Most visitors to Paris tend to think of monuments and museums when they think of cultural attractions, with names like the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Pantheon topping many people’s must-do lists. However, many of the most exciting cultural attractions in Paris are actually found outside of the city limits. If you’d like to explore a bit of French history on your next trip to Paris, then a tour of a few of the region’s most unique chateaux could be just the thing. In fact, France is full of historical castles—in various states of preservation and repair—that generations of visitors have come to enjoy. Check out a few of these popular chateaux near Paris to round out your cultural adventures. They’re all open for tours and visitors, while some also serve as museums housing period collections and artifacts.  Our highlighted French chateaux are:
  • Versailles
  • Saint-Germain-en-Laye
  • Maisons-Laffitte
  • Vincennes
  • Champs-sur-Marne
  • Pierrefonds
  • Fontainebleau

Palace of Versailles

Versailles

Without question the most famous royal residence in France, Versailles is the epitome of opulence and decadence. A visit here will sweep you back in time and inspire you to marvel at the grandeur and over-the-top extravagance of the court of Louis XIV. Tour the interior of this gilded masterpiece—we especially love the Hall of Mirrors—but leave time for the famous gardens as well. They set the standard for ornate botanical spaces that have continued to inspire landscape designers today.

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

One of the oldest castles around Paris, this chateau dates from the twelfth century. Today it boasts a fine collection of archaeological objects from the Paleolithic era through to the medieval period (when the castle was built). The museum itself is modest in size, but the grounds are beautiful and expansive. You get a great view looking back to the city itself from the gardens and grounds—be sure to bring your camera!

Château de Maisons-Laffitte

Designed by Francois Mansart in the early to mid-seventeenth century, this baroque marvel is a signature example of an important period in the history of French architecture. The castle is considered one of the most beautiful of its time and was known for luxury and extravagance. It once hosted a lavish party at which the young Louis XIV was in attendance—and he was so inspired by the beauty and grandeur of this chateau that he used some of the same sculptors and designers in the construction of Versailles! 

Chateau Vincennes

Château de Vincennes

This expansive fourteenth-century fortress is the epitome of all of your medieval fantasies in one place—there are sumptuous royal chambers, unscalable walls, protective towers, and even a grand moat. The castle itself served multiple purposes over the years but was originally designed for military function.  It’s easy to get to from Paris (via a quick train ride) and the guided tours are very popular.

Château de Champs-sur-Marne

One of the newer chateaux outside of Paris, this fabulous castle was constructed in the early eighteenth century and exemplifies the trend in European pleasure houses. It’s more of an ornate and expansive house than the medieval fortress-style of some of these other chateaux, but the gorgeous rococo décor is an attraction in and of itself. Inside you’ll find nearly 100 pieces of furniture and material goods that decorated the house during its heyday. There are also some beautiful and elaborate gardens accompanying the main structure, designed by the man responsible for the gardens at Versailles. 

Pierrefonds

Château de Pierrefonds

Originally constructed in the medieval era but rebuilt in the nineteenth century by the famous architect Eugène Viollet-le- Duc, this chateau combines authentic fortifications and design with a nineteenth century imaginings of what medieval architecture could encompass. You’ll find a sturdy, imposing exterior sheltering an elaborate, palatial interior. The views of the castle from the town of Pierrefonds are immediately striking, and we recommend snapping a few outside shots before entering to document the full effect. 

Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

This extravagant and inspiring former royal residence dates back to the twelfth century—but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it! The interior has been preserved and restored over the years to the point that it looks like it could have been built during the era of Louis XIV. Today it houses multiple museums and visitors can explore the ornate royal apartments. It’s modeled on the Italian Renaissance style, so it’s somewhat unlike other French chateaux. Take a day trip from Paris to see this beauty—we promise you won’t regret it!

Save on Admission to Paris Attractions

Visit a few of these beautiful chateaux with the Go Paris pass. Pay just 95 Euro for the 48-hour Paris Museum Pass, which covers admission to more than 55 different museums, chateaux, and monuments in the broader Paris area. The pass also includes admission to tours, cruises, and other top Paris attractions to help you make the most of your weekend in the City of Lights.

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