Destinations: Castles

Every child dreams of living in a castle, and each year that dream comes closer to reality. While you may not be able to live in one, more and more castles throughout the world are being renovated and used as accommodations for travelers. Now you can experience the feel of royal life with the luxury of heat, modern plumbing, and air conditioning—not to mention spas and endless banquets. Still other castles may not allow you to stay in them, but many of the best are within a day trip of our recommended accommodations. So whether it’s for the ultimate romantic getaway or a once-in-a-lifetime, fairy tale vacation with the family, castles are a great way to reward yourself with the royal treatment. With that in mind, here are our top six destinations for castles for you to start dreaming about:

Chateau d’Esclimont, Versailles, and Chateau d’Amboise
Northern France

Sixty miles south of Paris sits the Chateau D’Esclimont, a 150-acre moated estate with sprawling gardens and beautiful rooms. Built in 1543 for the Archbishop of Tours, the chateau plays host to a variety of attractions, including walks around the park, horseback riding, canoeing, tennis, golf, and world-class restaurants. The chateau also provides a special dinner in a hot air balloon, for romantic-minded individuals. Because this jewel is off the beaten path, a car is necessary for sightseeing (and getting there). Average prices are E199–E476.

While you’re there, hop over to neighboring Chartres Cathedral, about 30 minutes away. Chartres Cathedral has the distinction of being one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the world. In fact, one of the west spires is built in a very early Gothic style and the other west spire (not added until the sixteenth century) is a wonderful example of intricate, high Gothic architecture.

Also nearby are two more palaces— Versailles (38 miles away) and Chateau d’Amboise (74 miles away). Versailles is where King Louis XIV and King Louis XV lived during the 1600s (and where treaties were signed that ended the American Revolutionary War and World War I). Known for its ornate architecture, intricate designs, and hundreds of rooms, it is an extravagant landmark that can easily fill an entire day. Make time to stop in the Hall of Mirrors, where the light playfully bounces off mirrors and chandeliers that fill the long corridor. Afterward, head out to the nearly 2,000 acres of gardens for lunch, or a boat ride on the lake.

Chateau d’Amboise is equally impressive. It was used as the primary residence for monarchs and the French court during the reigns of King Charles VIII and Francois I (late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries). The chateau and its lush gardens overlook the Loire River. Inside the rooms and royal apartments, you can view the Gothic and Renaissance furniture and art that filled the chateau in its most glorious days.

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