You’re planning a ‘tour de France’ and want to know which medieval castles are worth a visit? Our team has selected for you our top 10 most beautiful medieval castles of France, from Alsace to Aquitaine and from Provence to Burgundy!
1. Cité de Carcassonne (Languedoc)
With more than 4 million visitors each year, Carcassonne is among the most prestigious tourist destinations in France, on a par with Mont-Saint-Michel and Paris’ Notre-Dame. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Carcassonne is a dramatic representation of medieval architecture perched on a rocky spur that towers above the River Aude, southeast of the new town.
Read more about the Cité de Carcassonne.
2. Haut-Kœnigsbourg (Alsace)
At 757 metres high, the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle dominates the Plain of Alsace and stands out with its imposing pink sandstone structure. Ideally situated in the heart of the Alsace Wine Route, the fortified castle provides its visitors with a panoramic view over the plain, the Black Forest in Germany and on a fine day, the Swiss Alps.
Read more about the Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle.
3. Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (Périgord)
The most visited castle in the South of France dominates the picturesque village of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle on the left bank of the Dordogne River. During the Middle-Ages, this mighty English fortress commanded the strategic position at the confluence of the Dordogne and Céou Rivers, opposite the rival French castle of Beynac.
Read more about Castelnaud-la-Chapelle.
4. Bonaguil (Périgord)
Located on a rocky spur between the valleys of the Thèze and Lémance Rivers to the far south of the Dordogne départment, the military fortress of Bonaguil was the last of the fortified castles built in France. Bonaguil was entirely refurbished between 1480 and 1510 to incorporate the latest defensive systems of the late Middle-Ages. For this reason, it was never attacked and was only ever used as a residence by its owners.
5. Peyrepertuse (Languedoc)
Peyrepertuse is one of the famous Cathar castles, located in the Corbières region of the Aude département. Perched on a crest at 800m high, its strategic position made it an important and coveted fortress along the former French/Spanish border.
6. Pierrefonds (Picardy)
The imposing castle of Pierrefonds, located 80 km to the north-east of Paris, sits enchantingly around a bend in the road beside the Compiègne Forest. Built in the 12th century, the castle was destroyed in the 17th century then completely restored by the architect Viollet-le-Duc under the direction of Napoleon III. This unusual reconstruction, often criticised, resulted in a grandiose architectural ensemble, making Pierrefonds a medieval as well as a modern 19th century castle. For this, Pierrefonds is known as “the romantic folly of the Emperor”.
Read more about Pierrefonds Castle.
7. Loches (Loire Valley)
The castle of Loches in the Loire Valley, was built at the beginning of the 11th century on a hill above the town. It is famous for its 36 metre high square keep erected by Fulk III, Count of Anjou between 987 and 1040. The castle was one of King Charles VII’s residences who gave it to his mistress, Agnès Sorel.
8. Fougères (Brittany)
Fougères Castle in Brittany is one of France’s most imposing castles. Its grounds cover two hectares surrounded by three well-preserved walls flanked by 13 towers. The castle has been built on a naturally protected site away from the surrounding swamp.
9. Les Baux-de-Provence (Provence)
Set above Les Baux-de-Provence sits the “Citadelle des Baux”, the ruined castle of the village. The fortress is hardly distinguishable from the edge of the plateau on which it was built. It still features remnants of its turbulent past: the dominating keep, the Sarracen tower (taking its name from the Saracen raiders who came from the South), and the Paravelle tower (used as a lookout).The keep is accessed by a difficult stairway which will make you dizzy to climb but the view from its top is one of the most impressive in all of Provence.
Read more about the castle of Les Baux.
10. Guédelon (Burgundy)
In the heart of Burgundy, Guédelon is not a historic castle as such for it is more like an open history book. When construction started in 1997, the long-term goal was to build a fortified castle by using techniques and materials from the Middle Ages. The project has proved a success, as it has created 55 jobs and welcomed more than 300,000 visitors each year. Guédelon should be completed in 2022 and will then look like a 13th century medieval castle.
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- to attack = attaquer (v)
- Brittany = Bretagne (f)
- Burgundy = Bourgogne (f)
- castle = château (m)
- to destroy = détruire (v)
- fortress = forteresse (f)
- keep = donjon (m)
- Loire Valley = Vallée de la Loire (f), Val de Loire (m)
- Middle-Ages = Moyen Âge (m)
- Picardy = Picardie (f)
- to restore = restaurer (v)
- swamp = marécage (m)
- tower = tour (f)
- Unesco World Heritage Site = Site du Patrimoine Mondial de l’Unesco
- village = village (m)
- wall = rempart (m), mur (m)