Top French Medieval Castles In France To Perfect Your Itinerary
This article about French medieval castles in France may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.
Table of Contents
List Of The Top French Medieval Castles In France
1. CHATEAU DE CHANTILLY
Where Is Chateau De Chantilly & What Else To Visit?
2. CHATEAU DE FONTAINEBLEAU
Where Is Chateau De Fontainebleau & What Else To Visit?
3. CHATEAU DU HAUT-KOENIGSBOURG
Where Is Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg & What Else To Visit?
4. CHATEAU D’ANNECY
Where Is Chateau d’Annecy & What Else To Visit?
5. CHATEAU DE CHAMBORD
Where Is Chateau De Chambord & What Else To Visit?
6. CHATEAU DE CHENONCEAU
Where Is Chateau De Chenonceau & What Else To Visit?
7. VITRE CHATEAU
Where Is Vitre Chateau & What Else To Visit?
8. CARCASSONNE CASTLE
Where Is Carcassonne Castle & What Else To Visit?
9. MONT SAINT MICHEL ABBEY
Where Is Mont Saint Michel Abbey & What Else To Visit?
More Tips For European Travel
France is mainly famous for its delicious wine, rich history, beautiful beaches, and luxury destinations. Among other things, medieval castles in France shouldn’t be missing on your itinerary. If you’re a history lover and want to admire French historical buildings, chateaus, and beautiful castles, this article is for you. It’ll introduce you to the top French medieval castles in France you should visit while traveling in the country.
List Of The Top French Medieval Castles In France
- Chateau de Chantilly
- Chateau de Fontainebleau
- Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
- Chateau D’Annecy
- Chateau de Chambord
- Chateau de Chenonceau
- Vitre Chateau
- Carcassonne Castle
- Mont Saint Michel Abbey
1. Chateau De Chantilly
Chateau de Chantilly is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful medieval castles in France. It’s also considered the second most important museum after the Louvre, thanks to its countless galleries from famous artists and many generations who owned it. Interestingly, families always inherited the castle and never sold it to anyone. The chateau was built in the middle ages to control the roads between Senlis and Paris, the capital of France. Let’s explore a bit of its history.
Breif History Of Chateau De Chantilly
During the Classical Era belonged the chateau to the Charlotte de Montmorency, wife of Henri II de Bourbon. She was also known as Prince of Condé. After, their son, Louis II de Bourbon, inherited it. He brought a lot of life to the castle, invited many artists, and organized parties. Thanks to him, the castle soon became as important as the Palace of Versailles. Artists also built the French gardens around.
During the French Revolution, the Duke of Bourbon lost his son when he was assassinated, which ended the Bourbon-Conde lineage of the castle. He then gave the castle to his grand-nephew Henri d’Orleans. Finally, he built a Condé museum inside, in which you can nowadays learn more about the castle’s history and its dynasties.
Anre le Notre, a famous French landscape architect, created the gardens around the castle. He was also commissioned for the gardens at Versailles Palace.
Chateau of Chantilly holds a lot of the culinary history of France. It was visited by Louis XV, the great Sun King, and the kitchen staff here was trying to make his stay as memorable as possible. Those times, the famous Chantilly vanilla cream was invented here in the kitchen.
Lately, the castle was also featured in the James Bond movie ‘A View to a Kill.’
What To See In Chateau De Chantilly
- Petit château – original building from the first family who owned it, with bedrooms and accommodtion
- Château Neuf – added in 19th century – with library, chapel, and art galleries
- The Chapel – with beautifully painted ceiling and glass stained windows
- Museum Condé
- French gardens
- Horse racing museum
Where Is Chateau de Chantilly & What Else To Visit?
Chateau de Chantilly is located in the Hauts-de-France region in northern France. It’s in a small town, Chantilly, just 42km from Paris (26 miles).
