Fond of the Middle Ages, their mysteries and monuments full of history? Also keen on kings and the way they left their mark on their time? Here is a top 10 French castles which will fulfil your curiosity about the most stunning French architectural creations.
1. Versailles Palace
In order to avoid any rebellion against his reign, King Louis XIV built a magnificent castle in Versailles for his court and himself. They settled there from 1682, and the palace still is an important sign of the greatness of France. With its renowned Hall of Mirrors, King’s apartments, but also Palace of the Grand Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s Estate and its sumptuous gardens, it is without a doubt an outstanding castle nobody should miss.
2. Vaux le Vicomte Castle
Located in the south-east of Paris, this 17th century castle was designed by Nicolas Fouquet, in charge of Finance under the reign of Louis XIV. It was actually used as a model for the construction of the Château de Versailles, which already implies how beautiful this castle is. Don’t miss its French gardens designed by Le Nôtre, which will leave you as relaxed as admiring.
3. Fontainebleau Castle
Here is a castle which has known many different ages. Its construction probably began in the 12th century and it housed French Kings such as François Ier. With its classical, Renaissance, medieval but also Italian styles, it is a must-see near Paris, particularly because it is surrounded by a beautiful parc and the very popular Fontainebleau Forest.
4. Chantilly Castle
Originally a medieval fortress, then damaged during the French Revolution, this castle knew a great revival in the 1880’s thanks to the descendant of the last French King Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Aumale. Full of its personal collections, it was left by the duc himself in 1885 to the Institute of France. It has now become the “Condé Museum” and is also surrounded by gorgeous French gardens designed by Le Nôtre.
In the Loire Valley
5. Chambord Castle
Our top 10 French Castles continues with the biggest castle of the Loire Valley: Chambord. It was built in the 16th century by King François Ier, who used to spend a lot of time there. The magnificence of its surroundings but also of its architecture, which is said to originate partly from De Vinci’s imagination, caused its registration at the UNESCO World Heritage in 1981.
6. Chenonceau Castle
This Renaissance castle, nicknamed the “Ladies’ castle”, housed many duchesses and queens such as Diane de Poitiers or Catherine de Medicis, who both have dedicated gardens there. Particularly known for its galleries on the Cher river, it is the second most visited castle just after Versailles, and its splendour tells us why.
7. Cheverny Castle
A heritage transmited through ages within the same family, this classical castle from the 17th century was the first to be opened to the public in 1922. It is a huge estate with a botanical garden, parks, doghouses and even a 3D museum about the “Moulinsart castle” used by Hergé in his Tintin cartoons.
8. Ussé Castle
Also known as the “Sleeping Beauty Castle” because Charles Perrault took inspiration from it for his tale, its medieval and Renaissance style make it a very unique castle. Although private, it is open to public visits and its Le Nôtre gardens are as worth a visit as the stunning castle.
9. Villandry Castle
Registered in the UNESCO World Heritage, the great renown of this castle is mainly due to its gardens divided into 4 terraces : the sun garden, the water garden, the decoration garden and the vegetable garden. The last Renaissance castle built along the river Loire, the harmony of its estate makes it a must-see.
10. Blois Castle
Domicile of many French Kings it is also called the “Royal Castle.” This castle is an extraordinary exhibition of how the French architecture changed through the years. You can distinguish 4 styles from the “cour d’honneur”: medieval with the 13th century fortress, gothic with Louis 12’s wing, Renaissance with François Ier’s wing, and classic with Gaston d’Orleans’ wing. And don’t miss the monumental double helix staircase!
So if you liked this top 10 French Castles, what are you waiting for? Go satisfy your curiosity!