Visit the Former Royal Palaces in France

While France is no longer a monarchy, there are still plenty of French Royal Palaces to be found in the country. These former Royal Palaces in France are some of the finest buildings in Europe with unique histories. And these Royal Palaces and Castles are now open to the public.

You all know the Royal Palace of Versailles, but did you know that the Louvre in Paris was also a Royal Palace? In this post you will find the Royal Palaces and Castles in France that you can visit. From beautiful Medieval, Renaissance & Classical palaces to possibly the grandest Royal Palace in the World: Versailles.

Royal Palaces in Île-de-France

photo: Benh Lieu Song / CC BY-SA 3.0

Palais du Louvre

Now world-famous as a museum, but the Palais du Louvre was originally a French Royal residence. Palais du Louvre is the largest Palace in Europe. The history of the Louvre goes back 800 years but the current palace was started during the Renaissance period by King François I after the designs of Pierre Lescot. The Palace was remodeled and extended in the upcoming centuries and now shows Renaissance, Classical, and Neoclassical architecture.

Since 1793 the Louvre Palace hosts the Louvre Museum. It now also houses The Decorative Arts and its collections, the Louvre School, French Museums Research and Restoration Center, the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall, and the Carrousel du Louvre exhibition spaces.

Louvre Museum opening times: the Louvre is open daily (except Tuesday). You can book your ticket online.

Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France

photo: Zairon / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a masterpiece of Classical architecture that inspired many European palaces in the 18th and 19th century. The construction of Versailles started in the early 17th century and transformed from a hunting lodge to a ​seat of power and​,​ from the nineteenth century​,​ a museum. the most famous room in Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors which pays tribute to the political, economic and artistic success of France.

The park of the Palace of Versailles spreads out over 800 hectares and includes the ​​Palaces of Trianon and 93 hectares of gardens.

Grand Trianon

The Grand Trianon is a castle on the domain of Versailles built at the request of King Louis XIV in 1687. The castle is made of pink marble and therefor also known as “Marble Trianon”. The Grand Trianon is the place of residence or stay of several French or foreign royal figures, including Louis XIV , Peter I of Russia, and more recently Queen Elizabeth II.

Petit Trianon

Le Petit Trianon is a neoclassical castle on the domain of Versailles. It is best known as being the personal château of Queen Marie Antoinette, surrounding the castle lay an English-landscape garden and The Queen’s Hamlet, a model village inspired by the traditional rustic architecture of Normandy.

Château de Versailles opening times: the palace (including the Trianon palaces) are open daily except Mondays and May 1st. The park and gardens are open daily. Book your ticket online.

Address: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France

photo: Eutouring / CC BY-SA 4.0

Palais du Luxembourg

Luxembourg Palace (in the Luxembourg Gardens) is a Classical-style palace which was built by Queen Marie de Médicis in the early 17th-century. Several member of the French Royal family resided in the palace until it became a prison during the French Revolution. In Napoleon’s time the palace was transformed to house the senate, which it still does today.

Adjacent to the orangery of Palais du Luxumbourg stands the Musée du Luxembourg. The Musée du Luxembourg was the first museum of ancient art open to the public and was first houses in two wings of the Luxembourg Palace.

Palais du Luxembourg opening times: Palais du Luxembourg tours are organised on Mondays and Fridays, provided that the Senate is not in session, for a maximum of 40 people. Open for the European Heritage Days during the 3rd weekend of September.

Musée du Luxembourg opening times: the museum is open daily, except May 1 and December 25

Address: 15 rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris

phot: Alexicographie / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

In 1539, King François I built this Renaissance castle on the foundations of an ealier Medieval castle. Several future Kings and Princes were born at Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. And the castle is also where several treaties and several edicts and ordinances were signed.

In 1688, James II Stuart, King of England, Ireland and Scotland was ousted from his throne and with his family and his Jacobite supporters fled to Château de Saint Germain en Laye. He stayed here until his death. The death of Mary of Modena (former Queen of England) marks the end of court life in the Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle. Today the castle houses the National Archeology Museum.

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye opening times: the museum is open daily except Tuesday, December 25th, January 1st and May 1st. Visit the website for opening hours.

Address: Château-Place Charles de Gaulle, 78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye

photo: Reinhard Hauke / CC BY-SA 3.0

Château de Rambouillet

Rambouillet Castle is a former royal, imperial and presidential residence. The built of the castle starts in 1374, but it has been remodeled many times over the centuries. King François I died at the castle in 1547. The castle was home to some of France’s greatest figures reatest figures: the Count of Toulouse, Louis XVI, Napoleon I and, from the late 19th century, France’s Presidents transformed the grounds into a prestigious hunting estate. 