Below, I am giving you some suggestions for what else you can do and see in the Hauts-de-France region:
- Lille city, the capital
- Gerberoy town
- Bay of Somme & its Belle Epoque steam train
- Picardy & Les Grandes Cathedrales
- WWII. Dunkirk site – Operation Dynamo
Skip-the-Line Ticket For Chateau de Chantilly
You can get the skip-the-line ticket for Chanteau de Chantilly below. Skip-the-line tickets are always worth it, as with these attractions, you usually need to stand in a line for a long time. With skip-the-line tickets, you can just directly come and tour the medieval castles.
2. Chateau De Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau is often forgotten by visitors as most of them only come to Versailles Palace. Little do we know that this chateau used to be the residence of the French monarchy for a long time in history. It’s also one of the biggest royal and medieval castles in France.
Brief History of Chateau De Fontainebleau
This medieval chateau was home to several important French personalities and kings, including Louis VII, Napoleon I, Francis I, Napoleon Bonaparte, Henri II and his wife Catherine de Medici, and Napoleon III with Marie Antoinette.
Many crucial events in French history happened exactly in this medieval castle, including marriages, coronations, and births of royals. For instance, Pope Pius VII stopped by to crown Napoleon as the French Emperor.
In addition, other famous personalities visited this chateau, such as Charles V., Holy Roman Emperor. He was present in Prague, Swedish Queen Christina, or Peter the Great Russian Emperor. Later on, Napoleon was arrested and imprisoned in the castle for 2 years.
The castle has many outlooks since each emperor and king liked the different designs. So it was renovated according to each emperor’s taste. Thankfully, many original belongings are still kept in the castle. You can see them nowadays during your visit. Even the bed from Marie Antoinette, who had never slept on it since she was assassinated before it arrived in her royal room.
During WWII became Chateau de Fontainebleau the headquarters of the Germans. After the war, it was also used by NATO to make important decisions that later shaped the world’s history.
What To See In Chateau De Fontainebleau
- Horseshoe-spahed staircase
- Turkish boudoir where Antoinette entertained her guests
- Silver boudoir which she gave to her husband Louis XVI
- Francois I Gallery, Gallery des Colonnes, Gallery de Diane
- Imperial Theatre
- 4x Museums – Empress’ Chinese Museum (of Empress Eugenie), Napoleon Museum, Furniture Gallery, Galerie de Peinture
- 4x Gardens
Where Is Chateau de Fontainebleau & What Else To Visit?
Chateau de Fontainebleau is situated in the metropolitan area of Paris, just 70km away from the French capital. You can easily take a train from the Gare de Lyon in Paris, which will take you to the chateau in 50 minutes.
Many people visit Versailles Palace as a day trip from Paris, accessible by train. Chateau de Fontainbleau often gets forgotten but has even more things to see. You can explore a lot of history inside. You can visit both of these chateaus from Paris by train and make a nice day trip.
Skip-the-line Ticket For Chateau de Fontainebleau
3. Chateau Du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Located in the Alsace region of France, this castle has stood here since the 12th century. It was built to protect various trade routes across the region.
Unlike other French chateaus, this one is built on a hill. So you can expect one of the most spectacular views of the Alsace region, German’s Black Forest, and even spot the stunning Swiss Alps. This castle will truly bring you back to the Middle Ages. So let’s explore it together.
Brief History Of Chateau Du Haut-Koenigsbourg
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg has witnessed several European conficts, and rivalry between emperors and royals. It was mainly between the Habsburgs, Hohenzollers, and Hohenstaufers.
During the Thirty Years War, it was burnt down by the Swedish army and consequently sieged for 50 days. It was then completely abandoned for 2 centuries.
You might have noticed that this medieval castle doesn’t have a French name. Its name is rather German. Even its architecture is influenced by the German style. This is because it was given to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor and the last King of Prussia, at the beginning of the 20th century. He declared war against France and the United Kingdom in 1914, which started WWI.
He was so in love with the Middle Ages that he restored its architecture to remind him of the German Empire and gave the castle a medieval outlook.
It’s situated on the Alsace wine route, so you can kill two birds with one hit and enjoy both typical activities once visiting France.
