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Best side trips from Paris

Best Castles Near Paris

11/10/19

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Best Châteaux Near Paris

France has some of the most beautiful castles in the world, and they are a must-visit for all who are interested in French history and heritage. Visitors to the French capital won’t have to go far to visit famous French castles since there are several castles near Paris that make great day trips. From medieval ruins to royal palaces or hunting residences, these châteaux near Paris come in a variety of styles and repair. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re all awesome places to see.

Here’s our pick of the best castles near Paris, if you are planning a trip to Paris you should visit at least one! These French castles are all a 2-hours ride (or less) from Paris.

NB. The entrance to most of these châteaux in France is included in the Paris Museum Pass and other Paris Tourist Passes. For more information, check out our Paris Museum Pass review and this Paris Pass Comparison.

 

Château de Versailles

Versailles Palace

Château de Versailles was the main residence of the French Kings, from King Louis XIV to King Louis XVI.

Versailles Palace was built in the XVII century as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. It was King Louis XIV (his son) who decided to move his court from his palaces in Paris to Versailles, as he considered the city too dangerous for him and his family. King Louis XIV and his successors turned that modest lodge into a jewel of French Baroque architecture and the main seat of power in France.

The Versailles French-style gardens are as amazing as the palace itself. They are beautifully decorated with fountains, water games, and grooves. Due to the long distance from the Seine river, the Versailles fountains were fed thanks to an ingenious machine that pumped the water from the river.  The impressive 5.57 km wide Grand Canal was the object of naval battles by the King and his court.

Today the Versailles Estate spreads over 800 hectares. It includes the Château de Versailles, the French-style gardens, a beautiful forest, the Palaces of Trianon and the Queen’s farm.

 

How to visit Versailles on your own

If you want to visit Versailles on your own, it is important to plan your trip well. Buying skip-the-line tickets online in advance is also an excellent idea for visiting Versailles, the lines to visit the Palace are always very long!

Click here to read our best tips for visiting Versailles

 

By Train: there are many direct trains traveling from Paris to Versailles (40-minutes ride). From there, it’s a short walk to the Château.

TIP: Click here to check all the ways to travel to Versailles

 

Best Paris Tours to Versailles

Guided tours are the best way to get the most out of Versailles. Guided tours are conducted by professional English speaking guides who will explain to you everything you want to know about Versailles and its hosts.

Visit Versailles Palace and Gardens, with the Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s farm, on a private or a small-group guided tour. The tours proposed below include transportation to/from Paris and skip-the-line tickets.

Best Versailles Small-Group Guided Tour |  Best Versailles Private Guided Tour

 

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Amongst the famous castles in France near Paris there is Château de Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau was during many centuries the Kings of France’s favorite hunting place and they built a magnificent castle to get the most out of Fontainebleau.

The origin of this awesome château near Paris can be found back in the 12th century. Its construction spans nearly 8 centuries and presents several different styles (medieval, renaissance, classical) for the happiness of architecture lovers. Also, this palace has hosted, without interruption for 7 centuries, all the royal and imperial families of the time, which earned him the remarkable nickname of “true home of the Kings”.

Le Château de Fontainebleau is one of the most beautiful castles in France and the eternal rival of Versailles Palace. Its more than 1500 rooms and halls are grand and magnificent!

After visiting the castle, don’t miss the beautiful gardens around. The gardens’ highlight is the Grand Parterre, the largest formal garden in Europe and King Louis XIV’s greatest architectural achievement at Fontainebleau.

 

How to visit Fontainebleau on your own

By Train: direct trains leave from Paris Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon train station (40 min every 20 min). Once you arrive at Fontainebleau train station, there is a bus-shuttle waiting outside to reach the château (12 min ride).

 

Best Paris Tours to Fontainebleau

Paris-Fontainebleau half-day private guided tour: this 5-hour private tour visits the Château of Fontainebleau with a private English guide. The tour includes pick up and drop off at your accommodation in Paris (8 am or 2 pm), transportation in a luxury van and skip the line entrance tickets for Château de Fontainebleau. This Fontainebleau half-day tour avoids the transportation hassle and makes you save time, perhaps for exploring other corners of Paris.

Click here to book your Fontainebleau half-day tour

 

Château de Chantilly

Chateau de Chantilly, France

If you are looking for beautiful châteaux in France, you need to see Château de Chantilly. Château de Chantilly was the home of the Princes of Condé, cousins of the King of France. This château is not a royal residence but it hosted kings and queens, attired by its beauty and the owner’s parties.

The town of Chantilly, France, is dominated by a château since medieval times but the castle that you can see today is from the 19th century. The Château of Chantilly has a spectacular setting, located at the center of a small pond and surrounded by beautiful gardens and ponds.

