Dalí museum...) and magnificent historical buildings (needless to say...). I especially loved the atmosphere at Montmartre, the Kandinsky exhibition at Centre Pompidou and the Sainte-Chapelle (although I only visited that one on the schooltrip).


The Louvre. Both stunning on the inside & outside!

Place de la Concorde, a fluffy puppy & the Eiffel tower.

Love at the Moulin Rouge.

Le Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, hate it or love it. We personally love it :-)

The rooftops of Paris, seen from Centre Pompidou.

Historic centre of Avignon

Added to the list in 1995 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Túrin & Febe in 2011

In the 14th century, pope Clemens the V refused to go to Rome and settled in Avignon. There it was that he and his successors built the Palais des Papes, de Notre-Dame des Doms and the Petit Palais. The Pont St. Bénezet is one of the most important medieval bridges in Europe and collapsed several times after flooding of the river Rhône.

Own impression

Annick: I enjoyed Avignon a lot, although the city is not really dog-friendly (Túrin couldn't even acces the gardens on the hill next to the Palais des Papes, and so couldn't we...) and it was a bit crowded there because of an ongoing festival. Beautiful place though, especially the bridge just outside the very thick walls. Le Pont Bénezet, from the famous song... and no, we didn't dance.

Maarten: I've been here two times: once in 1994 (boy's choir trip again) and in 2011 (with my family). Loved it both times, although the second time I was more aware of the background of this city and was able to appreciate the city more as a whole, and not only as the Palais des Papes + the Pont St. Bénezet. During my second visit, a streetfestival was going on in the city. Túrin didn't really appreciate the loud voices and drums, but the festival produced a relaxed atmosphere.


Pont St. Bénezet.

Our two polar bears at the pont.

Maarten at the Palais des Papes.

The Palais des Papes under a bright summer sky.

Arles, Roman and Romanesque monuments

Added to the list in 1981 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Túrin & Febe in 2011

This city is packed with old Roman buildings (the theatre and arena, the baths of Constantinople, Les Alyscamps). Within the city walls the church of St. Trophime is one of the most important romanesque monuments of the Provence.

Own impression

Annick: striking me the most in this nice city was the fact that it is much smaller than I would have thought, and that the Roman theatre is made of very white stones, which makes it stand out in the long list of ancient Roman theatres. Cosy city, well worth a visit!

Maarten: I knew Arles as the city of Van Gogh, but it has so much more to offer. If you are looking for Roman architecture, this is the place to go. It has it all: a theatre, an amphitheatre, a Roman graveyard, a Roman bath house, and the beautiful Saint Trophime church close to the city hall. Although it was a rainy day, this city really warmed our hearts with Provence atmosphere...


Febe at the amphitheatre.

Maarten & Túrin at the amphitheatre.

The Roman baths.

The theatre.

Saint Trophime on a rainy moment...


Episcopal city of Albi

Added to the list in 2010 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin in 2011

The episcopal city of Albi is dominated by a Tolkienesque church, rising above the old city. Following the crusades against the Cathars in the 13th century, the importance of the city grew. The town lays on the river banks of the Tarn.

Own impression

Annick: For me this was the discovery of our France-trip that year. A beautiful city, almost completely undiscovered by tourists, so it seemed. Albi has a very cosy town centre alongside of the riverbanks. I wouldn't have minded spending more time there than we did! The pictures say it all... Stop by if you get a chance!

Maarten: If I hadn't known about UNESCO World Heritage, I would probably never have been to this place. Fortunately, we were able to visit this little town with its narrow streets. Pittoresque is the word here, except for the mastodont of a cathedral towering above the city, which indeed has the impresion of being inhabited by Sauron himself... The aquaduct-like bridges over the river Tarn are an ideal site for taking many (!) pictures of this reddish town.


A narrow street in Albi.

The cathedral next to the river Tarn.

Hillside with cathedral.

The cathedral, seen from the other side.

Roman theatre and its surroundings and the triumphal arch of Orange

Added to the list in 1981 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin in 2011

The triumphal arch of the city of Orange is one of the most interesting and best preserved from the time of emperor Augustus. The antique theathre had a capacity of 10.000 spectators and is still being used these days.

