Best Castles in Normandy, France


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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One of the best places to visit in Northern France, the region of Normandy is known for its coastline, culinary delights, and historical sites, dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. One sign of all this history is the many impressive Normandy castles, many of which experienced the Hundred Years’ War

The castles in Normandy are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles in France and are must-sees on any trip to the region. If you’re ready to experience the history and majesty of this part of the world, then here’s a list of the best castles in Normandy.

Château de Martainville - Normandy

TIP: What is a château? Learn the difference between a château and a palace in France.

Best Normandy Castles

Here’s the list of the most beautiful Castles of Normandy. Mont-Saint Michel is not on the list because it is not a castle but a fortified abbey. You can find more information in our Mont-Saint Michel guide.

1. Château de Saint-Germain-de-Livet (Aude)

Château de Saint-Germain-de-Livet is located just 7km from Lisieux in the foothills of one of Normandy’s valleys. It’s nicknamed ‘The Wonder of the Pays d’Auge’, and was built during the 15th and 16th centuries on the grounds of a previous medieval fortress.

This Normandy castle is partially listed as a Historical Monument and was built by the Tournebu family, more precisely for the homesick Italian wife of one of the family. This architectural gem is surrounded by a moat complete with majestic swans and comprises a 15th-century half-timbered manor house in glazed brick and stone arranged in a checkerboard design. The interior is fully furnished.

Château de Saint-Germain-de-Livet is a slightly whimsical, romantic château surrounded by formal gardens and stunning countryside. You can see the Italian influence in the lovely courtyard arches. The 360 views of the castle from the garden are simply spectacular.

VISITS: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm (Open from April to the 1st weekend of November).

2. Château Gaillard (Eure)

TIP: This castle is covered on our Normandy road trip from Paris.

Don’t miss the splendid ruins of Château Gaillard, a medieval fortress built in the 12th century under the orders of King Richard Lionheart – who was also Duke of Normandy – to protect his lands against the French King Philippe Auguste.

This Normandy castle has a strategic position, located on a hill and overlooking one of the meanders of the Seine River and the lovely towns of Les Andelys. The view from the castle is terrific.

Considered a cutting-edge example of military architecture in its day, the castle was built in only two years. Château Gaillard consists of three baileys separated by rock-cut ditches —an inner and a middle, and an outer with the main entrance to the castle—and a keep, also called a donjon, in the inner bailey. The outer and the middle baileys are studded with towers.

In 1314, two of the three daughters-in-law of Philippe IV le Bel were locked up in Château-Gaillard after the affair of the Tour de Nesle: Marguerite de Bourgogne, adulteress of the heir to the throne Louis of France (future Louis X le Hutin) and Blanche de Bourgogne, wife of Charles de France (future Charles IV le Bel). The first died there the following year, perhaps strangled on her husband’s orders.

VISITS: Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm.

3. Château de Dieppe (Seine Maritime)

Château de Dieppe was originally built in 1188 by King Henry II to ensure the defense of the city. It is located on the edge of the cliff of Claude-Côte, about 30 meters above sea level, and overlooking the English Channel. The château was destroyed in 1195 by King Philip II of France. It was then reconstructed in 1433 by Charles des Marets.

This castle in Normandy was built in flint and sandstone, and several architectural styles are represented. The castle’s layout is composed of a quadrangular enclosure with round flanking towers with conical tops and a lower court adjacent. The large west tower dates perhaps from the 14th century and served as the keep, while the brick bastion was added later to the original enclosure.

One of the best things about this castle of Normandy is the view. From its position on a hill, it overlooks the surrounding landscape, driving the painter Turner to create one of his famous watercolors depicting the scene.

VISITS: from Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.

4. Château Fontaine-Henry (Calvados)

Château Fontaine-Henry is located between Caen and the D-Day Landing beaches and is one of the rare castles in Normandy that has been in the same family for the past 800 years. It’s in the Calvados department and was built in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The castle was built on the foundations of an earlier fortress by Guillaume de Tilly, Sieur de Fontaine-Henry, an ancestor of the current owners. The eldest branch of the Tilly family transmitted its land to the Harcourt family by marriage when Jeanne de Tilly married Philippe d’Harcourt in 1374. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Harcourts undertook the reconstruction of the castle after the Hundred Years’ War, giving it its current appearance.

Château Fontaine-Henry is a beautiful example of a Renaissance building and is surrounded by lush countryside. Aesthetically speaking, it looks like one of the Loire Valley Castles, but in Normandy!

Featuring the highest castle roofs in France (up to 15 m), Château Fontaine-Henry is listed as a Historical Monument since 1924 and it is decorated with luxurious furnishings and beautiful furniture and paintings.

