8 Beautiful Châteaux in France You Can Visit—or Even Spend the Night In

Spending the day in fantastical splendor? Yes, please.

Versailles, France, August 18, 2012. Le Grand Trianon at The Palace of Versailles.

Versailles is just as worthy of a visit for the gardens as it is for the château.

Andy Sutherland/Shutterstock

Thousands of châteaux across France have set a certain storybook aesthetic for centuries. Many of these sprawling estates were once reserved for nobility, with gilded interiors (Hall of Mirrors, anyone?) and turreted roofs, but today you don’t need royal lineage to experience a beautiful château. Simply clear your schedule, fork over 20 euros, and indulge in the regal luxury and history. Here are eight beautiful French châteaux to visit on your next trip.

1. Château de Versailles

  • Where: Versailles, France
  • When to visit: Open from 9 a.m.–6:30 p.m; palace is open year-round except Mondays and May 1
  • Visit: Palace tickets start at €21, chateauversailles.fr

What King Louis XIII built as a hunting lodge 10 miles southwest of Paris, his successor, Louis XIV, and Queen Marie Antoinette transformed into a glittering, 721,182-square-foot palace—and symbol of French power: Château de Versailles. Today, visitors can tour magnificent rooms like the Hall of Mirrors, admire thousands of paintings and pieces of furniture, and wander the vast manicured gardens for a look at royal indulgence. As of 2021, guests can even stay the night, thanks to the opening of Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle, a luxury hotel located within the Château de Versailles.

Versailles is open all year (except on Mondays and May 1), but the gardens are especially attractive on summer evenings when the fountains are illuminated. Tip: To beat the crowds, book a skip-the-line ticket in advance.

Château du Clos Lucé pictured among trees, grass, and blue sky

Château du Clos Lucé is famous for being Leonardo da Vinci’s final residence.

Photo by Léonard de Serres/Château du Clos Lucé

2. Château du Clos Lucé

  • Where: Amboise, France
  • When: Operating hours vary depending on the month; open year-round except December 25 and January 1
  • Visit: Tickets start at €18, vinci-closluce.com

This stately brick manor house is famous for being the official and final residence of Leonardo da Vinci; it is located a quarter mile from the beautiful Château Royal d’Amboise, where the artist’s tomb lies. Besides an ornate interior with more than 800 years behind it, the château also has a 15-acre park that showcases 20 models of da Vinci’s inventions.

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau next to the moat that reflects the image of the château

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau showcases early French Renaissance design and architecture.

Photo by Neirfy/Shutterstock

3. Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

  • Where: Azay-le-Rideau, France
  • When to visit: Operating hours vary depending on the month; open year-round except January 1, May 1, and December 25
  • Visit: Full-price tickets are €11.50; tickets.monuments-nationaux.fr

The UNESCO-recognized Loire Valley is home to striking buildings and castles, including the two-story Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. Constructed in the 1500s, this château’s sharp roofs, turrets, and other features showcase early French Renaissance design and architecture. The château was originally built on an island in the Indre River by Gilles Berthelot, treasurer of France and adviser to King Louis XII.

While the stone-carved details (look for the salamander and ermine motifs, which symbolize King Francois I and Queen Claude, respectively) and open loggia staircase are captivating enough, take a step back to appreciate the building as a whole. A moat surrounds it, offering a reflection of the château.

The château and museum sit at the end of a long gravel and dirt driveway beneath a blue sky.

The château and museum are reason enough to visit, but the beautiful estate and garden are reasons to stay and picnic.

Jessie Beck

4. Château de Chantilly

  • Where: Chantilly, France
  • When to visit: Open daily (except Tuesdays) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s best to visit on a nice day, when you can take advantage of the large park and gardens.
  • Visit: Tickets start at €18 chateaudechantilly.fr

The town of Chantilly, which is located about an hour north of Paris by train or car, is known for its strong equestrian heritage, the invention of Chantilly cream, and a beautiful, historic mansion called Château de Chantilly. Originally built for the Montmorency family in the 16th century and later enhanced by the Duke of Aumale, the château today is a public museum and garden. It’s easy to spend a full afternoon here, thanks to the exquisite art collections within the Musée Condé, and the beautiful gardens and park (both included with entry) adjacent to the main house. Come hungry: there’s also a small cafe and restaurant tucked away in one corner where you can try the region’s most famous dessert, Chantilly.

