As well as strong cheese and great wine, France is famed for its gorgeous chateaux! You’ll find a castle in almost every town across the country, from romantic ruins dating back to medieval times to pretty palaces complete with enchanting turrets and glistening moats.
Keen for a fairy tale moment? Or are you a sucker for a fascinating story from history? There’s plenty of monumental fortresses to visit during a road trip around France.
Not sure which ones you should make a beeline for? We’ve got all bases covered with these incredible French chateaux:
If you reckon you were a king in another life, potter down to the Palace of Versailles
Hands-down the most celebrated château in France, Versailles is just a short distance from Paris and is one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime!
Want to know more? Let’s quickly dive into the past. It was built by the so-called Sun King in 1631 and has since been the seat of numerous Kings of France over the centuries – including Louise XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. That’s of course before they were both guillotined during the French Revolution!
So, what’s inside? The château itself is packed with elegant hallways, ornate bedchambers and, of course, the world-famous Hall of Mirrors!
The grounds are pretty spectacular too! Understatement of the century! You can set foot in Marie Antoinette’s peaceful hamlet (complete with a model village and a windmill), awe at all four of the castle’s fountains, and explore the palace’s sweet-smelling orangery!
That enough chateau action for you?
Château de Versailles, Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles
If you want to swot up on French military history, check out Château de Caen
Fancy yourself as a history buff? Have we got the chateau for you!
You’ll find the Château de Caen overlooking the mighty city of Caen in Normandy. Here’s what you need to know. It’s one of the biggest fortresses in Europe and was famously built by William the Conqueror just before he invaded England!
Down the years it’s also seen its fair share of action. It protected the town from invasion during the Hundred Years’ War. And it was partially destroyed in both the French Revolution and WWII. The Museum of Normandy is located within the Château de Caen’s walls. It’ll be able to give you a bit more detail than us!
Art more your thing? You’ll discover dozens of incredible paintings from important French and European artists at the castle’s Museum of Fine Arts of Caen. Art and history – double win!
Château de Caen, 14000 Caen
If you’re keen to combine sightseeing with wine tasting, Château de Chambord is the one
Well you are in France. It would be rude not to sample some wine too!
Like your Loire Valley wines? Want to combine it with some chateau action as well? Some might say (well us actually) that this stunning castle rivals Versailles for its beauty and grandeur!
If you’ve been to this area of France before you’ll know (and even if you haven’t you’ll soon discover) that it’s teeming with chateaux. But few are as big or as impressive as the Château de Chambord.
It was built in the 16th century as a rather grand hunting lodge for King Francis I. Basically it really isn’t a hunting lodge – it’s exactly what you’d picture a royal château to be like. Think towering turrets, ornate stonework, a decorative moat and acres of gorgeously manicured grounds.
Francis could have taken us hunting there any time!
Definitely not to be missed is the double spiral staircase. It’s rumoured to have been designed by none other than Leonardo da Vinci, don’t you know?! You can stroll all the way up three flights of stairs on one side of the staircase without ever meeting the other set of steps. It’s pretty spectacular and everything you’d expect from our man Leonardo.
Château, 41250 Chambord
If you need to get over that annoying ex with a night or two in a fairy tale castle, drive to Château Du Grand Lucé
Now this really is a true chateau escape!
While most of the larger chateaux in France are only open for day visitors, you will find a handful of smaller options which you can snooze in for a night or so.
Keen to lay your head like the prince or princess that you are?
Then you have to head to the 18th century Château Du Grand Lucé which has been transformed into a luxurious hotel that’s definitely fit for royalty! And you. We’re talking about the elegantly furnished suites and the mouth-watering French cuisine at the hotel’s onsite bistro.
Didn’t we tell you the Loire Valley was packed with chateaux? Well this really is the perfect place to stay if you’re exploring the region’s top wineries or have tickets to watch the Le Mans motor race (the city is only 35 minutes away).
9 Place de la République, 72150 Le Grand-Lucé
If you’re after impressive mountain Insta-worthy views, head up to the lofty Château de Peyrepertuse
While this majestic castle now sits in ruins, it occupies a truly jaw-dropping position in the French Pyrenees!
Ready to don your hiking boots for a little explore? This really is a dramatic castle and was even co-owned by both Spain and France at one time. It did fall into ruin in the 17th century but can still be explored today.
We mentioned those hiking boots right? Well the surrounding area is a fabulous place for a walk with awesome scenic views! You can reach the Château de Peyrepertuse in under three hours from Toulouse or combine it with a trip to the spectacular walled city of Carcassonne that’s only an hour and a half away.
Getting around France
Whether you’re venturing to just one of France’s epic castles or you’ve got a whole road trip lined up, you’ll find the country is super easy to navigate by car. Simply pick up a hire car in any French city or airport, and don’t forget to refresh your memory on the rules of the road using our France driving guide!