It should come as no surprise that France is home to more castles than almost anywhere else in the world. No matter where you go in this country, you’re sure to come across gorgeous giant structures looming in the sky, watching the people below.
Many of French castles acted as fortresses during the Middle Ages, while others were lavish residences for the royal families of France before they were opened up to visitors several centuries later. Due to the differing uses, the castles in France are starkly different and each offer the visitor a completely unique experience.
It can be very challenging to determine which castles in France are worth the visit and which should be skipped (although in my opinion, it’s never a waste to visit any castles!). So, to help you out, we put together a list of 15 of the best castles in France.
The French castles listed here are some of the most beautiful in the country, and are sure to make you feel as if you’re in a fairytale as you wander the expansive grounds.
- 1 Quick Answer: 15 Breathtaking Castles in France You Must Visit
- 2 Château de Chambord
- 3 Chaumont Sur Loire
- 4 Château de Villandry
- 5 Château de Chenonceau
- 6 Palace of Versailles
- 7 Château de Fontainebleau
- 8 Château d’Angers
- 9 Mont-Saint-Michel
- 10 Château d’Amboise
- 11 Château de la Roche Courbon
- 12 Château de Val
- 13 Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
- 14 Cité de Carcassonne
- 15 Château de Cheverny
- 16 Château de Chantilly
Quick Answer: 15 Breathtaking Castles in France You Must Visit
With thousands of French castles out there (yes, thousands!), how do you know narrow down which ones are worth a visit? Here are our picks for the top 15 castles in France that you absolutely must visit.
Scroll on to read about what makes each château so special!
- Château de Chambord
- Chaumont Sur Loire
- Château de Villandry
- Château de Chenonceau
- Palace of Versailles
- Château de Fontainebleau
- Château d’Angers
- Château d’Amboise
- Château de la Roche Courbon
- Château de Val
- Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
- Cité de Carcassonne
- Château de Cheverny
- Château de Chantilly
Château de Chambord
Highlights: Double-helix staircase | Remote feel | Massive exterior | Italian-influenced interior
Kicking off our list of best castles in France is the unmissable Château de Chambord. Chambord is located in the Loire Valley, which is an extremely popular place for castle-hopping.
This is actually the largest castle in the region, and it draws in visitors from far and wide. It was originally built for Francis I and his hunting escapades, and was rumored to be inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.
Calling Chambord big is a massive understatement. This giant château is in the middle of nature, with wild boars and deer roaming the nearby woods. This is a great place to spend a day getting lost, as there is so much to see, both throughout the grounds and inside the castle itself.
By Car: Chambord is located just south of Paris, and it takes about two hours to get there by car. If you’re planning on visiting the nearby city of Blois (which I highly recommend you do), it’s just a 25-minute ride away.
By Public Transport: Take the train from Paris Austerlitz station, arriving at Blois-Chambord. It should take about an hour and 20 minutes. Once you arrive, you may be able to hop on a shuttle to the castle if it’s between April and November. Otherwise, it’s a 25-minute taxi ride.
Chaumont Sur Loire
Highlights: Castle gardens | Annual International Garden Festival (Festival International des Jardins)
Another stunning castle in the Loire Valley is Chaumont Sur Loire. Built originally in the 10th century, this château was passed down through the Amboise family for over 500 years until it was destroyed by the men of Louis XI. It was later rebuilt in the 15th century by Charles I d’Amboise before finally being turned over to the state in the 1930s.
In addition to its incredibly long and rich history, Château Chaumont is the perfect destination for family days out in France.
While the castle itself is truly remarkable as it sits right above the Loire River, the gardens are simply magnificent and are a must-see. Each year, there’s an international garden festival held on the grounds that make it a popular attraction, as well several art exhibitions throughout the castle. What a perfect way to spend a beautiful summer day!
I actually just spent an entire day wandering around the gardens of Chaumont and found each absolutely stunning. There are more than twenty gardens, each created by an international team and displaying different plants and arrangements of art throughout. I can’t recommend it enough.
By Car: Driving to Chaumont from Paris takes roughly two hours and 30 minutes. It’s a bit of a lengthy drive, but you’ll travel right through the French countryside, so keep your eyes out for cows and horses!
By Public Transport: If you don’t feel like driving or don’t have access to a car, you can also take a train from Paris to either Blois or Onzain stations. Trains run directly here from Paris Austerlitz and take between an hour and a half and two hours.
