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Top 10 French Castles

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.

 

Around Paris

Versailles Gardens, versailles, the gardens, french castles1. 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.

 

french castles2. 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

Fontainebleau, french castles

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

french castles

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

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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

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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

french castles

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 Castlefrench castles

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

Villandry Castle, french castles

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

french castles

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!

 

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Loire Valley, Full Day, Guided Tour, visit paris and france, french castles

Chambord Castle

Château de Chambord is a great example of the splendor of French Renaissance architecture. This massive and popular castle was built starting in 1519 by François I, the French king at that time.

WHAT TO SEE?

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You can see the former king’s, François I’s, apartments both in 17th and 18th century style. The chapel in the western wing of the castle, albeit simple in many ways, bears the marks of three different periods of construction. It took, after all, more than 30 years to complete this castle.

The vaulted ceilings bear the letter F and the symbol of François I. You can also explore the courtyard and the famed double-helix staircase. This staircase was based on sketches done by Leonardo da Vinci. It is very interesting because it was designed so that two people can ascend in sight of one another but without ever meeting.

The terraces of this castle offer magnificent panoramic views of the surrounding Chambord Park. This park was a royal hunting forest and remains the largest enclosed forest in Europe.

HOW TO EXPERIENCE

Chambord Staircase

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Start your visit off by walking through the courtyard and apartments. Absolutely do not miss the view from the terraces or the staircase architectural marvel.

The castle also offers ways to improve your experience at the chateau. You can purchase a guidebook, audio guide, a tour with a digital tablet, or a guided tour. We highly recommend the tour with digital tablet.

Then, if you please, you can visit the forest. The chateau offers 4X4 park visits or you can choose to walk along the canal. You may also rent bikes.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Hours: 9am-5pm (Certain months open till 6pm see website for details).
  • Price: 11€
  • Access: By car, or by train + shuttle/taxi (Frankly this castle is not easy to access without a car, we highly recommend taking our tour instead).

 

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