Years before the concept had been clearly defined in other countries, France was passionately committed to historic preservation. The national roster of historic monuments was created in 1837, and the dramatic restoration of Notre Dame by architect Eugene Emmanuel Violet-le-Duc from 1844-1864 awoke the entire country to the importance of protecting and preserving its vast cultural heritage, or patrimoine. France has played a leading role in UNESCO (the cultural arm of the United Nations) since its birth and has taken a proactive international approach to historic preservation.
France currently has some 30 different UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first French sites registered on the list in 1979 include Chartres Cathedral, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay, the Palace and Park of Versailles, the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley and Vézelay, Church and Hill.
One of the loveliest UNESCO sites in France is the Loire Valley (part of which was listed in 2000), stretching west from Sully-sur-Loire along the Loire River to Chalons. The eddying willow-green Loire River courses through lush, unspoiled countryside dotted with spectacular châteaux. Begin a leisurely drive in Sancerre, the famous old wine town, and follow the river to pretty Gien, famous for its ceramics, before continuing to Orléans, where Joan of Arc saved France from the English in 1429. Orléans’
Source: UNESCO IN FRANCE