There are many impressive castles in France to visit! It’s difficult to visit the country without stopping to seeing at least one of them.
Many of these castles used to be fortresses of some sort, but are now just representations of the country's past. The castles typically have beautiful gardens and many still have their original furniture in some rooms inside. Most of these castles will cost you a small fee to visit and you could also choose to enjoy one of the audio tours if you would like to learn more about the history.
Here are 17 of the best castles in France.
The Best Castles in France
Below you will find a list of castles in France. From the best Loire Valley castles to the best castles in Normandy, Brittany and the South of France. There are so many pretty castles in France. In my opinion, Le Mont Saint Michel belongs on the list of the most beautiful castles in the world! Make sure to include at least some of them on your France itinerary!
1. Château de Chambord
Our favourite of the Loire Valley chateaux and in our opinion one of the most beautiful castles in France! The construction of Château Chambord began in the 16th century and it took close to three decades for it to be completed. It once housed the Mona Lisa and other collections from the Louvre to keep them safe during World War II.
The Chambord castle is absolutely beautiful and it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its Renaissance architecture. I felt like a real princess whilst exploring this gorgeous fairytale castle!
2. Cité de Carcassonne
The Carcassonne castle is one of France’s oldest castles and for over 5,000 years it has been occupied. Some of the walls of it date back to the 5th century. During the 17th century, much of it started to decay and a restoration project fixed much of this in the 19th century.
Today, the Chateau de Carcassonne become a beloved landmark as one of the most popular castles in the south of France.
3. Château du Haut Kœnigsbourg
Located in Orschwiller, the Haut Koenigsbourg castle proved to be able to protect its inhabitants during intruders throughout the years. It’s was used quite a bit from the Middle Ages to the Thirty Years’ War and was then abandoned. It is one of the most visited medieval castles in France!
It was rebuilt from 1900 to 1908 and it is now just a tourist attraction and one of the most visited castles in Alsace. It receives around half a million visitors each year.
4. Château de Bonaguil
Owned by Fumel, this castle was once a French commune of Saint-Front-Sur-Lemance. In 1862 it became classified as a historic monument.
5. Château de Pierrefonds
Located northeast of Paris, Chateau Pierrefonds receives many visitors each year. Today it still has some of the defensive military architecture that was commonly seen in the Middle Ages. It started to deteriorate and in the 19th century it underwent a restoration, but much of the original character of the Pierrefonds castle still remains.
6. Château de Chenonceau
A second favourite of the castles in Loire Valley. Chateau of Chenonceau was built in 1514 with it’s foundation being on an old mill. There have also been some expansion projects on the castle throughout the years. To make it easily accessible, from 1556 to 1559 a bridge was built over the river.
What makes the Chenonceau castle so unique is that it was mostly designed by a woman. You can read more about Chateau de Chenonceau in our guide here.
7. Château de Cheverny
This is another popular castle in the Loire Valley. Chateau Cheverny is known for it’s Grand Salon paintings and tapestries. Among these are portraits made by Hyacinthe Rigaud and Jean Clouet.
8. Chaumont Sur Loire
The most charismatic of the chateaux of the Loire Valley. Founded during the 10th century, Chateau Chaumont ended up being passed to knight, Norman Gelduin. It then was passed down to his great-granddaughter and then became a dowry to Sulpice d’Amboise, who was her husband.
It continued to be passed down to the Amboise family for over 500 years. Louis XI order the destruction of it when Pierre d’Amboise rebelled against him. Charles l d’Amboise had it rebuilt in the 15th century. Since 1840 it has been a historic monument and now is protected. The state has owned the Chaumont Chateau since 1939.
9. Château de Chantilly
The Chateau Chantilly consists of two buildings: the Petit Chateau and the Grand Château. The former was built in 1560. During the French Revolution, the Grand Chateau was destroyed but rebuilt sometime in the 1870s. It is currently owned by the Institut de France and is open to the public so tourists can take a tour of it.
10. Château de Vitre
One of the 11th-century castles in Brittany, France. This castle was originally a wood fortress and was very susceptible to fires and needed repairs often. During the 15th-century, it was expanded and an imposing tower, drawbridge and a gatehouse were added. The castle was bought by the town in 1820 and today a town hall and museum are located here.
11. Château de Roquetaillade
For more than 700 years the same family has lived in the Roquetaillade castle. It’s open to the public and since 1956 many people have visited it. Some of the more popular things to see are the production of the Graves wines and the cattle breeding. The owners will meet with visitors from time to time.
12. Château de Villandry
The Chateau Villandry has become known for its lush gardens. King Philip II of France had peace negotiations at the castle with Richard I of England in the 14th century. During the 17th century, the Villandry castle became a fortress against attackers.
13. Château de Vaux le Vicomte
Located in Maincy, construction on this castle started in 1658. Louis Le Vau designed the castle while Andre le Notre designed the landscape and Charles Le Brun was in charge of the decorating. Louis XIV oversaw this and it marked the beginning of what we would know of “Louis XIV Style” as it’s was the first time that there was such a collaboration of everything from the actual building design to the landscape and interior.
14. Château de Fontainebleau
Chateau Fontainebleau is one of the largest castles in France. Numerous monarchs have lived here including Napoleon III and Louis VII. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national museum.
15. Château d’Angers
If you are trying to find the best castles in Southern France, you can't go bast Chateau d'Angers. The construction on this castle started in the 9th century. It is located on a Roman settlement that was abandoned.
The famous Tapestry of the Apocalypse is located here. The tapestries illustrate events from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The castle also features 17 watchtowers that are constructed out of black stone. Guided tours of this castle are available.
16. Château de Vincennes
This castle has an interesting beginning as it was once Louis VII’s hunting lodge. During the 14th century, it became heavily fortified. During the 15th century an outer wall was added and now there are two drawbridges and a moat. The royal chapel of the castle is open to the public.
17. Le Mont Saint Michel (Technically Not a Castle)
Located off of the coast of Normandy, Mont Saint Michel is definitely one of the famous “castles” in France. So much so that over 3 million people visit it every year. This makes it one of the most popular attractions in the country.
Technically Le Mont Saint Michel it isn't a castle, it is an island commune, but many tourists refer to it as a castle, so we thought we would include it here.
Interestingly, Mont Saint Michel became a refuge for Christian pilgrims in the 9th century and then was used as a prison by the French monarch in the 15th century and beyond.
Over to You:
- Which of these castles in France would you like to visit the most?
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