Chateau de Vincennes
Begin your adventure with a visit to the Chateau de Vincennes. Don’t let the record-holding height of the main keep, called a donjon, trick you; this castle began as a royal hunting lodge! Daily tours of the grounds will awe you as you scale the curtain walls and climb the tower. Listen closely and you might hear the ghosts of famous prisoners like the Marquis de Sade or Marie Antoinette. The 2 euros you will spend on the metro will bring you all the way here, so it’s just a hop skip and a jump away from all the hotels Paris has to offer. What’s more is that if you don’t consider hotels in Paris cheap, then check out cheaper options in Vincennes.
Chateau de Versailles
No trip to Paris is complete without setting aside a day to explore the Chateau de Versailles. It too had previously been a royal hunting lodge, but in the 17th century it was transformed into the largest palace in the world. The immense gardens will dazzle your imagination. Imagine what it was like; women in corsets and billowing dresses, spinning their parasols as they stroll along the great walkways, their men at their arms wooing them with poetry or clever tales. All it takes is a metro ride from your Paris hotel to the Montparnasse station, and a 20 kilometer RER train jaunt to Versailles.
If you would prefer to see sites closer to most Paris hotels, then look no further than the Louvre. You can be sure that every hotel in Paris will have the inside scoop on the Louvre, one of the biggest and most visited museums in the world. The Louvre was a medieval castle from the 12th to the 16th century, when construction began to convert it into a Renaissance-style palace. Venture down into the belly of the palace and you’ll find the remnants of a medieval keep and a scale model of what the castle once was.
Finally, visit the hallowed ground that is the Place de la Bastille, the site of the great fortress castle for which the place is named. When the French revolution thundered across the nation, the demolishing of the Bastille was backed by popular demand due to its role as a prison and torture house of dissidents under the aristocracy. Observe the outline of where the castle used to be, marked by stone crosswalks encircling the roundabout. You can also visit remnants of the stone towers unearthed during construction of the metro system. Take note that this is a popular, central area, where many cheap Paris hotels are located.
Perhaps the Loire Valley offers the most castles for your buck, but if Paris is your only French destination, don’t miss out reliving the medieval experience by visiting these wonderful sites.