Exploring Castles in France by Region

Château de Versailles

France is a country where history seems to come alive, and nowhere is this more evident than in its castles. These grand structures, ranging from medieval fortresses to elegant Renaissance châteaux, tell the story of a nation’s past. They stand as proud reminders of battles won, royal intrigues, and the architectural prowess of their times.

But where do you start with so many castles spread across the country? This guide will help you explore some of the best castles in France, organized by region. Whether you are fascinated by Normandy’s strategic strongholds or the Loire Valley’s romantic residences, there is something for everyone.

Get ready to embark on a journey through France’s rich history and architectural wonders. From the battle-scarred walls of Normandy’s fortresses, echoing with the tales of past conflicts, to the enchanting châteaux of the Loire Valley, each region offers a unique and immersive glimpse into the past. So, let’s dive in and explore the castles that make France a dream destination for history buffs and travelers alike.


Château de Fontainebleau

While the Île-de-France region is often synonymous with Paris, it’s also home to hundreds of castles that offer a fascinating glimpse into France’s royal and architectural history. Below are a few notable examples, but many more castles are scattered throughout the region, waiting to be explored. Whether you’re interested in grand palaces or medieval fortresses, Île-de-France has something for every history enthusiast.

Château de Versailles

Located just outside Paris, the Château de Versailles is one of the most famous castles in the world. It began as a humble hunting lodge and was transformed by Louis XIV into a symbol of absolute monarchy. The opulent rooms, extensive gardens, and the Hall of Mirrors are just a few highlights.

  • What to See: The Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Grand Apartments, and the Gardens of Versailles.
  • Tips: Arrive early to avoid crowds and consider booking a guided tour to fully appreciate the history and details.

Château de Fontainebleau

A favorite residence of French monarchs for centuries, Château de Fontainebleau is an architectural gem. It offers a glimpse into the lives of kings and emperors, from Francis I to Napoleon III. The château is surrounded by beautiful forests, making it a perfect day trip from Paris.

  • What to See: The Renaissance Rooms, the Gallery of Francis I, and the Napoleon I Museum.
  • Tips: Spend time exploring the Fontainebleau Forest for a relaxing escape.

Château de Malmaison

This castle was the home of Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife, Josephine. Located near Paris, it provides insight into the private lives of one of history’s most famous couples. The château is filled with art, furniture, and personal items that belonged to Napoleon and Josephine.

  • What to See: The Library, the Dining Room, Josephine’s Bedroom.
  • Tips: The château is less crowded than Versailles, making for a more relaxed visit.

Château de Chantilly

Known for its art collection, horse racing, and beautiful gardens, Château de Chantilly is another gem of the Île-de-France region. The château houses the Musée Condé, which boasts an impressive collection of paintings, manuscripts, and rare books.

  • What to See: The Musée Condé, the Great Stables, the English Garden.
  • Tips: Check the schedule for horse races or equestrian shows to add a unique experience to your visit.

Château de Vincennes

Originally a hunting lodge, this medieval fortress was transformed into a royal residence. It is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. The château’s keep is the tallest in France, offering stunning views of the surrounding area.

  • What to See: The Keep, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Moat.
  • Tips: Explore the nearby Bois de Vincennes, a large park perfect for a stroll or picnic.

These castles in Île-de-France offer a mix of grandeur, history, and beauty, each with its unique story and charm. Whether you are interested in royal residences, art collections, or medieval fortresses, this region has something to offer.


Château Gaillard

Normandy, located in the north of France, is a region rich in history and famous for its medieval castles and fortresses. With over 300 castles, Normandy’s landscape is dotted with structures that tell tales of ancient battles, royal intrigues, and Norman culture. Here are some of the must-see castles in Normandy, each offering a unique glimpse into the past.

Château Gaillard

Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Seine River, Château Gaillard was built by Richard the Lionheart in the late 12th century. This imposing fortress was designed to protect the Duchy of Normandy from French forces.

