Many of the medieval castles built in France replaced older castles on the same site which had previously been constructed during the Roman period.
The French term which was popularly used to denote a castle is ‘Chateau’. In all, France is home to hundreds of medieval castles which served purposes ranging from military fortifications to sites of private residences of the nobility. Although some of these castles underwent damage from the 18th century Revolution, most of them have survived to this day.
Best Castles in France
Chateau de Sedan
Chateau de Sedan is a French castle located in Sedan. The original construction of the castle dates back to 1424 when it was built as a manor house. A large boulevard was added to this original structure and fortifications were added, including terraces with portions specified for the position of the cannons.
The castle was turned into a garrison after it came into French possession in the 17th century. Later the control of the castle was assumed by the French army. The castle is open to visitors today and hosts a museum along with medieval themes.
Chateau de Fleckenstein
The original castle at the site of the present Chateau de Fleckenstein dates back to the Roman era. During Roman rule, a castle was built at the site by carving the structure in the underlying rock. Subsequent structures were added to this original building in the middle ages, including a tower in the 14th century.
The outlook of the castle was improved during the next two centuries to give it a more contemporary look. At the end of the 17th century, the castle suffered extensive damage during the conflict between royalists and revolutionary forces.
Located in the commune of Lembach, today it is open to visitors and stands in a well-preserved shape.
Chateau de Murol
Chateau de Murol was originally constructed back in the 12th century on top of a basalt outcrop. The exact site of the castle gave it a strategic elevation above the surrounding landscape and a secure position that was easy to defend.
The castle was primarily built near a confluence of trade routes that passed by it and it was possible to keep a close eye on them from the castle. The 12th-century construction of the castle was fairly basic although a keep was added in the 14th century and a large curtain wall further fortified it in the 16th century
Chateau de Vitre
Chateau de Vitre was originally built as a wooden structure in the 9th century. Built on top of rocks, the castle had a solid foundation but a fragile wooden structure which was frequently torched during the conflict between regional barons.
In the 11th century, the wood construction was replaced by a stone structure. In the 13th century, the castle was again reconstructed according to more contemporary designs and built on more durable foundations. It is this 13th-century construction that survives to this day.
The castle was abandoned in the 17th century and faced decline in the subsequent centuries. It was restored in the 20th century and is a notable historical monument of France today.
Chateau de Beynac
The Chateau de Beynac was constructed by Beynac barons in the medieval ages. The location of the castle was on top of a limestone cliff and at the edge of a valley so that it served as the door to the valley and stood at a very secure, strategic site.
The castle itself was built as a formidable fortification, surrounded by moats, enclosed with re-doubled walls and a barbican. Inside these fortified defenses, the castle comprised of a large courtyard and a keep among other structures. The castle stands well-preserved today and is open to visitors.
Chateau de Chateauneuf
The Chateau de Chateauneuf was originally built in the 12th century and is located in the commune of Chateauneuf. The original structure of the castle was probably meant to serve simply as the residence of the local lord.
This changed during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England when the structure was significantly fortified and a keep was later added. It remained in the control of Chateauneuf lords until the 15th century and was then taken over by the duke of Burgundy.
The castle passed into the ownership of the French government in 1936 and is today a protected historical monument of the country.
Chateau de Montbeliard
Chateau de Montbeliard was originally the site of a wooden watchtower that was built during Roman times. Later, a significantly fortified structure was erected at the site, complete with a ditch and a drawbridge.
This medieval structure was erected by the Montfaucon family who remained its owners until 1397. In 1397, the control of the castle came to the Wurttemberg family who retained it until it came into the hands of the Revolutionary forces in the 18th century.
Although it underwent significant destruction in Revolutionary France, the surviving portions are well-preserved today and open to visitors.
Chateau de Gisors
Chateau de Gisors was a castle built in Normandy under the orders of King William II of England in the 11th century. Later, substantial expansion was made to the original structure during the time of Henry I of England who had an octagonal stone motte added to its design.
The castle passed to the hands of Philip II of France in the late 12th century. It is notable for the fact that it briefly remained under the control of the Knights Templar in the 12th century and then became the very site of the last Templar Grand Master’s prison in 1314.
Today the castle stands well-preserved and open to visitors.
Chateau de Roquetaillade
The earliest structure at the site of Chateau de Roquetaillade was a fortification constructed at the order of the Frankish Emperor, Charlemagne. A second fortress was built at the site in 1306 by Cardinal de la Mothe.
The structure of this 14th-century castle comprised of six towers along with a square enclosure and a sizable keep. Today, the castle stands well-preserved and is open to visitors.