Own impression

Annick: on a rainy day in the region of Arles we headed out for Orange, bathing in sunlight. A very cosy town, with a big theatre built alongside a hill (which makes it very uneasy to photograph...). The theatre is still used for many (classical) concerts each summer.
The Roman Arch just outside the town centre is very nice as well.

Maarten: it must have been one of our most brillioant ideas, visiting Orange. After a long drive from rainy Arles (where we stayed), we found Orange under a blue sky with full sunshine. We found a free (!) parking just next to the triumphal arch, which was undoubtedly the most impressive Roman structure I have seen in the Provence. The Theatre was a bit of a disappointment though, as from the outside you could only see a huge wall. And with Túrin and a tiny Febe joining us, visiting the inside was just not possible. A very nice icecream made up for that though ;-)


The Triumphal Arch.

Febe enjoying our little daytrip :-)

The theatre.

Very nice houses throughout the city.

Historic fortified city of Carcasonne

Added to the list in 1997 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin in 2011

Carcasonne is a typical example of a medieval fortified city, surrounded by massive stone walls. The twelfth century castle was built upon a Roman wall dating back to the 4th century. 

Own impression

Annick: for me the visit was more exciting on the drive to the city than the actual city itself, because the city within the walls was packed with tourists - and having a baby and a dog alongside you is not an easy combination in a medieval city with narrow streets... The views from the outside are maginificent though, and we had a very relaxing lunch there in a nice shady patio.

Maarten: I like the board game better! Superb view from the road below the city (but no chance to park the car for a quick photograph), but inside the city it was all too crowded. Found a nice place to eat though, which was suprisingly calm...


The perfect medieval walls & towers of Carcasonne.

In between the two fortification walls.

Outside the main gate.

View on the main entrance gate.

Amiens cathedral

Added to the list in 1981 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

Notre-Dame of Amiens is one of the largest (height of the ceiling: 42.3m!) classic gothic churches of the 13th century. Because it was built in a short period of time (destroyed by fire and then reconstructed between  1220 and 1288, except for the towers), its style is very uniform and its building plan strikingly coherent. The facade, flanked by 2 huge towers (both without a spire) has three portals, richly decorated with statues. Above these portals, we find a gallery with 22 large statues of the kings of Judah. Inside, the three-story elevation is obvious.

Own impression

Annick: We visited the cathedral of Amiens in fall, and drove up to the town during a very bad fall storm. When we arrived there, the sun was shining and we instantly had a holiday feeling. The city itself felt very relaxed and I quite liked the walk up to the cathedral. I didn't know what to expect, but the building is huge! For me the nicest part were the see-through windows at the right tower. I loved to look at the clouds against the blue sky, through the stone frame.

Maarten: What a beautiful cathedral! I do miss real towers though, i.e. with beautiful spires. Nonetheless, this building is enormous and breathtaking. It towers above the city as a work of giants. However, this colossus is not only impressive in its size, but also in its details. I especially loved the statues in the portals: each one is distinct, with its own personality and its own story. I was amazed by the level of detail and the numerous unexpected and “funny” extras: small devils and other monsters, small people peeping from underneath a statue’s feet etc. The interior is equally impressive (should have taken more pictures), with the verticality of it all emphasizing its height. Beautiful glass windows and delicately decorated sculptures make sure there is always something exciting to be seen.


The cathedral, towering above the city.

Almost too large to fit our photo...

The cathedral in all its glory!

Small girl in a very high building.

Colourful glass-in-lead windows with a lot of detail.

Febe had a real interest in this nicely decorated sculpture.

Detail of the sculpture on the left.

Rows of statues surrounding one of the entrance gates.


The beautiful south portal.

decapitated martyrs Victoricus and Gentian.

¯ Below: central tympanum, showing the last judgment.

