Sail Into History, Part 4: Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Seine River
Updated: Mar 20
Continuing on with my series of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, today I turn my sights on the Seine and its share of cultural and historical gems. Take a trip through the ages as you visit these fabulous sites during your river cruise.
Must-See Seine River Sites
Château de Versailles
Start with the magnificent pomp and circumstance of Château de Versailles, a 2,300-room ode to the glory of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Architect Le Vau, painter Le Brun and landscape gardener Le Nôtre put their talented minds together to create a resplendent royal residence that would serve as the seat of the King’s monarchy. Today, one can attend a concert, show, ball or night fountain display, most times of the year.
The Banks of the Seine
Stroll through 900 years of Paris history, all on a short walk along the Seine river banks. Start at the Pont de Sully, next to the Institut du Monde Arabe, and continue to the Pont d'Iéna by the Eiffel Tower. You’ll pass several important landmarks and monuments that serve as a testament to a storied past, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Palais du Louvre, the Institut de France, the Hôtel des Invalides, the Place de la Concorde, the École Militaire, the Monnaie de Paris, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower, the Palais de Chaillot, the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité.
Château de Fontainebleau, the “House of Ages”
It’s more difficult to imagine who didn’t reside at Château de Fontainebleau than to remember who did throughout the 1,900-room estate’s long history, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance to today. In total, two emperors and 34 sovereigns lived here. The Mona Lisa once hung in the royal art collection here, in a jeweled residence that was once home to François I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie-Antoinette, Catherine de Médicis, Henri IV and other royal notables. Check out the François I gallery, the Emperor’s throne room and Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir.
Visit the Middle Ages in Provins, a 12th-century merchant city east of Paris. The medieval city feels like an open-air museum, with its encircling ramparts, 58 historical monuments (including the 12th-century Caesar Tower) and the 13th-century Grange aux Dîmes market, which drew merchants from throughout Europe. Between April and November, you can catch one of the town’s fun medieval shows, great for all ages.
While not UNESCO World Heritage Sites (yet), I love these two spectacular spots along the Seine.
Giverny: Monet fans won’t want to miss this quiet village where the Impressionist master painted the pond and water lilies next to his peaceful country home and gardens.
Les Andelys: The 12th-century Chateau Gaillard, built by Richard the Lionheart, sits on a horseshoe bend in the river. Walk along the riverside and take in the extensive bucolic landscape views from the castle.
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