Top 20 most beautiful castles in France
A great number of picturesque castles and fortified towns with rich histories can be found throughout France. France has hundreds of the continent’s most impressive and beautiful castles and forts. Check out twenty of the most beautiful of these architectural wonders that are just waiting to be discovered by travelers.
The Castle of Landreville is a charming example of an intact manorial residence built in the pre-Renaissance period in the Ardennes region.
It takes the form of a rectangular strong house, flanked by four cylindrical towers and surrounded by water-filled moats, within a six hectares park with green grass, stables and two nice pavilion houses from the 18th and 19th centuries.
In 800 years of history it has witnessed the lives of many noble families, including the Landrevilles, Chennerys, Beauvais and others; many wars have started, finished or just passed true here.
The current building dates from the middle of the 16th century, but its rectangular plan with four towers designed to provide protection for the four sides has been widely used since the 15th century. This design ...... view details
The Castle of Sedan is a grand medieval fortress that dominates the city of Sedan with its impressive stature.
The Castle is one of the largest feudal fortress in Europe; its construction took more than 150 years until it was finally completed. The fortress was originated around 1424 by Eberhard II von der Mark, who built a small manor house with two twin towers. The fortress was further reinforced by his son and completed by Robert II de la Marck (Eberhard grand-grandson) who finished the most important work.
In the first part of the 16th century, the fortifications were modernized: the curtain wall was thickened by an additional 26 metres and a circular terrace with cannon was constructed. The bastions were ...... view details
The Castle of Fleckenstein was once an impregnable fortress built high above the forests of the Vosges and the Palatinate. The castle was erected in the late 12th century on a sandstone summit in the shape of a long boat.
The castle is named after the Fleckenstein family, who owned the castle until 1720. After that, the castle changed hands several times until it became the property of the French state after the end of World War I.
An intelligent system for collecting rainwater was designed for the castle during the Middle Ages: a small cistern was fed and an elevation allowed the rainwater to be moved to the upper floors.
Castle of Fleckenstein had a long history; it has been modified and modernized many times, captured by ...... view details
Located on a steep hill in the deep Perigordian forest, the Castle of Puymartin draws visitors attention with its crenelated towers. With strong defensive walls and a substantial main building, it has still the appearance of a medieval castle despite the many changes that were made over the years.
The castle was built in the late 13th century and, like many of the castles in the region, it played a key role during the Hundred Years War, and later in the Wars of Religion. At the beginning of the Hundred Years War, it formed the border between France and England; as a result, it changed hands several times during the war between French and English. The castle was destroyed towards the end of ...... view details
The Castle of Bonaguil was the last fortified castles built in France during the Middle Ages. When it was constructed, it was considered a marvel of military architecture that incorporated the latest development in defensive protection against artillery. Today, it stands as one of the most impressive and evocative castle ruins in France.
The first castle on the site was built in the 13th century by the knight Arnaud de la Tour of Fumel, who later became Lord of Bonaguil. It consisted of a stone keep built on top of a rocky spur in a strategic place bordering several provinces in southwest France. The Lords of Bonaguil sided with the English during the Hundred Years War. The castle was taken and retaken by ...... view details
The Castle of la Brede was the home of the great political thinker and philosopher Montesquieu. He was born, lived and wrote many of his works here.
The castle was built in the Gothic style in the early 14th century on the site of an earlier fortification. It was first mentioned in 1079 in the tale of a duel between the lord of La Brede and Hernandes, the champion of the army of Navarre. At that time, the castle was probably no more than a wooden fortification built on an artificial mound of earth.
The wooden structure was more than likely destroyed after an attack. In 1306, construction started on a much more robust, stone castle. The edifice was designed with a large square ...... view details
The castle comprises two attached buildings: the Petit Chateau built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Chateau, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s.
The original mansion was destroyed in the French Revolution. It was repaired in a modest way by the last Conde, but the entire property was confiscated from the Orleans family between the years 1853 and 1872, during which interval it was owned by Coutts, an English bank.
Chantilly was entirely rebuilt in 1875-1882 by Henri d'Orleans, to the designs of Honore Daumet. The new chateau met with mixed reviews. In the end, Henri d'Orleans bequeathed the property to the Institut de France upon his death in 1897.
Several interesting pieces of history are associated with the chateau during the 17...... view details
The Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau was built between 1518 and 1527; this castle is considered one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture.
Set on an island in the middle of the Indre river, this picturesque chateau has become one of the most popular of the chateaux of the Loire valley. A subtle blend of French tradition and innovative Italian decor, it is an icon of the new art of building in the Loire Valley in the 16th century.
Its successive owners have helped to make it a harmonious treasure in the Loire Valley.
In 1905, the Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau came under State ownership. A major restoration project was undertaken by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. This restoration has fully restored the slate roofing and repair the remarkable early 16th century ...... view details
The castle was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. In the 15th century, Chateau de Chaumont was rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise. Protected as a monument historique since 1840, the chateau was given into state ownership in 1938.
