The historical and cultural richness of France is expressed by its castles. For centuries, lords and kings have built castles for their glory and comfort.
Today, I love to discover them. Many tourists share this passion. If this is your case, read my selection of the 20 most beautiful castles in France and I’m sure you’ll quickly want to visit the ones you don’t know.
Palace of Versailles
Built in 1682 for Louis XIV, this castle is one of the most famous in the world.
The Palace of Versailles is famous for its Baroque architecture, formal gardens and opulent great halls. Visitors can explore the royal apartments, the chapel, the Hall of Mirrors, the Council of War room and much more.
The castle gardens are also beautiful. The Neptune fountain, the water basins, the flower beds and the statues are examples of the baroque art in the gardens.
The best is to visit the Palace of Versailles and the annexes such as the stables, the Salle du Jeu de Paume and the Domaine de Trianon.
A full tour takes two days, but in just one day you will leave with many memories.
Castle of Chambord
Located in the Loire Valley, Chambord Castle is the largest castle in the region.
It was built in the 16th century for Francis I and is famous for its double helix roof.
If the castle contains few historical objects, it is well complemented by the temporary exhibitions, a collection dedicated to the royal and presidential hunts, and its magnificent environment. Between the canal and the forest, beautiful walks await you.
Castle of Chenonceau
Also located in the Loire Valley, Chenonceau Castle is one of the most famous and most photographed castles in France.
Its architecture, which spans the Cher River, is exceptional. Such a view is unique.
Visitors learn about the history of the castle, which has been the residence of several famous women, including Catherine de Medici. The royal apartments, the French gardens, the labyrinth and the chapel are places to see.
Castle of Fontainebleau
Located 60 km from Paris, this 16th-century castle was once the residence of the royal family. It was built for François I.
The castle is famous for its large deer gallery, its chapel and its gardens. Visitors can explore the royal apartments, which range chronologically from those of the last kings of France to Napoleon.
The gardens of Fontainebleau are also a delight, with groves, ponds and marble statues. The Grand Canal on the other side of the road offers a beautiful walk.
But, personally, it is the chapel that impresses me the most in the Château de Fontainebleau.
Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte
This 17th-century baroque castle was built for Nicolas Fouquet, who was the minister of finance of Louis XIV.
The greatest artists of the time participated in its construction: Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun, André Le Nôtre, Michel Villedo.
Castle of Compiègne
The Château de Compiègne is a magnificent palace located in the city of Compiègne, in northern France. It was originally built as a royal residence for Louis XV and was used by some of his successors, including the emperors Napoleon I and Napoleon III.
It is particularly known for its Theater, one of the most beautiful examples of Italian theater in Europe.
Pierrefonds Castle is a medieval fortress.
It is famous for its neo-Gothic architecture, as well as for its fascinating history. It was built in the 12th century and has been owned by many kings and lords over the centuries. During the Hundred Years War, the castle was damaged and remained abandoned for several centuries.
It was rebuilt in the 19th century by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The latter used the original medieval drawings to recreate the appearance of the fortress.
The Château d’Amboise is a royal castle located in the city of Amboise. It was built in the 15th century and has been the residence of several French kings, including Charles VIII, Francis I and Louis XIV.
The castle offers a breathtaking view of the Loire Valley.
Leonardo da Vinci died in this castle and was buried in the chapel of St. Hubert.
Castle of Blois
The Château de Blois has been used by several kings of France, including Louis XII, François I and Henri III.
The royal apartments, the octagonal chapel, the Salle des États, the Cour de la Cheminée and the gardens, notably the Jardin du Roy, the Jardin de la Duchesse d’Étampes and the Jardin de la Reine Mère, are to be discovered.
The Château de Blois is known to have been the site of a number of historical events, including the assassination of the Duke of Guise in the Salle des États.
Castle of Azay-le-Rideau
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a Renaissance castle. It was built in the 16th century on the banks of the Indre River, at the request of Gilles Berthelot, a local nobleman.
Visitors can explore the period furniture, tapestries and artworks that adorn the richly decorated rooms. The castle also boasts beautiful formal gardens that stretch over 8 hectares.
Castle of Saumur
Built on a hill, overlooking the Loire Valley and the city of Saumur itself, this castle dates from the 10th century.
The towers and ramparts of the Château de Saumur are magnificent. Its interior houses the Cavalry Museum. The latter exhibits a large collection of saddles, uniforms and firearms.
Castle of Villandry
The Château de Villandry was built in the 16th century for Jean Le Breton.
Several rooms in the Louis XII style are beloved by visitors. The music room is particularly remarkable, with painted ceilings and tapestries that tell the story of David and Bathsheba.
The Castle of Loches was the residence of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart.
It owes its beauty to its well-preserved medieval architecture and its many fascinating aspects of history, such as the Lamb’s Tower and the Round Tower.
The Château de Loches is also known for having been the place where Joan of Arc was detained for several months before her departure for Rouen where she was sentenced to be burned at the stake in 1431.
Castle of Montsoreau
The Château de Montsoreau is a fort built in the 16th century on the bank of the Loire. This fortress is known to be the only one built directly on the river.
Among the highlights of the visit, I mention the banqueting room which offers a spectacular view, with walls covered with white stucco and the painted ceiling “Apotheosis of Louis XIV”.
Castle of Chinon
The Château de Chinon is known as an important place in French history. Francis I was crowned king there and it was there that Joan of Arc convinced Charles VII of the prophecies she had received from the Catholic Saints.
Another important event in the history of the Château de Chinon was the meeting between Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus, which marked the beginning of the Third Crusade.
Castle of Langeais
The Château de Langeais is a formidable medieval castle located in Langeais, Touraine. It was built in the 10th century on the banks of the Loire River and was one of the largest fortresses of the Middle Ages.
The castle is known for its vast towers and its courtyard surrounded by ramparts.
It has hosted several important events in French history such as a famous tournament that took place in 1491 between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII, or the opposition between Francis I and Louise of Savoy who asked for more autonomy for her territory.
Castle of Rambouillet
The site is home to an impressive architectural variety: round towers, ramparts, dungeons and sumptuous rooms. The Throne Room is one of the most interesting rooms in the castle and overlooks a charming formal garden.
This fortress may have served as a refuge for members of the royal family during the First French Empire.
Castle of Cheverny
The Château de Cheverny is a large 17th-century castle built by Henri Hurault, the 4th Count of Cheverny.
In addition to visiting the castle’s rooms, you can discover a museum dedicated to local history. The latter includes historical objects, including the original armor of Henri Hurault preserved since 1632.
Castle of Valençay
The Château de Valençay belonged to the Estompes family, then to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand who is better known under the title of Prince de Talleyrand.
The lush gardens of the castle are a must-see attraction. They offer visitors a quiet place to stroll and admire the variety of colorful flowers.
As its name seems to indicate, this castle hosted Madame de Maintenon, second wife of King Louis XIV and a very influential woman of her time.
The small apartments and the large luxurious apartments are a pleasure to visit. Between the salons, the rooms, the billiard room, the library in the Second Empire style and the vast gallery of paintings, the visit is rich.