Surrounding the castle are French and Anglo-Chinese gardens. Queen Marie-Antoinette’s Dairy demonstrates the splendour of an entire period and an art de vivre widely influenced by the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment. The ‘Chaumière aux Coquillages’ or Shell Cottage is one of the finest examples of décor in all of Europe.

Château de Rambouillet opening times: You have to reserve your ticket online, visit the website for more information.

Address: Château Domaine national de Rambouillet, 78120 Rambouillet

photo: Jvillafruela / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau is a Royal castle in Renaissance and Classical style, located about 60km southeast of Paris. The palace belonged to the Kings of France from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. It was King Francois I who turned the castle into an Italian-style palace in 1528. After the revolution it became an Imperial palace and it is home to the only Napoleonic Throne room still in existence.

Château de Fontainebleau has one of the most important collections of antique furniture in France, and preserves an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures, and works of art, ranging from the 6th to the  19th century. The palace stands on a 130 hectare estate, with three gardens (English landscape gardens and formal French garden), and a park.

Château de Fontainebleau opening times: The chateau is open every day except Tuesday, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th. Book your ticket online.

Address; Place Charles de Gaulle, 77300 Fontainebleau

photo: Selbymay / CC BY-SA 3.0

Château de Vincennes

Château de Vincennes is a Medieval fortress in the eastern suburb of Paris which was used to guard the capital. The fortress was built between the 14th and the 17th century and it’s the largest Royal fortified castle in France. It was an important Royal residence until 1682 when Louis XIV chose to settle in Versailles.

Château de Vincennes opening times: the castle is open daily except January 1, May 1 and December 25. You can buy your ticket online.

Address: Château de Vincennes, Avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes

Château de Dourdan

Château de Dourdan is a former Medieval fortified castle. The castle was built between 1220 and 1222, inspired by the Louvre castle. It is one of the few 13th castles that is largerly preserved. For almost two centuries it was used as a prison, until the 19th century when it was turned into a private residence. Today, the castle is a museum where you can discover the rich 800 year history of the castle.

Château de Dourdan opening times: the castle is open Wednesday-Sunday. For current opning hours visit the website.

Address: Dourdan Castle Museum, Place du General-de-Gaulle, 91410 Dourdan

Château de Beaumont-sur-Oise

Château de Beaumont-sur-Oise is a ruined Medieval castle. The castle has been besieged, destroyed, and rebuilt many times since its construction. In 1226, Louis IX (Saint Louis) became Count of Beaumont and resided at the castle. And during the Hundred Years’ War, the English occupied the town and the castle.

Address: Château de Beaumont-sur-Oise, 95260 Beaumont-sur-Oise, France

Pavillon de la Muette

The Pavillon de la Muette is a former Royal hunting lodge, built in 1766 for King Louis XV. The neoclassical building was also used by Napoleon III and it was here that he received Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1855. The castle is now owned by the diplomat Frédéric Journès and the Bulgarian artist-painter Hristo Mavrev who are restoring the castle. You can follow the progress on the website and on instagram.

Address: Rte Forestière des Pavillons, 78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France

Royal Palaces in Haut-de-France

photo: Dguendel / CC BY 4.0

Château de Compiègne

The Palace of Compiègne is a former Royal and Imperial residence. The neo-classical palace was built from 1751 by Louis XV and Louis XVI (and later remodelled by Napoleon I and Napoleon II), though a Royal castle has stood at this place since the 14th century. Compiègne is one of three largest neo-classical palace in France (the others being Versailles and Fontainebleau).

Next to the historic apartments does the palace also house the Second Empire Museum and the National Car Museum. Surrounding the palace is a landscape-style park and a Rose Garden.

Château de Compiègne opening times: the palace is open daily except Tuesday, 1 January, 1 May and, 25 December. For current opening hours visit the website.

Address: Place du Général de Gaulle, 60200 – Compiègne

photo: International City of the French language

Château de Villers-Cotterêts

Château de Villers-Cotterêts is a 16th century Renaissance castle built by King François I. In 1661, King Louis XIV gave the château to his brother Philippe d’Orléans. For more than a century the palace became a retirement home, but in 2022 the castle will re-open as the International City of the French language.

Address: 1 Place Aristide Briand 02600 Villers-Cotterêts

Château de Creil

Château de Creil is a former fortified Medieval Royal castle. The castle was built in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 14th century that the castle was transformed into a place of pleasure for King Charles V the Wise. During the French Revolution the castle was mainly destroyed only the foundations of the North wing of the castle and the tower attached to the red brick house remain. A large medieval room has been preserved on the ground floor of the North wing which the city of Creil is now renovating.

photo: Neuf & 9

Château de Senlis

This history of the castle goes back 1000 years, and in the 9th & 10th centuries, the Carolingian castle is frequented used by the court. The castle was rebuilt by Louis le Gros in 1130 and until the 16th century it was used as a royal residence. The royal castle of Senlis is the oldest palatial residence of the Capetian kings of France still standing. The castle fell into ruins before the French Revolution, and these ruins can now be visited.

