Castles to check out whilst in Paris

posted in: France | 29

One of our favourite things to do on road trips or any other type of trip when traveling around Europe is to check out the castles. One magical destination to go castle spotting is France. We are not talking about that fancy one at EuroDisney which lies on the outskirts of Paris, that is just fake. Here are some of our favourite castles near or in the French Capital that can be visited as day trips by car or train.

Château de Fontainebleau, France, Paris, Castles
Claire outside the beautiful Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Coucy – Hautes de France region

The castle ruins of Coucy are located on a hilltop in the commune of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, west of Laon. Built in the 13th century, the castle was in very good condition until the Germans in the First World War blew up the four towers and the keep so that French army couldn’t use the castle as a lookout post. This happened at the end of the First World War after the Germans were told to piss off or be shot (this after three years of occupying the region).

Château de Coucy, Paris, Castles
Château de Coucy

Whilst walking around, noticeably most of the outside walls still remain (to which goats climbing all over the blocks and using the old windows as beds) and the bottom of the towers still remain. There are some great views of the Ailette Valley from here also. I prefer castles which are still in tact but this is one of my favourite ruined ones.

Château de Coucy, Paris, Castles
Château de Coucy
Château de Coucy, Paris, Castles
Château de Coucy
Château de Coucy, Paris, Castles
Château de Coucy

Château de Pierrefonds – Hautes de France region

I love this castle to bits. This is a truly magical fairytale castle and has been used in films and television drama series such as Great Britain’s BBC hit ‘Merlin’. Built in the 13th century and located in the town of Pierrefonds, the castle overlooks a huge forest from a hilltop. Most of the castle was rebuilt in the 19th century after somehow got ruined but soon got rebuilt by the orders of that famous small man with the big nose, Napoleon. It is now a wonderful castle to explore with its tiny courtyard and fancy rooms with wonderful decor to look at.

Château de Pierrefonds, Castles, Paris, Hautes de France
Château de Pierrefonds
Château de Pierrefonds, Castles, Paris, Hautes de France
Château de Pierrefonds
Château de Pierrefonds, Castles, Paris, Hautes de France
Château de Pierrefonds
Château de Pierrefonds, Castles, Paris, Hautes de France
Château de Pierrefonds

Château de Chantilly – Hautes de France region

This is more like a palace but this castle still has the glamour, the history and the art to check out. Located in the town of Chantilly, this castle was built in the 16th century but was destroyed in the French Revolution and was rebuilt in the late 19th century. Now owned by the Institut de France, the castle is now open to the public to explore plus it’s  houses, plus the Conde Museum which is one of the finest art galleries in the country. Also here there are some great gardens to walk away but just don’t stray onto the nearby racecourse.

Château de Chantilly, Hautes de France, Paris, Castles
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly, Hautes de France, Paris, Castles
The Kings Apartments at the Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly, Hautes de France, Paris, Castles
Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly, Hautes de France, Paris, Castles
Château de Chantilly

Tour César – Île-de-France

In the town of Provins which is an hour’s train journey west of Paris lies the Tour César (Caesar’s Tower) which has stood here since the 12th century, has been used as a prison, military use and a lookout tower. Paying a small fee we walked into the lower parts of the tower where museum displays greeted us but the further up we walked, the narrower the staircases and the steeper the steps. Half-way up we were able to walk out onto the balcony and take in views from all angles of Provins and the surrounding countryside. The views are amazing but what caught our eye the most is the amazing view of the church across the public square. It just stands out and it is the symbolic symbol for the town.

Provins, France - a great day trip from Paris
Provins – the fortress walls which surround the town
Provins, Castles, France, Paris
Provins – the fortress walls which surround the town

At the top of the tower we could go inside the bell room where they are sometimes used (we are lead to believe) but we didn’t stay in there too long as there was a lot of pigeon waste all over the woodwork and floors. The birds sure have found a good resting place to get away from the heat of the summer sun.

Provins, Castle, Paris, France
Tour César in Provins
Provins, Castle, France, Paris
Tour César

Palace of Versailles – Île-de-France region

Not quite a castle because as the year’s rolled on, castles were more like palaces as we see today across Europe. This Château was the main residence of the Kings of France from 1682 until the French Revolution kicked in around 1789. Located twelve miles west of the centre of Paris (20km), the palace is now an ‘Historical Monument to France’ and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whilst checking out this beautiful palace, things not to miss are the Opera Theatre, the Royal Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors and the stunning gardens with its many canals, flower beds and fountains.

Palace of Versailles, Paris, Versailles, France, Palace, Castles
Palace of Versailles

Handy tips: easy to reach by RER train and takes about thirty minutes from locations like the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame. In the tourist season (otherwise known as July and August), it might be good to book tickets in advance but if not, get there around breakfast time as the queues to buy tickets and to get into the grounds can be quite long.

