If you want to see castles, France is your country. It’s estimated that France has over 45,000. In fact, the iconic Loire Valley region has 42 chateaux and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sure, you may not exactly be able to put on a ball gown and go running through the halls and gardens, but a girl can dream. If you’ve been thinking of indulging your inner royal, these are the the castles you wont want to miss. Besides Versailles of course, we just figured that one was a given.
This is the largest castle in all of the Loire Valley. You would think something this huge and gorgeous would be someone’s main abode. Nope, this was built as a hunting lodge for Francis I in the 1500’s. This stunner is beautiful inside and out, and is rumored to have been inspired by sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. It even housed the Mona Lisa and other important artwork for a time to protect them during WWII. The Renaissance style chateau boasts gorgeous Italian inspired interiors, including a double helix grand staircase that will leave your jaw hanging.
King Henry II must have really liked his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Since, you know, he just gifted her this stunning castle. Scandelous! This castle is also found in the Loire Valley, straddling the Cher river with iconic arches. It was built in the 16th century and with all its towers and turrets looks like something ripped out of a book of fairy tales. While the king’s mistress certainly enjoyed her home, she wouldn’t get to keep it. After Henry’s death, his widow, Catherine de Medici lost no time in kicking Diane out, and taking residence in the castle herself.
This immaculate castle is one of the largest in all of France today, and a UNESCO World Heritage site and a museum. It started off as a hunting lodge for then king, Louis VII. It remained a residence of many of the kings of France from the 12th to the end of the 19th century, each adding onto and improving the original building. With 700 years of successive royal history, you know these walls have secrets. Today the palace contains over 1,500 rooms, sprawling gardens, and it an absolute must-see.
In a country steeped in castles, this still has to be one of the most famous. In fact, over 3 million people visit it each year. Found off the Normandy coast, this castle isn’t even technically a castle (even though it inspired Rapunzel’s castle in the film Tangled). In actuality, Mont Saint Michel is considered a commune, as it a walled city built up around a abbey dating back to the 8th century. One of the coolest things about Mont Saint Michel is that when the tide comes in, it becomes an island. This little detail even lead to it being used as a prison by the French monarchy in the 15th century.