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France is home to some of the most beautiful castles in the world. The beautiful castles, palaces, and château that you can find dotted all over France are a treasure trove of history, and a delight to explore. If you’re not sure which castles in France to visit on your next holiday, then this list of castles should give you plenty of suggestions for your next trip!
Earlier last year I had an opportunity to visit some of the magnificent castles of southern France. This got me thinking about compiling a list of all the castles that are worth visiting in France and today you’ll get to see the list. Be sure to check out our other Cultured Kiwi Articles from Nazare, Portugal, Chernobyl, Ukraine and even the Tongariro Crossing New Zealand.
The Best Castles in France to Visit
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most well-known monuments in France, drawing in more than 3 million visitors every year. Set against the backdrop of the Normandy shore, Mont Saint-Michel dominates the horizon in an impressive way. In fact, it isn’t actually a castle, but rather a walled city dating back to the 8th century. It was built up around an abbey, and wandering the steep, narrow streets is an experience not to be missed. Take the tour to uncover layer upon layer of fascinating history and see the remains of the original abbey.
If the tides in, the ancient town becomes an island which you’ll only be able to access by boat. There’s something magical about this isle as it becomes isolated from the mainland – see for yourself here in this video below. Mont Saint-Michel was even the inspiration behind Rapunzel’s castle in the Disney movie, Tangled.
In the stunning Loire Valley, the Château d’Angers is a must-see, especially if you’re interested in the medieval art of France. Within the walls, you’ll find gorgeous gardens and buildings dating back 1,000 years, set along the riverfront. You can also see the Apocalypse Tapestry, a famed collection of ancient tapestries based on the Apocalypse as described in the Book of Revelation. See more information here.
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles needs no introduction as it’s one of the most famous French buildings, especially if you’re familiar with the popular TV series, Versailles. Constructed in 1631 as a hunting lodge, but made famous by King Louis XIV, it was the seat of the monarchy and the royal court at the time.
Opulent and spectacular, you’ll be astounded by the rich interiors and the extensive, decorative gardens. Within the 2,300 rooms of the Palace of Versailles, you’ll find a museum of French history. Don’t miss the stunning Hall of Mirrors between the Queen and King’s apartments, where more than 350 mirrors line the walls.
As the Palace hosts more than 8 million visitors each year, you’ll want to arrive early. Pre-book your tickets online for the best deals and to avoid waiting in queues!
Château de Chantilly
The Château de Chantilly is an easy trip to make from Paris, and well worth a visit just for the gardens! So if you’ve seen the sights and want to escape the arrondissements and the city for a while, Chantilly is the perfect destination. There’s plenty to do here, so plan to spend the whole day exploring the grounds and the Château itself.
The Château was owned by the Duke of Aumale, who was a collector of fine arts and compiled one of the most notable collections in all of France. Now you can see his collection for yourself, as the Château de Chantilly holds one of the best art galleries in the country.
The gardens are the star of the estate, though. Divided into different sections, each with their own theme, you could wander all day around this serene, calm gardens. You’ll find quiet, wooded areas contrasted with neatly-manicured lawns, a Chinese garden, a traditional English garden nearby, and much more. Devote a good part of your day at the Château de Chantilly to taking in the grounds in all their splendour.
Carcassonne (My Favourite French Castle)
It’s not just a game! Carcassonne is a medieval walled city, rich with history and watched over by the beautiful Château Comtal. Located in the south of France and not far from the border with Spain, it’s the perfect location for a day trip if you’re staying in Montpellier or Toulouse.
The town of Carcassonne came under attack from a crusader army acting on the orders of the Pope in the 13th century. It was neglected for several centuries before being restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, and now it is a stunning place to visit.
With cobblestone streets, ramparts to climb, and 53 towers dotting the Château, it’s a charming, quaint landmark. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale! Take a look for yourself in this video.
Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant
Of all of France s castles, this one is definitely a bit different! But if you’re looking for a fairytale castle to visit, this has to be it! You’ll find the Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant within Disneyland Paris, and it’s a great attraction for anyone visiting France with little kids. This palace stands 167ft tall with all the turrets and spires you’d expect of a castle fit for a princess!
Aim to see it lit up at night in shades of blue and pink for a truly magical experience. If you’re feeling brave, descend into the dungeons below the palace to discover the resident dragon who puffs out smoke – a real thrill for the kids!
Château de Chenonceau
Overlooking the River Cher, the Château de Chenonceau is France’s second most popular castle when it comes to visitor numbers. Dating back to the 16th century, it is one of France’s prettiest castles.
You can swat up on all the historical gossip of this castle by listening to the audio guide. Chenonceau was a royal residence at one point, home to King Hery II’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After the king died in 1559, his wife, Queen Catherine de Medici seized it back from her rival!