What To See In Chateau Du Haut-Koenigsbourg
- Defensive ramparts and towers
- Main living accommodation – deep well, interior courtyard with kitchens and windmill
- Medieval castle
Where Is Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg & What Else To Visit?
Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg resides in the beautiful region of Alsace. It’s in norhteastern France, close to Germany and Switzerland, on the River Rhine plain.
Alsace region has so many other things to do. It’s for an individual itinerary through Alsace in France. Check out the things below you can see in this region beside the chateau:
- Strasbourg city
- Colmar medieval town
- Cruise on the Rhine River
- Mont Sainte-Odile Abbey
- Alsatian vineyard route
Tickets For Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg
You can get tickets directly on the castle’s website. Please note that the castle is temporarily closed due to reconstruction until further notice (as of April 2022). Check out the status and opening of the castle on their website – Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg.
4. Chateau D’Annecy
Chateau d’Annecy is located in the charming Annecy town, close to Switzerland. It’s in the middle of its historical center and provides some of the most stunning views from all medieval castles in France at the Lake Annecy.
Brief History Of Chateau D’Annecy
The castle was built to protect the route that linked Geneva with Italy in the past. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, it became a residence of the Counts of Geneva.
It was completely destroyed by fire back in 1340. Dukes of Genevois-Nemours renovated it in the 16th century to its original outlook with defensive medieval architecture and a few aspects of the French Renaissance. Then, in the 17th century, it was left by the residents.
After, it was bought by the town of Annecy. They’ve started using it for exhibitions and have kept it an important historical landmark of the town. Nowadays, it’s a historical and art museum in Annecy town and the Alpine Lakes Regional Observatory.
What To See In Chateau D’Annecy
The castle is divided into several towers and so called logis. You can visit the following during your visit:
- Queen’s Tower
- Logis Pierre – with Regional Observatory of the Alpine Lakes, prehistoric lakeside settlements, and even aquarium with various fish species
- Old Logis
- Logis Neuf
- Logis Nemours
- Museum of Alpine Popular Art
Where Is Chateau d’Annecy & What Else To Visit?
Annecy town, with its chateau, is in southeast France, in the region called Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. It’s one of the most stunning French regions regarding natural resources and beauty. Crystal-clear lakes, charming towns, spectacular mountains, ski resorts, and thermal spas can be found here.
Let’s see what else you can explore here besides Annecy and its castle:
- Lyon city
- Frech Alps 7 their ski resorts (Les Arcs, Chamonix, La Plagne)
- Chamonix alpine town
- Mont Blanc – highest European mountain
- Auvergne volcanoes
- Gorges de l’Ardèche – European Grand Canyon
- Vichy spa resort
I’ve included many of these places in my south of France itinerary for 14 days, which I’ve designed for you. So check out my itinerary and travel in southern France. You can add up a few medieval castles in France to it.
Tickets For Chateau d’Annecy
It’s enough if you get the tickets for the Chateau D’Annecy on spot. No need to prebook anything. It’s usually not as busy as the other castles on this list.
5. Chateau De Chambord
Chateau de Chambord is another majestic medieval castle in France, the largest in the Loire region. It also hosts the biggest park in Europe. In fact, it’s as big as inner Paris. So just imagine getting lost in its stunning gardens, having a French picnic, and exploring another part of French history. After your visit, you can stay in a nearby hotel overnight, which really feels like sleeping in the actual castle.
Brief History Of Chateau De Chambord
The chateau was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I. Therefore, it didn’t have any defensive features. Instead, the king used it for recreational purposes and put a lot of importance into its outlook. He wanted the castle to represent his power and commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to make it impressive.
One of the features Leonardo da Vinci worked on is its double helix staircase, which is, for many, the most interesting thing to see inside the castle. One part is used for ascending and the other part for descending. This way, the king was sure he never met his servants and other staff in the castle. The staircase is also illuminated by a light, which is on the castle’s highest point.
Interestingly, King Francis I didn’t live much time in the castle. Indeed, he only spent 72 days there during his life. Otherwise, was the castle empty. The main reason is that the rooms were huge with a ceiling, so it was difficult to heat them up properly.