Palace of Versailles, Paris, Versailles, France, Palace, Castles
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles, Paris, Versailles, France, Palace, Castles
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles, Paris, Versailles, France, Palace, Castles
Palace of Versailles

Château de Vincennes – Île-de-France region

Another castle within Paris which is worth checking out (and easy to reach on the Paris Metro) is the Vincennes castle which has stood here since the 14th century (with bits and bobs added on during the 17th century). When the castle was built, it was located in the town of Vincennes but with Paris growing at an alarming rate, the city sucked in the town and castle and is now part of Paris (with Vincennes being a suburb of the French capital).

Château de Vincennes, Paris, Castles, France
Château de Vincennes

The main highlight is the keep located in the centre of the grounds with the outside walls and towers surrounding it turning the castle into a major fortresses to keep out unwanted people approaching Paris from the east.

Château de Vincennes, Paris, Castles, France
Château de Vincennes

Château de Fontainebleau – Île-de-France region

Located one hours train journey south of Paris is the Palace of Fontainebleau, which is located on the outskirts of the town of Fontainebleau and the forest. This palace (or castle) is one of the largest in France and served as a residence for French monarchs up until Napoleon III. Then the French Revolution came along and the castle didn’t suffer any damage (but all the furniture inside did get sold off). Later on Nazi Germany took over France and the castle, again, no damage.

Château de Fontainebleau, France, Castles, Fontainebleau, Paris
Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau, France, Castles, Fontainebleau, Paris
Château de Fontainebleau

Despite being really beautiful inside, taking in the tour of the grand halls, bedrooms of the former monarchs and looking at the mesmerising decor, for us it was the grounds which we were amazed at. The facade of the palace blends in well with all the grass, man-made canals and flowerbeds surrounding it plus the pond with the pavilion is well worth taking in. We spent nearly the whole day here and we were glad we did. A lot of walking is involved so good footwear is a must.

Château de Fontainebleau, France, Castles, Fontainebleau, Paris
Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau, France, Castles, Fontainebleau, Paris
Château de Fontainebleau

Have you got a castle you have visited in Paris or within an hours journey? Or do you have a favourite castle? Have you explored any of the castles mentioned in this post? We would like to hear your views and thoughts.

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29 Responses

  1. Loving these shots. The snap with the goats makes me nervous. I know goats handle heights and climbing A-OK but goodness I see myself trying to climb rocks at that height. I have no cloven hooves and a fear of being too high up. Tweeted for you guys.

    Ryan

  2. Sold! Thanks for a great post! I love castles too, and I’ve already added Château de Vincennes to my London/Paris list for this winter. (To be fair, it’s only a day in Paris … more of a UK visit – I’m dying to get back to one of my favorites, Rochester Castle.) I’ll be sure to subscribe. Glad I saw you on FB!

    • Thats great Phil. I take it you been to Paris before but if you can fit the castle in, then do it. You only need an hour or two. Rochester Castle, I know the place, my family are from that area of the UK and I used to live 1 mile away from the castle. My favourite in Kent has to be Dover, Leeds and Hever castles, there is something about them. 🙂 Enjoy your visits to the UK and France. (Danik)

  3. I’ve been to Paris many times, but never knew that there were SO many castles around it 🙂
    Gotta check some of them out next time. Château de Pierrefonds looks really cute!!

    Thanks for the interesting read!

  4. I went to Paris last summer and our trip got cut short so I never got to visit the Palais de Versailles. I was so sad about that, I am also gutted that in my many family holidays to France that we never went to Château de Fontainebleau either! Beautiful post and something different from the usual Paris posts!

  5. I have been to most of these castles, and I have to say Versailles is my favorite. The sheer ostentatiousness of it is fabulous. It wants to be the grandest and so insignificant details are still gold plated. Thanks for the great list.

  6. What? Seriously? I did not know there were so many palaces in Paris and i was so busy doing all the touristy stuff that I actually haven’t been to any of them!! I need to go back to Paris – there are just too many places to see and things to do.

  7. Whilst doesn’t get the traction it should in America. I’ll have to work that into my vernacular over the next couple of days and see how it fits in. Pierrefonds does look like a fairytale castle. I remember Versailles being extremely difficult to reach by bus on a field trip during my exchange program. It’s good to know that there is a 30-minute train that will take you there. It’s such a beautiful place but fairly removed from central Paris. Love your list of castles.

  8. Love this list so much! I just got back from Paris and have not been to any of these magical places. I obviously know about Versailles but will definitely save this for future trips. Such lovely castles.

  9. I have not been to any of these. I have a French Château trip planned and need to get it booked. I will add Château de Pierrefonds to the list for sure.

