Best Castles in France

Castles in France Chateau de' Chantilly

France is one of the most culturally and historically rich countries in the world, a fact attested by the millions of people who visit it each year. There is something about France that inspires our imaginations.

It’s not only Paris or Tour Eiffel that make us see France as a romantic destination, but also the numerous charming castles that dot the country from Loire Valley to Normandy and Provence and anywhere in between.

Whether you prefer medieval fortresses, charming châteaux or opulent palaces, France has it all. Below is our list of the most extraordinary castles in France to visit.

You can also see the map here

41 Famous French Castles to Visit

1. Château de Chenonceau

Castles in France Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau was built in the Renaissance style in the 16th-century by Catherine Briçonnet and her family. The beautiful château sits in the heart of the Loire Valley with spectacular views over the Cher River.

Due to its beauty, it was often disputed between powerful French women like Queen Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers. Besides the fairy-tale exterior with towers and turrets, the interiors of the castle are also stunning, housing magnificent art collections and Renaissance furniture and tapestries.

Where: Touraine
When: 16th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

2. Azay-le-Rideau Castle

Best Castles in France Azay le Rideau

This 12th-century castle has had a tumultuous history, being burned to the ground in the Middle Ages by King Charles VII. After a century of ruin, Azay-le-Rideau was rebuilt, but it suffered many periods of neglect as its ownership changed frequently between various kings, knights, and nobles.

The castle reached its current magnificence at the beginning of the 19th-century. Although the interiors lack furniture and decorations, the exterior has a charming configuration. The grounds also include a beautiful formal garden.

Where: Azay-le-Rideau
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

3. Château de Montrésor

French Castles Montresor

Originally a medieval fortress, Montrésor was rebuilt into a beautiful Renaissance mansion, only to be neglected after the French Revolution. The current magnificence of the place is due to the Polish noble family which acquired the property in the 19th-century and renovated it extensively.

The family also moved their rich art collections and period furniture into the castle. Now considered a historic monument, Montresor surprises with its picturesque location and classic architecture. The castle is located on the right bank of Indrois River, in the region known as Central Loire Valley.

Where: Montrésor
When: 1493
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

4. Château Comtal de Carcassonne

Best French Castes Carcassonne

Located in the south of France, Château Comtal de Carcassonne is a charming castle perched on a hill at the center of Carcassonne, a fortified medieval town.

Château Comtal is a must-see for lovers of historic beauty and romantic settings, especially as it is a UNESCO heritage site. With more than fifty towers that offer views over the Aude River, the castle is straight out of a storybook.

Due to its location, the castle is highly attractive as a day trip from either Toulouse or Montpelier.

Where: Carcassonne
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

5. Haut-Koenigsbourg

Castles in France Haut-Koenigsbourg

Originally a 12th-century castle built on a rocky hillside above Alsace, Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg has suffered many transformations over the centuries.

The current form of the castle was developed at the order of German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm at the beginning of the 20th-century when the Alsace region belonged to Germany. Most recent renovations date from the 1990s. Now the castle is a vast museum of armor, weapons and medieval artifacts.

One of the most interesting features is the watchtower, which offers visitors stunning views of the area. Haut-Koenigsbourg is a great day trip choice from Strasbourg.

Where: Alsace
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

6. Château des Ducs de Bretagne

Castles in France Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne

The initial Château des Ducs de Bretagne was built in the 13th-century but was demolished two centuries later when the current ducal castle was built to replace it.

The castle was reconstructed by Francis II, the Duke of Bretagne with the goal of serving as both a military fortress and residence of the Duke and his court. When Bretagne was annexed to France, the castle became the official residence of the kings of France when visiting the area.

The castle also had less glamorous periods, being used as a prison and suffering extensive damages due to fires. Today, however, it is a beautiful museum with a rich history worth exploring.