What To See In Chateau De Chambord
Altogether, the castle has 440 rooms, 84 staircases, and 282 fireplaces. During your visit, you’ll get to see 80 rooms from all.
The main reason for visiting this medieval castle is its charm and the beautiful gardens surrounding it. It also has its own wine stored in Chambord oak for a specific taste. You can get the wine inside the castle’s boutique.
Where Is Chateau de Chambord & What Else To Visit?
Chateau de Chambord stands in the famous Loire River valley, in the French region known as Centre-Val de Loire. It’s almost in the center of France, so you can visit it on the way to other places. It’s a region full of other castles and rich history. Chateau de Chenonceau is also situated in this region. So you can kill two birds with one stone and visit two medieval castles in France.
Below, I am listing a few other things you can visit in this region:
- Briare Canal
- Bourges city
- Taste Loire Valley wine
Skip-the-line Ticket For Chateau de Chambord + Day Excursions From Paris
Chateau de Chambord and Chateau de Chenonceau are very close to Paris, which makes it a perfect day trip from the French capital. If you just visit Paris and want to see one or both of these castles, check out the organized tours below. You can visit both of these chateaus with them, learn more about history, and even do wine tasting on the way. These are great excursions.
6. Chateau De Chenonceau
Welcome to the Ladies Castle. Chateau de Chenonceau is located in the Loire Valley, on the shores of River Cher. In the past, it was the only way to cross the river passing through its bridge. That is why the women taking care of the castle strongly defended it during any conflicts in the past. They also were in charge of its architecture and design, which is why it’s called the Ladies Castles. Let’s explore it together.
Brief History Of Chateau De Chenonceau
This chateau is the best representation of French Rennaisance and Gothic architecture styles. It used to be home to several families. The most important were the Marques family, King Charles VIII., manager Bohier, and King Francis I. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t save the castle from burning down, and the other one brought it to debt. The managers had then a lot of work to put the castle back together and started renovations.
One of the most influential women, who owned the castle, was Louise Dupin. She inherited it from her father, Claude. During the French Enlightenment era, she invited many writers and artists to the castle and her literary salon. But more importantly, she also saved the chateau from damage during the French Revolution.
Between 1914 and 1918, the castle served as a military hospital during WWI. Its rooms had a capacity of 120 beds, and over 2200 injured soldiers came there for treatments. One of the rooms also had an X-ray machine. You can see the people who took care of these soldiers in the Gallery of Dome nowadays.
Consequently, it was damaged during WWII. Germans bombarded it heavily in 1940. Then, in 1994, it got hit by the Allies, who were trying to defend the Germans on the territory.
What To See In Chateau De Chenonceau
- Guard’s Room
- Bedrooms of Mistress Diane de Portiers, Catherine de Medici, Katherine Briconnet (castle’s ladies)
- Louis XIV living room
- The balcony
- Marques Tower
- French gardens
Where Is Chateau de Chenonceau & What Else To Visit?
Chateau de Chenonceau is also located in the historical Centre-Val de Loire region, in the small town of Chenonceaux. You can visit it together with Chateau de Chambord and add a nice wine tour through the Loire River valley to your itinerary. Have a look into Chateau de Chambord for what else you can do in this region.
Excursions To Chateau De Chenonceau + Tickets
As with Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau is a perfect day trip from Paris. You can kill two birds with one stone and visit both of these medieval castles. Join one of the organized excursions below, learn more about their history, and even do some wine tasting. It’s all included in the tour. So check them out. Or just book a ticket for Chateau de Chenonceau to avoid the crowds on the spot.
7. Vitre Chateau
Vitre Chateau was one of the first medieval castles in France officially listed as a historical monument. Do you fancy playing an hour-long puzzle game inside the castle? That it might be your choice to visit exactly this one. You’ll have to find a secret way out during the game, and it’s a lot of fun. Let’s enjoy the fairy-tale castle and learn more about Brittany’s history inside.
