What comes to your mind when you think of France? Of course, the Eiffel Tower, its endless stretch of vineyards, delicious cuisine, and the mighty castles called châteaux in French. The love capital, which carries a massive chunk of history, has permanent fortifications built over the ages that are hard to miss by any tourist. From steep hilltop châteaux to sprawling walled palaces, these picturesque castles and fortified towns with rich histories are scattered throughout France.
Below are 12 of the most beautiful castles in France to visit on your next holiday.
1. Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly makes an easy getaway from the capital city of Paris. The tourists are rewarded with a magnificent scene on entering the castle grounds. The gardens are a work of art comprising lakes, canals, wooded areas, and manicured lawns. A leisure walk along the park is a must in this castle. There are various themed sites on the castle's grounds to explore. One of France's best art galleries is housed within the palace. At this Château, there is enough to see and do. This is, without a doubt, France's finest castle, and it awaits your arrival!
2. Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is the most famous tourist spot in France. More than 8 million visitors walk through the gates of this palace each year. Situated 10 miles outside of Paris lies this majestic château. Once the seat of power for the French monarchy, it's now a museum showcasing French history. The château boasts a French Baroque style of architecture. It comprises 2,300 rooms, a luxurious park, decorative gardens, and a Grand Canal. The Hall of Mirrors connecting the King and Queen's apartments which is decorated with more than 350 mirrors, is the unmissable part of the palace. The center stage of many critical events in world history, Versailles should be at the top of everyone's list of destinations when visiting Paris.
3. Château de Fontainebleau
Le Château de Fontainebleau is located 55km southeast of Paris and is one of the most splendid castles you will find in the country. Fontainebleau is one of France's largest and most beautiful royal castles today. The Château has a mix of styles, Renaissance and Classicism the most dominant ones. The most impressive spaces are the Gallery of Francis, the Ballroom, and the Chapel of the Trinity, all richly decorated in their own glamor. This castle has the most impressive gardens representing the major landscaping styles of their periods, and the Grand Parterre is the largest in Europe.
4. Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a French walled fortification built around an 8th-century. Started as a monastery, Mont St. Michel is another famous enchanted castle. The most unique thing about this castle is that it was built on a rocky outcrop one mile off the coast, and when the tide comes in, the city becomes an island that's only accessible by boat! Many things will make you love this impressive château – quiet gardens, stunning views, artist studios, and history galore – it's a must-visit on your next trip to France. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel became a renowned academic center, attracting some of Europe's most brilliant thinkers and manuscript writers. Your camera will thank you for visiting this place.
5. Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Located on a rocky promontory 750-meters above the Alsace plain, Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is quite a sight. The original château dates back to the 12th century but has many renovations. The castle attracts over 500,000 visitors each year. Many rooms have been furnished inside the castle, and there is an extensive collection of weapons and armor. The court also features turrets, fortifications, and a watchtower. When visiting the Alsace region of France, Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is well worth a visit.
6. Château d'Annecy
Annex is a small town situated in the south of France that attracts visitors for its beautiful medieval old town adorned with flowing canals. One of the city's prominent landmarks is the Annecy Castle or the Château d'Annecy. Regional sculptures and paintings can be found on display in this castle, and temporary exhibitions are also held in this castle. The terrace of the castle offers breathtaking views of the town rooftops, the shining blue lake of Annecy, and the mountains in the background. The castle sits on a hill and is connected to the old town center through several cobblestone alleys.
7. Château des Milandes
Château des Milandes is a splendid gothic-style castle located in the Dordogne area of South West France. Constructed from the signature honeycomb stone of the site, it's an imposing sight. The castle itself is set on beautiful grounds, and the gardens are listed as historical monuments. It was redesigned into its current grand format in the early 1900s by the head gardener for the City of Paris. A beautiful demonstration of prey birds is likely to take your breath away during the summer months.
8. Château d'Amboise
Château d’Amboise is located in France’s Loire Valley in the charming town of Amboise. The existence of this town dates back to Roman times. Amboise Castle is located in the center of town. The castle, which has become an adobe for travelers, was built upon the foundations of an old fortress—a fact that explains its strategic hilltop location overlooking the Loire River. Château d'Amboise boasts decorated and furnished rooms, beautifully manicured gardens, and passageways and towers. From the top, the castle is built in Gothic 19th-century styles. The top of the castle offers breathtaking views of the surrounding town and its wild river. While inside, you'll find suits of armor, tapestries, colorful stained glass, and everything else you could want in a castle.
9. Château de Val
Located in the Haute-Auvergne region of central France, Château de Val seems to rise out of the artificial lake surrounding it. Although small in stature compared to many on this list, it deserves its spot, not least because of its unique surroundings. The castle itself dates back to the 15th century and stands out as one of the best-preserved castles in the region. It's a popular spot for families in the area and a giant family-friendly castle if you're visiting France with kids. Several events are held throughout the year in the castle, which is quite popular among tourists.
10. Château de Quéribus
Château de Quéribus is a medieval border castle situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is a remote hilltop castle, not easily accessible, and exposed to the elements. Since 1907, the French Ministry of Culture has designated it a historical monument. The ruined walls, towers, and battlements lower down towards the steep crest of a mountain. You can reach the top of the castle via a hiking path. A visit to this castle will reward you with breathtaking views of the majestic mountains. Some of the defensive structures of the ruined castle are also easy to recognize.
11. Château des Baux de Provence
Although only a shadow of their former self, the ruins of Château des Baux are still by far one of the favorite sites to visit in Provence. The grand palace sits high above the rugged landscape of the Alpilles. Situated atop the village of Les Baux de Provence, this 10th-century castle offers its gates for all to take a peep into its rich history. Nowadays, you can still witness the watch demonstrations of medieval craftsmanship and armor on display inside the castle.
12. Cité de Carcassonne
The fortress of Carcassonne is considered one of the most iconic castles in France as it dominates the town. Located in the French city of Carcassonne, the castle gives an overlooking view of the Aude river for a scenic visit. Since the Romans first built walls here, the city relied on its fortress to defend itself from attack. The town decided in the 1840s to remove the little remnants of history, but the inhabitants successfully fought the decision, and the castle was rebuilt instead.
France is more than just high glamor and haute couture. There are an endless number of picturesque sites and castles to visit in the country of the great revolution. The palaces and fortifications around France take us back to the medieval ages and royalty. France welcomes you to take a leap in history and visit the most extraordinary castles found here. Visit leisure.com for more information related to planning your next trip and suggestions!
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