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Our Picks: 11 Must-Visit Châteaux in France

Fluffy choux, fine Champagne and fabulous châteaux – where else could it be but the spiritual home of romance? Read on as we unearth some of the very best châteaux in France.

If you enjoy soaking up culture, history, fine art and gorgeous gardens, then these beautiful French stately homes will make for must-do excursions during your next visit.

Cameras at the ready, it’s time to explore…

What is the French definition of a château?

Before we dive deeper into the best French châteaux to visit, let’s take a moment to define exactly what a château is.

The word can refer to many things, however the true definition of a château is a French power house – a manor house or historic home associated with nobility. In this sense, châteaux are not too far removed from English stately homes in their appearance and purpose.

While the words castle and château are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. Castles were built for military or religious purposes, while châteaux were built for private residence.

Additionally, châteaux can be used to describe wine-growing estates in some areas of France, although in this rundown, we’ll focus solely on historic homes with public access.

Where are most of the châteaux in France?

Châteaux can be found across the country; it is understood that there are around 6,500 manor house châteaux, adding to a reported total of around 43,000 châteaux of varying descriptions in France. Many of these are found towards the west of France in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.

However, you will also find châteaux in regional areas surrounding popular cities such as Lyon, Dijon, Reims, and Paris – these are the areas we’ll be focussing on, as they are often less overrun by visitors and thus can deliver a better experience.

The best châteaux to visit near Lyon

While the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is better known for its picturesque villages and culinary mastery, the area has a handful of must-see châteaux.

Château de Fléchères and its grounds seen from above on a sunny day.


Château de Fléchères

Around 40 minutes north of Lyon, the magnificent Château de Fléchères was built between 1606 and 1625, which is very impressive considering the scale of the building. This serene château features inspiring frescos by Pietro Ricchi, a third-floor Calvinist temple, and an English-style garden, along with views of the renowned Beaujolais area.

Château de Grignan in the heart of the rolling French countryside.

Image: Loic Julien

Château de Grignan

Admittedly pushing the boundaries of ‘near Lyon’, Château de Grignan is simply too gorgeous to leave off this list. Part castle, part Renaissance mansion, this architectural gem is perched high above the quaint village of Grignan and offers sensational views across the region. If you can tear yourself away from the panoramic vistas, you will find a treasure chest of 16th-century artwork, furniture and other treasures to admire inside.

A huge stone fortress-style château with yellow detailing at Château de Bagnols.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Château de Bagnols

Nestled among the vineyards of Beaujolais, Château de Bagnols is certainly one of the more fortified châteaux on this list, with towers, drawbridge, and moat – yet it’s also modernised and welcoming thanks to its conversion into a luxury hotel. While it doesn’t offer the same museum experience as some of others mentioned here, you can spend ample time absorbing the architecture and interiors by relaxing in the stunning spa, the lavish rooms, or the Michelin-starred restaurant, 1217. To experience it for yourself, why not join us at Château de Bagnols as part of our luxury French driving tour?

Famous châteaux in Burgundy

One of France’s finest wine regions, Burgundy is home to around 100 châteaux, peppering the vineyard-covered countryside. Here are some of our favourite châteaux in Burgundy.

A huge white stone château in Burgundy with decorative flowerbeds and a large fountain within its sweeping grounds.


Château Ancy le Franc

A product of the famous Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio, Château Ancy le Franc is a portal to the Renaissance era in the heart of Burgundy. Wander the long corridors and sumptuous galleries of this 16th-century masterpiece, and enjoy one of the largest Renaissance mural collections in the country. After this, there’s a sprawling estate to explore, including perfectly sculpted gardens, stables, and orangery.

Château de Cormatin surrounded by a moat.


Château de Cormatin

Set in Southern Burgundy, among wide moats and pond-dotted gardens, the 17th-century Château de Cormatin is another Renaissance treasure, and includes a 21-metre high staircase, which was an architectural feat of its time. The sumptuously decorated apartments are a pleasure to meander around, while outside the splendid gardens are equally fascinating, with an ornamental maze, green theatre, and vegetable gardens.

