France's Most Beautiful Castles and Chateaux

Updated on March 15, 2018
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Melanie loves to go on adventures and continues to explore new places.

Chateau de Chenonceau – I wish this was my house!
Chateau de Chenonceau – I wish this was my house!

Of all the beautiful castles throughout Europe, France has the most amazing castles. They're so romantic and dreamy!

After combing through tons of pictures of castles throughout France (hey, who hasn't dreamed of living in a castle), I came up with a list of the coolest.

If you're planning a trip to France, you'll definitely want to hit up one of these castles. You might even be able to spend the night in a castle (for a pretty penny... or a pretty €0.01) as many castle owners convert the castles into hotels.

Without further ado, here is my list of the coolest, most rad castles in all of France as well as a bit of history behind each.

A view of chateau de chenonceau from the east
A view of chateau de chenonceau from the east

Chateau de Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau, built on the River Cher, was passed through many hands before it was given to the mistress of King Henry II, Diane de Poitiers. Diane de Poitier commissioned the gorgeous bridge that many people find as the most beautiful thing about the castle.

This bridge is also the reason why the chateau exists today as it was set to be destroyed during the French Revolution, but the owner convinced the Revolutionary Guard that the bridge was essential to commerce (it was the only bridge crossing the River Cher for miles.)

A view of the Chateau de Chenonceau library and chapel from the northeast
A view of the Chateau de Chenonceau library and chapel from the northeast

The bridge at Chateau de Chenonceau also served a major purpose during WWII as it created a way for the French to flee the Nazi-occupied side of the river to the free "Vichy" side of the river. The chateau also served as a hospital for wounded military during WWII.

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord is an amazing example of architecture from the French Renaissance. This chateau, the largest in the Loire Valley, was built for King Francis I to serve as a hunting lodge and so that he could be closer to his mistress.

Château de Chambord viewed from the North-West (photograph by Arnaud Scherer)
Château de Chambord viewed from the North-West (photograph by Arnaud Scherer)

The chateau consists of a massive keep in the center with four enormous towers at the corners. Chateau de Chambord has 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases, and 440 rooms. The environs of the castle consist of a 13,000-acre wooded park. This is a great place to stop for those visiting Loire valley castles as it is perhaps the best example of a Loire valley chateau.

In building the Chateau de Chambord with its 440 rooms (and nearly as many fireplaces), the Loire river is rumored to have been diverted to make room. However, the chateau was only built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I.

An aerial view of Chateau de Chambord
An aerial view of Chateau de Chambord
The marble court at Versailles (image by Kimberly Vardeman)
The marble court at Versailles (image by Kimberly Vardeman)

Versailles

When the project of building the Palace of Versailles was first started in 1624, the town of Versailles was just a small village. Now, this area is a wealthy suburb of Paris perhaps due to the Palais de Versailles.

The Orangery on the grounds of Versailles
The Orangery on the grounds of Versailles

The palace started out as a small hunting lodge built for Louis XIII, who later expanded it. His successor, Louis XIV, also had it renovated and expanded causing it to become among the largest palaces in the world. This helped him fulfill his desire of establishing a new center for the royal court. Because of the rich history behind the Versailles, it has come to be a major symbol of French nationality.

Versaille’s Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)
Versaille’s Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel, constructed during the 8th century, is located on a rocky island off the north coast of France in Normandy. When the monastery was first constructed, it was connected to the mainland by a land bridge that was covered completely by water during high tide and visible again at low tide.

Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel

Because of the addition of farmlands to the area, the land bridge no longer exists. However, the addition of the farmlands did cause Mont St Michel to be closer to the mainland. Currently, the buildup of silt around Mont St Michel has caused it to become a part of the mainland, but the French government is currently commissioning a hydraulic dam that will help remove the silt and make it an island once again.

The cloister at Mont Saint Michel
The cloister at Mont Saint Michel

Carcassonne

Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is actually a fortified city which was first built by the Romans sometime around 100 BC and was fully restored in 1853. The view from the town below up toward the fortification offers many beautiful views. The view from the top is also unmatched.

Tourists here can enjoy medieval jousting displays which take place twice a day. Besides the fortified city, this area does not see much tourism, but still offers travelers a lot. It's a great place for those who wish to see one of the beautiful castles in the south of France.

Carcassonne
Carcassonne | Source

Chateau de Chantilly

The Chateau de Chantilly is located in Chantilly, France which is a part of the very large metropolitan area that is Paris. This beautiful chateau is made up of two attached sections: the Grand Chateau and the Petit Chateau.

