Chateau de Vincennes, Paris
Technically not a part of Paris, although one of the eastern outer walls is in the city, the chateau is often thought of as being Paris' being in such close proximity to the Bois de Vincennes, which is part of the 12th arrondissement.
A hunting lodge for the Capetian kings was here as early as the 12th century, but the first signs of a castle were brought on by Jean II and his son Charles V building the main keep and then establishing the walls and nine protective towers round the whole. Most of these towers were levelled to wall-height when Napoleon converted the castle into a military stronghold. The keep at 50 metres high is the tallest medieval keep in France. The Holy Chapel was started under Charles' reign but not finished until some 180 years later. The village tower was and still is the main entrance into the grounds, although it is possible to enter from the Bois tower at the southern end. The Bois tower gives entrance to the vast courtyard between the symetrical pavilions built from 1650 onwards by Mazarin and Louis XIV.
Although much of the renovation work has been completed (The keep was covered in scaffolding and coverings for over 30 years) there is still work being carried out, notably over the moat on the Bois tower and on certain walls. The entrance to the keep known as the "Chatelet" is also under work, but doesn't disturb the entrance into the keep.
The castle is open every day except for 5 major bank holidays and is free to enter and walk the grounds. The ticket office is on the right after passing through the Village tower and a ticket must be bought if you want entry to the keep and the Holy Chapel costing 8€50 per adult with different concessions available inc. free entry for 18-25 yo from all EEC countries. Nothing for seniors though.
Avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes
Nearest metro is Chateau de Vincennes.
People go tearing off to Versailles on their Paris trips, but we like medieval architecture better and were delighted to discover a huge, ancient castle right at the end of the #1 Metro line. You get off at the last stop, walk up the stairs and are right at the chateau entrance.
Vincennes was a hunting lodge in the 12th century and has the tallest medieval Keep in France. It is a major photo op. You can wander the castle, climb the bell tower and then cross to La Ste. Chapelle. The Holy Chapel was built in 1379 and was based on Ste. Chapelle in Paris. You can see the resemblance architecturally, but the windows are not the stunning stained glass of Ste., Chapelle in Paris. The use the chapel for visiting art exhibits and many are very nice.
When you have finished touring the castle, chapel and grounds, you can walk around it and visit the town with lots of very nice restaurants or continue around to the Parc Floral of Paris and enjoy the huge and lovely park on the outskirts of Paris.
When ready to return to Paris, get back on the #1 Metro and you are guaranteed a seat because it is the starting point. It's a great day trip and you can spend your evening back in Paris.
The Chateau is located in the Bois de Vincennes Park in the southeast corner of Paris. The entrance is directly outside the last stop on the #1 Metro line and the actual address is Avenue de Paris, 94300 Vincennes.
If the museum you wanted to see is closed for the day, the chances are good the Chateau de Vincennes will be open. It is only closed on the 1st of January, 1st of May, 1st of November, 11th of November and 25th of December.
Charenton-le-pont borders directly on a pleasant wooded area called the Bois de Vincennes, which actually belongs to Paris. It's a good place for strolling, cycling or boating.
In the 13th century this woods was used as a royal hunting grounds. King Philippe Auguste (a.k.a. Philippe II, 1165-1223) had a 12-kilometer wall built around it, and stocked it with deer and other huntable animals. (Just in case you thought game reserves were a modern invention.)
In the 18th century, under Louis XV (1710-1774) this woods was turned into a public promenade, only to be closed again in the 19th for use as a military training camp.
Then in 1860 the emperor Napoléon III (1808-1873) had it transformed into a park similar to the Bois de Boulogne at the other end of Paris, for reasons of symmetry, evidently. But the Bois de Boulogne has always been more fashionable because it borders on one of the more affluent districts of Paris, and this one doesn't.
Parts of the Bois de Vincennes were used for the notorious International Colonial Exposition of 1931.
Second photo: Lake Daumesnil in the Vincennes Woods.
48°49'46.48" North; 2°25'4.50" East
A medieval fortress built in the 14th and then again the 17th centuries. King Henry V died here, the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned here, and Mata-Hari was executed here. Another claim to fame is that the first public clock in France was built here, above the gatehouse, in 1369 by Charles V. It recently underwent a complete cleaning and restoration.
There are two main parts, the chapel and the donjon, or fortress.
Metro: Chateau de Vicennes, last stop of Line #1.
This fortified royal residence dates back to the 12th Century when it was established as a royal hunting lodge. It has served as a fortified castle for centuries with its large walls surmounted by 9 towers until Napoleon levelled some of them for the installation of artillery. There is a prison in the donjon which at one time housed the infamous Marquis de Sade before he went to the Bastille and on to an insane asylum. The lovely chapel, Sainte-Chapelle was built in the 16th Century to house holy relics (part of the true cross, crown of thorns, sponge) and is modelled after the church of the same name on Ile de Cite. Unfortunately it was closed for renovations the day we were there. Tours are either conducted or self guided and about E 7.50 and free for under 18. Less for shorter tours.
Address: Avenue de Paris 94300 Vincennes
Metro: Chateau de Vincennes
While most people visiting Paris make their way to Versailles, Chateau Vincennes, dating back to the 13th century (the Midevil Versailles), provides a great escape from the bustle of the City.
Used by every monarch from Charles V to Henry IV, it was used as a hunting lodge. The Castle has a real moat, ramparts, and a midevil prison. Mata Hari faced a firing squad here in 1917.
Open Apr.-Sept. daily 10am-noon and 1:15-6pm; Oct.-Mar. 10am-noon and 1:15-5pm. Tour of the Ste-Chapelle (45min.) 10:15, 11:45am, 1:30, 4:15pm, in summer also 5:15pm; €4, 18-25 €2.50, under 18 free. Tour of Ste-Chapelle, ramparts, and moat (1¼hr.) 11am, 2:15, 3, 3:45pm, in summer also 4:30pm; €5.50, 18-26 €3.50, under 18 free.
Any kid wants to go to Disneyland Paris, so Eva, my daughter as well. I agreed to go there, but I wanted her to see a real castle as well after all this fake stuff. And I found out that you don't need to go far to find a beautiful fortified castle just outside of the Peripherique, next to the RER between Marne-La-Valle-Chessy and Chatelet-les-Halles. You can also take the Metro to the final stop Chateau de Vincennes.
Vincennes was in the dark ages a wild forest where the Kings of the Franks unleashed their great dogs of war. In the 12th century it became the site for a hunting lodge, a fortified mansion, an oak tree from which justice was meted out and a chapel. A royal town appeared encircled by huge walls, a large charch was built, palaces and gardens, etc. Since 1990 the casle and palaces are being renovated, but more and more areas are open to the public.
After seeing the Chateau, I made a large walk through the forest (Bois de Vincennes) with my daughter. There is an interesting Boudhist temple and a zoo with a huge rock near the Lac Deaumesnil.
In the eastern suburbs, this royal hunting chateau built first in 1295 and successively built on to. After the revolution it was used as a prison
This is not really a must see activity, but if you have some more time in Paris, and are sick and tired of the busy downtown Paris you should really pay a visit to the town of Vincennes.