Once you arrive in the Loire Valley, there’s a shuttle that takes eager guests to Chaumont Sur Loire that’s available from different train stations. You can hop on at the Onzain or Blois station, and there’s also a shuttle that goes back to the stations from the castle as well. The shuttle is available from April to November, and runs every day during July and August.
Château de Villandry
Highlights: Four different gardens | Renaissance-style structure | Lavish interiors
Another luxurious castle option for those spending time in the Loire Valley is the Château de Villandry, located just west of Tours.
While this castle is lavish in itself, what really draws in visitors are the gardens (sensing a theme here?). The gardens at Villandry are truly a sight to behold as every hedge is perfectly manicured, plants are lined in neat rows, and everything is in its orderly place. It’s as if the gardens came straight out of a fairytale!
There are four gardens on the castle grounds. The sun, water, ornamental, and decorative vegetable garden are all open to visitors and offer something different. Visiting Château de Villandry is the ideal summer activity as you can spend the day seeking shade in between the groomed grounds while marveling at this human construction.
By Car: Villandry is easily accessible by car as it’s located just nine miles from Tours, a nearby city.
By Public Transport: If you’re not driving around on your French holiday, you can hop on the Fil Bleau shuttle bus from Tours during July and August. Another way to get to the château is to rent a bike and cycle! You can follow the Loire a Velo (Loire by Bike) route and end up right at the castle. It’s a nine-mile ride, and isn’t too strenuous.
Château de Chenonceau
Highlights: Arches in the water | Famous art masterpieces inside the castle
One of my personal favorite castles in France is Château de Chenonceau. This 16th century structure in the Loire Valley is a divine place to spend an afternoon, as it’s right on the water. You’ll get some of the best views ever!
The most distinct part of Chenonceau are its arches. They come out of the bottom of the castle and rest in the water to allow boats to pass through. In fact, you can even rent a canoe nearby to get some castle views and travel under the famous arches on your own! (I highly recommend doing this, it’s so much fun!)
Visitors are more than welcome to walk around the inside of the castle to admire the interior as well as all of the famous artwork that lives inside. While on the first floor balcony, be sure to look up at the sky because you might just see hot air balloons flying above the castle!
By Car: Rather than being near the Loire River like the other castles in the region, Chenonceau is located on the Cher River. It’s easily accessible by car as it’s just over 200 kilometers from Paris and 35 kilometers from Tours.
By Public Transport: Take the TGV (high speed train) from Paris – Montparnasse or Paris – Aeroport Roissy-CDG. Both will lead you to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps in Tours where you can hop on another train. Get off at the station Tours-Chenonceaux which is right near the ticket office. From Paris, it takes about one hour via TGV, and then the TER (second train) is only another 25 minutes!
Palace of Versailles
Highlights: Hall of Mirrors | Palace gardens | Insanely luxurious interior decor
Moving out of the Loire Valley and on to one of the most famous sights in all of France, we have the Palace of Versailles.
Versailles is an unmistakable French landmark with its unbelievably massive structure, lush gardens, and sprawling water surrounding the castle. Located near Paris, the Palace was formerly used for Louis XIII’s hunting escapades. It was later renovated by Louis XIV, who transformed it into the giant palace it is today.
There is so much to see in Versailles that it’s hard to list everything. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the famed Hall of Mirrors and visit some of the 2,300 rooms that make up the compound! To really take in the highlights of the Palace and learn more about its intriguing history, you may want to consider taking a guided tour.
My biggest piece of advice for visiting Versailles is to book tickets in advance as it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. Especially in the summer, crowds can be intense. So book far in advance, try to arrive at an early time before the crowds start swarming in, and pack snacks!
By Car: If you care to drive, the Palace of Versailles is about a 45-minute ride from the center of Paris, making it relatively easy to get to from the city.
By Public Transport: Traveling to Versailles is exceptionally easy, especially if you’re already in Paris. From Paris, you can take the metro to one of the three train stations, the closest being Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche (RER C Line). You can buy tickets directly on the metro station and you’ll be carried right there from the city. Doesn’t get much easier than that!
Château de Fontainebleau
Highlights: Renaissance Rooms | Emperor Estates
If you travel just south of Paris, you’ll find the glorious Château de Fontainebleau, which gives visitors an in-depth look at French history. This castle was home to many powerful French men and their families, each one bringing something new to the sprawling grounds.
