From fortified medieval strongholds to Renaissance palaces fit for a princess, France is sprinkled with magnificent châteaux. Their architecture, gardens and treasures within beg to be discovered. Join us as we explore the former homes of royalty to reveal eight of the most beautiful castles in France.
Château de Chambord
With its Renaissance architecture and romantic moat, Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley is one seriously impressive pile. Despite its immense stature with over 400 rooms, the château was merely built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I, and used only a couple of months a year. Its immaculately manicured grounds are a joy to discover.
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Palace of Versailles
So beautiful it could bring a tear to your eye, the Palace of Versailles is spectacularly opulent. From the beguiling Hall of Mirrors to the gilded State Apartments, the former seat of the French monarchy is a must-visit when in Paris, and one of the world’s most majestic buildings. Don’t miss the exquisite Grand Trianon Palace, made from pretty pink marble.
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All Gothic arches and Disney-esque turrets, the 16th century Château Chenonceau looks like it’s been plucked from the pages of fairytale. Spanning the width of the Cher River, it’s a remarkably unique castle built along a bridge. Inside, there are untold riches to discover, from Renaissance paintings and fine antiques to ornate tapestries.
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Château de Villandry
Château de Villandry’s gardens are as great an attraction as the architecture of this historic estate. The exquisitely maintained grounds feature artfully pruned topiary, colourful blooms and organically grown produce. Built on the banks of the Loire, the château itself is a Renaissance wonder and the former residence of Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois I.
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Built by nobleman Philip Augerville and his son Louis, the historic Chateau d’Augerville has had a chequered history. After periods of abandonment and ruin, it’s been restored and revived by numerous owners over the centuries, including the Vanderbilt family. Today, Chateau d’Augerville is a stunning luxury hotel. You can stay here with us on our Secrets of France trip.
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Mont St. Michel
One of the most beautiful castles in France and an iconic national landmark, Mont St. Michel rises proudly from its namesake island, just off the coast of Normandy. The commanding Benedictine abbey is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The complex includes a 1,000-year-old Romanesque church, a 15th century Gothic chancel, and did we mention that view?
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Cité de Carcassonne
With its double-walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, Carcassonne’s vast, medieval citadel was supremely protected. It needed to be. Since Roman times, Carcassonne has seen off occupations from the Crusaders to the Saracens. Explore this historical stronghold’s highlight features including the Basilica of St Nazaire and Celsus and the ancient open-air theatre.
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Overlooking the River Loire, the regal Château d’Amboise is picture perfect. In the sunshine, its honey-hued stone glows a warm yellow. The magnificent façade is courtesy of Charles VIII and Francois I, who had it refurbished in the 15th century. Fun fact: Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the castle’s chapel. Invited by Francois I, he lived his last three years here.
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Image credits: Château de Chambord, Château Chenonceau & Château de Villandry © Trafalgar. Château d’Amboise © Victor Pelaez, Palace of Versailles © Visions Of Our Land, Cité de Carcassonne © Delpixart, Mont St. Michel © bluejayphoto, Chateau d’Augerville © Chateau d’Augerville