Perched high upon clifftops, overlooking the lavender fields of Provence, the dreamy seascapes of the Mediterranean, or the patchwork green landscapes of the Pyrenees, the fairytale castles of southern France are a sight to behold.
These centuries-old structures are rooted in stories of famous seers and knights, many were home to artists, popes, and royalty, and whether the stone structures have been well-preserved over time or are in crumbling ruins, there are plenty of interesting tales to uncover.
Explore Majestic Castles at Every Turn
Many southern France castles are open to the public at certain times of the year – some even allow guests to stay, or to sample local wines, and others tempt with interactive games, hidden passageways, beautiful gardens, and historic frescoes.
Wherever you decide to visit – the French Pyrenees, along the glamorous Riviera, or in picturesque villages where the ancient language of the d’oc is still spoken, you’ll discover majestic castles at every turn.
Looking for a castle you can sleep in? Check out these dreamy Chateau Hotels.
Chateau de Montauban
Once home to the Ambroy family, Chateau de Montauban in Fontvielle near Arles, also became known as a place of refuge and inspiration for the French novelist and poet Alphonse Daudet.
Daudet, who wrote short sentimental stories about the south of France, spent many months here with his wife, and the grand residence was catalogued in his works “Lettres de mon moulin”.
Today, visitors can explore the 19th-century chateau in southern France with its gabled façade and stunning gardens, or even attend a summer festival here. The museum inside is dedicated to the history and archaeology of the village and can be enjoyed on a guided or self-guided tour during the summer season.
Chateaux de Lastours
The four royal castles of Lastours sit atop a mountain ridge punctuated by cypress trees, overlooking the village. These buildings, or what remains of them, are known as the ‘Castles of the Cathars’ said to date to the 11th century.
During this time, the south of France was shared between lords, and the Aude was known for its prosperous economy and mining industry. Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman besieged the area, attempting to take the castles – he succeeded, but the lords continued to resist for many months after.
In addition to discovering the rich history, visitors will enjoy exploring the flora and fauna exhibition and walking through underground caves, said to link the historic castles to the nearby cities.
An opposite viewpoint (the Belvedere) also offers spectacular vistas of the watchtowers and during summer a mesmerizing light and sound event takes place.
Chateau de Flaugergues
In the 1700s, many French châteaux built near Montpellier were referred to as ‘folies’. They were constructed by wealthy merchants who served the king of France. Chateau de Flaugergues was the first to be built in the area, acting as a blueprint for others to follow. The structure, built on a site of vines dating to the Roman era, took 40 years to complete.
The historic monument is interesting to visit, not only for the ornate sweeping staircase with hanging key vaults and rich-colored tapestries but also because of the ancient traditions the owners continued here.
Today, the chateau produces Flaugergues wine, and in the four hectares of sculpted and curated gardens, they teach the art of permaculture through a series of workshops which can be booked in advance.
Chateau Comtal sits in the heart of the fairytale walled city of Carcassonne – a 12th-century masterpiece and one of the best-preserved castles in the world. It was the main seat of power for the Trencavel family who ruled here when Carcassonne was independent from much of France.
When Carcassonne defined itself as a ‘Cathar citadel’ – rejecting the teachings of the Catholic church, Pope Innocent III, with the backing of the French king, launched a crusade against the city and Carcassonne was eventually taken by royal forces.
As you wander along the ramparts, past 52 towers, and through ancient city gates, imagine inhabitants of days gone by watching lands across the river for incoming invaders.
To learn what happened next in the city’s history, consider taking a guided tour of Carcassonne, Chateau Comtal, and Basilica Saint Nazaire – it’s a memorable, informative tour that history enthusiasts won’t want to miss.
Discover More Enchanting Castles
This is just a taste of the enchanting castles that await you in southern France. From the brooding and bewitching Castle of Saissac to the striking Chateau de la Napoule by the Mediterranean shoreline, each castle has its own unique story to tell.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply taking in breathtaking views, exploring the chateaux of southern France is an experience you won’t want to miss. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey to uncover the secrets and beauty of these remarkable castles.