Napoleon even lived here at one point in the early 1800s!
You can take a tour of the castle to learn who lived where and when, as well as view all of the stand-out components of this massive estate. If you choose to wander around yourself, a must-see while visiting Fontainebleau are the Renaissance Rooms which were artfully decorated in the 1500s. They’re simply remarkable!
With a history that can be traced all the way back to the 12th century and more than 1,500 rooms, this luxurious palace is definitely one of the best French castles. If you’re a history buff or just looking to learn a little bit more about France’s past, this is the place to visit.
By Car: From Paris, it’ll be about an hour drive but a complete straight shot.
By Public Transport: Get on a train destined for Montargis Sens, Montereau, or Laroche-Migennes and get off at the Fontainebleau-Avon station. Once you arrive, you’ll have to hop on the Ligne 1 bus that’s bound for Les Lilas and get off at the Château stop.
Highlights: 17 watchtowers | Apocalypse Tapestry | Circular gardens
Situated in the south of France, Château d’Angers is one of the most lovely places to visit in the region. Dating back to 1230, this castle has a long and winding history that’s sure to blow your mind as you weave your way through its staircases, gardens and watchtowers.
This castle looks remarkably different than most others in France as it doesn’t have that Renaissance flair to it. Instead, it’s more of a Gothic structure, with curving towers on the corners of each wall and lookout points spread throughout.
Besides the interesting architecture and circular-shaped gardens, the most notable part of visiting Château d’Angers is the Apocalypse Tapestry. The tapestry, which depicts scenes from the Bible, measures 140 meters long and dates back to the 14th century. It is the oldest medieval French tapestry that’s still intact!
Château d’Angers lies in the city of Angers, which is right on the banks of the Maine River. As a part of the Loire Valley, it’s easily accessible from northern and central France, as well as from cities like Tours, Blois and even Paris.
By Car: Driving is the easiest way to get to Chateau d’Angers as it’s a little bit out of the way. From Paris, it takes about three and a half hours of travel time by car, but if you opt for the longer route, you can drive right through cities like Orleans and Tours!
By Public Transport: Take a train from Paris to the Blois-Chambord stop. It takes roughly an hour and 40 minutes, and from there you can hop in a cab and it’ll only be a short ride away!
Highlights: Luxurious gardens | Insane view from the top | Medieval architecture
Okay, so technically Mont-Saint-Michel is a monastery, but one look at the place and you’ll know why it’s on this list. With soaring walls surrounding the abbey built in the 8th century, it’s a sight to behold, especially after the lengthy climb to the top.
An insanely large and looming medieval-walled city located on an island just 600 meters from Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel is an ancient fortress that sees more than two and a half million visitors each year.
While visiting, you may come across some of the nuns who still run the place (remember to be respectful and refrain from taking photos of them!). There are also peaceful gardens and marvelous views over the sprawling water.
Because it’s such a popular tourist destination, it’s important to plan your trip to Mont-Saint-Michel ahead of time and buy your tickets in advance. Also be sure to wear your walking shoes because there are a whole lot of stairs.
Finally, it’s imperative to check the tides on the day you plan on visiting, because if they’re too high, the only way to reach the fortress is by boat!
By Car: The easiest way to get to Mont-Saint-Michel is by car. Situated right on the coast, this château is a bit further than many on this list, and it will take a little more than four hours to drive here from Paris.
If you’re driving, be sure to arrive either early or late to avoid long parking lines! It’s also important to note that the lots are far from the castle itself so you’ll have to take a shuttle to the walled entrance.
By Public Transport: Take a train to Pontorson, where there is a shuttle bus that will take you directly to the island. If you’re coming in from Normandy, you can jump on a bus from Bayeux or Caen. If you’re visiting from Paris, take a train to Rennes where a shuttle bus awaits to transfer eager guests to Mont Saint Michel.
Highlights: Chapel of Saint Hubert (where da Vinci is buried) | Town and river views | Manicured gardens
A Renaissance structure that was home to kings between the 15th and 19th centuries, Château d’Amboise is the definition of luxury.
Sitting right on the banks of the Loire river, you can view the castle’s reflection in the water — this sight is almost as beautiful as the structure itself! Spend a day wandering around the different rooms or taking in the stunning sights from one of the many balconies or gardens.
No matter what you do here, you can’t go wrong!
