No matter how amazing the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe is, there’s a certain charm that exudes from French historic residences. These châteaux, or manor houses of royalty, are no less than dreamy wonders. By Bayar Jain
All throughout French history, particularly during the 15th and 18th century, noble families invited architects from around the world to design their spaces. Irrespective of whether it was their permanent residences, or their vacation homes, these châteaux were always tied together by a thread of ornate designs and charming details. Over the years, many of these elaborate palaces have been preserved, restored and even reinvented; allowing guests to get a taste of French royalty firsthand. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Château de Chambord, Loir-et-Cher
Considered the largest of its kind in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord has been glistening against lush greens since the 16th Century. A magical atmosphere embraces you the moment you step onto its grounds. Designed in the French Renaissance style, this massive palace boasts of 335 fireplaces, a Leonardo da Vinci inspired double-helix staircase, and exquisite artworks donning each wall. In fact, history has it that the Château de Chambord was commissioned by the King of France (François I) on his return from the Battle of Marignan as a symbol of power and aesthetic achievement. Quite evidently so!
2. Château de Fonscolombe, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Picture sprawling and luxurious gardens replete with gurgling fountains, stone sculptures, and organic vineyards. The Château de Fonscolombe brings this very image to life. Set within the grandiose grounds at the gate of Luberon in the north of Aix-en-Provence, this 18th century château hotel seamlessly blends old with the new. On one end, the historical salons of the château are decorated with Genoa leathers and the Chinese wallpapers of the 18th century, on the other, a pool and wellness centre bring you back to the 21st Century. Amid this opulence lies a cedar tree planted by the Queen of England herself, providing guests with the ideal shade to soak in the palace’s glory.
3. Chateau Les Oliviers de Salettes, Charols
A French château is best experienced when it combines itself with the cultures and traditions of the region. The Chateau Les Oliviers de Salettes in the Drôme region of Provence understands this to the T. With a tree-lined drive leading up to the imposing architecture of the castle, this 16th-century summer retreat also offers plenty of local activities. While here, you can spend your days lounging by their pool, getting pampered at their spa, undertake lessons in French cuisines, or simply unwind with your loved ones with a curated wine tasting session. The food, however, steals the show. They serve the finest Provençal produce, carefully transformed into delicious, mouth-watering dishes, allowing you to get a rounded French flavour.
4. Château Le Mas de Montet, Petit-Bersac
Sprinkled with rare 19th-century trees all over its 130-acre ground, the castle offers renaissance charm and luxury, combined with the comfort of today. The Château le Mas de Montet is luxury steeped in nature. Home to springtime nightingales, migrating Siberian cranes in autumn, tree frogs, otters and deer, this palace appears like a fictitious mirage amid green lawns. While here, muck about in the river, grab a bike to pedal around, trek on horseback, climb sequoia trees, or simply gorge on fresh baguette and croissants, homemade jams, seasonal fruits sourced from their greenhouse and kitchen garden.
5. Château de Picomtal, Crots
Complete with a tower and alpine scenery doubling as the backdrop, the 16th century Château de Picomtal is as picturesque as can be. Perched close to the Écrins National Park, near Crots village, this towering beauty doesn’t meddle much with the original splendour. Replete with fine stained-glass windows, richly decorated rooms, sparkling chandeliers, and equally traditional interiors, this tranquil space is ideal for a weekend getaway. The only drawback, however, is their lack of restaurants. However, fret not, food lovers! They organise cooking classes in a traditional avatar, allowing one to not only dig deep into delicious dishes, but also take the amazing recipes back home too!