Where: Nantes
When: First ducal castle was built in the 13th century. It was demolished in the 15th century to make way for the present building.
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

7. Château d`Amboise

Best Castles in France Chateau-d' Amboise

Located in the stunning region known as the Loire Valley, Château d’Amboise has been sitting for centuries in the center of the small town of Amboise. The castle that visitors see today stands on the foundation of a former Roman fortress, strategically built on a hilltop.

From its location, the castle overlooks the Loire River and the surrounding areas. A mix of Renaissance and Gothic style features, the castle has beautifully decorated interiors where one can find medieval tapestries and armor, artworks, and period furniture. Interestingly, some of the designs for the renovations run by King Charles VIII belong to Leonardo da Vinci.

Where: Amboise
When: 15th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

8. Château de Beynac

French Castles Chateau de beynac

Château de Beynac is a wonderfully preserved fortress, strategically built atop a cliff in Perigord. Carved out of rock, the 12th-century fortress is an authentic glimpse into early medieval times. From its spectacular heights, it offers amazing views of the Dordogne Valley and all the other castles in the region.

Where: Perigord
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

9. Château de Castelnaud

Famous Castles in France Chateau de' Castelnaud

Offering amazing views over the Dordogne Valley, Château de Castelnaud is a beautiful example of a medieval fortress. Built in the 12th-century on a rocky hill, the castle went through several transformations, being captured by the English during the Hundred Years War.

After serving an important military role in medieval times, the castle was often abandoned by its owners, which led to deteriorations. Spectacular renovations have brought it to its former glory, and today it is home to the Museum of Medieval Warfare and its large collections of weapons and armor.

Where: Dordogne Valley
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

10. Château de Chambord

French Castles Chateau de' Chambord

One of the most famous castles in the world and the largest castle in the Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is a quintessential part of France history and heritage. Built for King Francis 1, the castle is a striking example of Renaissance style structures with unique features that contribute to its fairy-tale like aura. Now a UNESCO heritage site, the castle is surrounded by charming landscaped gardens which visitors can freely explore.

Where: Loir-et-Cher
When: 1519
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

11. Château de la Roche Courbon

Famous Castles in France Chateau de la Roche Courbon

Château de la Roche Courbon is a fortified castle built in the 15th-century, which was redesigned in the 17th-century to serve as a private residence. Located amid a historic forest, the castle also includes formal French gardens on its grounds.

Visitors can find terraced gardens with flower beds, ornamental ponds and beautiful orchards. There is also a prehistoric museum outside the castle. The forest is home to interesting prehistoric caves.  Château de la Roche Courbon is still a private residence, and inner access is only allowed by guided tour.

Where: Saint-Porchaire
When: 15th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information

12. Château de Ripaille

Best French Castles Chateau de' Ripaille

Château de Ripaille is a grand castle located on the banks of Lake Geneva. Initially built as a residence for Duke of Savoy, Amadeus VIII, in the 15th-century, the castle was transformed into a Carthusian monastery in the following century. In 1892, it was purchased by Frédéric Engel-Gros, a French businessman and art lover who used it as a country house.

With such a rich history, Château de Ripaille is considered part of France’s political and religious heritage. Although now a private residence, the castle can be visited with a guided tour which includes a visit to the former monastery, to the Amadeus room which houses a large collection of medieval objects, and to the terrace.

Where: Lake Geneva
When: 15th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

13. Château de Tours

Castles in France Chateau de' Tours

Built in 14th-century, Château Royal in Tours is an intrinsic part of French history, after serving as setting for the wedding of Charles VII and Marie d’Anjou and hosting Joan D’Arc after her victory in the Battle of Orleans.

Located in the Brouilly Appellation near Lyon, the castle includes tens of hectares of vineyards and is renowned for its excellent wine production. Beautifully renovated, the stunning castle and its romantic location amid the vines attract many visitors.

Where: Brouilly Appellation
When: 14th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

14. Château de Vaux le Vicomte

Best Castles in France Chateau de' Vaux le Vicomte

The construction on Château de Vaux le Vicomte began in 1656 and was overseen by Louis XIV, which led to the castle becoming the first example of French Classicism infused with Louis XIV style features, which later became immensely popular in France.