Château Clos de Vougeot surrounded by vines.


Château Clos de Vougeot

Vin enthusiasts may have heard of Château Clos de Vougeot, which is viewed as the heart of Burgundy’s wine history. It was originally used as a vineyard by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, before the construction of a Renaissance palace around four centuries later. The estate no longer produces its own wine, but its vines are still put to use by other producers. There’s plenty to see inside the château, including the original kitchens and a huge cellar that can house 2,000 barrels.

The best châteaux to visit near Paris

A visit to Paris is always a sensory overload, being home to magnificent architecture, famous works of art, and many of the best restaurants in Europe. However, taking time to visit the châteaux just outside the city will reward you with some of the finest sights in this area of the country.

Château de Versailles and its enormous grounds in Paris.


Château de Versailles

Originally built as a hunting lodge in 1623, the breathtaking Château de Versailles has been extended over the centuries to its current state as a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of France’s most iconic buildings. Once home to French kings, the palace has been a national museum since 1883 and now attracts around 15 million visitors a year. Explore lavish rooms, ever-changing exhibitions, and the pristine gardens that will host the equestrian competition at the Olympic Games in 2024.

An enormous château complex with multiple buildings, lakes, pathways and manicured tree orchards.


Château de Fontainebleau

Around 50km south of Paris, Château de Fontainebleau is another of France’s largest châteaux with 1,500 rooms and 800 years of history. Today an enthralling tribute to French art, history and architecture, the 12th-century building once served as a residence for French monarchs. This extravagant palace is a wonder to explore, with a Napoleon Bonaparte museum, Chinese museum, a Jeu de Paume court, and multiple gardens and courtyards.

A sculpture of a woman in a fountain i the grounds of a large stone manor house in France.


Château de Chantilly

Another of the excellent châteaux to visit near Paris is the distinctive Château de Chantilly. Built in the 11th century and expanded over the years (including a complete rebuild after the French Revolution), this famous château is an architectural marvel that’s as beautiful as it is idiosyncratic. It’s a haven for art buffs – after the Louvre, it boasts the second largest collection of antique paintings in the country, as well as 60,000 volumes in its grand library.

Beautiful châteaux to visit in the Champagne region

The region of Champagne has more to offer than just beautiful bubbling wine – you can also quench your thirst for history and culture by exploring some of the area’s most famous châteaux.

A large sandstone château with flax bushes and sweeping stone steps.


Château de La Motte-Tilly

Built in 1754, Château de La Motte-Tilly truly brings to life the grace and finesse of 18th-century France. Inside this stunning sandstone stately home, you will find preserved rooms that are richly furnished, while exploring the surrounding gardens, lake and lush 60-hectare parkland is a delight. Magnifique!

The exterior of Château de Cirey in the Champagne region.


Château de Cirey

Château de Cirey is an elegant 17th-century château that remains a private residence, while also opening its doors to visitors. It’s most notable for its association with the famous French writer François-Marie Arouet – better known as Voltaire – who took refuge here in 1734 to avoid arrest after the publication of his controversial Lettres sur les Anglais. Interesting highlights include the dining room, living room, chapel and the small theatre where Voltaire rehearsed his plays.

The Ultimate Driving Tours fleet of supercars parked outside a huge French manor house.

Image: Ultimate Driving Tours

Discover our ‘Michelin star’ tour: Châteaux & Champagne

If the idea of driving through rustic French countryside in a fleet of supercars, staying in stunning châteaux (including the aforementioned Château de Bagnols), and sipping vintage Champagne is your idea of heaven, then you will adore our luxury driving tour of France.

As an intimate group of enthusiasts and luxury-seekers, we explore Lyon, Bussière, and Epernay, enjoying the very best of French culture and cuisine. To learn more, reach out to our friendly team today.

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