Turn your vacations into a fairytale with these ten incredible castles you can visit in France. For the history and architecture lovers but also for the wanderlust inside us, visiting a French castle will add a touch of magic to your holiday.
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1 – Chambord Castle
Chambord is by far my favorite French castle. It’s magnificent, and it’s fully furnished, entering it feels like going back in time. The construction started in 1519 under François the First and was completed in 1685 under Louis the 14th. It’s a great site to visit to discover Renaissance architecture. The castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Castle can easily be visited from Paris as a day trip via public transportation. Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm from October to March and from 9 am to 6 pm for the rest of the year. The entrance fee is €14.5, and it’s free for minors under 18. More info on the official website.
2 – Versailles Palace
Not far from Paris, the famous Versaille Palace stands. It was built during the 17th century, first by Louis the 13th to serve as a hunting lodge and later on by Louis the 14th who turned it into a palace and made it the official royal residence.
It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must-visit if you’re in Paris. The gardens are also spectacular and deserve a visit.
The palace is closed on Mondays, and opened from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (the ticket office closes at 4.50 pm). The basic entrance fee is 20€ (buy your ticket on the official website) The garden and the park are open every day from 8 am to 6 pm, the entrance is free.
3 – Fontainebleau Castle
The Fontainebleau castle was first mentioned as a royal castle in 1137 but is far more ancient than this. It has been modified a lot through the centuries and from its modest origin not much remains today. The Renaissance era is when the most notable changes have been made to accommodate the King and his family.
It’s now a famous tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Castle has been incredibly well preserved and is magnificent.
Easily accessible from Paris via public transportation. Closed on Tuesdays, open from 9:30 am to 5 pm from October to March and from 9:30 am to 6 pm the rest of the year. Entrance fee: €12. Check out the official website for more info.
4 – Vaux-Le-Vicomte Castle
Vaux-Le-Vicomte Castle, built in the 17th century, is a place rich in history. In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet, a young parliamentary, bought this small domain to turn it into one of France’s most beautiful castle and garden. Accused of treason in 1661, Fouquet is sentenced to life in prison and Louis the 14th confiscates everything inside the castle. After many battles, Mrs. Fouquet manages to get a hold back on the castle only to sell it in 1705. Left more or less to fall in ruins after this, it is bought in 1875 by Alfred Somier, who undertook tremendous renovation work. His family still owns the castle today.
Open every day from 10 am to 7 pm (ticket booth closes at 5 pm). Every Saturday from May to September the castle closes at midnight for the candlelight visits. They usually close during winter for their annual vacation, check out their website first. The entrance fee is €16.90. It’s easy to get there from Paris via public transportation (line P from Gare de l’Est).
5 – Vincennes Castle
The Chateau de Vincennes is a great example of medieval castles’ architecture. Built in the 14th century, it’s the most prominent royal fortified castle left in France and one of the tallest plain fortresses in Europe.
Open every day from 10 am to 5 pm from September to May and from 10 am to 6 pm for the rest of the year. The entrance fee is €9 and is free for minors. Easily accessible from Paris with the metro line 1. Check their website for more info.
6 – Carcassonne Castle
If you haven’t heard about Carcassonne (southern France) yet, then you should consider adding it to your travel bucket list. This medieval fortified city has been left practically untouched for centuries, even though people live there. It’s also Europe’s largest medieval city with its city walls still intact.
You can roam around the streets freely, the Cathar castle and its walls can be visited from 9 am to 5 pm (6:30 pm during summer). The entrance fee is €9.
7 – Chenonceau castle
Chenonceau’s history is marked by women and is the most feminine castle you’ll see in France. It was incorporated in the Crown estate in 1535 by Francis the First and was later gifted by Henry II to his Favourite, Diane de Poitier. After his death, Queen Catherine de Medicis quickly re-took possession of the castle and transferred the court there. Later on, when Henry the third died, his widow moved in there.
In the 18th century, the castle was bought by Mr. Dupin; his wife turned it into a famous literary salon. She participated in the first draft of the Code of Women’s Rights, and Jean Jacques Rousseau was her secretary.
In the 19th century, the castle, then home to Madame Perouze, was the stage of her ruin and of the French President resignation, when his son in law (Madame Perouze brother) was accused of embezzlement. The family owning it today bought it after that.
The entrance fee is €14.5 (free for children under 7), add €4 for an audio guide. The castle is open every day, check out the full schedule here. You can get there by train from Paris in under an hour.
8 – Villandry Castle
Villandry castle was built during the Renaissance under François the First and is one of the last great castles constructed in the Loire area. The main asset of this castle, apart from its architecture, is its gardens, which contributed significantly to its fame. They are magnificent, a true piece of art.
The entrance fee is €11 (free for children under 8). Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm (later in summer), check out the full schedule here. Easily accessible from Paris by train.
9 – Castelnaud Castle
Castelnaud is the most-visited castle in Southern France. This Cathar castle, built in the 12th century, was the stage of many historical events, it saw the crusade against the Albigeois, the Hundred Years’ War, the religious wars, and much more. It was more or less left to fall into ruins after the French revolution until 1966 when it was classified as a National Historic Monument and was heavily restored.
The castle is open every day; opening time varies with the seasons, check out the full schedule here. During summer, they organize candlelight visits and shows. The entrance fee is €10.90 and is free for children under 10.
10 – Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle
Located in Alsace (Eastern France), this 12th-century castle is rich in history. Entering through its main gate, you’ll find yourself teleported right into the Middle Ages and its lifestyle. The Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is the perfect example of a Germanic fortified castle. It has been well restored, is fully furnished, and the view of the valley from there is amazing.
If you’re in the area, check out Metz, a lesser-known French city with a touch of German culture.
The castle is open every day from 9:15 am to 6 pm during high season (check out their full schedule here). The entrance fee is €9 and is free for children under 6. There’s a shuttle bus to the castle from the railway station of Sélesta.
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