The Chateau is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.... view details
The Castle of Saint-Germain-Beaupre had been in the possession of the Foucault family for nearly six centuries. The first fortification on the site was built around 1182; extensive renovations were carried out in the first part of the 15th century.
The present building dates from 1558 when Gabriel I Foucault rebuilt the 14th-century fortification, severely damaged during the Hundred Years War. At the end of the century, Jean VI d'Aumont, head of Catholic League troops, devastated the castle in a series of raids during the French Wars of Religion. Found guilty of crimes against the Foucault family, he was obliged to restore the castle at his own expense.
In 1594, King Henry IV ascended to the throne of France and ended the Religious Wars. In 1605, ...... view details
The Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg was built in a strategic location, on a rocky promontory, high above the Upper Rhine valley at an altitude of more than 700 meters. This site was ideal for observing the main routes in the region and provided a great defensive position for the fortress.
The first castle, called Castrum Estuphin dates back to aprox. 1147. The fortress changed its name to Koenigsburg (which in German means "royal castle") about 10 years later. Successive powers used the castle from the Middle Ages until the Thirty Years' War.
After the castle was destroyed in 1462 in a siege let by a coalition of forces of the cities of Colmar, Strasbourg, and Basel, the Habsburg emperor Frederick III handed the ...... view details
The royal Chateau de Chambord is one of the most recognizable castles in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France.
Chambord is the largest castle in the Loire Valley; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the chateaux of Blois and Amboise. The original design of the Chateau de Chambord is attributed, though with some doubt, to Domenico da Cortona; Leonardo da Vinci may also have been involved.... view details
The Castle of Menthon-Saint-Bernard stands on a 200 meters tall rock, commanding majestic views of Lake Annecy and the village of Menthon-Saint-Bernard. It was the birthplace of the legendary Saint Bernard de Menthon, patron saint of all Alpine mountaineers (born in 1008). The castle has been owned by the same family for nearly a thousand years.
Evidence suggest that the first fortress on the site was erected in the 10th century; it was a simple wooden watch tower built on a promontory to observe the strategic routes that connected Geneva with Italy as well as the boats on Lake Annecy.
From 1180, the castle has been occupied by the Menthon family. Initially, they constructed three high square towers that were linked by round walks; together, ...... view details
The Chateau de Fougeres is an imposing fort, built on a naturally protected site, a rock emerging from a swamp surrounded by a loop of the Nancon river acting as a natural moat.
It had three different enclosures: the first for defensive purposes; the second for day to day usages in peacetime and for safety of the surrounding populations in times of siege; and the last for the protection of the keep. In all it has an impressive 13 towers.... view details
The Chateau d'Angers was founded in the 9th century by the Counts of Anjou, and it was expanded to its current size in the 13th century. It is located overhanging the river Maine.
Today, owned by the City of Angers, the massive, austere castle has been converted to a museum housing the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th century "Apocalypse Tapestry" as one of its priceless treasures.
As a tribute to its fortitude, the castle has never been taken by any invading force in history. ... view details
The Chateau de Chenonceau spans the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux. It is one of the best-known chateaux of the Loire valley.
The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century. The current chateau was built in 1514-1522 on the foundations of an old mill and was later extended to span the river. The bridge over the river was built (1556-1559) to designs by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de l'Orme, and the gallery on the bridge (1570-1576) to designs by Jean Bullant.... view details
The Chateau de Pierrefonds is a castle situated on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiegne, north east of Paris, between Villers-Cotterets and Compiegne.
In the 12th century, a castle was built on this site. Two centuries later, in 1392, King Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orleans. From 1393 to his death in 1407, the latter had the castle totally rebuilt.
The chateau was taken down in the 17th century and was in ruins when Napoleon III decided to commission architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc to rebuild it. He applied his architectural designs to create the ideal chateau, such as would have existed in the Middle Ages.
The Castle of Pierrefonds has ...... view details
The castle of Fontainebleau is one of the biggest royal castles in France; it is located in the town of Fontainebleau, 55 km from Paris.
The Chateau de Fontainebleau can proudly claim to have been a sovereign residence for eight centuries. Capetiens, Valois, Bourbons, Bonaparte and Orleans, all members of French ruling dynasties, have lived within these walls.
Kings and queens, emperors and empresses have all striven to make their own improvements to the chateau built around the original keep. The estate quickly became a huge palace in which many momentous historical events have been played out.... view details
The royal Chateau at Amboise was confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, it became a favoured royal residence and was extensively rebuilt. King Charles VIII died at the chateau in 1498 after hitting his head on a door lintel.
The chateau fell into decline from the second half of the 16th century and the majority of the interior buildings were later demolished, but some survived and have been restored, along with the outer defensive circuit of towers and walls. It has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1840.
Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, adjoining the Chateau, which had been built in 1491-96.... view details
The medieval Citadel of Carcassonne is located on a hill on the right bank of the River Aude, in the south-east part of the city proper. Founded during the Gallo-Roman period, the citadel derives its reputation from its 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long double surrounding walls interspersed by 52 towers.
The town of Carcassonne has about 2,500 years of history and has seen the Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders. The citadel was restored at the end of the 19th century and in 1997 it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.... view details
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