The 13 must see castles in France


North of the capital, Paris, in the town of Chantilly, built in a Romanesque architectural style is the historic Chateau De Chantilly. First constructed around 1358 AD, the Grand Chateau was destroyed during the French Revolution and later re-built in 1882. Surrounded by formal gardens as well as French landscape gardens inspired by those of Versailles, the park also contains cascades, water features and pavilions. Today the castle houses the Musee Conde, open to the public it holds one of the finest collections of paintings in France, outside of the Louvre.

13. Château De Chantilly


Dating back to the 8th century, besieged by Emperor Charlemagne in the southern city of Lourdes, is the Chateau Fort De Lourdes. Sitting on a rocky outcrop at the entrance to the seven valleys of Lavedan within sight of the Pyrenees Mountains, the castle has stood for nearly 1,400 years. Once the home of Emperors, Counts and Kings, it later became a Royal prison after the French Revolution. Today, listed as a 'Monument Historique', it is the  Musée Pyrénéen (Pyrenean Museum), one of the most visited castles in the country thanks to it's location in the pilgrimage city of Lourdes.

12. Château Fort De Lourdes


Built in the 10th century in the southern French town of Foix, directly north of Andorra on the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains is the Chateau De Foix. Often besieged and only taken once during it's 1,000 year history, the chateau has dominated the town from high up on it's rocky outcrop. Iconic for it's two 10th century square towers and 15th century round tower, today known as the centre of the Cathars, it is an important tourist attraction for the region. This wonderful medieval castle has been declared a 'Monument Historique' of France and one of the finest fortifications in the country.

11. Château Du Foix


Constructed in the early 11th century, south of the city of Strasbourg in the far east of country, close to the German border, is the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. Built upon a rocky spur in the Vosges Mountains, this ancient medieval castle has stood watch over the Upper Rhine Plain for nearly 1,000 years. Abandoned for centuries, overgrown by forests, it was down to the German Emperor Wilhelm II to reinvigorate and partially rebuild it in a Romantic architectural style. Confiscated by the French after World War II, it is today one of the most visited castles in the country, with over 500,000 people visiting this historic monument every year.

10. Château Du Haut-Kœnigsbourg


First constructed in the 12th century to the north east of the capital, Paris, on the edge of the forest of Compiegne is the large Chateau De Pierrefonds. Updated and built upon throughout the centuries it was to be demolished in 1617, with the task later being deemed too enormous to undertake. Partially destroyed it remained a romantic ruin for the next two centuries. Hugely renovated in the 19th century under the orders of Napoleon III it is today a 'Monument Historique' of France and a superb example of a medieval castle.

9. Château De Pierrefonds


Built in the 14th century to the east of the centre of Paris is one of France's most stand out castles, the Chateau De Vincennes. Greatly enlarged throughout the following centuries, the 52 metre (170 ft) donjon tower was built, giving the castle it's unique shape and making it the tallest medieval fortified structure in Europe. Having temporarily housed Jesus Christ's Crown Of Thorns, been the residence of generations of French royals and the location where Henry V of England died, the Cheateau De Vincennes is a most beautiful castle steeped in history.

8. Château De Vincennes


In the centre of the country, south of the capital, Paris, is the large and ornate Renaissance Empire styled Chateau De Valencay. Work began on this beautiful castle in 1540 AD and wasn't completed until the addition of the south tower in the 18th century. Boasting over 100 rooms, including the wonderfully decorative room of King Ferdinand and the Talleyrand Museum, the estate sits within a 20th century forty hectare French garden, impeccably maintained with roaming Llamas, peacocks and other exotic animals.

7. Château De Valençay


Constructed in the 13th century, in the south of the country in the ancient city of Albi is the enormous Berbie Palace, formerly the Bishop's Palace Of Albi. The scale of this red bricked medieval fortress with it's classical French gardens is difficult for visitors to comprehend. It's interior of vaulted medieval rooms, painted ceilings, connected chapels and Renaissance gallery now houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, one of the most highly regarded in France. This mammoth construction created during the Middle Ages is one of the oldest and best preserved palaces in the country, a French 'Monument Historique', it forms an integral part of Albi's UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Palais De La Berbie


Completed in 1552 to the south of the countries capital, Paris, and close to the town of Bourges is the Chateau De Chenonceau. Spanning the River Cher, this Gothic Renaissance styled castle is today a national 'Monument' Historque', the best known castle of the Loire Valley and the second most visited Chateau in the country after the Royal Palace Of Versailles.​ This picturesque castle with the river running under it's arched foundations is certainly one of the most unique in France, if not all of Europe.

5. Château De Chenonceau


Completed in 1547 directly south of the countries capital, Paris, close to the Chateau De Chenonceau is the enormous Chateau De Chambord, the single largest castle of the Loire Valley and one of the largest castles in Europe. Surrounded by 13,000 acres of wooded park land, home to wild red deer, enclosed by a 31 kilometre (20 mile) wall, it's distinctive French Renaissance architecture has made it one of the most recognisable and revered castles in Europe, with Leonardo Da Vinci believed to have played a part in it's design. The Chateau De Chambord and surrounding lands have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Château De Chambord


Founded around 274 AD in the south of the country between Toulouse and Perpignan is the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval citadel located in the town of Carcassonne. With it's 3 kilometre (1.9 mile) encircling wall interspersed with 52 circular towers it is as much a fortified city as it is a castle. In the 13th century additional walls were placed outside the Roman walls which were later demolished. Restored at the end of the 19th century the Cite De Carcassonne was declared a 'Monument Historique' of France and later given the even higher honour of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Cité De Carcassonne


Dating back to the 12th century, to the south east of the capital, Paris, is the enormous and opulent Palace Of Fontainebleau, with 1,500 rooms it is one of the largest Royal Chateaus in France. Sitting within a 130 hectare park of historic gardens, the giant building wraps itself around four main courtyards. It's interior is considered the most decorative in Europe, with Renaissance masterpieces throughout, artworks and decoration inspired by none other than Marie Antionette, Napoleon Bonaparte, among the thirty four kings and two emperors that once lived within it's wall. Today the Palace Of Fontainebleau is a national museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Château De Fontainebleau


Dating back to the 13th century, in the city of Avignon in the far southern centre of the country is the Papal Palace, made up of two joined buildings that combine to make one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Designed by two of France's best architects, with lavish detailing from two of the best Italian students of Siena, this enormous landmark is considered the best example of international Gothic architecture on the continent. From a time when Avignon was the seat of the Pope, one of the most powerful cities of 14th century Europe, the dominating Palais Des Papes, the Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge make up the Historic Centre Of Avignon UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Palais Des Papes

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