When you think of France, you think of classical art museums, fashion art houses, sophisticated cuisine, rich culture, and romance. You think of the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Palace of Versailles. A global centre of art, philosophy, and science, with a large number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, France continues to be the world’s leading tourist destination.
France is a republic located in Western Europe. Aside from metropolitan France, the country also consists of several overseas regions and territories. The country’s total population is 67.4 million. Its capital is Paris, which is also the country’s main cultural and commercial centre and its largest city. Other major cities include Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, and Toulouse.
The history of France goes back to ancient times when it was still a Celtic territory known as Gallia or Gaul. A Germanic people called Franks conquered the area in the 5th century. This is where the name France was derived from. In the 9th century, it officially became a separate country.
During the High Middle Ages, France was largely a decentralized feudal kingdom. It was during the time of King Philip Augustus when France became the most powerful state in Europe. Then came the Hundred Years’ War, a series of dynastic conflicts between French monarchs and English monarchs that began in the mid-14th century. While France emerged victorious in the Hundred Years’ War, it soon had disputes with the Holy Roman Empire and Spain.
From the 16th century to the 19th century, France underwent major historical events. These include the religious civil wars in the 16th century, the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, and the French Revolution. The French Revolution marked the fall of monarchical rule in France. The Ancien Regime established the earliest form of republic. Under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, France reached the peak of its political and military powers.
This day, France continues to be a global power. Aside from being the global centre for the arts, culinary arts, philosophy, and science, it is also the world’s leading tourist destination.
Castles are usually the first things that come to mind when you think of France. However, the country has around 45,000 castles. Whether you simply want to visit a castle or stay in a French castle, France has plenty to offer.
The early forms of castles in France were wooden castles built by lords to protect themselves from Viking attacks during the 9th century. Medieval fortresses emerged during the 11th century. These fortresses were usually built on a hilltop or on the ground surrounded by a moat.
Centuries past and the castles became more and more residential rather than a military defence. During the Renaissance period, Kings and Queens hired artists to decorate their castles. At this time, castles were built to flaunt wealth, elegance, and prestige. Hence, castles featured decadent gardens, decorative sculptures, ornamental moldings, and lavish architecture.
In 1789, the French Revolution succeeded in putting an end to the monarchy. With the rise of modern France, the era of royal residences ended. Nevertheless, the newly rich continued building country houses in the style of palaces.
The oldest intact castle in France is the Castle Keep of Montbazon. This castle is a medieval fortification dating back to the year 991. However, the most popular castle in France is the Cite de Carcassonne. This medieval castle is also the best choice for those looking for castle accommodation in France. Other popular castles in France include Palais des Papes, Château de Saumur, Chateau de Loches, and Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg.
Aside from Cite de Carcassonne, the best castle hotels to stay in France include Château de Bourron, Château de Bagnols, and Chateau de Codignat.