Amboise is a particularly special French castle as it was frequented by many important literary and artistic figures in France. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb is actually located here.
Besides its famed guests, this castle is actually right in the middle of a sweet French town instead of somewhere more remote. This makes it a great place to add to your itinerary, if you’re interested in seeing more than just the castle during your visit!
By Car: This castle is a two and a half hour drive from Paris — so long as you leave early to avoid traffic. But if you’re already in the Loire Valley, it’s a super short ride away from cities like Blois and Tours.
By Public Transport: Château d’Amboise is a quick two-hour direct train ride from Paris out of the Austerlitz station in the city. Take the train towards Bayeux and it will stop at Amboise, where you can easily find the château upon disembarkment.
Château de la Roche Courbon
Highlights: French gardens | Prehistoric museum and caves
This sprawling French castle and its grounds were constructed in the 15th century, before being completely renovated to become a residence during the 17th century.
However, there were people living in this location long before the castle was built. What makes this area so special is there’s evidence of prehistoric life here! Imagine that — a castle built where cavemen once resided. Pretty special, huh?
There’s even a museum on-site depicting this history, as well as caves in the forest that you’re able to visit as well.
Besides the ancient history that accompanies this castle, you should walk through the wondrous gardens of this chateau, which was named one of the Notable Gardens of France by the French Ministry of Culture. The gardens are filled with colorful flowers, perfectly manicured greenery, and pristine pools, all leading up to the giant structure.
By Car: This château is located right on the Atlantic Ocean, and is about three hours from Paris.
By Public Transport: Hop on the TGV from Paris to Surgeres. You can also take the TGV and the TER from Paris to Saintes, although it takes a bit longer than the previous route.
Château de Val
Highlights: 6 large towers | Beach next door | Various events and activities throughout the year
Dating all the way back from the 15th century, Château de Val is an elegant castle located in the Haute-Auvergne region of France.
Upon a first look at the castle, viewers will immediately be presented with six different towers and a solid base structure that rise out of the water that surrounds it. With sharply pointed roofs, the castle boldly stands out among the greenery and lush landscape surrounding the estate.
Instead of expansive gardens and manicured hedges, you’ll find people sailing on the waters surrounding the castle or basking in the sun on the shore.
While this castle isn’t as massive as the others on the list, there’s still no shortage of things to see and do on your visit.
Château de Val is located in a pretty rural part of France, thus making it challenging to get to there any way other than by car. This French castle is in the middle of the country, directly south of Paris. Getting there takes between four and a half to five hours by car, but you’re sure to see some beautiful landscapes along the way!
Highlights: Candlelight evening program | Vintage car collection | Golf cart rentals
Surrounded by 33 hectares of French gardens and spacious ponds with fountains, Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is as beautiful as it is historically important.
Built in the mid-17th century and designed by famed French architects, this castle belonged to four different families before it was opened up to the public in the second half of the 1900s.
Although it had been uninhabited for some time, it has been maintained to look as if the family vacated the property just recently! You’ll get to view completely intact rooms, with lavish decorations, furniture and art that’s sure to wow.
An easy 50 kilometers from Paris, this château is surprisingly easy to get to and will provide you with a day of fun. While walking the grounds, you’ll have the opportunity to plug into the immersive soundtrack (a mix between an audio guide and musical experience) that’s included in the price of admission, dress yourself in traditional garb from the period, and check out the collection of vintage cars housed in the castle’s former stables.
Plus, you can even visit the castle on a Saturday night for a candlelit evening!
This is a glorious place to visit if you’re around Paris and looking for a quick day trip.
By Car: Because this castle is located so close to Paris, it’s exceptionally easy to get to, being only an easy 50-kilometer drive.
By Public Transport: Simply hop on the P train headed to Provins and get off at the Verneuil l’Etang station. The train takes about 35 minutes. Once you arrive, you can take the Chateaubus shuttle that meets guests right at the train station and delivers them to the front door of the castle! Tickets can be purchased in advance, but you can also buy them from the shuttle driver when you arrive.
Cité de Carcassonne
Highlights: City walls | The door of Aude | The big well (rumored to be home to missing treasure)
Seeking something a little bit older than the 17th century on your French castle hunt? Well, look no further than this medieval number that can be traced to as far back as the 5th century!
With your first glance of Cité de Carcassonne, you’ll quickly understand that this village is indeed old and holds a vast history dating back to times before we can imagine.
