Three Must See Grand Chateaux of France

France has an abundance of grand Chateaux, all seemingly more grand than the last.
On our recent road trip in France, we visited three, out of the many, of the best Grand Chateaux in the country.
All of these are outside of Paris and require more exploration of the country to see.
We can confirm, they are beautiful and are all well worth a visit.

Here are the three we visited and would recommend.

 

Chateau Hautefort

Chosen by me for its role in one of my favorite movies, Ever After.

There was no way we would travel to France and not see this. Located in the beautiful Dordogne region, Chateau Hautefort sits a top a small hill above the village of Hautefort. Ever After was not only filmed here but also in the surrounding towns and area. This Chateau served as Prince Henry’s main residence and featured throughout the film. The other Chateaus that were used for filming are either closed to the public or were closed at this time of year.

The Chateau is small in comparison to the others we saw, but its quaintness works in its favour. With the architecture proving bold but understated at the same time, I can see why it was chosen as a filming location. It does not boast huge expansive gardens with rows of trees, but rather a smaller more intimate garden, hosting many trimmed hedges and beautiful flowers.
Originally the site of a fortress in the 11th Century and having an overhaul to what we see today in the 17th century, the Chateau has seen many owners. The Chateau was saved and restored in 1929. Then restored again after a fire 50 years ago.

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Practical information:

Located in Dordogne Region
Opening Hours and pricing
No discounts offered for adults.

Chateau Chambord

Supposedly this Chateau served as inspiration for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. I, myself could see no similarities to the Disney movie version, as that is the only visual version I know. So perhaps it inspired the original fairy tale. All I can say is that even if it inspired nothing, it is beautiful.

Predominantly made from stone. The double Helix stairway and carved stone ceilings and walls show the history through its marks and graffiti.

The Chateau boasts a unique architecture.

The inspiration for the design is believed to be drawn from not only the French but the Italian Renaissance architecture too. It is thought that certain architectural features, such as the double helix stairway, hints at a Leonardo de Vinci influence of inspiration.

Inside one of the ground level rooms

It appeared to me as more of the hunting lodge of the Chambord estate. With exposed stone walls, some of which had graffiti from the many years. Less flamboyant rooms with beautiful exposed timber beamed ceilings, the ability to walk outside at every level and the amazing spiral staircase proved it was so much more than a hunting lodge.

The must see part of this Chateau would definitely be the roof. Climb the double helix stone spiral staircase to the top and be among the turrets and towers of the castle. The finer details are best seen up close. One thing you will notice when up here, is that the roof is not symmetrical. No two turrets or roof is the same. From a distance, this is hard to notice, but up close the Chateau lets you in on its secret.

Part of the Loire valley, Chambord, and the surrounding area offer outstanding scenery. The nearby town of Blois not only offered us a good supermarket for dinner, but also a large bridge over the Loire and interesting tight winding streets throughout the historic town.

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Practical Information:

The website would suggest no free parking, but it is possible to park in the town and walk to the Chateau entrance. Check for no parking signs, though. If it is the off season there will be parking space before the turn off to their advertised car park. 
Opening Hours
and Prices
There are free or discounted prices for “youths”. The only time I like being considered a youth (at 25!) is when I get something for free!
Well worth carrying a form of ID with you.

 

Personally, we struggle to have fond memories of this Chateau. Unfortunately for us, our memories are tarnished. We were one of the (supposed) many who get robbed when parked in the Fontainbleau forest that surrounds the Chateau. The police recognize the forest as a thieves haven, yet, apparently do little to stop it. So while our car was broken into and everything was stolen, at least I had my camera with me (obviously) and got some decent photos.

The exterior of the building, in my opinion, has nothing on the other two Chateaus. This Chateau was built for its interiors. We had the running joke along the line of, This is the room for one chair, we sit in here on Tuesday. This is the room that we sometimes ponder life on a Thursday afternoon. Seriously, so many rooms. Open plan living was completely unheard of and each room boasts a different more flamboyant interior design than the last.

One of the many timber carved rooms.

This Chateau is a showcase of craftsmanship.

Every ceiling intricate and awe worthy. After a couple of rooms with a sore neck, you begin to notice the sheer amount of detail in each room. Some rooms only house one chair, but feeling more crowded because of the heavily decorated walls, ceiling and timber floor pattern. I have never been so visually overwhelmed as I was here.

Unfortunately for us, as Fontainebleau was preparing for winter, the gardens were not at their full glory. All the statues were covered in plastic to protect from the elements. The leaves had all fallen and covered the ground creating a slippery surface.

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Practical Information:

DO NOT park in the Fontainbleau forest that surrounds the Chateau and town. There will be many other cars parked there, but apparently, that makes no difference. The only other option is to leave absolutely nothing in your car (hard when it is your home, like ours) or pay the expensive and tight parking near the Chateau entrance.
Opening times and Prices
Once again, you benefit from being a Youth or student here.

 

Due to our mishap at Fontainebleau, we were unable to go to Versailles the next day. We look forward to our trip to Paris in the New Year where we will be able to see Versailles.

 

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As always, our opinions are completely our own and we were not paid to promote anything. 

 

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