Chateaux of Ile-de-France

Château de Versailles

The Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to m ...
Founded: 1682 | Location: Versailles, France

Conciergerie

The Conciergerie is a former prison and part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was initia ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paris, France

Château de Fontainebleau

The architecture and decor of the Fontainebleau palace exerted considerable influence on the artistic evolution not only of France but also of Europe. François I intended to make a new Rome of this royal residence. It was in this spirit that he brought artists of renown from Italy, whose intervention marks the decisive stage in the introduction of the aesthetic formulas of the Renaissance into France. Used by the kings ...
Founded: 1528 | Location: Fontainebleau, France

Château de Chantilly

The Château de Chantilly comprises two attached buildings: the Petit Château built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Château, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s. Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public. The estate"s connec ...
Founded: 1560/1875 | Location: Chantilly, France

Château de Vincennes

The Château de Vincennes is a massive 14th and 17th century French royal castle in the town of Vincennes in a suburb of Paris metropolis. Like other more famous châteaux it had its origins in a hunting lodge, constructed for Louis VII about 1150 in the forest of Vincennes. In the 13th century, Philip Augustus and Louis IX erected a more substantial manor: Louis IX is reputed to have departed from Vincennes on ...
Founded: 1340-1410 | Location: Vincennes, France

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le ...
Founded: 1658-1661 | Location: Maincy, France

Château de Pierrefonds

The Château de Pierrefonds includes most of the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages, though it underwent a major restoration in the 19th century. In the 12th century, a castle was built on this site. Two centuries later, in 1392, King Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. From 1 ...
Founded: 1393 | Location: Pierrefonds, France

Château de Malmaison

Formerly the residence of Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais (along with the Tuileries), Château de Malmaison was the headquarters of the French government from 1800 to 1802, and Napoleon"s last residence in France at the end of the Hundred Days in 1815. Joséphine de Beauharnais bought the manor house in April 1799 for herself and her husband, General Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Napol&eac ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Rueil-Malmaison, France

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a former royal palace which houses today the National Museum of Archaeology. The first castle was built on the site by Louis VI in around 1122. The castle was expanded by Louis IX of France in the 1230s. Louis IX's chapelle Saint Louis at the castle belongs to the Rayonnant phase of French Gothic architecture. A 1238 charter of Louis IX instituting a regular religious service at the c ...
Founded: c. 1539 | Location: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France

Château de Compiègne

The Château de Compiègne is a royal residence built for Louis XV and restored by Napoleon. Compiègne was one of three seats of royal government, the others being Versailles and Fontainebleau. It is located in Compiègne in the Oise department and is open to the public. Even before the chateau was constructed, Compiègne was the preferred summer residence for French monarchs, primarily for ...
Founded: 1751 | Location: Compiègne, France

Château de La Roche-Guyon

The present Château de La Roche-Guyon was built in the 12th century, controlling a river crossing of the Seine. In the mid-13th century, a fortified manor house was added below. Guy de La Roche fell at the Battle of Agincourt, and his widow was ousted from the Roche, after six months of siege, in 1419; she preferred to depart rather than accept Henry Plantagenet as her overlord. It came to the Liancourt family with the m ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: La Roche-Guyon, France

Château de Bagatelle

The Château de Bagatelle is a small neoclassical château with a French landscape garden in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The château is intended for brief stays while hunting in the Bois and it was initially built as a small hunting lodge for the Maréchal d'Estrées in 1720. Bagatelle from the Italian bagattella, means a trifle, or little decorative nothing. In 1775, the Comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's brother, purcha ...
Founded: 1777 | Location: Paris, France

Château de Sceaux

Château de Sceaux is a grand country house located in a park laid out by André Le Nôtre. It houses the Musée de l’Île-de-France, a museum of local history. The former château was built for Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's minister of finance, who purchased the area in 1670. The present château, designed to evoke the style of Louis XIII, dates from the Second Empire. Some of Colbert's outbuildings remain, and th ...
Founded: 1856-1862 | Location: Hauts-de-Seine, France

Château de Maintenon

The Château de Maintenon is best known as being the private residence of the second spouse of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon. The construction of the castle began in the 12th and ended roughly in the 18th century. In the early 16th century it was purchased by Louis XII's treasurer Jean Cottereau, who transformed the castle into a country house. In the 17th century it was rebuilt for Madame de Maintenon, who purchase ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Maintenon, France

Château d'Écouen

The Château d'Écouen was built between 1538 and 1550 by the architect Jean Bullant for Anne de Montmorency, who was made Connétable de France in 1538. Anne de Montmorency had inherited the château in 1515, and his building campaigns were informed by his first-hand experience in overseeing royal works at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Fontainebleau. Anne de Montmorency was a major patron of the arts in France, and a protec ...
Founded: 1538-1550 | Location: Val-d'Oise, France

Château de Rambouillet

The château de Rambouillet is the summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic. The château was originally a fortified manor dating back to 1368 and, although amputated of one of its sides at the time of Napoleon I, it still retains its pentagonal bastioned footprint. King Francis I died there, on 31 March 1547, probably in the imposing medieval tower that bears his name. The château was own ...
Founded: 1368 | Location: Rambouillet, France

Château de Champs-sur-Marne

The Château de Champs, at Champs-sur-Marne was built in its present form for the treasurer Charles Renouard de la Touane in 1699 by Pierre Bullet. After the first proprietor's bankruptcy, another financier, Paul Poisson de Bourvalais, took up the project. Jean-Baptiste Bullet de Chamblain, the son of Pierre Bullet, finished Champs in 1706. Ten years later, Paul Poisson was in the Bastille on charges of embezzlement and ...
Founded: 1699 | Location: Champs-sur-Marne, France

Château de Brie-Comte-Robert

Château de Brie-Comte-Robert was built at the end of the 12th century, when Robert I of Dreux, brother of the king Louis VII, was lord of Brie. Archaeological clues, elements of decoration and the choice of construction techniques, suggest the architecture of this turning point in history. The castle remained in the Dreux family until 1254, then passed to the family of Châtillon. Through successive dowries and inherita ...
Founded: c. 1190 | Location: Brie-Comte-Robert, France

Château de Courances

The Château de Courances was built around 1630. In 1552, Côme Clausse, a notary and royal secretary to the King, acquired the former seigneurial dwelling at Courances, at the western edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. His heir conveyed it in 1622 to Claude Gallard, another royal secretary, who is doubtless the builder of the present château, of an H-plan laid out on a rectangular platform that is surro ...
Founded: 1630 | Location: Courances, France

Château d'Auvers

Chateau d'Auvers was built in 1635 by Italian banker, Zaboni Lioni. It was completely renewed in 1756 by the family of Espremenil. Today the chateau is an art museum focusing on an impressionist art. The gardens are also worth of visit.
Founded: 1635 | Location: Auvers-sur-Oise, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.