Brief History Of Vitre Chateau
This medieval castle was originally only built with wood. However, after being burnt down several times, the Baron Robert of Vitré decided to rebuild it using stone.
In the 1500s, the castle became even the seat of the Parliament of Brittany.
It’s one of the most beautiful medieval castles in France and entire Europe. It stands at the edge of Brittany, where many powerful families fought against each other to expand their territories. This border is also called ‘Marches de Bretagne.’ Later on, were many castles in this area converted into the medieval city. After, many influential people, artists, merchants, and manufacturers came to the city to live there. This was also the history of Vitre Chateau.
Nowadays, you can learn about its history, listen to several fairy tales, and have fun watching its beauty.
What To See In Vitre Chateau
- Vitre Old Town
- Rampart’s Walk
- Notre Dame De Vitre
- Saint-Martin Church
- Bridolle Tower
Where Is Vitre Chateau & What Else To Visit?
Vitre chateau stands in the beautiful City of Arts and History, Vitre, in the Brittany region. Since we are talking about everything medieval in this article, you can visit picturesque Saint-Malo town close to the Mont Saint Michel Abbey. It’s a coastal time with medieval walls and features unique scenery.
Other than that, Brittany has stunning coastal scenery next to the Atlantic Ocean, which is just worth driving nearby. You can also eat a lot of seafood during your trip and explore the history of its small towns.
Let’s see what else is worth visiting in Brittany:
- Dinan old center
- Locronan – one of the most beautiful villages in France
- Rochefort-en-Terre – stone village
- Île de Batz
Tickets For Vitre Castle
You can get online tickets for Vitre castle directly on their website. It’s one of the easiest options.
8. Carcassonne Castle
Carcassonne is more than just a medieval castle in France. It’s an entire medieval city in the beautiful Occitanie region of France. It’s indeed the biggest medieval city with walls that survived in Europe. Nowadays, there is even a board game called Carcassonne in which you can build your own medieval cities and land. Its surroundings also provide some of the most stunning scenery, including wine yards and Pyrenees mountains in the background.
Brief History Of Carcassonne Castle
Carcassonne was built in the 6th century BC as a hill fort named ‘oppidum.’ It became an important link between Europe and the Iberian peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are located. It’s always been a powerful stronghold.
Its city walls are 3km long (1.9 miles) and together encompass 52 huge towers. These still stand here from the 13th and 14th centuries. Interestingly, the castle was never a target and was never attacked from foreign troops. Even during the Hundred Years’ War, nobody tried to attack and destroy it.
In the mid-1800s, the Carcassonne castle with its city was almost demolished. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it into Napoleon’s list for restorations in the country. Even the French government was ready to bring it down. Luckily, locals raised their voices and fought for Carcassonne to stay. The French poet, Gustave Nadaud, made the Carcassonne later famous with his poem. He wrote about a man who dreamt about the medieval city before dying.
What To See In Carcassonne City
Nowadays, Carcassonne medieval castle and city get thousands of visitors each year. It even competes with St. Mont Michel Abbey, with the title of being the most visited castle in France. You can enter the medieval city for free, sit on its square with a beautiful fountain and drink coffee. Go to local shops for treats, and then visit its medieval castle with the cathedral.
Where Is Carcassonne Castle & What Else To Visit?
Carcassone is situated in the Occitanie region, the southern part of France. It has always had a strategic position between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Occitanie is specific for its beautiful medieval architecture captured by snowy Pyrenees mountains in the background. You can learn a lot about French history, visit one of the most important religious and miracle towns globally, Lourdes, and even spend some time in nature hiking.
Below, I give you some recommendations on what else you can explore in Occitanie:
- Pyrenees National Park
- Albi town
- Espiguette beach
Occitanie takes up many parts of southern France, for which I’ve created an itinerary for you guys. So if you’re interested in exploring this part of France, get my south of France itinerary for 14 days. It includes all the places like Lourdes, Carcassone, Canal du Midi with Toulouse city, thermal spa, and more. So check it out.