The design of the building, the interiors, and the landscape followed the vision of Louis XIV who wanted to build the most magnificent castle in France. Today, the castle is still one of the prettiest French châteaux. Only 60 kilometers away from Paris, it’s an amazing day trip choice.

Where: Maincy
When: 17th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

You might also want to check: The best Castles near Paris.

15. Château des Milandes

Famous Castles in France Chateau des Milandes

Located in the Dordogne region, in the south of France, Château des Milandes is a stunning example of Gothic architecture.

Although it dates back to the 15th-century, it achieved its current glory only in the 1940s, when it was purchased by famous singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who turned into a private residence for her large family.

Today the castle is a historic monument, and visitors can explore both the interiors and the beautiful gardens.

Where: Dordogne region
When: 15th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information

16. Château de Roquetaillade

Best Castles in France Chateau-de-Roquetaillade-Saint-Michel

Located in Bordeaux, Roquetaillade is a famous castle that replaced fortifications built by Charlemagne the Great more than a millennium ago.

The castle underwent significant restoration in the 19th-century under the supervisions of Gothic expert Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. A private residence for over 700 years, the castle has been open to the public since 1956, even though the same family still lives there.

Where: Mazères near Bordeaux
When: 18th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

17. Mont Saint Michel

Best Castles in France Saint Michel

Although not technically a castle, Mont Saint Michel is one of the most spectacular sights in France. While it looks like a castle, Saint Michel is a fortified city built around an 8th-century monastery.

Perched on a tall hillside on the coast of Normandy, Saint Michel becomes an island when the tide comes in, which removes all access except by boat. Besides the abbey complex, the grounds of Saint Michel include charming gardens, stunning panoramic views, historic sites, and artist studios.

Where: Near Avranches
When: 13th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

18. Château de Chantilly

Castles in France Chateau de' Chantilly

Located near Paris, Château de Chantilly is a magnificent castle surrounded by manicured lawns, lakes, canals, and woodland. Set amid such a stunning setting, the castle has plenty of other things to offer, including the greatest collections of fine art in France.

Now part of Institute of France, the castle belonged for many decades to Duke Aumale, a passionate art lover who donated his collections on the condition they would remain in the castle.

Besides the rich interiors, the grounds of the castle are also well worth exploring as the gardens are carefully manicured, each in a certain theme from Chinese to English.

Where: Chantilly, (about 50 kilometres north of Paris)
When: 1560
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

19. Chaumont-sur-Loire

Best Castles in France Chaumont sur Loire

Set in the Loire Valley, Château Chaumont-sur-Loire is one of the most visited castles in the area. Founded as early as the 10th-century, the castle entered in the possession of the Amboise family and continued to serve as a family residence for the Amboise descendants for over 500 years.

Demolished by Louis XI who wanted to punish the Amboise family for opposing him, the castle was rebuilt by another descendant of the Amboise between 1468 and 1566. From then on, the Renaissance-style castle remained unchanged, with 19th-century additions to the interiors. Today, the castle is a protected historic monument which hosts events and exhibitions.

Where: Loire Valley
When: 10th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

20. Flaugergues Castle

French Castles Flaugergues castle

Set in the south of France, near Montpellier and the Mediterranean coast, Flaugergues is a charming castle with striking interiors. Although on the outside, the castle is not as grand and impressive as other French castles, it has beautiful rooms with antique furniture and tapestries.

Additionally, the English style garden is a perfect place to relax and admire the beautiful nature and the interesting architecture of the castle. On the grounds of the castle, visitors will find a wine-tasting cellar.

Where: Near Montpellier
When: 1696
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

21. Langeais Castle

Famous Castles in France Langeais Castle

The present Langeais Castle dates back to late 15th-century after its former version was destroyed during the Hundred Years War between England and France. After reconstruction, the castle suffered few other modifications.

