Top 10 most beautiful castles of France
Castles and palaces of France are the best “storytellers” of the rich history of the country. They have seen the lives of kings and courtiers and knights. Many of the former pompous structures are now only ruins, but there are those that have not lost their brilliance and attract tourists with their rich decoration. Rating of the most beautiful French castles and palaces is presented below.
France is extremely rich in castle architecture. Here you can find ancient ruins that once belonged to noble families, and entire castle complexes, lovingly restored and turned into museums. Let’s talk about the top ten most interesting and beautiful castles.
10th place. The Castle of If.
Located on the island of If in the Friulian archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.
Any fan of Dumas knows about the castle of If, in addition, thanks to numerous film adaptations of “The Count of Monte Cristo” millions of people know what a terrible prison it was. However, according to polls, it turns out that most people think that the castle of If is a fictional place, which in fact never existed.
But this castle-prison, which, however, did not become a place of imprisonment at once, is quite a popular attraction of France. The Castle of If is not so far from the coast as it might seem while reading the book or watching the film adaptations, it’s only a mile from Marseille. The local boats will take you there or back almost immediately for ten euros.
Interesting fact: every château in France can be called a château, but not all châteaux are castles. Many of them are country houses of the nobility, and this word is commonly used to refer to wineries in the Bordeaux region.
9th place. Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte
Located in the suburbs of Melun.
Of all the famous palaces around Paris that you can visit in one day, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, built in classical style, 46 kilometers south-east of Paris, architecturally it looks the most harmonious, aesthetically pleasing and proportionate to man.
The Vaux-le-Vicomte estate was built in 1658-1661 specifically for Nicolas Fouquet, Viscount Vaud and Melun. At the time, he was a favorite of the French King Louis XIV. After receiving the estate, Nicolas Fouquet forgot about it and remembered it only 15 years later, when he took the post of chief financier of France.
The castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte is filled with beautiful frescoes depicting nymphs and divine creatures, the interior of the castle shines with gilding and abounds in works of art, which the French army ruthlessly exported from all over the world, and the enterprising Fouquet carefully kept in his estate.
8th place. Château d’Amboise
Located in the city of Amboise, Department of Endre and Loire.
A legendary place in French history and royal residence from the 15th to 19th centuries, Amboise stands on the banks of the Loire and is reflected in its waters. Its medieval fortifications frame a Renaissance structure with cyclopean towers. The former royal residence was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The castle and garden of Amboise are linked to the youth of many French kings: Charles VIII was born here, Francis I and the children of Henry II and Catherine de Medici spent their entire childhood here. Many artists have come here at the invitation of their sovereigns. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, lived at Amboise and held royal feasts here until his death in 1519. His remains are now preserved in the chapel of Saint-Hubert in the castle grounds.
7th place. The Château of Azay-le-Rideau
Located in the department of Endre and Loire.
Surrounded by an English park, it belongs to a select number of Loire castles. The Château of Azay-le-Rideau was built by the Treasurer of Francis I in 1510 and is considered a masterpiece of the French Renaissance. Some of the ruined parts of the castle were carefully restored.
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau towers over the picturesque bend of the Endre River. The name “Azé” probably comes from Asiacus, the name of the owner of these lands. In the 12th century, the castle belonged to Rido or Riedel d’Azeu, who was known for his cruel temper and had the nickname “the devil’s child”. All his possessions were seized by Henry II Plantagenet, but Philip Augustus returned them to Rideau’s son, Hugo, a knight of Tours, a loyal vassal of the king who took part in the Battle of Bouvigne.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the castle supposedly belonged to the Duke of Burgundy. The insult to the dauphin, the future Charles VII, and his army led to the destruction of the fortress in 1418: 354 people were killed and the village was burned and looted, after which the city was named Azey-le-Brulee (“burnt”). One hundred years later, a castle was built on the site of the fortress, which can still be seen today.
6th place. Chateau Cheverny
Located in the department of Loire and Cher.
Surrounded by a vast park and splendid gardens, Cheverny has belonged to the same family for more than six centuries. Along with the other chateaux of the Loire, it is protected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage project.
This palace stands out not only for its architecture (Cheverny is a white castle built in strict symmetry and restrained style), but also for its decoration. The fact is that throughout its history (it was erected in the 14th century) the mansion has been owned and, let’s note, is still owned by the same dynasty today – the Jurault family. Thanks to such continuity and careful attitude Château Cheverny is perfectly preserved (it is considered one of the best palaces in the Loire Valley) – down to the smallest details and household items and interiors dating back to the 14th century.
