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Paris – Chateau de Vincennes

paris chateau vincennes
Chateau de Vincennes, a spectacular medieval castle, is just a short Metro ride from the center of Paris. It's the tallest keep (donjon) in Europe and was a fortified royal residence for French kings, started in the 14th century by King Jean II, and expanded by his son Charles V. When you visit Chateau de Vincennes, kids will see how the French kings and their families lived in the Middle Ages.
The castle continued as a royal residence up to the 17th century, expanded with more luxurious manor buildings, pavilions, gardens in the complex, the keep was used as jail through the Napoleonic era. Later, a new fort was constructed and it was used as an arsenal and barracks for soldiers. When the Germans took Paris in 1940, they occupied Chateau de Vincennes with troops and prisoners; it was liberated by the French in 1944, but some of the pavilions were destroyed. The medieval keep and palace chapel have been beautifully restored.
Tip: Take Metro Line 1, Chateau de Vincennes stop. When you come out of the subway, the castle is right there.
Chateau de Vincennes Photo Album
 

Village Tower (Tour du Village) – Enter Chateau de Vincennes through the majestic Village Tower, the original main gateway, over the wide grassy moat. Look up as you go through the gate – it was originally equipped with a drawbridge (to be raised and lowered), and portcullis (iron grate to drop down on invaders).

  Holy Chapel – This is the private chapel for the royal family, founded by Charles V in 1379 and completed in the 16th century. Built in a Gothic style, the chapel has a rose window, tall stained glass windows. Check out the model of Chateau de Vincennes, and climb up the balcony under the rose window for a view of chapel below.
   

Tip: Visit the chapel before going over to the keep, as the chapel is closed noon to 2pm.

  The Keep –
   

The keep (square tower) is surrounded by defensive walls with covered parapets and four watchtowers at each corner. From the parapets, soldiers could pour boiling water or lead on their enemies below. Two towers (barbican) and another deep moat also defended the keep.

   

Walk over the footbridge into the keep in the Middle Ages this was the only way into the tower. The keep, 50 meters high, has 6 floors, each with a central room, and smaller rooms off to the side.

   

On the first floor is the Council Room is where the king and his administrators would receive visitors. Off to the side is a Chapel, originally used by the king and queen for private worship, later it was a cell for prisoners, who decorated the walls with paintings and graffiti.

   

The second floor has the king's private apartments. The big room is the King's Bedroom, with a large fireplace, painted vaulted ceiling, and stone wall decorations of the four apostles, including the Lion of St. Mark. In the smaller surrounding rooms are the Chapel, Wardrobe (chests contained the king's clothes), Study, garderobe (latrine), and Treasury, where gold and silver, money and art were stored.

   

Back on the ground level is a room with stuff kids can touch - a tactile model of the keep and the whole complex (including the later king and queen's pavilions ), lion decoration in the king's study and angel sculpture in the king's bedroom.

   

Chateau de Vincennes is open daily (closed on a few holidays such as Christmas and New Year).

   

Tip: Chateau de Vincennes is free with the Paris Pass.

kids books castle paris
     
Castle  
Castle (Eyewitness Books)
Christopher Gravett

Essential guide to medieval castles – history, defenses and weapons, knights, great hall, chapel, daily life, including info on French castles. Detailed photographs, medieval artifacts and models of castles. (Picture book)

 

(More children's books on other Paris and France pages)
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