  • What to See: The impressive walls, the keep, and the breathtaking views of the Seine Valley.
  • Tips: Wear comfortable shoes, as the hike to the castle can be steep. Visit during the late afternoon for the best lighting and fewer crowds.

Château de Falaise

The birthplace of William the Conqueror, Château de Falaise, is a significant site in both Norman and English history. This castle offers a fascinating look at medieval life and the legacy of the Norman Conquest.

  • What to See: The main keep, interactive exhibits on medieval warfare, and the stunning views of the town of Falaise.
  • Tips: Allow at least two hours to fully explore the exhibits and the grounds. Consider taking a guided tour for more in-depth historical insights.

Château de Carrouges

Located in the heart of Normandy, Château de Carrouges is a beautifully preserved example of medieval and Renaissance architecture. Surrounded by moats and gardens, it offers a serene and picturesque setting.

  • What to See: The grand hall, the medieval kitchen, and the extensive gardens.
  • Tips: Plan your visit in the spring or summer when the gardens are in full bloom. Take a picnic to enjoy on the castle grounds.

Château de Crèvecoeur-en-Auge

A smaller but equally fascinating site, Château de Crèvecoeur-en-Auge offers a glimpse into the everyday life of medieval Normandy. This fortified farm complex includes a manor house, chapel, and various outbuildings.

  • What to See: The restored buildings, the interactive museum exhibits, and the medieval garden.
  • Tips: Check the calendar for medieval reenactments and special events. Kids will especially enjoy the hands-on exhibits and activities.

Château de Gisors

Château de Gisors has a long and complex history. It was a key fortress in the conflicts between the Normans and the French, and its strategic location made it an important site during the medieval period.

  • What to See: The keep, the underground passages, and the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Tips: Be sure to explore the tunnels and hidden passages. A guided tour can provide valuable context and stories about the castle’s historical role.

More to Explore

Normandy’s castles are a testament to its turbulent history and strategic importance. From grand fortresses to smaller manors, each castle has its own unique story to tell. Exploring these sites not only provides a deeper understanding of Norman history but also offers stunning views and architectural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking to experience the charm of medieval France, Normandy’s castles are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Château de Fougères

Brittany, a region in the northwest of France, is known for its rugged coastline, Celtic heritage, and, of course, its castles. With over 300 castles, Brittany offers a diverse array of historical sites, from fortified strongholds to elegant manors. Each castle tells a story of Brittany’s unique culture and history, influenced by its maritime traditions and turbulent past.

Château de Fougères

Château de Fougères, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe, is a testament to Brittany’s strategic importance. Built in the 12th century, this castle has withstood numerous sieges and conflicts. Its well-preserved walls, towers, and moat offer a glimpse into medieval military architecture.

  • What to See: Explore the keep, ramparts, and the moat. Enjoy interactive exhibits detailing the castle’s history.
  • Tips: Visit early in the day to avoid crowds, and make sure to check out the panoramic views from the top of the towers.

Château de Josselin

Located in the heart of Brittany, Château de Josselin is a striking blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture. This castle has been the residence of the Rohan family for over 1,000 years. The castle’s interiors are richly decorated, showcasing the family’s impressive art collection.

  • What to See: The grand halls, family portraits, and the formal gardens.
  • Tips: Don’t miss the guided tour to learn about the Rohan family’s history and the architectural evolution of the castle.

Château de Suscinio

Château de Suscinio, situated on the southern coast of Brittany, was originally built as a hunting lodge for the Dukes of Brittany. Its impressive defensive structures are surrounded by a moat.

  • What to See: The grand halls, private chambers, and the chapel. Various exhibitions on Brittany’s history.
  • Tips: Check the schedule for any temporary exhibitions or events that might be taking place during your visit.

Château de Dinan

Overlooking the Rance River, Château de Dinan is a medieval fortress that dominates the town of Dinan. Built in the 14th century, the castle’s imposing walls and towers provide a commanding view of the surrounding area.