Excursions to Cheverny are an introduction to the true French art de vivre. From the armory to the children’s room, the chic interiors and rich furnishings always impress visitors to the castle. The furnishings of Cheverny are considered the most sumptuous of all the Châteaux of the Loire.
5th place. Château de Chenonceau
Located in the department of Endre and Loire.
Château de Chenonceau is one of the three most popular châteaux of the Loire Valley and the most beautiful châteaux in France, nicknamed “the ladies’ château” because it belonged to two of the most powerful women in France at that time, Diane de Poitiers, mistress of the king, and Catherine de Medici. This 16th-century castle is one of the most beloved and visited castles in France, the second most visited after Versailles.
One of the most beloved, famous and visited castles in France, Chenonceau does not belong to the state: it is still privately owned to this day, but its owners, the de Marques family, do not mind at all that guests can enjoy not only the luxury of the interior decoration of Château Chenonceau, but also see the beautiful garden and its picturesque surroundings.
Chenonceau is inextricably linked to the name of Diane de Poitiers, the governess of the king’s son – the mistress of the king and, later, his son Henry II. When the young king came to the throne, he gave the palace of Chenonceau to his beloved. Since then, Chenonceau became known as the “ladies’ castle” (château des Dames). Diana cared a lot about the improvement of the castle: she carried out the redevelopment of the park, on her orders the architect Philibert Delorme has created a project of the stone bridge across the river Cher.
4th place. The castle of the Conciergerie
Located in Paris.
In the heart of the French capital not far from the famous Notre Dame de Paris is the Conciergerie Castle. For a long time it served as a home for the monarch, but during the revolution it was converted into a prison. Today the palace preserves the centuries-old history and is considered one of the key sights of Paris.
The Château de la Conciergerie is part of the Palais de Justice complex, which still houses the municipal services, the court, and the prosecutor’s office. This complex occupies almost half of the island of Cité. Today the palace is a heterogeneous architectural ensemble with elements built from XIII to XX centuries.
3rd place. Château of Chambord.
Located in the Loire and Cher.
Chambord is the most recognizable of the castles of France, an emblem of the Loire Valley, an architectural masterpiece of the Renaissance. It was built by order of Francis I, who wanted to be close to his beloved lady, the Countess of Turi, who lived nearby.
The militant and profligate king of France, Francis I was no stranger to the arts either, patronizing artists and even taking the elderly and famous Leonardo da Vinci out of Italy.
The legendary inventor spent the last years of his life at the court of Francis and died before construction began on Chambord. But it is generally believed that it was he who influenced the beautiful appearance of the castle at the design stage. At least in the design of the main staircase are clearly visible features of the genius.
2nd place. Versailles
Located in the suburbs of Paris.
Versailles is a palace and park ensemble in France, the former residence of French kings in the city of Versailles, now a suburb of Paris; a center of world tourism.
The pearl of French architecture and magnificent palace of a vain monarch, Versailles was created to emphasize all the greatness of the “king-sun”, Louis XIV. But for all the luxury, there was not a single toilet provided here.
Versailles had been built under the direction of Louis XIV since 1661 and became a kind of monument to the era of the “king-sun”, artistic and architectural expression of the idea of absolutism. The leading architects – Louis Leveau and Jules Ardouin-Mansard, the creator of the park – André Lehnotre. The ensemble of Versailles, the largest in Europe, is distinguished by the unique integrity of the concept and harmony of architectural forms and transformed landscape. Since the late 17th century Versailles has served as a model for the grand suburban residences of European monarchs and aristocracy, but there are no direct imitations.
1st place. Chateau of Mont-Saint-Michel
Located in Normandy, the department of the Manche.
The famous island-fortress, located in northern France, on the border with Brittany. It is one of the most visited attractions in France, and the island itself with its historic buildings is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island is the only inhabited of the three granite formations of the bay of Saint-Michel (Mont Saint-Michel, Tomblin and Mont Dol). The city on the island has existed since 709. It currently has several dozen inhabitants.
The island is located 285 km west of Paris. Tourists from all over the world are attracted by the picturesque location of the abbey and the surrounding village on a rock rising near the shore, the historical and architectural monuments and the unique tides in Europe.
France’s Most Beautiful Medieval Castles: Top 10
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance that replaced them have left us a rich cultural and historical heritage, particularly in the form of perfectly preserved castles and palaces in Europe. The architecture of medieval castles in France is full of interesting details. It, among other things, reflects the peculiarities of the national French culture. There are more than 300 castles throughout France, and the most beautiful of them are noted here.