Address: Place du Parvis de la cathédrale Notre Dame, 60300 Senlis, France

Royal Palaces in the Loire Region

photo: Tango7174 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Blois

Chateau Royal de Blois is a former Royal castle in Blois, built between the 13th and the 17th century. This unique castle in the Loire valley consists of four wings, each in their own architecture style. There are remains of the 13th-century Medieval fortress, a Louis XII Gothic-style wing, a Francis I Renaissance-style wing, and the Gaston of Orléan Classical-style wing.

At the castle you can visit the Royal apartments and a Fine Arts Museum with works by Ingres, Rubens, Boucher and more. All this is set in architectural splendor. From April-September there is a Sound & Light show, a festival of visual and aural special effects synchronized with the grandiose architecture of the court.

Chateau de Blois opening times: The castle is open every day of the year, except on the 1st of January and on the 25th of December.

Address: 6 Pl. du Château, 41000 Blois, France

photo: Krzysztof Golik / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord is a French Renaissance castle built in 1519 by King François I. Chateau de Chambord was originally constructed as the hunting lodge of François I and it’s the largest castle in the Loire Valley.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers one of the finest tapestry collection of France. Surrounding the palace are formal gardens, a deer park with walking trails, vineyards, and stables (horse carriage rides are also offered).

Chateau de Chambord opening times: The castle is open all year round, except January 1, November 28 and December 25. You can book your ticket online.

Address: Château de Chambord, 41250 Chambord, France

photo: Gaetan Lafon / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château d’Amboise

Amboise Castle was home to the French monarchy from the 15th to the 19th century. The castle has a prominent role in French history and was often visited by notable people such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose tomb is preserved at the château.

The luxurious French castle has Gothic chambers and apartments in Renaissance style. From the balconies, the roofs and the terraced gardens, you can enjoy the Loire landscape.

Chateau d’Amboise opening times: The castle is open every day of the year, except 1st January and 25th December.

Address: Mnt de l’Emir Abd el Kader, 37400 Amboise, France

photo: Wladyslaw Sojka / CC BY-SA 3.0

Château Chenonceau

Chenonceau Castle is a former Royal residence in Gothic and Renaissance style. The castle was built in 1513 and houses many tapestries and an impressive art collection including Old Masters. After the Palace of Versailles, it’s the most visited castle in France.

Chenonceau is a castle built by women, many famous French women have left their mark on this castle including: Katherine Briçonnet (the first owner), several Queens and Royal mistresses, and heiress Marguerite Pelouze. During the First World War the castle was a military hospital. The Menier family, who have lived here since 1913, helped to smuggle out people escaped the Nazi tyranny.

The castle has several gardens, including a Renaissance garden, an English-style garden, a maze, and a flower garden. The castle also hosts the Floral Workshop.

Chateau Chenonceau opening times: The castle is open every day of the year. Book your ticket online.

Address: Chateau Chenonceau, 37150 Chenonceaux, France

photo: Zairon / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château de Chinon

Chateau de Chinon dates back to the 10th century and is set on a rock overlooking the river Vienne. In the centuries after that it became a Royal residence and Joan of Arc also stayed at the castle. It was used as a prison in the 16th century.

It is now a museum with many Medieval artificats and offers several children’s activities.

Chateau de Chinon opening times: The castle is open daily, except 1st January and 25th December. You can buy your ticket online.

Address: 2 Rue de Chateau, 37500 Chinon, France

Château de Loches

Chateau de Loches is a 9th century castle ovelooking the river Indre. The castle, with a massive square keep, was captured by King Philip II in 1204. The castle is now a museum which houses one of the largest collection of Medieval armour in France.

Chateau de Loches opening times: The castle is open daily, except 1st January and 25th December. You can buy your ticket online.

Address: 5 place Charles VII, 37600 Loches, France

See also: The Best Castles in the Loire Valley

Royal Palace in Normandie

photo: Marc Ryckaert / CC BY-SA 4.0

Château d’Eu

Eu Castle is a 16th century Renaissance castle which was built on the remains of a 10th century fortified castle which was destroyed by Louis XI. In 1693 the castle became property of the Bourbon’s and later is was part of the Imperial crown. It, again, became a Royal residence when Louis-Philippe became King of France in 1830. Queen Victoria visited the castle twice.

Since 1973, the Château d’Eu has housed the Town Hall and the Louis-Philippe Museum. The museum shows furniture, porcelain, goldsmithery, paintings and historical souvenirs attached to Louis-Philippe and his family.

Château d’Eu opening times: the museum is open March-November. Visit the website for current opening hours.

Address: Pl. Isabelle d’Orléans, 76260 Eu, France

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