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Enchanting French castles you'll really want to visit

PUBLISHED: 17:09 14 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:24 22 March 2016

Le Château de Chenonceau vu du jardin de Catherine de Medicis © Guillaume Capron, Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Le Château de Chenonceau vu du jardin de Catherine de Medicis © Guillaume Capron, Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Take a step back through French cultural and political history with a trip to one of these majestic castles.

Château d’Amboise, Loire Valley

Nestled in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France, lies this Unesco World Heritage site with panoramic views across the river Loire. Whether your interests are architectural, historical or horticultural, this magnificent castle has plenty to please all. From the captivating turrets you can see from miles away, to the delightful landscaped gardens that surround Château d’Amboise, it really does represent a scene from a French fairy tale.

The castle is open throughout the year with closures only taking place on Christmas and New Year’s Day. General admission is a very reasonable €11.50 for adults and €7.50 for children.

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley

This castle is affectionately known as the Château des Dames due to its close history of protection and love with some important French female figures, most notably; Katherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici and Madame Dupin. Chenonceau is home to a vast collection of Old Masters’ paintings and Flanders tapestries dating back to the 16th century. Visitors may also enjoy the spectacular flower displays in each of the beautifully decorated rooms of the castle.

Opening hours vary throughout the year so please check the website before visiting. Basic admission for adults is €12.50 and €9.50 for under 18’s.

Château de Chambord, Loire Valley

Described as a Renaissance palace with inspiration taken from French medieval architecture, Chambord is home to hidden staircases, stunning galleries and terraces with breathtaking views. Inside, guests will find an impressive art collection encompassing carefully preserved antique furniture, paintings, tapestries and plenty more.

The castle can be found in the Loire-et-Cher department and it’s open almost every day of the year. There are a wide range of exhibitions being held during 2016 and admission to the building costs €11 for those over the age of 18.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, Loire Valley

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau can be found on an island surrounded by the Indre river in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France. Built in the early 14th century, it was finally listed as a historical monument in 1905 when it was purchased by the French state. Despite its small size, the castle has an impressive exterior, and pretty gardens landscaped in an English design. Internally, the château has a lavish décor with coffered ceilings and grand staircases.

The opening hours can vary throughout the year and the details are on the castle’s website. Admission fees are €6.50 for adults and free for children - making Château d’Azay-le-Rideau a cheap and fun-filled day out for the family.

Château de Villandry, Loire Valley

Bestowed with the ‘Label Qualité Tourisme’ award by the Ministry of Tourism in 2009, one trip to the castle and you will certainly see why. Since the building was sympathetically refurbished and restored it has become a testimony to French heritage. Keep an eye out for the admirable Louis XV staircase and working organic kitchen gardens that surround the château. You can take a virtual tour of the gardens here.

Villandry opening hours can vary from month to month so it is advisable to check the website before attending. General admissions to the castle and gardens cost €10.50 but if it is just the horticultural aspect you’re after, entry to the garden alone only costs €6.50 and it is well worth the trip.

Château de Beynac, Dordogne

An impressive 200 metres above the Dordogne River, overlooking the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, lies the heavily fortified Château de Beynac – one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Dordogne. From the limestone fort there are panoramic views across the river to Castelnaud and beyond.

If you’d like to visit the castle, make sure to book your appointment prior to arrival. A tour of the building costs only €8 for adults and €3.50 - €4.50 for children dependant on age.

Château de Vincennes, Paris

Château de Vincennes was constructed in the 14th century by Charles V and is one of the most significant castles in French history due to its close royal and political associations. The Parisian castle has seen many royal marriages, births and executions over the past 700 years and it temporarily served as a military base during the Second World War.

Château de Vincennes is open to visitors with guided tours taking place almost every day of the year. A trip to the castle is €8.50 for adults and under 18’s can visit for free.

Château de Chantilly, Picardy

Step back in time with a trip to one of the jewels in the crown of French cultural heritage. Home to the second largest collection of paintings in France after the Louvre, Château de Chantilly was designed to showcase the countless masterpieces and precious manuscripts of Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale. Aside from the galleries, there’s a fine selection of beautiful private suites which can be viewed via a guided tour and an outstanding reading room.

Chantilly is open to visitors everyday between 28 March and 1 November, 10am – 6pm. Prices start at €17 for an annual ticket.

Château de la Rochefoucauld, Charente

If lavish stone staircases, large gothic windows and traditional drawbridges are your thing, La Rochefoucauld has these in abundance and it is quite possibly one of the most spectacular and beautiful castles in France. The history of the building is tied with the La Rochefoucauld family; famous within French history for their political connections. Inside there are several drawing rooms adorned with collections of paintings and treasures collected by the family over hundreds of years.

You can stay the night in the castle and the details are listed on the website. Alternatively, Château de la Rochefoucauld is open to visitors, March – December 10am – 7pm (except for on Tuesdays when it is closed).

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, Alsace

Behind the great doors of the Haut-Koenigsbourg you’ll find a world cemented in the Middle Ages as the drawbridges, armoury and cannons that enrich the castle remind you of the purpose this magnificent building once served. From the castle you’ll find breathtaking panoramic views over the Alsace plain, Vosges mountains and the Black Forest.

Ticket prices are €9 for adults and €4 for children. Opening times vary throughout the year so please check the website for more details.

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