Like many other French châteaux, Château of Chantilly is a succession of beautiful rooms and halls, each one more impressive than the last. The most interesting rooms in this castle are the library and the Grande Galérie. This long room hosts today the second largest collection of artwork in France, only beaten by the Louvre artwork. Paintings and sculptures are displayed exactly like the castle’s last owner, Henri d’Orléans, show them to his guests.

 

How to visit Château de Chantilly on your own

By Train: there are direct trains from Paris Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux train station (30 min, hourly). From there, it’s a pleasant walk to the Château.

Find more information and book your train tickets to Chantilly

 

Best Paris Tours to Château de Chantilly

Chantilly Half-Day Private Tour. Enjoy a private guided tour of Château de Chantilly (morning or afternoon) with a licensed, English speaking guide. The tour includes the pickup and drop off at your accommodation in Paris, transportation in a luxury van, and skip the line tickets.

Click here to book your half-day tour to Chantilly

 

Château de Vincennes

Chateau de Vincennes

Around Paris, castles abound and you don’t need to go that far to enjoy some beautiful examples. Royal residence from the 12th century to the 18th century, the Château de Vincennes, one of the best medieval castles in France, stands proudly at the entrance of Paris.

This castle is a true medieval fortress with its walls, towers, and the highest dungeon in Europe (more than 50 meters high!). Just like in the old times, the Château de Vincennes is surrounded by a deep pit of 7 meters, and it can be entered only by stone pontoons recalling the medieval aspect of the castle. Inside, visit the courtyard, and the Pavilions of the King and the Queen, climb up to the top of the dungeon (good shape advised) and admire the 16th century stained glass windows of the chapel.

Just outside the Château, there’s the Parc Floral and the Bois de Vincennes, perfect for walks, games or a picnic on the grass with all the family.

 

How to visit Château de Vincennes on your own

By Metro. Visiting the Château de Vincennes on your own is so easy. You just need to take the Parisian Metro, line 1! The closest metro station is Château de Vincennes and it is located at the foot of the Château.

 

Best Paris Tours to Château de Vincennes

For those who like to push the research a little further, the Castle offers free guided tours in French by a speaker from the Center of National Monuments (click here to see the tours schedule). Alternatively, the Castle proposes audio guides in different languages for self-guided tours.

 

Château de Vaux le Vicomte

Château Vaux le Vicomte

Photo courtesy: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte ©

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is one of the best châteaux near Paris. It was built in the 17th century by Nicolas Fouquet, Chief Minister to the young King Louis XIV. For his new home, M. Fouquet hired the best professionals of his time: Louis Le Vau (architect), Charles Le Brun (painter), and André Le Notre (landscape gardener) who executed jointly the entire project. The result was the amazing and lavish baroque château that we can still see today, surrounded by spectacular French-style gardens.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is well known for its fairy-tale animations. Vaux-le-Vicomte is also a great place to visit if you are in Paris at Christmas time, the Christmas lights decorating the Château are spectacular!

 

How to visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte on your own

By Train + Shuttle. Take the train at Paris Gare de l’Est, line P in the direction of Provins to Verneuil l’Etang train station. At the train station exit, there is a “Châteaubus” shuttle to the Château (1 hr ride in total).

 

Best Paris Tours to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

A guided tour Paris – Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte can be a good idea to avoid the transportation hassle. Visit the Château with the comments of an English speaking guide and then enjoy the French gardens on your own until it’s time to leave back to Paris.

Also, Vaux-le-Vicomte is well-known for its costumed celebrations and candlelit evenings. The candlelit evenings with dinner (on Saturdays, from May to early October) are a great way to spend a romantic soirée out of Paris.

Best Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte Small-Group Guided Tour |  Best Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte Candlelight Visit and Dinner

 

Château de Malmaison

Château de Malmaison

Château de Malmaison, located in the commune of Rueil Malmaison, is most commonly known as the former residence of Napoleon I, the emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and his wife Josephine de Beauharnais.

When the couple bought this château, it was an old house of the 17th century. The extensive renovation works by architects Percier and Fontaine (1800 to 1802) turned Château de Malmaison into a luxurious castle with all the fashions of the 19th century.

Don’t miss Napoleon and Josephine’s bedrooms, with the original beds, the council room shaped like a military tent, and the library.

The garden is another of Malmaison’s highlights. Very fond of botanic, the Empress brought her personal touch in the garden of the castle, adding a number of various exotic plants, classic statues and more.

