Castles in the South of France: The South of France has hundreds of hilltop chateaux, many of which are now in ruins. Here are five places in the South of France that are definitely worth a visit.
Chateau de la Guerre in Saint-Malo: This 11th-century castle is one of the most impressive in Brittany. It was built by William the Conqueror as part of his plan to make himself king of England.
Chateau d'If in Marseille: This 12th-century fortress is well preserved and its prison cells are very interesting to see.
Fort Boyard in Dordogne: In addition to the regular challenges, such as shooting with plastic guns, this fort offers adventure courses including rappelling down the side of a cliff!
Chateau Degannier in Gascony: This 13th-century castle was built for one of the most powerful families in medieval Gascony. Now it's a hotel with lots of character.
And last but not least, there are also several hundred manors (mansions) and small castles across France. Some of them are open to the public while others are not. But they're all worth a look from the outside!
In France, there are hundreds of castles, many of which contain ruins going back to the Middle Ages. Which ones are the most interesting to see? Here is our ranking of the top ten medieval castles in France—those that have kept their medieval aspect.
10. Château de Beauregard, Loire Valley (Anjou)
9. Château de Taillebourg, Bas-Berry (Vendée)
8. Château d'Ussé, Isle de la Réunion (Indre-et-Loire)
7. Château de Rocquefort, Dordogne (Lot-et-Garonne)
6. Château Gaillard, Creuse (Creuse)
5. Château de Guéret, Lot (Gard). This castle was built several times over the course of 800 years and contains some unique rooms with wooden beams dating from the 15th century.
4. Château du Blaye, Gironde (Gironde)
3. Château de Montsoreau, Saône-et-Loire (Cher)
The Normandy area of northern France is home to several castles, but one famous building is on the must-see list for most tourists to France: the Château de Normandy. Built in 1180, this massive fortress dominates the town of Bayeux.
Other notable buildings include Castle Cornet a few miles away in Caen; Château d'Écouis near Le Havre; and the striking black-and-white striped Château de Guérande on the Bay of Biscay. All three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
France has many other beautiful castles, including those at Carcassonne, Chinon, Loches, Meung-sur-Loire, Montfort-l'Amaury, Murat, Reims, Rouvres, Sancerre, Saumur, Senlis, Souppes, Toulouse, Vincennes, and Yverdon-les-Bains.
Castles were important for protecting people from attack, but they also provided protection from the elements. Many castles have historic gardens with flowers, trees, and other plants that would have been impossible to find elsewhere in Europe at the time.
Along the country's longest river, there are around 300 chateaux, including some of the most famous in the world. Those between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes have been designated as World Heritage Sites. Chateaux in the Languedoc area are more castle-like in appearance than their northern brethren, and many are in ruins.
The best known are probably those associated with the French aristocracy: Château de Blois, Château d'Écouen, Château de Fontainebleu, etc. The Sun King, Louis XIV, built one of the most magnificent chateaus in France: the Palace of Versailles. Today it is a world-famous attraction that draws millions of visitors each year.
Other notable chateaux include Le Chateau de Montebello, La Charité-sur-Loire, Le Chateau d'If, Le Chateau d'Ussé, Le Mans, which was once the largest city in Normandy, now just a small town; and Nantes, which at one time was Europe's leading port but is now only second to Marseille.
Chateaux are found all over France, but they are most common in the Loire Valley and in the Charente-Maritime region on the Atlantic coast.
There are also many smaller chateaux scattered across France.