Visit Chateau de Pierrefonds Merlin's Castle in France
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How to Visit Chateau de Pierrefonds, Merlin’s Castle in France

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My favorite place in France has to be Chateau de Pierrefonds! I absolutely adored visiting this fairytale French castle! I was inspired to visit because it is Merlin‘s Castle, and as a fan of the BBC series, I’d been eyeing this place for a while. It costs a pretty penny to get to Pierrefonds castle, but it is well worth it to see one of the best castles in France. Chateau Pierrefonds is situated on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne, just northeast of Paris, making it a great day trip from Paris.

So, my lords, ladies, and knights, let’s go onward to Camelot!

How to Get to Chateau de Pierrefonds from Paris

Unfortunately, there is no train directly from Paris to Chateau de Pierrefonds so you’ll have to take a train to the closest station, which is Compiegne. From there, you’ll then take a taxi to the Chateau. I’m told there is a bus from the station, but at the time, I didn’t find any reliable information on the times it was running. I’ve seen online that it’s bus Ligne 27 Compiègne-Pierrefonds but doesn’t operate on Sundays or public holidays. Also, it appears that it only runs once a day.

I found out later that it would have been cheaper to rent a car and drive there, as, between my Aunt and myself, we spent more on the train and taxi fare than on the price of a rental. Live and learn! And that’s why you’re reading this!

Chateau Pierrefonds is included in the Paris Museum Pass, so there is no need to fork out extra money to gain entrance. But if you haven’t gotten the Paris Museum Pass, the entrance fee is €9, but free if you’re under 18.

Upon arriving, you’ll find a quaint little town surrounding this gorgeous castle in France. I can’t imagine growing up there and having a castle in town?!? Crazy!?!?

fairytale castle

When Was Chateau de Pierrefonds Built?

Château de Pierrefonds was built on the site of an ancient manor overlooking the town. The original castle on this site was built in the 12th century. Then, between 1393 and 1407, the castle was rebuilt by the French court architect Jean le Noir. Fast forward two centuries, and it was besieged and taken by troops sent by Richelieu during Louis XIII’s reign to stop his enemies from using it as a refuge. They began to demolish it but didn’t finish since it was such an immense task. The exterior was razed, roofs destroyed, and holes made in the towers and curtain walls.

Chateau Pierrefonds in Ruins
Chateau Pierrefonds in Ruins

Remaining a ruin for two centuries, Napoleon I bought Chateau Pierrefonds in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs. It was classified as a historic monument by the French Ministry of Culture in 1848. In 1850, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III of France) visited Pierrefonds Castle and asked that the castle be restored, but with the “picturesque” ruins in front kept for decor. However, plans changed in 1861, as he now wanted it to be an imperial residence, so the entire castle was rebuilt. Napoléon III’s death halted the reconstruction as well as a lack of money. This, in effect, left the room decor unfinished.

best castles in france

One of the Best Castles in France

It should be noted that the work that was done was more of an invention than a restoration. It was imagined by Viollet-le-Duc, a French architect and author who restored many prominent medieval landmarks in France. He rebuilt it based on what the castle ought to have been rather than basing his work on the history of the building. However, his work on the exterior shows his excellent knowledge of the military architecture of the 14th century.

Though not restored in the traditional way, Viollet-le-Duc gave immense care to Pierrefonds Castle. I found craftsmanship in every corner! The inside is mildly decorated because of the historical lack of funds, but you can still feel the aura of it. It probably helped out the BBC Merlin TV series as they could bring in their own decor rather than having to worry about not damaging or moving what was already existing.

Chateau Pierrefonds has Eight Towers Adorned with “Statues of Worthy” Knights:

Biblical Warrior Kings:

  • David
  • Judas Maccabeus
  • Joshua

Kings of Great Empires and Heroes of Antiquity:

  • Caesar
  • Alexander the Great
  • Hector

Christian Heroes of the Middle Ages:

  • Charlemagne
  • King Arthur
  • Godfrey of Bouillon

Chateau de Pierrefonds, the Castle Where Merlin was Filmed

The BBC TV show Merlin used Chateau Pierrefonds pretty extensively. You can see it anytime they are in the courtyard of Camelot, anytime someone enters or exits the castle, in several scenes where they are jousting, and in some interior scenes, such as the room where the knights of the round table gather which you can see below.