  • What to See: The museum inside the castle details the history of Dinan and the panoramic views from the towers.
  • Tips: Spend some time exploring the town of Dinan, with its cobbled streets and historic architecture.

Château de Kerjean

Château de Kerjean, a Renaissance gem in northern Brittany, is known for its beautiful architecture and expansive grounds. Built in the 16th century, the castle features a mix of defensive elements and elegant residential spaces.

  • What to See: The richly decorated rooms, multimedia displays, and the geometric gardens.
  • Tips: Allocate enough time to wander through the gardens and enjoy their meticulous designs.

More to Discover

While these castles are among the highlights of Brittany, they are just a few of the many historical treasures scattered across the region. Each castle, whether a grand fortress or a smaller manor, offers a unique insight into Brittany’s rich and diverse history. Exploring these sites provides a deeper understanding of the region’s cultural heritage and the stories that have shaped it over the centuries.

Loire Valley

Château de Chambord

The Loire Valley, often called the “Garden of France,” is home to some of the country’s most remarkable castles. With over 300 castles, this region offers a rich blend of history, culture, and architecture. From medieval fortresses to Renaissance palaces, the Loire Valley is a treasure trove for anyone interested in French heritage.

Château de Chambord

One of the most famous castles in the Loire Valley, Château de Chambord, was built by King Francis I as a hunting lodge. Its impressive architecture and vast estate make it a must-visit.

  • What to See: The double-helix staircase, extensive gardens, and the stunning rooftop terraces.
  • Tips: Arrive early to avoid crowds and take the time to explore the surrounding parklands, which are perfect for a stroll or a bike ride.

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau, also known as the “Ladies’ Château,” spans the River Cher and is renowned for its beautiful arches and gardens. It has a rich history tied to several influential women of the French court.

  • What to See: The arches over the river, the flower gardens, and the beautifully decorated rooms.
  • Tips: Visit the château during the early morning or late afternoon to see the gardens in the best light. Don’t miss the flower arrangements inside, which are refreshed regularly.

Château de Villandry

Known for its stunning Renaissance gardens, Château de Villandry is a highlight of the Loire Valley. The château itself is beautifully preserved, but the gardens are the main attraction.

  • What to See: The ornamental kitchen garden, the water garden, and the maze.
  • Tips: Spend a few hours wandering through the gardens, which are particularly beautiful in the spring and summer. Consider a guided tour to learn more about the garden’s design and history.

Château de Amboise

Perched on a hill overlooking the town of Amboise, this château offers incredible views of the Loire River. It was once the residence of several French kings and is the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci.

  • What to See: The chapel with Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb, the royal apartments, and the panoramic views from the terraces.
  • Tips: Combine your visit with a trip to the nearby Clos Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci’s last residence, which is just a short walk away.

Château de Blois

Château de Blois is a perfect example of the architectural evolution from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It has been home to several French kings and is famous for its unique blend of architectural styles.

  • What to See: The François I wing with its ornate staircase, the Gothic-style Saint-Calais Chapel, and the classical Louis XII wing.
  • Tips: Check the schedule for the sound and light show, which brings the château’s history to life in a vibrant display.

More to Explore

While these castles are among the highlights, the Loire Valley is dotted with many more that are equally fascinating. There is much to discover, from smaller, privately owned châteaux to grand royal palaces. The region’s castles offer a window into France’s past, each telling its unique story.

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Château d'If

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, often abbreviated as PACA, is known for its diverse landscapes, from the sun-soaked Mediterranean coast to the rugged Alpine mountains. The region’s castles reflect this diversity, offering a mix of seaside fortresses and hilltop strongholds. Here are some must-see castles in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

Château d’If

Located on the Île d’If, a small island off the coast of Marseille, Château d’If was built in the 16th century as a fortress and later used as a prison. It gained fame as the setting for Alexandre Dumas’ novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

  • What to See: The well-preserved prison cells, the panoramic views of Marseille, and the interpretive displays about the château’s history.
  • Tips: To reach the island, take a boat tour from the Old Port of Marseille. The trip offers excellent photo opportunities of the Mediterranean Sea and Marseille’s coastline.