Take an hour or so to walk through the exquisite grounds, from carefully planned parterres to shady woodland areas. There are even a maze and a small farm on the estate.
Château de Peyrepertuse
Peyrepertuse is a stunning, historical fortress which is well worth taking the time to visit. While it might not be the biggest castle in the world, it is the largest of the Cathar chateaux. Dramatically located on a rocky ledge rising 800m above the surrounding countryside, you can explore the ruins and picture what the ancient French chateaux would have looked like in its heyday.
You can choose from a range of fascinating tours that will take you back to another era when Peyrepertuse was a military fortress with resident soldiers.
Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg
One of the most picturesque castles to be found in the Alsace region, this castle was rebuilt into a fairytale vision in pink sandstone by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Haut-Koenigsbourg is found on a hill rising 750m above the Alsacian plateau, giving it spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.
The castle itself is an impressive building, complete with fortifications, turrets and all. Inside the castle, you can explore a museum which holds relics from the Middle Ages, including weapons, armour, and more. Read more at their official website.
Palace of Fontainebleau
The Palace of Fontainebleau is hidden within the depths of a huge forest, the location picked out as the perfect place for King Louis VII’s hunting lodge in the 12th century. If you’re looking for castles in proximity to Paris’s arrondissements, Fontainebleau falls within this category, just 55km of the capital and easily do-able for a day trip.
Built mainly in the Renaissance style, you’ll find an impressive facade, grand ballrooms, and elegant interior decor. As it was a rural hunting lodge, it’s on a smaller scale than some of the larger palaces and chateaux in France, but still with enough grandeur to take your breath away. Don’t miss the Ballroom or the views from the Grand Parterre!
If you’re looking for the best deals on castles to visit, head to Fontainebleau on the first Sunday of the month for free entry!
Rocamadour is one of the most stunning castles in the Central France region to visit. Set high up on cliffs overlooking the Dore River and the quaint, historic village nearby, you’ll be rewarded with some stunning views when you reach the castle of Rocamadour.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can walk up the steep cobbled streets. There’s the option of a shuttle bus for those who would rather sit back and soak up the surroundings. Unfortunately, you can’t enter the castle as it’s privately owned, but you can pay to ascend to the castle rooftop for even more spectacular views.
Another of the most famous French buildings, you’ll find the Roquetaillade castle in the Bordeaux region. The Roquetaillade castle was painstakingly restored in the 19th century, making it one of the most beautiful castles in all of France. It opened its doors for visitors in 1956. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the striking stone walls of the French chateau set against a bucolic background of fields filled with flowers.
The Château d’Amboise is one of the most amazing castles in the Loire Valley. Located in the middle of the Amboise town, it’s an impressive mix of Renaissance, Gothic and more modern architecture. In fact, mastermind and genius Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by King Charles VIII to work on the plans for the renovations of the castle.
As you explore inside the castle, you’ll find suits of armour, intricate stained glass windows, and more. The ticket price includes the Chapel of Saint Hubert, which is on the estate.
Palais des Papes
The Palais des Papes could easily run for the title of the biggest castle in the world. Constructed by the Catholic Church in a medieval Gothic style, it was the seat of Catholicism for over 400 years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When you visit this extensive complex, you can enter some of the most important rooms including the papal bedrooms and the chapels, climb the towers, and explore the medieval art collection.
For the price of a purchased ticket, you can also visit the nearby Benezet Bridge, another amazing UNESCO site that’s worth seeing.
Château des Baux de Provence
Although the ruins of the Château des Baux de Provence may not compare with some of the better-preserved of France s castles, it’s still worth a visit. You’ll be transported back to another era as you wander the ancient walls and explore what remains of this once-majestic castle.
The Château des Baux de Provence dates back to the 10th century, and helpful pictures show what the French chateau would have looked like back in its glory days.
You can also see the old siege weapons and examples of medieval craftsmanship. Climb up the Paravelle tower for an excellent vantage point over the castle and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Without a doubt, this is one of the most amazing castles in the Provence region!
Château de Chambord
Another former hunting lodge with a huge estate, this is one of the most beautiful of the Renaissance chateaux in France. Built with white limestone and with a stunningly detailed roof, Chambord is possibly the most intricate castle in France and one of the best castles in the world for visitors.
The interiors are as stunning as the exterior – take the tour around to find out more, or just walk through the castle yourself to take in the details in your own time.
The Wrap Up
With some of the best castles in the world, you’ll be spoilt for choice as to which of these beautiful landmarks to visit on your next trip to France. Whether you love to step back into history or explore fairy-tale palaces, this list of castles will give you plenty of ideas for amazing monuments and castles to visit while in France.
Which castle in France will you visit next? Leave us a comment to let us know, and ask any questions you might have too. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some of the most beautiful castles in the world with me!
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!