1. Brissac Castle, Hotels near you
Located in the Languedoc province, Brissac Castle is the highest castle in France at 52 meters. The name of the castle and its surroundings comes from a medieval nickname of the millers “hole in the sack” (Breche-sac), who made holes in sacks of grain, through which it escaped. The construction of the castle was begun by Fulke III Nerra, Count of Anjou. Up to 1434 the castle had constantly changed its owners, often serving as a purely military object, where the military garrison lived. Its architecture was strongly influenced by the Italian Renaissance fashion; at that time many architects who created their masterpieces in the Loire valley were under its influence. The eastern and northern facades of the château look out over the park and the town of Brissac. The north wing, at right angles to the main building, has a more austere appearance and is flanked by a tall donjon. The southern Gothic tower houses a private chapel with a famous marble bas-relief by David d’Ange, a local sculptor from the 19th century. The most interesting thing for visitors are the interiors, carefully preserved by the castle’s owners. The walls of halls here are covered with wooden panels, paintings can be seen on the ceilings, and apartments are furnished with quality antique furniture.
If a tourist wants opulence and luxury – he goes to France, a country where the stunning beauty of castles combined with a small and cozy derelict.
2. Loch Chateau, Hotels near you
This castle was built by Fulke Nerra in the early 11th century. This castle, one of the finest examples of Norman military architecture, is 36 meters high. At one time it managed to serve as a prison, including for such an eminent prisoner as the Duke of Milan Ludwig Sforza. As for the royal apartments of the castle, they are designed in the style of the French Renaissance. The façade is adjoined by a terrace overlooking the valley of the Indre River and the old part of the city. The destinies of famous Frenchwomen – Joan of Arc, Anne of Brittany and Agnès Sorel – are connected with the castle of Loch.
3. Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany, nearby hotels
Located in the Loire valley, the residence of the Dukes of Brittany looks like a typical medieval castle – 6 powerful towers, high walls and deep ditches. Duke Francis II in 1466 greatly strengthened the outer walls of the castle because he wanted to keep the independence of Brittany from the king. But he failed, as he married his daughter Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII, after which the military significance of the castle gradually faded. It was here that Henry IV of Navarre signed the famous Edict of Nantes in 1598. During the French Revolution the castle served as an arsenal and a prison, for which in 1800 it paid – a powerful explosion in the arsenal severely damaged the castle. Some of the buildings of the castle managed to survive until the end of the XVIII century. The facade of one of them – the Grand Lodge – bears a coat of arms reminding of Brittany’s accession to France. Some of the castle walls are now traversed by footpaths leading to the Golden Crown Tower. In the courtyard of the castle there is still a well, on which the heraldic symbols of the Dukes of Brittany are emblazoned.
4. Chateau Langer, hotels near by
The history of Château de Langhe began in the 10th century, when Count Fulco the Black laid the first stone on a cliff. During his reign, the castle was more like a stone manor. When King Richard the Lionheart ascended the throne, everything changed – the castle was considerably enlarged and then it became a real defensive castle. This oldest surviving fortress in France has seen many battles and wars. Philip II captured it in 1206, and sieges by the English during the Hundred Years’ War severely damaged it. What can be seen today was completed under Louis XI. The Château de Langier differs from most others in that its drawbridge is fully intact.
5. Chateau de Chenonceau , Hotels near you
This beautiful chateau sits on the banks of the River Cher. The de Marck family who settled here built the castle in 1243. It was well fortified at first, but de Marck was careless enough to allow an English garrison to be stationed there. When the French king learned of this, he became enraged and ordered all the defensive fortifications of Chenonceau to be demolished. In 1512, Thomas Boyer, an admirer of fashionable Renaissance architecture, became the owner of the castle. He ordered the demolition of all the old buildings, after which the construction boiled up on their foundations. Thomas himself was on the road more often (until he died in Italy), while the construction had to deal with his wife. This predetermined the fate of the castle, as its owners became many noble ladies, including royalty.
6. Chinon Castle, hotels near Chinon
In the French town of Chinon on the banks of the Vienne River stands Chinon Castle, which was one of the royal fiefdoms in the Loire Valley. In the V century there appeared late Roman fortifications, and in the XI-XII centuries they were replaced by a castle. It can be divided into three parts: in the center there are ruins of several temples and partially preserved apartments of the king, and on the side of the plain and on the cliff side there are two forts protecting the main buildings – on the edge of the rock the Fort of Coudre, on the plain side – the Fort of Saint-Georges (there are excavations now). Throughout its history, Chinon Castle has changed owners, the most famous of which were:
France is famous for many things: its beautiful cities and castles, its beautiful language, its charming nature. And also for its famous cuisine, which is adored by gu.
