Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Castles & Palaces In & Around Paris

While Paris is known for its museums and other iconic landmarks, there are also a number of historically important castles and palaces in and around the city. If French châteaux are your thing and you have exhausted those within the city itself, there are many castles near Paris to visit, by yourself or on a day trip. Once private or official residences, some of these are now home to world-class museums. Whatever your interests, spectacular architecture with sumptuous interiors, gorgeous gardens or wild forests, culture and history, this is a list for planning your next trip to Paris.

Castles & Palaces in Paris

Château du Louvre

In the lower level of the Louvre Museum’s Sully Wing visitors can see substantial foundations of the original Louvre Castle. Built as a fortress by King Philip II of France, and completed in 1202, it was intended to reinforce the walls constructed to protect Paris against invasions. The threat then being from the English who were based in Normandy. In the 14th century the castle became a royal residence for King Charles V – the Louvre Palace.

Palais du Louvre - Louvre Museum

Now one of the most famous museums in the world, the Louvre was a Royal residence. A 12 century fortress became a residence for Charles V in the mid 14th century, when he abandoned the Palais de la Cité. Since then it the principle residence of kings of France until the French Revolution, when parts of it became a public museum. The museum now occupies the entire complex. Collections include art and antiquities from France and Mediterranean Europe (Etruscan, Greek and Roman). There are also substantial collections of Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities, from late prehistory to the start of Christian and Islamic periods.

Conciegerie - Palais de la Cité

On the Île de la Cité, this palace was the residence of French kings between the 6th and 14th centuries. From then until the French Revolution it housed financial and judicial offices of state. After the Revolution it was used as a prison, the most famous inmate being Marie-Antoinette. Part of the palace was Sainte-Chapelle, built by Louis IX for his passion relics. Although greatly developed over the centuries, many original features of the royal residence have survived.


This former royal palace now houses the French Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État and the Constitutional Council. Over the centuries royals from around Europe took up residence here. Guided tours are available introducing visitors to changing fortunes of the palace’s history, from the 18th century when parts were opened up to retailers, its place in the French Revolution and its association with prostitution in the 19th century.

Palais des Tuileries

There is nothing left in place of the Tuileries Palace to see in Paris today. The building was set on fire by the Paris Commune, the socialist government that ruled the city for ten days in March of 1871. It was subsequently demolished with stone going to Corsica to build the Château de la Punta, and statuary used on various schools, roads and bridges. Some statues can be seen inside the Galerie du Carrousel entrance to the Louvre Museum.

Palais de l'Élysée

The Élysée Palace has been the official residence of the French Head of State since the Franco Prussian War. Now in the centre of Paris, in the early 18th century this area was a forest and marsh. It was here that the wealthy built their private mansions. The earliest Élysée was built for the Count of Evreux. In 1848, the Élysée became the residence of the first President of the French Republic, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte. It is not possible to visit the palace, but there is an exception virtual tour of the state residence.

Palais du Luxembourg

Now the home of the French Senate, the Palais du Luxembourg was built for Marie de’ Medici on becoming a widow and regent to her son, King Louis XIII. Marie wanted it to look like Palazzo Pitti, with gardens emulating the Boboli Gardens, where she grew up. Today the palace is not open to the public, but the former orangery is now a contemporary art museum (Musée du Luxembourg). The gardens, with over 100 statues, monuments and fountains, are open to the public (during hours of daylight) and are a popular green space in Paris.

Palais Bourbon - French National Assembly

Across the Seine River from the Place de la Concorde is the meeting place of the French National Assembly. Built in 1722 for the Duchess of Bourbon, the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and the Marquise de Montespan, it is called the Palais Bourbon. It was not until 1806 that the imposing neoclassical façade was added, to mirror the Madeleine Church on the other side of the public square. Public visits are possible, but these are restricted – consult the official website.