 

How to visit Château de Malmaison on your own

By RER /Metro /Train + Bus: take the metro (line 1), train or RER A to La Défense. From there, take bus # 258 and stop at Le Chateau (25 minute-ride). Cross the RN13 road and go back to the roundabout. The castle is at 300m, on the right.

 

Château de Marly

Marly Le Roi, France

Château de Marly was one of the best castles in France. This Château, located in the commune of Marly-le-Roi, was the weekend residence of King Louis XIV. This palace was more intimate than Versailles and far from the court etiquette, that’s why the King appreciated so much his stays in Marly. Only a few people had the honor to be the King’s guests in Marly and they were appointed directly by the King a few days before the departure.

Today, there’s not much left of Marly, apart from a few remains of the palace’s foundations. The château was totally destroyed during the French Revolution but the park surrounding the château has been restored with its waterways and lawns. This does not sound very encouraging but only the visit to the park and the remains, with informative panels, is well worth a half-day trip from Paris.

The famous Marly Horses that you can see today at Louvre Museum, were located at the entrance of the Château.

 

How to visit Château de Marly on your own

By Train: from Paris Saint Lazare train station take the train line L and stop at Marly-le-Roi train station. From there, it’s just a 10-minute walk.

 

 

Château de Pierrefonds

Chateau de Pierrefonds

Château de Pierrefonds is one of the best châteaux in France. Château de Pierrefonds is a fortified castle located close to the forest of Compiègne, in the region of Hauts-de-France. This fairytale castle near Paris was built in the 15th century by Louis of Orleans. Like Château de Fontainebleau, Pierrefonds’ construction has gone through different periods until it was dismantled by order of Louis XIII.

In the 19th century, the emperor Napoleon III decided to rebuild Château de Pierrefonds to make it an imperial residence. To do so, he hired the architect Viollet-le-Duc who apart from a work of restoration, added a bit of his imagination.

The visit to this impressive fortress, with eight medieval towers and sumptuous decoration, makes a great day trip from Paris. After the visit, we recommend exploring the beautiful forest of Compiègne or – if Château de Pierrefonds was not enough – the Château de Compiègne and it’s garden, located at the north of the forest.

 

How to visit Château de Pierrefonds on your own

By Train + Bus: from Paris Gare du Nord take a TER train to Compiègne train station (52 minutes, hourly). At the exit of the train station take bus #21 and stop at station Pierrefonds – Marine. From there, you just need to walk 4 minutes to reach the Château.

Find more information and book your train tickets to Compiègne

 

Château de La Roche-Guyon

La Roche Guyon France

The Château de La Roche-Guyon is one of the most intriguing castles in France. It was built in the 12th century at the summit of a steep promontory, to control a river crossing of the Seine, and one of the routes to and from Normandy. In the mid-13th century, a fortified manor house (the château-bas) was added below.

Over the centuries, the Château changed family-owners different times and it was also renovated and extended. The last major renovation happened in the 18th century when the eastern rampart was pierced to add a baroque monumental entrance.

A visit to the Château de La Roche-Guyon provides an incredible journey back in time. Apart from the 12th-century medieval Château and keep, there is a troglodyte chapel, and also the bunkers built by the Germans during the Second World War. The castle also was Rommel’s headquarters during World War II. After D-Day, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (1891–1944) defended Normandy against the Allies from a bunker located here.

 

How to visit Château de La Roche-Guyon on your own

By Train+ Bus: this is the most complicated castle near Paris to reach by public transportation. Take the train from Paris Saint Lazare Station to Gare de Bonnières (47 min, every 4 hours). The next step is to take a bus from Gare Routière Bonnières to Petit Pont station (9 min, every 4 hours). You can see the trains schedule and all the public transportation options here

 

Château de Monte Cristo

Chateau de Montecristo

This picturesque château in France was built by the famous French writer Alexandre Dumas in 1844 after the success of his work The Three Musketeers.

The Château de Montecristo consists of a compact building in Renaissance style and with entirely carved facades surrounded by an English-style garden adorned with caves, waterfalls, and grooves. For his study, the author asked his architect for a Gothic pavilion surrounded by water.

This magical place comes from the fantasy of the writer, and it is now a historical monument. While visiting the different rooms of the castle, one almost finds the festive atmosphere of the monumental banquets regularly organized by Alexandre Dumas.

 

How to visit Château de Montecristo on your own

By RER + Bus: take the RER A direction Saint Germain en Laye, until the last stop. There, take the bus #10 direction to “Les Lampes“. Stop at Avenue Kennedy and take the first street on the right,  the Chemin des Montferrand. Follow the pedestrian path, it is a 5-minute walk to the Château.

 

Do you like French castles? What are your favorite châteaux in France near Paris?

 

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