The most attractive feature of Langeais is the amazing collection of original medieval furniture and tapestries that adorn its interiors. On the grounds of the castle, staff re-enacts medieval games and swordplay for visitors. Less busy than other castles on the Loire Valley, Langeais is a charming alternative to more popular castles in its vicinity.

Where: Place Pierre de Brosse, Langeais
When: Between 1465 and 1469
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

22. Château Gaillard

Best French Castles Chateau Gaillard

Located in a picturesque setting with views over the Seine, Château Gaillard is one of the most beautiful places in Normandy. Built at the end of the 12th-century by Richard Lionheart, the castle passed down from the English to the French and back several times, before being demolished at the order of French King Henry IV in 1599.

Fortunately, the demolition did not affect the thick walls, and the castle’s ruins remained an impressive sight for centuries to come. Visitors can explore the ruins all year round, while the king’s rooms are only open to access during the high season, from March to November.

Where: Les Andelys
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

23. Château Fontainebleau

Castles in France Chateau Fontainebleau

Only 55 kilometers away from Paris, Fontainebleau is one of the most visited French castles. An original castle was built on the location in the 12th-century to serve as a hunting lodge for Louis VII, King of France.

Throughout the centuries, royal figures have expanded and embellished the castle, transforming it one of the largest and most grandiose French châteaux. A mix of Classicism and Renaissance styles, the castle is famous for its opulent interiors and large, unique gardens.

Where: Fontainebleau
When: The first building was constructed between 1528 and 1540
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

24. Château de l’Islette

Best Castles in France Chateau de l'Islette

Château de l’Islette is one of the most unique castles in France due to its location on a small island on the River Indre, which has also given its name: l’Islette actually means “small island” in French. Built between 1526 and 1530, the castle was owned by several noble families and important political figures until the French Revolution.

At the end of the 19th-century, however, Château de l’Islette became a favorite hideaway for renowned sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel.  Today, the castle belongs to the Michaud family who has restored it and uses it as a private residence.

Where: Two kilomètres West of Azay-le-Rideau
When: 1526 – 1530
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

25. Château de Vincennes

French Castles Chateau de' Vincennes

One of the most interesting sights in Paris, Château de Vincennes was built in the 14th-century in the French capital’s suburb of Vincennes. Initially a hunting house for King Louis VII, the castle was later developed and fortified to become a royal residence.

It served for centuries as a place of retreat for French royals, but Napoleon III decided in 1860 to donate the castle to the municipality of Paris. Today, the estate is a public park. Both the castle and a 16th-century royal chapel can be visited on the grounds.

Where: Avenue de Paris, Vincennes
When: 14th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

26. Château de Sully

Famous Castles in France Chateau fo Sully

Château de Sully is another impressive sight on the castle-filled Loire Valley. Built at the end of the 14th-century, Sully is a massive medieval fortress listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

In the 16th-century, this historic monument was owned by Maximiliano de Béthune, the first Duke of Sully, who developed the fortress into a more refined residence, adding important features and creating a park.

Many important French political and historical figures stopped at the château, including King Louis XIV and writer and philosopher Voltaire. Besides the intriguing history, the castle has stunning apartments filled with period furniture, medieval tapestries, and artworks.

Where: Rue du Château,  Sully
When: 14th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

27. Château de Joux

French Castles Chateau de Joux

Originally a wood structure built in the 11th-century, Château de Joux was gradually extended into a powerful fort complex three centuries later.  From the 17th-century to the 19th-century, the castle functioned as a prison.

Visitors can find today a striking structure which houses a large collection of arms, ammunition, instruments of war, and other military artifacts. Several art galleries also function on the grounds.

Where: La Cluse-et-Mijoux
When: 11th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

28. Papal Palace

Famous Castles in France Papal Palace

Palace of the Popes is the largest Gothic structure in Europe and one of the most significant constructions from the Middle Ages. Initially, a convent whose construction began in 1252, it was chosen as the seat of the Papacy in 1309 following a rebellion in Rome.