Chartres cathedral

Added to the list in 1979 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

The Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres was built in the 12th century and is known as a a reference for French gothic art: both architecture (incl. glass windows of the highest quality) and sculpture. It's the most authentic and most complete remaining example of this style. Moreover, it is an important pilgrimage church, and a major stop on the pilgrimage route towards Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

Own impression

Annick: ah, the cathedral of Chartres. Sometimes our love for worldheritage sites can get a bit crazy, and this is certainly a good example. We failed to visit the cathedral on our way to the South of France, as Maarten explains below. In the fall of 2014 we decided to make a trip to the North of France, and since Maarten felt quite bad he missed out on the cathedral back in 2011, I thought I would add it to the list of things to visit. However, I failed a bit in calculating the time needed to drive up there, so it was already quite late when we arrived. We even only made it just in time to go inside (well, Maarten & Febe did - I stayed out with Túrin). Unlike my dear husband, I loved the lighting outside of the cathedral - and I don't think any of the pictures are bad... ;-) The cathedral has a lovely square in front of it and with the last evening sun shining on it's portals it made me feel quite relaxed, even after the somewhat too long drive up there ;-)

Maarten: Quite some mixed feelings here. We've been here before in 2011, on our way to the south of France. The weather was bad at that moment, and we had a long day of car-ride and traffic jams behind us. It was already getting darker and colder, and we were doubting whether the visit was still a good idea or not. We finally decided to do it, but when we drove into a close-by underground parking, we suddenly realised we had a luggage box installed on the roof of our car, and might not fit under the low ceiling of the garage. Unfortunately, there was no way back and we drove into the garage, completely stressed out. The car fitted, but only with a few milimeters. We didn't feel comfortable anymore and wanted to leave this place as soon as possible. So we drove away from Chartres. Without visiting the cathedral. Again in 2013, we arrived at Chartres in the very late afternoon. This time, though, we parked outside. By the time we could finally enter the cathedral, it was already quite dark outside and very dark inside, which provided for a very mystical atmosphere, but also very bad pictures. I now also realise we only saw the western portal and forgot about the south and north transept. A sign we should come back here once, for a third try?


The cathedral is quite an eyecather, with its two slender towers and its green roof...

Chartres cathedral is one of the stops on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The west façade.

The evening sun sheds its final lights on the rose window of the western façade.

The central portal of the western façade and its tympanum with Christ in Majesty.

Detail of the north portal (western façade): zodiac signs (Cancer and Aries) and labours of the month (harvest and pruning vines).

Jamb statues of the central portal, western façade: old Testament kings and queen.

Tympanum of central portal (west façade): Christ surrounded by the 4 apocalyptic beasts.

Detail of Christ in Majesty.

Palace and park of Fontainebleau

Added to the list in 1981 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

In the 16th century, king François I aimed to expand, modify and decorate this 12th century royal hunting lodge, located centrally in the Fôret de Fontainebleau, a large forest 60 kilometers southeast of Paris. To accomplish this, he attracted many Italian artists to work on the palace. These painters and sculptors inspired a whole generation of French artists, in this way introducing and stimulating the renaissance in France. The palace of Fontainebleau became a popular location for the French court, but its importance as an influence on the evolution of art in Europe is of a much larger scale.

The complex now consists of five courtyards, surrounded by wonderful buildings and gardens. Its construction took many centuries and therefore reflects the style of many consecutive French monarchs, including Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted to transform it into his own alternative for Versailles.

Own impression

Annick: Though the inside of the castle is well, just about like any other castle of that age (think loads of glitter and gold and very rich decorations...), the outside surprised me a lot! The palace looked like a real fairytale when we approached it, and the gardens were just as amazing. I loved the walk in the park there. It was a sunny fall day and there were still a lot of flowers in bloom. The castle is just as close to Paris as the castle of Versailles is, but I don't know anybody that has visited it. A pitty if you ask me - it's just as pretty and has less crowds :-)

Maarten: When I took the first photographs of the palace of Fontainebleau, I quickly realised the shutter of my camera malfunctioned. As a result, I was ‘forced’ to a visit without taking any pictures, a new experience for me. Annick was taking pictures though, and for me it was so much more relaxing… The interior was very richly decorated: a bit too much to my liking. The real beauty could, however, be found in the gardens and basins outside of the castle.