The Chateau was originally built in around 1528 for the Constable Anne de Montmorency, but the section called the Grand Chateau was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was later rebuilt. Every two years a spectacular fireworks competition, the Nuits de Feu, is held in the chateau gardens. This popular event brings many visitors in from the local area, from Paris, and from around the world.

Chateau de Chantilly
Chateau de Chantilly | Source

Chateau d'Amboise

The Chateau d'Amboise was first built sometime in the 11th century for Fulk III, the Count of Anjou. It was later owned by Louis d'Amboise but was relinquished to royal power when Louis was convicted of plotting against the king.

Leonardo da Vinci came to the chateau and it became both this workplace and his home. It is rumored that he is buried nearby. Mary, Queen of Scots was raised here as she was promised to marry Francis II. The chateau suffered a great deal of damage during the French Revolution and was further damaged in WWII.

Chateau d'Amboise
Chateau d'Amboise | Source

Fougères

Fougères, located in Brittany has suffered a long history of sieges. This caused much damage to Fougères, but much of the damage has been repaired over the course of its history.

The belfry, one of only three belfries in Brittany, served the inhabitants of the town of Fougères with the ability to know what time it was which was usually only something that the clergy and nobility could do at the time.

Fougères is one of the most beautiful examples of medieval castles in France still in existence. Much of the original wall exists today, which provided cover for those living in the town below who would retreat to the fortification when Fougères suffered attacks.

Fougeres
Fougeres | Source
Pierrefonds
Pierrefonds | Source

Pierrefonds

Pierrefonds was originally built in the 12th century but later was majorly rebuilt for the Duke of Orléans. In 1617, the chateau was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu's troops and was set to be destroyed. During this time, Richelieu's troops found that the destruction of the chateau was too large of a project and abandoned it.

Napoléon Bonaparte later decided to have it restored. Instead of being restored to its original splendor, the project became larger and it was eventually given a more modern interior design. However, much of the outside structures retain a 14th-century appearance.

Chateau d'Usse
Chateau d'Usse | Source

Chateau d'Usse

Chateau d'Usse, located at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre, is commonly referred to as the Sleeping Beauty castle.

Because of the dreamy Flamboyant Gothic/Renaissance look of the castle, Disney designed their castle after Chateau d'Usse. This gorgeous chateau can be found in modern day Rigny-Usse located in the Indre-et-Loire département.

These are just some of the many castles of France. Each region of France has many castles and chateaux. Loire Valley castles are simply astounding and are very much a part of the Loire Valley tours that run through the area. Castles such as Carcassonne are also a huge part of tours showing of castles in the south of France.

Many castles in France are open to the public, not only to view from the outside but as museums, so you can take a full tour and even learn what life in each castle was like.

For the lucky millionaire, there are always beautiful chateaux for sale. And, oh yeah, bonus points will be given to anyone who buys one built on a huge vineyard!

10 Most Beautiful Castles in France - Chateau de Chambord at dawn
10 Most Beautiful Castles in France - Chateau de Chambord at dawn

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Melanie Palen

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      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        We have visited some of these and they are truly spectacular. I would love to visit Pierrefonds next time.

      • skperdon profile image

        skperdon 

        2 years ago from Canada

        Thanks for putting all these beautiful castles together in your hub Melanie. It was a pleasure to view the pictures and read about them.

      • Thief12 profile image

        Thief12 

        4 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Lots of beautiful places. Which I could visit some of these one day.

        Voted Up, Beautiful, and Interesting.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        4 years ago from Massachusetts

        Glad I stumbled upon this hub. We are going to France in late Sept and plan on visiting a number of the Castles in your list. We hope to get to Versailles, Chambord, Chenonceau, Amboise, and most certainly Mont St Michel. This is a very helpful guide to the best castles in France. Thanks for sharing with us.

      • kerlund74 profile image

        kerlund74 

        4 years ago from Sweden

        Yes awesome hub! Love them all but really cool is: Mont St Michel and Carcassone:) Thx for sharing!

      • georgescifo profile image

        georgescifo 

        4 years ago from India

        simply mind blowing. Thanks for sharing the hub.

      • WriterKat profile image

        WriterKat 

        4 years ago from KittyLand

        All of them are so beautiful. France is on my list of countries to visit. Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image

        Kieran Gracie 

        4 years ago

        My own favorite is Carcassonne. Yes, it is a fortified town rather than a 'traditional' castle but it simply exudes medieval living in what were very dangerous times. And what a breath-taking sight when you first come over a hill in the road and see that beautiful town laid out before you.