Quickly, the Palais became one of the main centers of European Christianity. Attracting more than half a million visitors each year, the Palais is included among the most touristic places in France. The palace is located in the town of Avignon, in Provence.

Where: Avignon
When: 14th Century
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

29. Château de Villandry

Best French Castles Chateau de Villandry

Located in the Loire Valley near many other impressive castles, Château of Villandry is the last grand castle dating back to the Renaissance era. With a sober architecture emphasized by its beautifully manicured gardens, Château de Villandry is an exquisite sight.

The history of the castle begins in the 14th-century when it was the setting of a peace agreement between King Philip II of France and Richard I of England. In the 17th-century, the castle was expanded into a fortress.

Most visitors are entranced today by the extraordinary gardens of Villandry, which are cover four terraces with a unique theme, restored in the 20th-century based on medieval documents.

Where: 3 Rue Principale, Villandry
When: 16th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

30. Fort de Salses

Castles in France Fort de Salses

Fort de Salses is unique among French castles because it was built with the goal of serving as a military outpost. A massive fortress from the late 15th-century, its construction was ordered by Catalan Monarchs.

Situated in a region between France and Catalonia that now is part of the French Pyrenees, the castle has had a troubling history but lost its strategic importance after being repeatedly besieged. Since 1642, it belongs to France.

Where: Salses-le-Château
When: 15th Century
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

31. Château de Cheverny

Best Castles in France Chateau de Cheverny

Château de Cheverny is one of the many French castles in the Loire Valley. Built in the 14th-century, the castle has belonged to the same family ever since. The interiors were redecorated in the 17th- and 18th- century, and the sumptuous apartments are open for visits.

The grounds of the castle include a tourist train which rides through the English-style gardens and a large pond where visitors can hire a boat.

Where: Cheverny
When: 14th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information

32. Château d’Angers

Also in the famous Loire Valley, Château d’Angers was built more than a thousand years ago as a residence for the Counts of Anjou. Today, the castle houses an important collection of medieval art and tapestries, including the Apocalypse Tapestry dating back to the late 14th-century.

While the interiors are impressive, the exterior of the castle has not been embellished during Renaissance as other early medieval castles have been. Château d’Angers is, however, a refined testimony of an important historical era.

Where: 2 Promenade du Bout du Monde, Αngers
When: Its construction began in the 9th century and was expanded to its present size in the 13th century.
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

33. Tours de Merle

Famous Castles in France Tours de Merle

The ruins of a large castle complex, Tours de Merle is located on a side of the Massif Central. Built in the 12th-century, Merle included actually seven castles and two chapels at its peak of development in the 14th-century.

Although in ruins due to several sieges during the 100 Years’ War, the feudal complex has retained some of its grandeur and is now a listed as a historic monument. The ruins are situated in the heart of a large woodland. During the summer, medieval-themed activities await curious visitors.

Where: Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle
When: 12th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

34. Château de Bonaguil

Best French Castles Chateau de Bonaguil

Château de Bonaguil is a fortified structure from the early 17th-century, now mostly in ruins. Located in Saint-Front-Sur-Lemance, this was once a grand feudal castle with a solid defense system.

To reach the castle, visitors must follow a series of steep stairs up on the hillside. The climb, however, is worth it as the grounds of the castle include interesting attractions such as artworks and various medieval objects.

Where: Saint-Front-sur-Lémance
When: 17th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

35. Palace of Versailles

Castles in France Palace of Versailles

Undoubtedly one of the best castles in France and in Europe, the Palace of Versailles is an extraordinary château whose opulence in unmatched. Built-in 1631 by King Louis XIII, Versailles was the seat of French Power for centuries.

Today, the palace is a museum that showcases the most important events in French history. With 2,300 sumptuous rooms, immense gardens, and a Grand Canal, Versailles sees millions of visitors each year. The most impressive part of Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors built of 350 mirrors.