The exterior of Château du Maffliers and a green lawn in front of it

Don’t just visit for the day—spend the night in a château at this property just north of Paris.

Photo by Jessie Beck

5. Château de Maffliers

  • Where: Maffliers, France
  • When to visit: Year-round, though it’s best to visit in spring, summer, or fall to take advantage of the outdoor activities.
  • Book now: demeures-de-campagne.com

If you want to turn your day trip into an overnight, pair your visit to Chantilly with a stay at another, smaller château nearby called Château de Maffliers, Demeures de Campagne. Renovated in 2020, this 19th-century home turned hotel gives travelers the chance to spend the night in a historic French mansion, complete with ornate, over-the-top decor like velvet sofas, chandeliers, and marble bathrooms. The decadence extends to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Augustine, where diners can indulge in regional classics like roast duck, pâté, and fresh strawberries with Chantilly cream. Guests also won’t want to miss the chance to experience the region’s renowned equestrian heritage by going on a morning horseback ride with the property’s on-site horseback riding school.

Note: Be sure to book a suite to snag a room in the château. There is also a more basic hotel called Novotel on the property in a separate building.

The Château de Valençay sits behind a fountain with a statue seemingly in the image of two children in the center

The Château de Valençay’s architecture is mainly influenced by Renaissance and classical styles.

Photo by Joaquin Ossorio Castillo/Shutterstock

6. Château de Valençay

  • Where: Valençay, France
  • When to visit: Opening times vary depending on month; open year-round except December 25 and January 1
  • Visit: Tickets are €14.50; chateau-valencay.fr

With its L-shaped layout, the Château de Valençay’s two wings demonstrate the main architectural influences—Renaissance and classical—on its design. The d’Estampes family created the foundation for the Château de Valençay in the 1500s with a very Renaissance flavor (thanks in part to the influence of the Great Italian Wars). In the 1700s, the west wing was modified in the classical style, as seen by details like its Ionic capitals.

Since the château’s creation, it’s changed hands with many different owners from the upper echelon—most famously Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, who was the foreign minister to Napoleon. Many of the interior relics you can see come from Talleyrand’s collection of swords, medals, and other treasures.

Château d’Ussé sitting behind an old stone wall, with green grasses, walking paths, and manicured flower trees in front of it

Live out your Sleeping Beauty dreams at this château.

Photo by Sergio da bosco/Shutterstock

7. Château d’Ussé

  • Where: Rigny-Ussé, France
  • When to visit: Opening hours depend on the month; open from February 13 to November 13
  • Visit: Adult tickets are €14,50; chateaudusse.fr

While many châteaux have a storybook appeal, the Château d’Ussé has a special claim to fame as the inspiration for the original Sleeping Beauty. The fun is in the very ornate details, from the intricately designed ceiling of the guard room to the 16th-century tapestries decorating the walls. Visitors (particularly children) will delight in the mannequins displayed in its various rooms that re-enact scenes from the classic story.

Even if you’re not a fan of the fairy tale, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Walk through the ramparts of the château’s towers, and you can reimagine a time when the building was used as a strategic fortress circa 1000 C.E.

Chateâu Blois pictured, with its white and red brick and gray roof

The different architectural styles of the Chateâu Blois make its details all the more appealing to explore.

Photo by Yuri Turkov/Shutterstock

8. Château de Blois

  • Where: Blois, France
  • When to visit: Opening hours vary depending on the month; open year-round, except December 25 and January 1
  • Visit: Chateau + Sound and Light Show tickets are €21; chateaudeblois.fr

Unlike many châteaux, the Château de Blois isn’t a shining example of a particular architectural era or influence. Instead, this Loire Valley palace is recognized for being a hodgepodge of medieval, Gothic, Renaissance, and classical architecture, due to it frequently being torn down and renovated. As a result, each part of the exterior serves as a marker for the popular architectural style during a renovation, including the château’s iteration as a 13th-century fortress and the Renaissance-style home of King Louis XII.

From April through September, the château’s exterior becomes the backdrop of a sound and light show portraying its complex history, offering a modern way to experience the chateau’s past.

This article was originally published in 2019 and was most recently updated on February 12, 2024. Kimberley Lovato and Jessie Beck contributed reporting.

Chloe Arrojado is the associate editor of destinations at AFAR. She’s a big fan of cafés, dancing, and asking people on the street for restaurant recommendations.
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