- King Henry II of England, who ordered the rebuilding of the eastern side of the castle with the chapel, the Mill Tower and the fortress.
- In the fifteenth century, the future French king Charles VII chose Chinon as his residence.
- In the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu became the owner of the castle and ordered the throne room and a number of buildings to be demolished in order to remodel them in the then more fashionable style. But as a result, the ceilings of the castle collapsed.
In 1854 work began to restore Chinon Castle. The royal chambers now have a floor reconstructed from the original drawings, and copies of antique furniture are arranged in the halls.
7. Château de Plessis-Bourrée, Hotels near you
In the Mens et Loire department, the Château of Plessis-Bourré is considered one of the finest châteaux in the Loire Valley. Jean Bourret, Royal Treasurer under Louis XI bought the land and had it built between 1462 and 1472. This small fortress, built on the banks of the river, is rectangular in shape with 4 corner towers. The owner was not thinking more about the defensive functions of the castle, but about a comfortable stay in it, for which he hired the best architects. During both world wars, the local authorities used the Château de Plessis-Bourret as an embassy and hospital. Its interiors were opened to the public in 1955. There is a lot to see, as much has been preserved in its original form. For example, such an attraction as the guardhouse, where a wooden ceiling painted with allegories, proverbs and fairy tale characters is made.
8. Château Lavut-Polignac , hotels nearby
In the famous Loire valley on the banks of the Loire stands one of the oldest chateaux in France, Lavut-Polignac. Its massive building was built of gray volcanic rock somewhere around XII century as a defensive fortress – it is indicated by the shape of windows, and the fact that the castle is located on the high river bank, as if hiding among the woods and bushes. In XVIII century the owner of this castle became the famous political figure of that time viscount de Polignac, where he placed his mother, the Duchesse de Polignac, who was a favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The new owner of the château, who left his name to it, ordered that it be rebuilt in the Renaissance style. But even after that most of its buildings look like purely defensive. But the castle has luxurious Renaissance-style fireplaces and very old tapestries. Terraces of the first floor of the castle are 45 meters above the level of the Loire, from here the whole coastal area can be seen as in the palm of his hand – peacefully grazing sheep and grazing herons strolling sedately in the shallows. By the way, the owners of the castle are still descendants of de Polignac.
In today’s Russia, there are over 200 peoples with their own culture and language. But the last census showed that some ethnic groups remain m.
9. Le Lud Chateau, hotels near you
In the French department of Sarthe there is a commune de Lud, on the territory of which there is a castle of the same name with a long history. The very first building on this site appeared in the X century, when the Counts of Anjou built a solid stone fortification instead of the old wooden fort. A defensive rampart was piled on the banks of the Loire in front of the château. During the Hundred Years’ War, de Lud was besieged several times and partially destroyed. It was rebuilt several times, until it became a square citadel surrounded by wide moats and six towers. The architecture of Château de Lud reflects different styles, but the dominant style is that of the Renaissance. The de Dion family had a particular influence on its development as an architectural monument and for several centuries their members decorated the facades and furnished the rooms of the château. We owe it to them to admire the stone medallions on the facades, the late Renaissance courtyard, the high windows and the pilasters, one on top of the other. The real owner of Château de Lud is the Comtesse de Nicolai.
10. Chateau de Saumur, hotels near by
One of the most beautiful chateaux in the famous constellation of the Loire Chateaux is Saumur in a very beautiful location where the Loire and Touet rivers meet. The beauty of this castle impressed King René the Good so much that he mentioned it in his novel “A Heart Captured by Love”, calling it there “a castle of love”. The history of the Château de Saumur has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. It is only certain that in the X century the Count de Blaeu built here a small fort and a monastic cloister. Later, the Count of Anjou “wrested” the fortress from the Count de Blois, who finished the unfinished tower, reinforced and expanded it. The tower and then repeatedly strengthened. Finally, King Philip Augustus added the Château of Saumur to the kingdom’s lands in 1203. During the years 1811-1814 the castle was restored. During this process, many cells were built in the north-eastern wing of the building for the future prison. But no sooner had the prison been fully operational, than the interim government ordered the release of all its prisoners. It was not until 1889 that the castle ceased to be a stronghold, and in 1891, it was listed as a national historic monument. On the second floor of the castle in 1912 earned the municipal museum, and the floor above is the equestrian museum.
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