Despite its age, the place has been well-kept, partly thanks to one of the largest restoration projects not only in France, but in all of Europe. In the 19th century, the Cité was fixed up to be what it is today: a marvelous place to come and experience the deep history of an empire that once was.
Cité de Carcassonne makes up an entire medieval town, with 52 towers and expansive walls that visitors are able to walk along to get the real feeling what it must’ve been like in the past. Most of the access is free, and you’re even able to take a guided tour to ensure you understand the deep history and make it to some places off the beaten path.
With all of its grandeur and spectacular size, Cité de Carcassonne is certainly a “cite” to behold.
By Car: A true gem of Southern France, Cité de Carcassonne is easily accessible from cities like Montpellier and Toulouse. Driving is fairly easy, but be sure to watch out for crazy rush hour traffic!
By Public Transport: Hop on a train to the Carcassonne train station that was built in 1913. It’s connected to major French cities by the TGV, so you’ll have no problem coming from places like Dijon, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, or Bordeaux. Another option is the free electric shuttle bus that services the city and its surroundings. It’s called the Toucs and easily gets you to the Bastide Saint-Louis during the summer.
Château de Cheverny
Highlights: 100 dogs that live on the grounds!!! | 3D Tintin exhibition | Massive park
Does this castle look a little bit familiar to you? If you’re a Tintin fan, it should! This French castle was the model for the famous character’s home in his comic books. Not bad for a boy and his dog, wouldn’t you say?
Besides being the home of famed Tintin, this Loire Valley château offers visitors a delightful experience as they traverse through the many halls and view the countless decorated rooms. Château de Cheverny was kept in the same family for more than six centuries, and has been masterfully conserved to maintain the artful taste and style of its former owners.
The gardens are massive, and there’s even a park on the grounds filled with sculptures to round the place out if nature isn’t enough for you.
However, the best thing about this castle is that it’s filled with dogs. Yes, you read that right — Château de Cheverny is home to not only Tintin, but also 100 hounds that roam the grounds and will be around during your visit.
You can even name one of the puppies during their baptism in May! Tell me how it could get any better than that. Trick question — it can’t!
By Car: You should be a pro at getting to the Loire Valley by now! But just in case you need a refresher, you can reach this area by car in two hours from Paris.
By Public Transport: If you’re coming from Paris, you can take the train from the Austerlitz station to Blois-Chambord. It takes about an hour and 40 minutes. From Blois, you’re able to hop in a cab to the castle, which should cost you around €25.
Château de Chantilly
Highlights: Antique painting collection | Private suites | Reading room
Castle or museum? It’s hard to tell when it comes to Chantilly.
If you’re an art lover, this is certainly a French castle that should be on your list. With the second largest collection of antique paintings in France (just after the Louvre of course), there’s no shortage of things to see as the halls and rooms are galleries to marvel at. The Duke of Aumale, whose home this once was, devoted his life to his collections, so you’re sure to find something that’s worth your while.
Besides paintings, Château de Chantilly is filled with suites lavishly decorated with relics of the times. Ornate gold furniture lines the rooms, with colorful canopies and chandeliers dripping in crystals hanging just above your head. If this is what living in the 18th century looked like, let me just rewind a few centuries because I want to make this place my home.
Besides paintings, the duke also had a passion for collecting books. In this castle, you’ll find a marvelous reading room filled floor-to-ceiling with a remarkable collection of reading materials. This is not a castle to be missed, I can promise you that!
By Car: This château is remarkably close to Paris, making it incredibly easy to access. It’s only 20 minutes from the airport and 40 kilometers from the heart of Paris.
By Public Transport: The regional express train (TER) runs from the Paris Nord station and will take you right to the castle. You can also take the SNCF main line from Gare du Nord and get off at the stop Chantilly-Gouvieux. It will only be a 25-minute ride. A last option is to take the RER line D that will also deliver you to Chantilly-Gouvieux. The choice is yours!
While planning a trip to France, you should absolutely save some space in your itinerary to visit these amazing chateaus. Whether you’re interested in art, history, culture or simply want to feel like royalty for a day, there are plenty of castles in France that are sure to excite you.
Hopefully this list of French châteaus gives you a peek into all that this country has to offer. With such a rich and action-packed history, it’s no wonder these monuments are considered to be some of the most beautiful places in the world!
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