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 

        4 years ago from malang-indonesia

        Beautiful and I love this hub very much. I hope I can visit one of them. Good job and thanks for sharing with us. VOTED UP :-)

        Prasetio

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        4 years ago from California

        Oh you make me want to travel!!

      • Shanna11 profile image

        Shanna 

        4 years ago from Utah

        Aghhh reading this was painful. I got to visit six of these castles this past spring and looking at this Hub made me want to go back so bad!

      • jamila sahar profile image

        jamila sahar 

        5 years ago

        Wonderful hub, and commentary regarding your trip. You really brought the trip to life !

      • profile image

        pokeyoat 

        5 years ago

        All of these castles look breathtaking, I hope to visit even just one someday. Thank you for sharing!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 years ago from USA

        Wonderful hub that will come in very handy as we plan our France trip this weekend. We plan to visit several that you feature. Well done!

      • frenchproperty profile image

        frenchproperty 

        6 years ago from Eastbourne

        Love the medieval cite at Carcassonne but found Mont St Michel too overcrowded in July and August. Understand that parking at Mont St Michel has been changed - a park & ride scheme?

      • PaulGoodman67 profile image

        Paul Goodman 

        6 years ago from Florida USA

        The only one that I've visited is the Chateau de Chenonceau, but some of the others definitely look like they're worth a visit!

      • ladeda profile image

        ladeda 

        6 years ago

        Thanks for sharing this Hub! I've been lucky enough to visit a few of these! Beautiful and definitely worth seeing!

      • Cyndi10 profile image

        Cynthia B Turner 

        6 years ago from Georgia

        This was an awesome "journey." Thanks so much for taking us along.

      • profile image

        Sunnie Day 

        6 years ago

        Thank you for a great time visiting these wonderful castles...When I lived in Europe as a child, we visited many castles and even got lost in one..YIKES! Dad stopped to take pics and the tour guide locked the door, leaving us in the courtyard. It took us hours to find our way out..We ended up coming out on stage where every one was eating..I am sure they were thinking Look at those crazy Americans! lol I loved all the pictures..They are truly a thing of beauty.

        Sunnie

      • Deborah Brooks profile image

        Deborah Brooks Langford 

        6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

        Beautiful castles... I have seen the ones in spain....and a few in germany...awesome....great hub...voted way up..debbie

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        6 years ago from California

        Oh my--we are headed there this summer if all goes well! Your hub made me excited!

      • Kris Heeter profile image

        Kris Heeter 

        6 years ago from Indiana

        Thanks for the mental vacation to France. Now I'm ready for a real one:) Very cool and I'm sharing this virtual vacation with some other hubbers!

      • alocsin profile image

        alocsin 

        6 years ago from Orange County, CA

        I have been to Versailles and Mont St. Michel, both of which are wonderful. Perhaps I'll have time to visit the others on my next trip. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

      • acc12 profile image

        acc12 

        6 years ago

        Wonderful tour of these castles! I visited the first 3 (& one at Blois) as a teen, almost 33 years ago. Thanks for taking me back there again.

      • melbel profile imageAUTHOR

        Melanie Palen 

        7 years ago from Midwest USA

        I'm glad you all found the hub to be beautiful. I will likely add more castles as I find more and more beautiful ones. RalphR, I'll have to take a look at those castles.

      • MarieAlice profile image

        MarieAlice 

        7 years ago from Peru

        simply beautiful!!! reallynice pictures to show the beauty of this places..

      • profile image

        RalphR 

        7 years ago

        Don't forget the Chateau Hautefort in the Dordogne. And while there be SURE to visit Sarlat en Canada!

      • Les Trois Chenes profile image

        Les Trois Chenes 

        7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

        All these castles are wonderful. France is definitely well endowed in the chateau area! We have some fabulous castles in the Limousin region of France as well, but perhaps they are less well known.

      • De Greek profile image

        De Greek 

        8 years ago from UK

        What a wonderful subject! Thank you :-)

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 

        8 years ago from malang-indonesia

        I just seen this on the movie. Thanks for share about these castles. These all really beautiful. Vote this up.

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 

        8 years ago from London, UK

        Thank you for showing these wonderful places.

      • BrianS profile image

        Brian Stephens 

        8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

        The castles in France are amazing, glad to see my favorite La Cite in Carcassonne is featured. I never tire of visiting it as we are so close, about 40 minutes in the car. Every time we have family or friends visiting it is always top of the list of places to see.

      • suziecat7 profile image

        suziecat7 

        8 years ago from Asheville, NC

        I love the Fougeres. This is an excellent Hub. Thanks.

      • A Travel Guy profile image

        A Travel Guy 

        8 years ago

        Thanks, wonderful Hub!

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