Château de la Napoule

Château de la Napoule is located along the coast near Cannes. Originally a medieval fortress, it was restored in the early 20th century by American artist Henry Clews and his wife, Marie. Today, it serves as an art center and museum.

  • What to See: The eclectic art collections, the beautifully restored rooms, and the sea views from the gardens.
  • Tips: To get the most out of your visit, visit during one of the château’s art exhibitions or cultural events. The gardens are perfect for a relaxing stroll.

Château des Baux

Perched on a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles mountains, Château des Baux offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. This medieval castle, now in ruins, was once a stronghold of the Lords of Baux.

  • What to See: The remains of the medieval castle, the panoramic views, and the historical reenactments.
  • Tips: Wear comfortable shoes as the terrain can be uneven. Check the schedule for live demonstrations of medieval weaponry and siege engines.

Château de Lourmarin

Nestled in the Luberon region, Château de Lourmarin is a Renaissance château with a rich history. It was the first Renaissance castle built in Provence and has been beautifully preserved.

  • What to See: The elegant Renaissance architecture, the art and antique collections, and the views of the surrounding vineyards.
  • Tips: Combine your visit with a tour of the picturesque village of Lourmarin. The château often hosts concerts and cultural events, so check the schedule beforehand.

Château de Tarascon

Château de Tarascon is a well-preserved medieval fortress located on the banks of the Rhône River. Built in the 15th century, it has served as a royal residence and a military stronghold.

  • What to See: The impressive fortifications, the grand halls, and the views of the Rhône River.
  • Tips: Take the time to explore the town of Tarascon, known for its rich history and local markets. The château itself offers detailed tours explaining its historical significance.

More to Explore

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is home to many more castles that reflect its diverse history and landscapes. From coastal fortresses protecting the Mediterranean shores to hilltop strongholds offering commanding countryside views, each castle in this region has its unique story to tell. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking to soak in some of France’s beautiful scenery, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has plenty to offer.



Occitanie, located in the south of France, is a region rich in history and culture. Known for its diverse landscapes, from the Pyrenees mountains to the Mediterranean coast, it boasts numerous castles that tell stories of its past. Here are some of the most noteworthy castles in Occitanie.


Carcassonne is perhaps the most famous medieval fortified city in France. The Château Comtal, located within the city walls, is a marvel of medieval architecture and history. Walking through Carcassonne feels like stepping back in time.

  • What to See: The double walls, 53 towers, and the Château Comtal museum. Don’t miss the panoramic views from the ramparts.
  • Tips: Arrive early in the morning to avoid crowds, especially in peak tourist season. Consider taking a guided tour to appreciate the site’s historical significance fully.

Château de Quéribus

Perched high on a rocky peak, Château de Quéribus was one of the last strongholds of the Cathars. It offers a glimpse into medieval history and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

  • What to See: The well-preserved keep, the panoramic views from the top, and the small museum detailing the Cathar history.
  • Tips: Wear sturdy shoes for the hike up to the castle. Bring water and be prepared for windy conditions at the top.

Château de Peyrepertuse

Another impressive Cathar castle is close to Château de Quéribus, Château de Peyrepertuse. It’s often called the “Cité Céleste” because it is located on a limestone ridge.

  • What to See: The extensive ruins, including the main keep, the lower enceinte, and the stunning views over the Corbières.
  • Tips: Combine your visit with Château de Quéribus for a full day of exploring Cathar castles. Pack a picnic to enjoy the views.

Château de Foix

Located in the town of Foix, this castle was a stronghold of the Counts of Foix and played a significant role during the Cathar Crusades. It is well-preserved and offers a fascinating look at medieval life.

