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Chateaux and Castles in France

There are numerous chateaux and castles dotted all over France and one of the main areas that people think of is the Loire region with fabulous castles such as the Chateau Chenonceau.

However, probably the most well known of all of these historical buildings in France is the Chateau de Versailles that is situated just outside of Paris and what people often do not realise, is that there are several castles and chateaux that are situated in the Ile de France region and the area that surrounds the capital city of Paris.

The chateaux are on a very grand scale and you really need to put a whole day to one side to appreciate them to the fullest in all their glory.   To give you an idea, the Chateau de Versailles is one of the largest castles in the world and is one of the most visited sites in France.  It is French architecture on a grand scale and the Versailles' history galleries with its many masterpieces is actually the largest history museum in the world, and this is just part of the chateau that is open to the public for visits!

One of the most famous rooms at the Chateau de Versailles is the 75m long Galerie des Glaces, also called the Hall of Mirrors and was where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 signifying the end of World War I.

Chateaux and Castles in France
French Chateaux and Castles

Yet the gardens have also become the most famous in world and designed by Andre Le Notre there are around 1,300 fountains, jets, waterfalls, a vast amount of sculptures and statues, water parterres, and of course the formal gardens to explore.  The fountains actually use water pumped from the River Seine and on a weekend from April until September they hold fountain shows for visitors.

Another show that is held at the Chateau de Versailles at set times is the Acad?mie du Spectacle Equestre and you can also visit the restored 17th century royal stables, which is home to these beautiful horses that are the stars of the show with their riders.

Another beautiful castle in France is The Chateau de Chantilly, which can be located in one of the largest forests near Paris and this vast and amazing estate covers around 7,800 hectares, and yet is no where near as well known as the Chateau Versailles.

Anyone who has enjoyed going round The Louvre, which has got to be the most famous museum in Paris, will love the museum of historical paintings at Chateau Chantilly, as it is one of the finest museums in France and the only one except The Louvre that has 3 Raphael paintings.

Inside Chateau de Chantilly is the Conde Museum that holds a book room containing about 30,000 volumes, including 1,500 manuscripts and 11,500 printed books, which is the most important collection in France.  This castle also contains medieval manuscripts with one very rare specimen dating from the11th century called 'Les Tr?s Riches Heures du Duc de Berry' which is the prized possession.

Now if you love the gardens at the Chateau de Versailles, you will also love the gardens at Chateau de Chantilly that were also designed by Andre Le Notre and has the largest expanse of water with the Grand Canal being approximately 2.5 kilometres long.  Another garden that Andre designed is at the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte.

At the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte you can hire an electric golf car to get around the grounds or even take a trip on the canal and this French castle has been exceedingly well restored with a horse driven carriage museum, which houses a unique collection of 18th and 19th century carriages, plus a dedicated Andre Le Notre exhibition in the vaulted cellars.

They even hold candlelight visits, activities for children such as Easter egg hunts, and from March through to October each year there is a fountain show held twice a month, which is a spectacular sight, especially when you care to consider that the fountains are still gravity fed the same way as they were in the 17th century!

Whatever French castle you choose to visit, you will not be disappointed and other stately homes around Paris that all have something different to offer include the Royal Chateau de Fontainebleau with a horse-drawn carriage that will provide a tour of the estate where you can feed the carp in the lake and the Chateau de Sceaux where they hold classical music festivals and outdoor operas in the summer.

The Chateau de Compiegne has three different museums including the museum of the second empire and the museum of transport, which shows exhibits of past road travel from bicycles right through to the first electric and steam engine vehicles. 

The Chateau de Thoiry is a great day out for all the family, which is home to what was the very first wild animal safari park in Europe and also has the only interactive maze in the world!  You can have a tour of the castle by guides in period costumes and see the unique solar calendar in the garden where during the solstice the Chateau itself becomes transparent.  Quite a phenomenal experience for a fun packed day out!

So instead of dragging your children around the city, why not take a trip out to one of these incredible architectural wonders and have a day to remember with a picnic in the grounds. 

But make sure you pick a dry day that is not too scorching in the sun and do remember that most of these chateaux and castles close at least one day a week, normally on a Monday or Tuesday!

Castles and Chateaux in France

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