From warrior's fortresses and royal palaces to manor houses and aristocratic residences, France's numerous chateaux serve as both reminders of an eventful past and very popular tourist attractions.
According to French tourism website France-Voyage.com, there are now over 10,000 chateaux throughout France, the first having appeared in the 10th century.
The experts at France-Voyage.com, which offers a guide to the country's natural, historic, architecture and cultural heritage along with accommodation and restaurant bookings, have chosen five must-see chateaux, ranging from famous masterpieces to little-known gems.
Attracting over six million visitors every year and located within easy day-tripping distance from central Paris, the Palace of Versailles is the most popular and best known of the French chateaux. Built for Louis XIV - also known as the Sun King - Versailles is notable for its extravagant Hall of Mirrors and its 715 hectares of parks and gardens.
Further south in the Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord is the biggest of the Loire castles and one of the most recognisable chateaux with its highly symmetrical Renaissance facade which incorporates more than 800 sculpted columns. Inside, there are an impressive 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 staircases.
Among the less well-known but equally interesting chateaux highlighted by France-Voyage.com is Bazoches, a beautiful house at the heart of the Morvan regional natural park in Burgundy, where the Marquis de Vauban - the prominent military engineer and advisor to Louis XIV - designed over 300 fortified structures.The Chateau du Grand Jardin at Joinville in the Champagne-Ardenne region, which forms an elegant Renaissance ensemble with its manicured garden, and the Chateau de Virieu, a medieval fortress overlooking the Bourbre Valley in south-eastern France, were also included on the list.
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