  • What to See: The three impressive towers, the museum inside the castle, and the views over the town of Foix.
  • Tips: Visit the museum to learn about the castle’s history and its role in the region. The town of Foix itself is also worth exploring.

Château de Montségur

Known as the last refuge of the Cathars, Château de Montségur stands as a symbol of their resistance. The castle ruins are perched on a hilltop, offering a challenging but rewarding hike.

  • What to See: The remnants of the castle, the memorial to the Cathars, and the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Tips: The hike to the castle is steep and can be strenuous. Wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water.

More to Explore

Occitanie has many more castles, each with its unique history and charm. From Carcassonne’s imposing walls to Cathar castles’ remote ruins, this region offers a diverse range of historical sites to explore. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or love exploring ancient architecture, Occitanie has something to offer.

Navigate French Castles with Our Custom Google Map

Planning a trip to explore the many castles in France can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of options. To make your journey easier, I have created a custom Google Map that lists 12,119 French castles by region. This tool will help you easily navigate the country’s rich history and architectural wonders.

Wrapping Up Your French Castle Adventure

Exploring the castles in France offers a journey through time, showcasing the country’s rich history and architectural brilliance. Each region provides a unique glimpse into the past, from the regal châteaux of the Loire Valley to the fortified strongholds of Normandy. These structures are more than just buildings; they are stories etched in stone, waiting to be discovered.

Why Visiting Castles is Worth Your Time

Visiting these castles allows you to connect with history in a tangible way. Walking through the grand halls, climbing ancient towers, and strolling through well-kept gardens brings history to life. It’s an opportunity to learn about the events and people that shaped France.

Tips for Your Castle Visits

  • Plan Ahead: Use our custom Google Map to identify which castles you want to visit and plan your route accordingly.
  • Check Opening Hours: Some castles may have seasonal hours or be closed on certain days.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Exploring castles often involves a lot of walking, including stairs and uneven ground.

Share Your Experience

We hope this guide inspires you to explore the fascinating castles of France. Each visit promises to enrich your understanding of the country’s heritage. Share your adventures and discoveries in the comments or on social media. We would love to hear about your favorite castles and any tips you might have for fellow travelers.

France’s castles are not just historical landmarks but windows into a bygone era. From the grandeur of the Loire Valley to the strategic fortresses of Normandy, each castle has its own story to tell. Happy exploring, and may your journey through France’s castles be as memorable as the history they hold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are estimated to be over 45,000 castles in France, each with its own unique history and architectural style. Our custom Google Map highlights 12,119 castles spread across various regions.

The best region depends on your interests. The Loire Valley is known for its elegant châteaux, while Normandy offers historic fortresses. Each region has its own charm and historical significance.

Not all castles are open to the public. Some are private residences, while others are open seasonally or for special events. For visitor information, it’s best to check the castle’s website or contact them directly.

Yes, it is possible to visit multiple castles in one day, especially in regions like the Loire Valley, where many castles are close to each other. Planning your route and starting early will help you make the most of your day.

Booking tickets in advance is recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons. This can help you avoid long lines and ensure entry, as some castles have limited daily admissions.

Many castles offer guided tours with in-depth historical context and interesting anecdotes about the site. Check the specific castle’s website for information on tour schedules and availability.

Wear comfortable shoes, as exploring castles often involves a lot of walking, including stairs and uneven surfaces. Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions, especially if you plan to visit the gardens.

Yes, many castles are family-friendly and offer activities or exhibits specifically designed for children. However, checking ahead for any age restrictions or particular guidelines is a good idea.

Many castles host special events such as historical reenactments, concerts, and seasonal festivals. Check the castle’s event calendar for information on upcoming events during your visit.

Most castles are accessible by car, and some are reachable by public transportation. Use our custom Google Map to plan your route and find the best way to travel to each castle.

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