The 10 Best Châteaux to Visit in France

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Written by
Meg Simpson

Published on: June 11th, 2024

Last modified: June 11th, 2024

French châteaux are fascinating symbols of the country’s illustrious past. These grand residences were once home to noble – or even royal – figures, and today they offer travellers the chance to step back in time to a world of elegance and indulgence. In contrast to France’s luxury castles, most châteaux can best be described as country estates or palaces.

There are literally thousands of châteaux in France, but some are especially interesting due to their history, architecture, decor or surroundings. Many are open to the public and a few even allow guests to stay overnight.

If you’re interested in learning about the historical and cultural legacy that they represent, these are the best châteaux to visit in France – according to our team of experienced travel designers.

Château de Chambord

1. Château de Chambord

The lovely Loire Valley boasts more than 300 châteaux, but the Château de Chambord still manages to stand out. It’s one of the most famous châteaux in France thanks to its iconic French Renaissance architecture, including over 400 rooms and a double spiral staircase. 

Need to know: The Château de Chambord is more than an extravagant home; it’s also surrounded by manicured gardens, vineyards and a park that’s the same size as Paris (which happens to be the largest enclosed park in Europe). 

Château d’Ussé

2. Château d’Ussé

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a fairytale castle, the Château d’Ussé is calling your name. The author of Sleeping Beauty, Charles Perrault, used this château in the Loire Valley as inspiration for the timeless story. Today it’s home to the Duke of Blacas and his family. 

Need to know: The ‘Sleeping Beauty castle’ is a fantastic place to visit on a family trip to France, with several exhibits that will capture the imagination of kids and adults alike.

The wall Château de Fougères

3. Château de Fougères

The Château de Fougères can also be described as a castle and a medieval fortress. It’s set on a promontory and surrounded by a natural moat, lending it an important defensive position. The structure includes more than a dozen towers and has a history spanning over 1,000 years.

Need to know: The Château de Fougères is located in Brittany, just west of Normandy, in the picturesque town of Fougères; don’t miss the pretty houses lining the Place du Marchix.

Chateau de Chenonceau

4. Château de Chenonceau

There’s no question that the Château de Chenonceau is among the best châteaux in France, with its one-of-a-kind construction across the river Cher. It’s also the second most visited (exceeded only by Versailles) and the most photographed building in the Loire Valley

Need to know: This château is also known as the Château des Dames, or ‘Ladies’ Château’, due to the influence of the many powerful women who oversaw it through the centuries.

5. Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry was built on the site of a medieval fortress right on the banks of the Loire River. Among all the stately homes of the Loire Valley, it’s especially well known for its elaborate gardens, which feature a large lake, hedges and flower and vegetable gardens.

Need to know: Although the château itself is only open to visitors during certain months of the year, its spectacular gardens can be visited year round.

Château Royal de Blois

6. Château Royal de Blois

Architecture aficionados will love the Château Royal de Blois, which features no fewer than four architectural styles throughout its four wings: Gothic, Renaissance, Classical and medieval. Built between the 13th and 17th centuries, it reflects how French architecture evolved over time.

Need to know: This château is located in the Loire Valley in the city of Blois, which also has a beautiful old town, a Gothic cathedral and the whimsical Robert-Houdin House of Magic.

Château d’Amboise

7. Château d’Amboise

Located on an elevated piece of land overlooking the Loire River, the Château d’Amboise has a particularly interesting history. It was once home to various royals including Louis XI and Charles XIII, who oversaw significant renovations before his death on the property in 1498. 

Need to know: You can visit the Château d’Amboise on a tour that also includes the charming town of Amboise and the château’s chapel, where Leonardo da Vinci is buried.

Château de Saumur,

8. Château de Saumur

At first glance, the Château de Saumur looks a lot like a medieval castle – and that’s what it originally was, before subsequently serving as a royal home, military barracks, a prison and a museum. Today it’s the main attraction of the riverside town of Saumur in the Loire Valley.

Need to know: We recommend discovering the Château de Saumur and the town below it on a cycling tour, which also includes the Château de Montreuil-Bellay and gorgeous views.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

9. Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Yet another stunning château in the Loire Valley, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau has an especially unique setting: it’s located on an island in the Indre River. It’s also a prime example of 16th-century French Renaissance architecture, built atop the site of a medieval castle. 

Need to know: The château hosts exhibitions and events such as concerts, costume exhibits and tours designed especially for younger children.

Château d’Angers

10. Château d’Angers

Recognisable for its massive size and imposing stone towers, the Château d’Angers is the centrepiece of the city of Angers. Also known as Angers Castle, it has served as a military fortress, a royal residence and now a museum that houses the famous Apocalypse Tapestry.

Need to know: Discover this exceptional château on a guided tour of Angers, which boasts not only an intriguing history but also a wonderful dining scene and world-renowned vineyards.

Exploring France’s Most Captivating Châteaux

 

There’s no better way to dive into France’s fascinating history than by visiting its exquisite châteaux – except perhaps staying overnight at one. Our expert travel designers can help you find the very best châteaux to stay at in France and design an itinerary that’s perfectly suited to your interests. Whether you’re looking for a storybook châteaux hotel, an architectural tour or a relaxing day trip to the countryside, we’ve got you covered.

Whatever you want from your adventure in France, our travel designers are ready to help

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