  10. Woah, these look like some seriously amazing castles. I have done quite a bit of castle exploring in Germany and Czech Republic but unfortunately have never had the opportunity in France. I have only been once and it was just a quick, 3 day trip to Paris. I especially like the old castle ruins like Château de Coucy with the goats climbing all over the walls. There is just something ancient and mysterious about European castle ruins that I find enchanting. I guess it is we don’t really have anything that old in the USA.

  11. These castles are all magnificent. I can see making a trip to France to do a castle tour. I was to Versailles many years ago and would love to add to my castle list.

  12. I remember one visit to Paris where I did a day trip out of town to see castles. This is a good set to add to my list for a return visit. Always fascinating to see castle ruins and know they were destroyed in more modern times. I can see why you love the Chateau de Pierrefonds. It is my ideal view of a castle with turrets. Love when the insides are also restored. Gives you a good view of life in that time. Versailles is a spot I loved to visit. It looks like you visited when the crowds were not too bad. I love the interesting variety you presented. From more simple functional fortresses to more fanciful decorative palaces. And then there is the beautiful inside of Fontainbleu. So much history to explore!

  13. I am a huge fan of castles even though I’ve never been to one yet. Château de Pierrefonds and Château de Chantilly look lovely. Just like in a fairytale. I would so love to visit them, even the ruined castles because of their fascinating history.

  14. You’ve reminded me that although I’ve visited Paris many times I still haven’t made it to Versailles or Fontainebleu. That said, I am really taken with the goats at Château de Coucy – definitely worth a visit

  15. Oh loved the shot of the goats at Château de Coucy! I had no idea there was this many castles close to Paris, we take it for granted that Versailles is there but so many others. Agree with you – these are definitely more palaces than castles. I can see why you like Château de Pierrefonds so much, it is truly spectacular.

  16. I had no idea there were so many castles within easy reach of Paris. I visited the Palace at Versailles as a teenager, but when I see your pictures here, I don’t think I fully appreciated it. Like you I prefer castles that are largely intact where you can visit the interior and imagine people living there. Fontainebleau looks wonderful and yes, I’ll remember my walking shoes. Good tip!

  17. We visited Loire valley and explored some chateaux a couple of years back. But whoa…so many castles in your post!! France is really vast and varied, and somehow most people know so little about this fascinating country.

  18. Visiting castles is one of my favorite things to do in Europe! I’ve seen several in Ireland, Scotland, and France but my favorites are of course the French castles. The only one on this list I’ve been to is Versailles, but the rest all look amazing! Have you been to Chenonceau, Chambord, or D’Amboise? Those are all amazing and definitely worth a visit in the Loire Valley.

  19. I was just in Paris this year and can you believe, I didn’t make it to a single castle! I really should’ve gone to Versailles. But I think since it was freezing and raining/snowing the whole time, it had less appeal – I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the gardens. Next time 🙂

  20. passportofawanderwoman

    Château de Fontainebleau looks amazing. I would really love to visit France some day. I love exploring castles in general, and France seems to have quite a few of them.

  21. I can’t believe we didn’t do any of these whiles in Paris! Guess we’ll have to go back. I agree with you though, the grounds of Château de Fontainebleau look amazing!

  22. Pointed this out to my boyfriend for one of our next weekend visits or for when we move to Paris. (Next year or the year after, depending on his work.) While I love discovering France and can barely wait to explore more of it, I’m hoping to get another year to overcome the language barrier.
    Anyway, keep on posting on France, I’m making lists with things to visit and this really helps 🙂

  23. Never imagined that Paris have this smuch beautiful castles. Really loved reading this article. The pictures of each castle is stunning. Thanks for sharing.

  24. What an interesting collection of castles and all of them so close to Paris. I had no idea that there were so many of them. I have visited Fontainbleu and Versailles and you definitely need a day for both of them. Great tip about wearing comfortable shoes as well. It’s a huge amount of walking.

  25. I am a huge lover of castles. Probably because of all the fairytales with castles I have read in my childhood.
    I guess, those fairytales made a part of me a hopeless romantic for the rest of my life.

    Château de Pierrefonds would be my first choice. It is pretty much obvious why is used in movies and tv dramas so much. It looks not only impressive but idyllic as well.

    Btw, have you visited Bavarian castles? If not, I highly recommend them.

  26. OMG…so many amazing castles here. I always wanted to do Versailes but now, there are plenty others that join the list. Château de Pierrefonds looks gorgeous – inside out. The one in ruins has a different personality and the Chateau Fountainbleu….tooo cool. I hope I can visit them all.

  27. My kids love castles! We’re planning a trip to Paris next year, so we’ll have to keep note of these castles to visit.

  28. I love these historic building that talk about the olden days of glory. Very nice article with every detail and some great photographs. I am charged up to visit Château de Chantilly and Palace of Versailles
    which is a UNESCO site too.

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