While many people may have visited Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World, there are four breathtaking castles in central and southern France that are a must-see for any true castle connoisseur or traveler on the hunt for historic perspective and incredible views.  Each one very different from the rest, they all have unique aspects—from café’s to catapults, learn more about the castles that await you in France.

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Carcassonne – Southern France

Carcassonne is not only a castle, but also a fortified medieval town. You can spend the day roaming the settlement, popping in and out of small stores and restaurants. In the center of the citadel, you can relax with a glass of wine or the best crème brûlée in the world (in my own expert opinion).While it is spectacular to explore the town during the day, I would highly recommend visiting at night as well. There are few, if any, tourists in sight as you stroll along the fortress walls. For an unforgettable night, sit on a ledge and watch the moonrise over the breathtaking surrounding vineyards.

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Château des Baux de Provence – Southern France

 The château rests atop a jut of rock, providing spectacular views of the French countryside.You can explore ruins of the château and walk along the cobblestone streets of the restored village. However, this is no Disney castle. You can check out siege engines such as bricoles, ballistas, and the largest trebuchet in Europe. It’s like stepping into a scene from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (#winning). You can even try to launch a medieval catapult yourself!

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Château Royal d’Amboise – Central France

 Located in the Loire Valley in Southern France, the château offers a gorgeous panorama of the Loire River and the village of Amboise. For some inspiration, you can visit the Saint-Hubert Chapel, which is the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. The town of Amboise cannot be missed. I would personally recommend staying in Amboise for a few days (or forever). The charming market town has countless restaurants, cafes, and street shops. There are also plenty of unique places to stay, such as “Le Clos d’Amboise,” which is a historic manor in the heart of the city. Although the city is not small, there is no need for a car. You can reach all parts of the town on foot or rent a bike and cycle along the Loire River.

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Château de Chenonceau – Central France

 This medieval manor is the second most visited château in France. The “Château des Dames” gained its grandeur from successive French women who contributed to it over the centuries. The château spans the Cher River and offers beautiful views of the pristine gardens. The magnificence of the palace is striking. You can freely explore the manor while admiring the beautifully furnished rooms and antique paintings. For a fairytale experience, you can take a stroll through the breathtaking gardens among 130,000 flowers grown on the estate.

Note: certain locations offer a discount if you show a student ID. So bring your ID and save those extra couple Euros for a street crêpe with NUTELLA!

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About Kelly Spoerk