VISITS: Saturday and Sunday from 1.30 pm to 6.30 pm.

5. Château de Nacqueville (Manche)

Château de Nacqueville (also known as Château de Fourneville) is in a coastal valley that’s just 20 minutes from the Channel port of Cherbourg. It’s at the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, and construction began in 1510.

This château was originally a fortified manor built by the Grimouville family and had a six-meter-tall protective wall. Unfortunately, the wall was knocked down in 1700, and the building itself had to be rebuilt during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1830, an English landscape gardener was commissioned to create the château’s romantic park, which contains waterfalls, ponds, ornamental trees, exotic plants, and woodland.

During WW2, Château de Nacqueville was occupied by the Germans and later the Americans, leaving the castle in a deplorable state.

After 10 years of restoration, its owner could open the castle and surrounding park to the public. Today, people can visit the park and the oldest parts of the castle.

VISITS: from Thursday to Sunday and holidays, from 12 pm to 6 pm (Open from May to September).

6. Château de Gratot (Manche)

Located in the commune of Gratot, just a few kilometers from the English Channel, this ruined medieval château is considered to be one of the most picturesque Normandy castles.

Château de Gratot was built by the family of Argouges in the 14th century but underwent many renovations over the following centuries. It is most famous for its Fairy Tower, which was constructed in the 15th century and is surrounded by fanciful fairy legends.

The rest of the castle showcases a number of styles, including the pavilion built in the 18th century. The castle was abandoned in the 19th century, and volunteers have been reconstructing it since 1968.

VISITS: Every day from 10 am to 7 pm.

7. Château de Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (Manche)

Château de Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte is a medieval castle located in the Manche département and is just over an hour’s drive out of Caen. It was built in the 11th and 12th centuries and has been listed as a Historical Monument since 1840.

The original castle was built by Godefroy d’Harcourt, the Baron of St. Sauveur, on the grounds of a Viking fortress. The castle was besieged twice during the Hundred Year’s War as it was one of the most important access points to the Cotentin peninsula. The castle also played a major role during the Religion Wars and later suffered bombardments during WW2.

Today, the castle is mostly in ruins but is still one of the best castles in Normandy for history buffs. The oldest part of the present castle is called the Old Keep and it still has its original towers dating back to the 12th century.

VISITS: free access all year round. Guided visits available on site.

8. Château Pirou (Manche)

Château Pirou is one of the oldest fortified castles of Normandy. It’s located in the commune of Pirou (Manche), just over an hour away from Caen.

This castle was built in the 12th century to protect the town of Coutances and watch over Cotentin’s west coast, though the site has been occupied since the 9th century. It originally belonged to the lords of Pirou and was given to the family when one of the Pirou’s found favor with William the Conqueror.

This fortified castle is a marvel of medieval architecture. It is built on an artificial islet surrounded by three moats, high ramparts, and five fortified gates. Visitors can explore the bakery, the press, the chapel, the room of Plaids, the old house, and the walkway with its beautiful schist roofs. The views from the castle walls are amazing.

VISITS: from Thursday to Sunday from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm.

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9. Château de Martainville (Seine-Maritime)

Located in the village of Martainville-Épreville, in the Seine-Maritime department, this historic building was built between 1495 and 1505 by Jacques Le Pelletier, son of one of the richest families in Rouen. Unlike many of the Normandy castles in this article, it was used as a manor house rather than a defensive structure.

The castle is a quadrilateral flanked by four large corner towers and equipped on the rear facade with a staircase turret. Towards the end of the 16th century, the castle owners added a rectangular enclosure punctuated by four turrets, and a new moat was dug outside. Pleasure gardens were created in this enclosed space in the 17th and 18th centuries and there are still vestiges of them.

Today, the castle houses the Museum of Norman Arts and Traditions and is a beautiful example of the Renaissance architectural style.

VISITS: open from Wednesday to Monday.

10. Château de Gisors (Eure)

This castle in Normandy is located in Gisors, in the department of Eure, and is just over an hour’s drive from Rouen. The castle was an important fortress for the English Kings – Dukes of Normandy and was built in the 11th century to help protect the region from the King of France.

Château de Gisors was originally a wooden keep. In 1193, the castle was taken by the King of France Philippe Auguste who carried out several developments and undertook the construction of the Tower of the Prisoner. Other reinforcements were carried out during the Hundred Years’ War.

Transformed into a prison, the castle accommodated several brothers of the Temple after their arrest. It was also supposed to be a hiding place for the treasures of the Knights Templar, at least according to local legend.

VISITS: free access all year round from 9 am to 5.30 pm (winter) and from 9 am to 7.30 pm (summer).

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