The chateaux of France are beautiful and ubiquitous. No matter where you are, there is a chateau nearby. The following are the most famous, but for a more complete listing, click on this link:
Just outside Paris
VersaillesHome to King Louis the XIV “the Sun King”, his son Louis XV and grandson Louis XVI , who married Marie Antoinette, Versailles is exquisite opulence. When built, it was the largest palace in all of Europe. After the revolution, it became a museum. The gardens, the fountains and the buildings themselves are the beauty of Versailles. To see the Kings Apartments, which include the king’s lavishly furnished private rooms and the exquisite Opera House, you must pay for a Guided Tour. The guided tour allows quick entry and takes 1 ½ hrs.
Versailles took a tremendous loss with the 1999 December windstorm. Thousands of trees were felled. Visitors today will see new plantings among the many old growth trees. Be sure to wander in the gardens and either walk (about 30 minutes) or take a tram ride to the Trianon and Petit Trianon,. The Trianon was the king’s retreat from Versailles and le Hameau (an actual working farm) was where Marie Antoinette played at being simple country folk.
When visiting May through early October, the museum offers Fountain shows every Sunday throughout the day. On certain Saturday nights in July, August and September visitors are treated to fireworks and music.
About 30 miles Northeast of Paris
Chateau – ChantillyThis beautiful chateau, nestled in the forest de Chantilly, looks like a fairy-tale castle, complete with a moat. Le Notre designed the gardens. The Conde museum inside holds a comprehensive collection of Italian artists such as Botticelli, Raphael and Giotto. The palatial stables were built by order of Prince Louis-Henri de Bourbon, who believed he would be reincarnated as a horse. Riding displays are held the first Sunday of each month and each June the elegant Chantilly horse races are held here.
About 35 miles south of Paris
FontainbleauSet near the forest of Fontainebleau, the Château de Fontainebleau was built in the 12th century as a hunting lodge. Francis I transformed it in the 16th century into an elegant Renaissance chateau. At that time the King’s bedchamber contained Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, which now hangs in the Louvre. Napoleon I said farewell to his personal guards in the Cours des Adieux then abdicated there on April 6th 1814. Le Notre designed the ornamental gardens.
The best-known chateau in the Loire Valley, it is also the largest Renaissance palace in France. With its keep, curtain walls and towers, the high Gothic roofs with chimneys and dormers, the castle looks like it is a fantasy castle come true. The chateau, now stripped of furniture, still appeals to the imagination as to how it must have looked when in its prime.
Vaux de Vicomte
Vaux le Vicomte offers visitors an unforgettable experience that combines culture and enjoyment with a real sense of occasion. For a period of ten years under Fouquet’s protection, Vaux was a haven for leading French writers, poets, painters and sculptors. The chateau and its beautiful grounds are a year-round treasure.
Chateau de Compiegne
A former residence of Napoleon III, the Chateau de Compiegne is surrounded by the lovely Foret de Compiegne, and is also the site of two excellent museums: the Musee du Second Empire and the Musee National de la Voiture et du Tourisme.
back to top