5 Historic Castles: Lavardin, Riquewihr, Roche-Guyon, Chateauneuf, Baux-en-Provence

5 Historic Castles: Lavardin, Riquewihr, Roche-Guyon, Chateauneuf, Baux-en-Provence

Chateauneuf-en-Auxois       publicity photoHere are just five of France’s many village castles. Some are historically significant ruins; others will surprise you when you enter. All are in villages designated Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.


This castle survived the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War, but like many French castles of the time, this grand stone fortress was stripped of all royal symbols during the French Revolution. It still dominates the sleepy town that grew around it and offers visitors exquisitely maintained rooms, statues and a great dungeon.

Centuries built: 12-15th centuries

Current condition: Very good

Open: Daily (except Mondays) 9:30am—12:30pm, 2—6:45pm

Admission: Begins at €5

Accessibility: Some say handicapped accessible; others report gravel & steps make it difficult to impossible.

Region: Burgundy

Closest major city: Dijon (40 minutes by car)

Dolder Tower at Riquewihr Castle   ©Jean-Yves Roure


The Alsace castle’s lone remaining feature is its 13th-century Dolder Tower, which provides fantastic views of the countryside. Located very close to the German border, the architectural style of both the castle and the village are a marked departure from nearly all other castles and villages on the list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The castle protected commerce related to the village’s most prized commodities, German and Alsatian wine.

Centuries built: 13th century

Current condition: Tower remains (very good condition)

Open: Daily (except Mondays) 10:00am—6pm

Admission: Begins at €5

Accessibility: No elevator up tower

Region: Alsace

Closest major city: Colmar (20 minutes by car)

Lavardin   Photo credit:  DM1795Lavardin

This ruined castle in Loir-et-Cher may not be in pristine condition, but its hilltop situation above the village and Loire River make for a memorable visit. The castle was sold to the Count of Vendôme during its second century of existence and remained in his charge until it was dismantled by Henri VI in 1589. Walking through the stone rubble and examining the remaining walls, towers and foundations allow your imagination to fill in the blanks and envision royal life here centuries ago.

Centuries built: 11th-12th centuries, altered in 14th-15th centuries

Current condition: Ruins—some walls and towers remain intact

Open: Daily

Admission: Free

Accessibility: Not advised for wheelchair access

Region: Centre

Closest major city: Tours (45 minutes by car)

Château de la Roche-Guyon  ©StephaneMartin

La Roche-Guyon

This beautifully maintained castle rests along the Seine to the northwest of Paris, a medieval checkpoint on the path to Normandy that maintained strategic significance well into the 20th century: Nazi Field-Marshall Rommel used the castle as his headquarters while defending Normandy from the Allied invasion. Today, visitors can ascend the hilltop donjon (“keep”) and tour the stately palace rooms.

Century built: 12th century

Current condition: Very good

Open: Daily 10am—5pm (until 7pm Saturdays and Sundays)

Admission: Begins at €7,50

Accessibility: Handicapped accessible main level only

Region: Île-de-France

Closest major city: Paris (40 minutes)

Les Baux-de-Provence   Publicity photo

Les Baux-de-Provence

The remains of this Provençal castle reflect the light-colored stone of the region and provide great views of the vast countryside. In addition to the building’s remains, visitors can examine working replicas of medieval machinery such as the trebuchet, the largest and most devastating piece of siege warfare. During its peak years, the castle was also well known as a bastion of minstrels, troubadours and their legendary songs of courtly love.

Century built: 10th century, torn down in 17th century

Current condition: Decent

Open: Daily 9am—6pm (until 8:30pm in the summer)

Admission: Begins at €8

Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible to base

Region: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Closest major city: Avignon (25 minutes)

PHOTO CREDITS: Flickr photos published per Creative Commons 3.0 license: Horse crest at Les Château de la Roche-Guyon ©Jean-Pierre Roche; Châteauneuf-en-Auxois ©Françoise COURTOT BOURGOGNE; Riquewihr, Dolder Tower at night ©Jean-Yves Roure; Lavardin ©DM1795; La Roche-Guyon ©Stephane Martin and Les Baux-en-Provence ©Les Baux-en-Provence publicity

Adam Weiner is an Editorial Assistant for BonjourParis who wrote about the Paris Official Most Visited Museums & Monuments.

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