The château as seen from the forest.

Entrance and Cour d'Honneur of Fontainebleau.

Cour d'Honneur, eastern wing and part of the Louis XV wing.

Ministers' wing at Cour d'Honneur, as seen from the famous horseshoe-shaped staircase.

Febe on the horseshoe-shaped staircase of Fontainebleau.

The library at Fontainebleau.

Lush interior of a royal bedroom.

Throne room.

Swans on the carp pond, with the lakeside pavilion in the background.

Gardens and eastern part of the palace.

Palace and gardens.

Febe and Annick playing in Fontainebleau's gardens.

Fountain and gardens in the evening sun.

Provins, town of medieval fairs

Added to the list in 2001 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

The fortified historic town of Provins is important as the only remaining example of a great medieval fair town in the former territory of the counts of Champagne that has preserved its original architecture and urban layout. Situated on the crossroads of the route between Soissons and Troyes to the north and the route to Sens to the south, two important trading routes in the Gallo-Roman period, Provins was ideally located as a venue for great annual, international trading fairs. In this way, it became an important economical link between northern Europe and the Mediterranean.


The design of this town was developed especially for these fairs. Already known since the 9th century, Provins was fortified between the 11th and 13th century, resulting in three sets of fortifications. The 12th century ramparts are still surrounding the Upper Town. This Upper Town is dominated by two 12th century buildings: a stone tower known as the Tour de César, and the Romanesque-Gothic church of Saint-Quiriace. The centre of the Upper Town is the old market square, surrounded by houses that developed in relation to the trading fairs (incl. underground, vaulted storage spaces).

Own impression

Annick:  as always I love medieval towns. I came accross the city of Provins on the internet somewhere in 2012 and I immediately knew it was a town I was going to love. Surrounded by thick walls the upper town of Provins is a combination of cosy streets, beautiful squares and impressive church buildings. I loved the whole concept: the heavy climb to reach the historic centre, the yummy pancakes filled with cheese and ham we had on the square, the stroll around, the lovely shops... I bought my souvenirs from this trip there: rose liquid for in white wine or bubbles and soap with rose petals in it. They seemed to have something with roses in that area, and I really don't mind! It's almost April now and I'm all out of rose liquid... but the soap has still to be started. Each time I use it, it will remind me of a beautiful sunny day in France!

Maarten: The original idea for our fall 2013 France-trip started when we saw a picture of Provins in our World Heritage book. It seemed so extraordinary, and still so close-by, that we needed to visit this town. Our impression beforehand was of a small, cosy, medieval town, a place of serenity. And that's exactly what it turned out to be! In between Versailles and Fontainebleau, our visit to Provins was a moment of relaxation. Of the mind that is, because the narrow streets tend to be quite steep sometimes. Perfect for a simple stroll around, but the town also has quite some highlights to visit, including the eyecatching Tour de César and the ramparts. The hilly surroundings also make for beautiful views and there's a nice Breton pancake shop right at the Place du Châtel. Also don't forget to buy a rose product: it's typical for this region.


Tower and part of the ramparts. Notice the beautiful surroundings!

Ramparts in the sun.

Fortified gate, as seen from within the town.

Place du Châtel and a family of travelers...

Maarten in search of Breton pancakes: our lunch for that day.

Beautiful medieval house at Place du Châtel.

Enjoying Breton pancake at Place du Châtel.

The 12th century covered market known as the Tithe Barn (Grange aux Dimes).

Leaving the Place du Châtel for further exploration of medieval Provins.

Information sign on the outside wall of the Tithe Barn.

Tour de César and the Romanesque-Gothic church of Saint-Quiriace, with a vineyard in the front.

Febe, her sandwich, her crocodile and the Tithe Barn.

Tour de César on a sunny day.

Saint-Quiriace church in the autumn sunlight.

Dome of the Saint-Quiriace, behind colourful branches...

