Complete with everything from moats to keeps to turrets, France is awash with fairytale castles. Here are some of the top fairytale castles to visit on day trips from Paris:
CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the palace of the Sun King. Once home to one of the richest kings in history, Louis XIV commissioned the Palace that would have cost over $2 billion to build in today’s money. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, millions of visitors flock annually to explore the wealth of riches contained within the Château and its surrounding grounds.
In more recent years, the site has been used as a film location for Coppola’s movie ‘Marie Antoinette’ and the backdrop for the Anish Kapoor’s exhibition highlighting chaos amongst the pristine gardens at Versailles.
Don’t miss: The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, world famous landscape gardens.
Visit: Take RER line C from Invalides to Versailles-Rive Gauche (50 minutes from the centre of Paris).
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CHÂTEAU DE VINCENNES
Situated just ten minutes away from the Centre of Paris, Château de Vincennes was the site of royal residences from the 12th Century up until the 18th century.
From then, it was used as the site for a porcelain factory and then a state prison. Today, it is possible to visit the Keep (the prison) and Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes, a 14th Century fortified chapel built in the gothic style.
Don’t miss: Sainte Chappelle, 300 year old prisoner graffiti in the Keep.
Visit: Take Metro line 1 to Château de Vincennes (10 minutes from the centre of Paris).
CHÂTEAU DE CHANTILLY
Of all the fairytale castles on this list, Chantilly may well be the prettiest! Situated to the North of Paris, the Château at Chantilly was home to French princes for almost two centuries. The Château at Chantilly comprises of two buildings; one built around the 1560s, the other in the 1870s; the result is an interesting mix of new meets old.
Also housed within the castle is The Condé Museum. Opened in 1898, it contains the second largest painting collection in France after the Louvre in Paris and the collection includes three paintings by Rafael and three by Tra Angelico.
Don’t miss: The hamlet on which Marie Antoinette based her ‘farm’ at Versailles, the second largest art collection in France.
Visit: Take direct train from Gare Du Nord to Chantilly (25 minutes from the centre of Paris).
CHÂTEAU DE FONTAINEBLEAU
‘Versailles without the crowds’ is how this palace is often sold. Fontainebleau began life as a chapel and hunting lodge in the middle of the 12th Century. Every king and queen from Louis VI, the fat (1081-1137) to Napoleon III (1808-1873) spent time here. Napoleon called Château Fontainebleau the ‘House of the Centuries’ and even gave his final salute to his guards at the base of the horseshoe staircase (pictured below).
As is often the case with historic houses, with the arrival of each new owner came the arrival of new trends and fashions; resulting in amendments and extensions to the castle.
Don’t miss: the grand canal, the boudoir of Marie Antoinette.
Visit: Take a direct train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon (40 minutes from the center of Paris).