A trip to France can be exhilarating for history lovers, especially those who are into medieval history. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to decide which medieval sites are the “must-sees.” Here is my unofficial guide to the top medieval sites in France.
Perhaps the most famous of all the medieval sites in France is the former abbey of Mont Saint Michel (built in the 8th century and fortified in the 14th century), located on an island off the coast of the northwestern French region of Normandy. With so much to see (and some wonderful guide-led tour options), I recommend making a day of it (just be sure to leave before the tide comes in!).
The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is home to a collection of impressive medieval castles, abbeys and fortresses. Some of the most famous medieval castles include Angers, Luynes, Chinon, and Loches. Don’t miss Fontevraud Abbey, the burial place of King Henry II of England, Eleanor of Quitaine, and their children (including Richard the Lionheart). There are a variety of ways to travel through the Loire Valley, ranging from renting a bike and cycling to each castle on your own to taking an organized tour on a bus.
Located in the middle of the country, Bourges was the capital of France under Charles VII. It is the home of Saint-Etienne’s Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stunning example of 12th century religious architecture.
This southwestern region of France is home to several important medieval sites. War history buffs will want to visit Castillon-la-Bataille, the site of the last battle fought during the Hundred Years’ War. The city of Bordeaux boasts two medieval fortresses, Château de Hâ and Château Trompette, which were constructed by Charles immediately following the Hundred Years’ War.
The medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in France’s southern Provence region. I highly recommend taking a guided tour to learn about the rich history of this city, which dates all the way back to the 6th century.
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