Tickets For Carcassone + Walking Tour
You can get a skip-the-line ticket for the Carcassonne city with its castle. Or join a walking tour organized by Get your Guide, which already includes the admission. Learn more about the history of this place and have fun.
Please note that the entrance to the castle itself is not included in the walking tour price. Only the entrance to the Carcassonne city is included with the guided tour. But you can buy tickets for the castle on the spot.
9. Mont Saint Michel Abbey
It all started with a dream. One day, Aubert Bishop had a dream in which Archangel Michael appeared to him. He urged this bishop to build a church on an island. However, Aubert wasn’t interested and didn’t take it seriously. Legend has it that Archangel Michael eventually burnt a hole into the bishop’s head to convince him of building this church. The dream became a reality, and nowadays, you can come to visit one of the most fairy tale medieval castles in France. Welcome to Saint Mont Michel.
Brief History Of St. Mont Michel Abbey
After its construction, the Abbey became a center for worship, pilgrimage, and prayer. It was home to Benedictine monks for years as well.
In the Middle Ages, the Abbey of St. Michel became a center for education and development. It attracted many famous European personalities.
The Abbey has such strong fortifications that the English couldn’t defeat it during the Hundred Years War, even though they tried several times. Locals believe it was God who protected the island with its castle. Joan of Arc, a little peasant girl who also fought in the war against the Kingdom of England in the Hundred Years’ War, got inspired by the resistance of this castle, which helped her in the fight and gave her more strength and belief.
At some point, it served as a prison. Prisoners manually turned treadmills around, which helped lift up heavy objects during construction.
St. Mont Michel Castle and its Abbey have also been a famous pilgrimage site. Over the years, it has become as popular as Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
During the high tide is the entire island with its castle inaccessible, which means twice a day. Yet it receives 3 million visitors annually. Some visitors, especially pilgrims, like to walk on the sand from the mainland to the castle, despite the newly built bridge standing there since 2014. It’s pretty dangerous as the sea waves are unpredictable. Locals say the tide comes very quickly, so one should be aware.
What To See In St. Mont Michel Island
- St. Mont Michel Abbey
- Chemin des Remparts – Ramparts Pathway for beautiful views
- Grand Rue – the only street on the island, cafes, shops, souvenirs, restaurants
- History Museum
- Museum of the Sea and Ecology
- Saint-Pierre Church
- Multimedia Show of the Abbey and its history
Where Is St. Mont Michel & What Else To Visit?
St. Mont Michel Island stands in the Normandy region of France. It’s also close to Brittany, so you can visit both of these beautiful French regions. Normandy offers stunning scenery and beautiful beaches and has witnessed many events from the Second World War. You can explore its history and monuments while enjoying the unique cliffs falling down to the Atlantic Ocean.
Let’s see what Normandy has to offer us:
- Airborne museum
- Omaha beach
- Le Havre
- Étretat Cliffs
- Rouen city
- Claude Monet’s House & Gardens
Tickets For Mont Saint Michel Island + Walking Tour
Get tickets for Saint Mont Michel Island with its Abbey in advance to also avoid the crowds. If you are in Paris, you can join an organized excursion, which belongs to one of the favorite excursions from Get Your Guide.
More Inspiration For European Travel
These are the top French medieval castles in France you should visit when traveling. Use my suggestions for the places you can see around them and create an itinerary for yourself. Or let me know if you need an itinerary to get the most of your time in France.
In case you want to pick some French words before traveling to some of these beautiful medieval castles in France, check out the best French language apps for travel. They’ll help you to start learning French. Once you speak a bit, it’ll make your travel experience much more enjoyable and comfortable.
If you want to visit more of France, take my south of France itinerary for 14 days and see its highlights. Or visit the most luxurious destinations in Europe with this French Riviera road trip itinerary in 7 days.
You can head directly to Switzerland from France and travel with this 8-day Switzerland itinerary by train. Or go down to Spain and visit Barcelona in 3 days, or make some of the best road trips from Barcelona.