Grand Palais

Today the Grand Palais is a large exhibition and museum complex on the Champs-Élysées, having being built for the Exposition Universalle of 1900. Architecturally, it is known for its glass barrel-vaulted roof – an innovative technique at the time of its construction. During WW1 it was used as a hospital, and during the occupation of Paris it was used by the Nazis as a truck depot and then to stage propaganda exhibitions.

Petit Palais

Designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, the Petit Palais was built for the city’s Universal Exposition in 1900, now home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. One of Paris’ finest art galleries, from its origins it showcased artworks that the city authorities had been collecting since 1870, and over the years its collection has expanded through donations. Seeking to present a broad history of European art, its collection includes artefacts from the Classical world as well as works by some of the continent’s most important artists, from medieval engravings by Albrecht Dürer through to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne.

Map of Castles & Palaces In & Near Paris

Castles & Palaces In & Around Paris

Castles & Palaces Near Paris

Palace of Versailles

Originally a 17th century hunting lodge built for Louis XIII, the palace was transformed into a symbol of royal power and opulence by Louis XIV. Following the French Revolution, the palace was opened to tours and a small museum created in 1793. By the 19th century the palace became a tourist attraction. On 28 June 1919 the most important treaty of WWI was signed in the Hall of Mirrors. Today visitors are able to explore the ornate halls and luxurious Royal apartments, as well as the immaculately landscaped gardens. Also accessible are the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet.

Palace of Compiègne

Charles V had the first castle built here, which was nearly complete on his death in 1380. It was a favourite summer retreat with a number of succeeding kings of France. But the Neoclassical castle we see today owes much to Louis XV who liked to hunt in the adjacent forest. His grandson, Louis XVI, had new wings added. Following the French revolution the furniture and art was sold, and the castle became the home of a military academy until Napoleon I chose to live here. Napoleon had the castle substantially refurbished, some of the décor and furnishings can still be seen today. Open to the public are the grandest imperial apartments of the First Empire. The palace also houses the National Car Museum.

Palace of Fontainebleau

What started as a medieval castle developed into one of the largest royal and imperial palaces in France. This is where French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III lived. In the early 12th century fortified castle was a favourite royal hunting lodge, given the game in the surrounding forest. In the early 16th century the Renaissance palace was built for Francis I, and succeeding kings and emperors each made their own mark. The palace is only 55km from Paris and is easy to get to on public transport, making this a very popular day trip from Paris.

Château de Maintenon

Construction of the castle began sometime in the 12th century. But the Château de Maintenon is better known as the private residence of Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV’s his second wife. In 1675 the king purchased the castle for his then mistress Madame de Maintenon, and had staff from Versailles renovate the building and gardens. It is said Madame de Maintenon loved the castle’s beauty and solitude. A tour of the castle takes in both the 17th century and 19th century apartments, a walk in the French gardens leading to the ruins of the unfinished aqueduct, intended to supply water to the fountains of Versailles.

Château de Chantilly

What is today one of France’s finest Renaissance castles was built on the site of an 11th century fortress that had command of the road between Senlis and Paris. Through eight centuries of tumultuous history, Chantilly Castle passed between a number owners, and modifications, before it became an exceptional art museum, the Musée Condé. Besides the art galleries, visitors can explore the private suites, lavishly decorated in 18th century décor. In the grounds visitors can stroll through the French formal garden and visit the stables – the largest princely stable in Europe, now home to the Museum of the Horse.

Château de Pierrefonds

The castle of Pierrefonds was built in rapid time, ten years, and completed in 1397 for Louis d’Orléans, son of King Charles V. During the reign of Louis XIII the castle was besieged and reduced to a ruin, later being referred to as the ‘romantic ruin’. Under Napoleon’s III orders, the French architect Viollet-le-Duc started to restore the ruins in the second half or the 19th century. But much of what we see at Pierrefonds today, both inside and out, is Viollet-le-Duc’s reinterpretation of Renaissance and Middle Ages architecture of France. Nonetheless, there is still much to see of the original castle fort, whether by self-guided tour or a guided tour.

Loire Valley Castles Day Trips from Paris