When you think of France, you think of the Eiffel tower, macaroons, cheese, wines, Notre Dame and more. But, did you know France also attracts its tourists with an overwhelming amount of castles?
According to the official records, there are over 45 000 castles in France. This number includes palaces, private masons, and medieval strongholds, which usually French people define with one word ”chateau.”
Unlike in France, here, and many historians who would agree with me, we like to call the castle a medieval military stronghold that was King’s home in the middle Ages rather than a palace or a mason.
The France Homeland of the castles
The castles in France have a remarkable history and heritage. Most of the castles you see today have an account dating back to the 9th century and lead up to the 21st century.
Back in 9th century Europe, not many countries knew how to build a medieval castle. So many French Lords chose to build castles as a form of defence against Vikings.
The first type of castles to appear in Europe started in France as a Motte and Bailey castle.
Motte is the French version of the Latin word known as Motte, which means a clump of Turf. Likewise, Bailey derives from the Norman-French version known as Baile which means low yard.
It’s believed that these castles first came from Calais, a city in the northern part of France, and it was Jean De Colmieu who came up with such structures.
What castles are outside of Paris?
If you’re exploring France, you will find that there are many impressive castles on the outskirts of Paris, which are:
Palace of Fontainebleau
The Palace of Fontainebleau is located just 55km from the centre of Paris. This Palace is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and is believed to have been built around the 12th century.
The earliest record dating back to this castle is from 1137. Throughout the centuries, many French monarchs lived here, from Louis Vii to Napoleon III.
Today it now serves as a museum, and many people come to visit the Palace each year. It’s renowned for its large chapels, spacious gardens, theatres, galleries and more.
Château de Chantilly
Located around 50km from Paris is Château de Chantilly in the town of Chantilly, Oise. The construction of this castle started in 1358 and ended in 1882.
Many people come to visit this castle for its stunning Renaissance-style architecture. However, one of the most remarkable features of this castle is that it has a 28-meter tall dome, and it can fit around 240 horses, making it boast the biggest stables in all of Europe.
Château de Vincennes
Château de Vincennes is to the East of Paris in the town of Vincennes. It was built between the 14th-17th century and primarily served as a royal fortress.
It also has the highest dungeon in all of Europe, being over 50 metres deep and 250 steps leading to the dungeon! This Palace is renowned for its stone bridges and grand medieval courtyard. Today this castle is more of a museum, and many people come to visit annually.
Motte and Bailey castles
Its believed that the Motte-and-Bailey castle is strictly a French invention and have proven as a practical war instrument, particularly during the Norman Invasion.
You can see many of these types of Motte and Bailey castles still in France today, which are:
Château de la Motte
This castle is located in Normandy in France and was initially built between 18th-19th centuries. Its primary purpose was to serve as a Viking Style Motte and Bailey castle.
Two notable families, Nicolas Angus and Montgomery’s were renowned for living in this castle. Similarly, during World War II, it was the headquarters for the Renaissance.
This castle is known for its giant stone tower and circular walls. Since the 18th century, it was owned by many people, and today it still serves as a private residence.
Château de Gisors
Château de Gisors is in the town of Gisors in France. This Motte and Bailey castle served as one of the main fortresses for the Dukes of Normandy during the 11th and 12th centuries.
One of the unique features of this castle is that it has an octagonal stone that surrounds the Motte. It also has flanking towers and stone walls.
What’s the largest castle in France?
If you like big castles, you should check out the Château de Chambord; it’s the largest castle in France and one of the most recognisable. The construction of this castle began in 1519 and finished in 1547.
Its initial purpose was to be a hunting lodge for Francis I and since then went on to have gorgeous gardens, water features, a keep and corner towers.
It also has an impressive 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and a remarkable 84 staircases. If you like staircases, then one of the highlights of this castle is the double staircase in the middle of the Chateaux.
Rumours have it that Leonardo Di Vincci designed the stairs! Finally, this castle was never really built to defend the inhabitants from enemies but served more for decoration.
What’s the most visited castle in France?
The most visited castle in France is Château de Chenonceau. This chateau was built in the 15th century and sat on top of a river. It has a mixture of gothic and renaissance style architecture and has had over 800,000 visitors come to the chateau since 2007.
France is indeed an incredible destination for a castle lover, where you will probably need years to visit all its magnificent Chateaux.
We plan to step into the motherland of castles and visit the most popular ones, so check out our blog section regularly for new content and castle travel information.
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