Where: Versailles
When: 1631
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

36. Château d’Annecy

Château d’Annecy is a gorgeous castle located at the heart of Annecy, a small town on the shore of Lake Annecy in southern France. Set amid plenty of other important medieval structures, the castle was built in the 13th-century and expanded in the 16th-century to its current form.

Once the residence of the Counts of Geneva and other noble families, the castle has been converted into a museum in 1953. Its largest collections focus on paintings and sculptures. One of the most attractive things about the castle is its location on a hill, with views over Lake Annecy and the surrounding mountains.

Where: 1 Place du Château, Annecy
When: 13th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

37. Château de Verteuil

French Castles Chateau de Verteuil

Château de Verteuil was built in 1080 to serve as a private residence for the La Rochefoucauld family, and it has been owned by the same family for a bit less than a millennium.

Located in Verteuil, a small village on the banks of Charente River, the castle suffered a lot of damage throughout the centuries, being destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly.

This led to a mix of styles and features, which makes Château de Verteuil a unique and interesting sight.  Due to being privately owned, the castle can only be visited on a guided tour. Guests can visit the chapel, the inner courtyard, and the gardens.

Where: Verteuil-sur-Charente
When: It dates back to 1080 and has since been extensively rebuilt
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

38. Château de Val

Best French Castles Chateau de Val

Château de Val is one of the most beautiful castles in central France. Built in the 13th-century, it has been well preserved throughout time. With its amazing location on a peninsula in an artificial lake, the castle’s unique setting is not the only thing that attracts attention.

Visitors can enjoy the view of sailing boats and even a beach on the estate. The interiors of the castle are also a stunning vista. On the grounds of the castle, there are often free activities and entertainment available for both adults and children.

Where: Les Fontilles, Lanobre
When: 1514–1522
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

39. Rocamadour

Castles in France Rocamadour

Built into a cliff on a length of 120 meters and sitting high above a large canyon, Rocamadour is, undoubtedly, one of the most scenic places in France. In fact, Rocamadour is a tiny village housed inside a fortified structure.

With a long and fascinating history, the place attracted pilgrims even as early as the 12th-century, when it was known as a worshipping place due to housing the relics of Saint-Amadour.

The central section of Rocamadour, which is also the highest, includes a complex of eight churches and chapels carved into the rock, along with the ramparts of a medieval château.

Where: Rocamadour
When: 14th Century

40. Château de Pierrefonds

Best Castles in France Chateau de Pierrefonds

Château de Pierrefonds is a beautiful castle located on the edge of the Forest of Compiegne, near Paris. Built in the 12th-century, the castle was meant as a military fortress and features some of the most impressive architecture found in defense structures of this type.

Besieged in 1617, the castle regained its glory in the 19th-century when it served as a private residence for Napoleon. Although neglected for a while, the castle has been restored with great concern for its original design which includes a mix of styles, according to the preferences of its many owners throughout the centuries.

Where: Rue Viollet le Duc, Pierrefonds
When: 1393-1407
Open for visit:  Yes, check here for more information.

41. Château de Vitre

French Castles Chateau de Vitre

The long history of Château de Vitre begins in the 11th-century when the castle was built as a massive stone fortress. It was enlarged in the 15th-century with a grand tower and a drawbridge, and new additions transformed it into a residence for its owners of noble descent. 

Throughout the centuries, the castle was an important setting for significant historical events and suffered damages from sieges and attacks as a consequence. At the beginning of the 19th-century, it was purchased by the town of Vitre and transformed into the town hall. A museum also functions on the same location.

Where: Vitré
When: 11th Century
Open for visit: Yes, check here for more information.

With such a wide range of stunning castles, each with a unique and intriguing history, France is a paradise for those looking for settings where romance, history, and beauty converge. If you want to visit a French castle, our list will inspire you to find the château that best matches your vision of a fairytale location.