France is dotted with countless picturesque castles and fortified towns, all of which have fascinating history to tell. As a French speaker, you’ll know that the country is famed for its castles, which are called chateaux (if you’re not). There are castles from many times and styles, although most of them were erected in the medieval or Renaissance period. A must-see for tourists who don’t like Paris’ bright city lights. Take a look at our selection of France’s most stunning castles.
1. Château de Versailles
The final residence of France’s king. The Palace of Versailles is unquestionably France’s most recognizable fortress. The last French king, Louis XVI, lived here until the monarchy was overthrown in 1789. It’s about 20 kilometers southwest of Paris. The palace is situated in a 1,070-hectare park surrounded by beautiful French gardens, and it measures 67,000 square meters. A single structure can’t hold as many opulent amenities as this one. There are 700 rooms, 1,250 fireplaces, and 67 stairwells. This is where you’ll discover some of the best French art and craft on show, from Hall of Mirrors to the King’s Apartment. If you want to imagine what a king’s day was like, you have to visit this castle.
2. Château de Chenonceau
After King Henry II’s death, his wife Catherine de Medici evicted his mistress Diane de Poitiers from the chateau and took up residence there herself. The moniker “Le Château des Dames” was coined because it was ruled by women. Known for its arched bridge across the Cher, it is a well-known Loire chateau.
It was built by Charlemagne the Great more over 1,200 years ago, making Roquetaillade Bordeaux’s most popular castle. For more than half a century, the castle has been open to visitors thanks to the efforts of famed gothic revivalist Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Even more intriguingly, the castle has remained the home of one particular clan for almost 700 years, and they haven’t shown any sign of wanting to relocate.
4. Vincennes, Paris’ Castle
We’ve talked a lot about the Loire region’s castles, but what about Paris? Yes, that’s correct! The Vincennes castle, located in Paris’ 12th arrondissement, is one of France’s 10 most beautiful castles.
The medieval fortress of Vincennes is one of the largest in Europe. Tower of Homage and Sainte-Chapelle vicennienne, a Gothic masterpiece, are both included in this enormous complex in addition to the citadel itself.
5. Château de Maintenon
As the private residence of Louis XIV’s second wife, Madame de Maintenon, this beautiful chateau near Eure-et-Loir has become a tourist attraction. Her reign as Queen of France was unofficial because they wed in secrecy.
Andre Le Notre designed the stunning gardens that surround the castle in 1681. The spectacular aqueduct built by Vauban to transport water from the Eure River to Versailles’ fountains can be found at the far end of the grounds. Andre Le Notre designed the castle’s gardens in 1681. The aqueduct at the end of the gardens was created by Vauban to convey water from the Eure River to the fountains of Versailles.
6. Château du Clos Lucé
Clos Lucé, the Amboise chateau where Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked, is located in the Val-de-Loire area of France. Since its inception in 1471, construction on what had been dubbed the “Manoir du Cloux” has been ongoing.
“Details make perfection, and perfection isn’t just a detail,” stated Leonardo da Vinci. Certainly, Clos Luce Castle, which has been painstakingly renovated, falls into this category.
One of Ambroise Dubois’s 1654 copies of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and 40 replicas of the maestro’s inventions are on display. Admire 40 of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings dangling from trees in the park named after him.
7. Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel, a Normandy island about 600 meters (1,968 feet) off the coast, has been an impenetrable fortification since ancient times. In the 9th century, the town was chosen as the site of an abbey, and as a result, Christian pilgrims, the original European tourists, began flocking to the area. From the 15th century onwards, the French monarchy began utilizing the abbey as a jail for some of its most threatening opponents. The site is today one of the most famous tourist destinations outside of Paris, drawing in more than three million visitors each year from both within the country and outside.
Carcassonne, a charming hilltop village, is much more than a castle ruins. A historical treasure, the medieval town has been meticulously conserved. As a prominent town in France’s Languedoc region, Carcassone aided the Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century. As a Cathar sanctuary and tolerant town, it was assaulted by a crusader army on the instructions of the pope because of its tolerance of religious plurality. The town’s strategic location in the border zone between France and Spain has remained vital. Viollet-le-Duc rebuilt the town to its former splendour in the 19th century, when France and Spain were at peace.
9. Château de Chambord
The Loire Valley’s most impressive castle, this is the largest in the region. The Loire Valley’s largest castle, the Château de Chambord, was built in the 16th century amid an immense forested park between Blois and Orléans. The Renaissance-style design of the castle is thought to have been influenced by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Take a picture of the castle reflected in the water from the northwest side of the moat. To understand more about the history of this magnificent fortress built by King Francis I of France, bring along an audio tour tablet.
10. Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Château du Haut-Kingsbourg oozes history in Alsace, a region long contested by nations and empires. The Buntsandstein Rock dominates the Alsatian Plain, and its formation offers views all the way to the Black Forest.
The pink sandstone used in its construction gives it an iridescent sheen when exposed to the sun. In the late 19th century, Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered the reconstruction of the castle, which had been destroyed by the Swedes in the Thirty Years’ War more than two centuries earlier.
11. Château de Chantilly
Designed in the manner of the renaissance, this palace is as intimidating as you’d expect from a 19th-century replica.André Le Nôtre designed the elegant parterres, and the magnificent stables from the 18th century are the originals; they now house a museum dedicated to horses and equestrianism.
Condé Museum of Fine Art, Sculpture and Medieval Manuscript Library are the main attractions within. The Princes of Condé developed a vast art collection over the course of several centuries.
12. Château de Fontainebleau
The Château de Fontainebleau, which dates back to the 12th century, has seen numerous kings, emperors, and presidents add to and expand upon its original design. 1,500 rooms and a sprawling woodland make Fontainebleau Castle one of France’s largest residences, located in the city of Fontainebleau. It was one of Napoléon’s favorite places to stay, and his throne and crown may be seen in the former king’s chamber. Visit the castle and take use of an audio commentary to discover more about its historical significance.