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, former abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims

Added to the list in 1991 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

These three 12th-13th century buildings played an important historical role in the coronation ceremony of the French monarchy, which took place in Reims since this period. The central figure here is the 5th-6th century archbishop St.-Rémi, who baptized Clovis and instituted the consecration of French kings. He is buried in the former Benedictine abbey.

The coronation itself took place in the impressive cathedral of Notre-Dame. With its construction also came the introduction of new architectural techniques and the harmonious integration of sculptural decoration of a monumental character. Sculptures take up an important place in this cathedral, even more so than in Amiens or Chartres. To ensure a maximum of light penetration into the cathedral’s interior,  the architects focused on greater lightness of the structural elements and a higher number of stained glass windows. In this way, the cathedral became a masterpiece of gothic art (together with the cathedrals of Amiens and Chartres) and an example and influence for later architecture.

The Palais de Tau is the former archiepiscopal palace of archbishop Saint-Rémi. It was rebuilt in the 17th century but still contains some original elements. The banquet following the coronation ceremony was held here.

Own impression

Annick: Actually... I expected more of this cathedral. Don't get me wrong, the outside is pretty magnificent, but on the inside. Well, for the cathedral that has seen the crowning of all the French monarchs, I expected it to be less sober than it actually is. The fact that I had just seen the great cathedral of Amiens a couple of days earlier, might have also played a part in that. Also, the circumstances weren't ideal. It was a very cold and windy day, and since we had Túrin with us, that ment that one had to wait outside with him, while the other one went in together with Febe. The place in front of the cathedral was quite crowded and Túrin doesn't like waiting around... ;-) Not the best circumstances for a relaxed feel. So I guess that also adds to the whole "not-my-best-worldheritage-experience" ;-)

Maarten: We stopped in Reims on our way back from a short stay in the north of France. We had just driven through the most magical early morning landscape with misty valleys in between hills covered in wine fields. Arriving in Reims,  I was immediately impressed by the huge and delicately decorated cathedral. Since I saw the cathedral of Amiens, I can’t help but comparing each cathedral with that one. And I must say: they can compete with each other. I was especially charmed by the animal head sculptures above the main portals. The inside of both the cathedral and the former abbey did not really impress me. The same is true for the Palais de Tau, although I must admit we did not visit the inside. Our stay here was short, and we might need to come back to take a closer look, especially to the interior of these buildings.


A majestic cathedral indeed!

Three travelers and the cathedral of Notre-Dame.

Western façade of Notre-Dame cathedral: north portal and tower.

Western façade of Notre-Dame cathedral: south portal.

Detail of sculptural decoration (western façade).

Notre-Dame cathedral: western façade, south portal: figures of left jamb.

Eastern side of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

Rose window as seen from inside (cathedral Notre-Dame).

Palais de Tau.

Former abbey of Saint-Rémi.

Sober interior of the former abbey of Saint-Rémi.

The baptism of Clovis: sculpture near the former abbey of Saint-Rémi.


Belfries of France

Added to the list in 1999 - visited by Maarten, Annick, Febe & Túrin (2013)

The 56th Belfries of Belgium and the North of France are belltowers of medieval origin (all built between the 11th and the 17th century), representing the transition from feudalism towards mercantile urban society. In this sence, they are strong symbols of the rise of civil liberties in the Middle Ages. Most of them are attached to the town hall or church.

Own impression

Annick: I must say I do like to explore this part of the world heritage. I have a keen interest in the middle ages, and these belfries are a reminder of the wealth the city had in medieval times. Moreover, the idea that they were also watchtowers in those days, from where guards would spot all kinds of danger, always excites my imagination.

Maarten: Up till now, we've only visited the belfries of Amiens and Cambrai. The one in Amiens seemed so small (and almost cute), especially in comparison to the cathedral we visited the same day. We saw the belfry in Cambrai on a cold, rainy day: just stepped out of the car, took some pictures and went quickly back to the warmth of our car. So for the moment: not entirely impressed (seen much more beautiful examples in Belgium).


Belfry of Amiens.

Belfry of Cambrai, on a cold and rainy day.

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