Since Merlin‘s filming ended, the traffic at the Pierrefonds Castle has slowed down. There were probably ten other people in the whole place when I was there. While sad, it did make me feel as if I were in my own castle rather than just visiting one.

There is something to be said about going to further reaches outside of Paris to get a quieter experience than a palace like Versailles. I felt like I really had free reign! You’re handed a map upon entering by one of their wonderful staff and that’s about all the guide you’re going to get. Unless you speak French, you’re on your own. And honestly, the map of Chateau Pierrefonds alone was entirely sufficient to take a tour.

Knights of the Round Table at Merlin‘s Castle

The large room pictured above was used to house the round table for the knights in Merlin and has also been used for many other films. It has two levels and is very, very long. There’s a massive fireplace that was taller than my Aunt! If I remember correctly, a lot of the decorations were wood carved. The other cool thing is that the furniture in there is original.

For Which TV Series and Films has Chateau Pierrefonds Been Used as a Backdrop?

  • BBC Merlin
  • The Man in the Iron Mask
  • Wizards of Waverly Place
  • Versailles
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
  • Highlander: The Series
  • The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Le Capitan
  • Les Visiteurs

Tales of the Crypt at Chateau Pierrefonds

Just when I thought this place couldn’t get any better, it did! I was warned not to miss the crypt below Pierrefonds Castle. They have it set up with all these lights and music. There are also spirits whispering in French. Sorry, my French is nowhere near good enough to translate, so I have no idea what they were saying. It felt like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, but better since it was real!

The exhibition consists of casts of “Le Bal des Gisants,” funerary sculptures commissioned by King Louis Philippe to pay tribute to the significant figures of history who brought glory to France. Initially displayed at the Palace of Versailles, this collection is today kept at Chateau Pierrefonds.

Final Thoughts on Pierrefonds Castle

I hope this guide inspires you to visit Merlin’s Castle, Chateau de Pierrefonds, on your next trip to France! It is so gorgeous and worth the extra effort to get there. It’s been one of my favorite castles, and I hope this guide helps you experience it, too! Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions!

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6 Comments

  1. Just read up on your trip! You went to everywhere I went and more! Paris was the best thing I’ve ever done and possibly will ever do. Then again, it was my life long dream since forever, so even if it was crappy, simply being there would have made it all worthwhile! I wish I got to go to this chateux! I didn’t even know about it to be honest! I went everywhere else mainly. I loved Versailles, I absolutely love architecture, so I didn’t really care much about the people who lived there as much as the palace itself. And i was completely stunned, just like the Saint Chappelle, which was the most beautiful church ever. I did go all the way up the Eiffel Tower, and i am deathly afraid of heights. We stopped at the halfway and I had a mini attack but got myself together because I doubt I’ll ever have the chance to go back and it was so worth it! The view was gorgeous! And I conquered a fear! I went during the winter, in November so nothing was extremely busy which was nice. But the Notre Dame was being renovated so I didn’t get to go up and see the gargoyles, which I was bummed about! One of my favorite parts was the view from the Sacre Coeur and Montmatre, I loved that whole area. And the food, aka that patisseries 😀
    Sorry this was UBER long! I get excited when it comes to Paris !

    1. Did you go anywhere else in Europe? It was a dream of mine as well, but it was a bit disappointing. I knew about it from Merlin, they filmed there. Versailles is beautiful, I just wish it felt more real, I didn’t feel as if anyone had ever lived there. I asked a lady who went up and she said it looked the same so I just passed, my aunt went though. The gargoyles were awesome! I didn’t get up to Sacre Coeur as I honestly was tired by the end of my trip. I miss the bread and pasta! Haha no worries!

  2. No I didn’t get to go anywhere else, I went on a school trip, so it was just there. I looked into taking the train somewhere else, but it would have been an entire day, and I was only there for a week, which is not even enough time to check out Paris. I want to go back and travel around, hopefully I’ll get to one day. I really want to go to Bruges, yes because of In Bruges, and Vienna! 🙂

    1. Ah okay. I’ve had friends do the school trip, I didn’t want to do that though cause I wanted to do it at my own pace and see what I wanted to see. Have faith, you will! In Bruges? What’s that? I want to go to Italy too!

  3. I wish I could do that, school was the only way to convince my parents to let me go haah. In Bruges, the movie! It’s one of my favorite movies, with Colin Farrell! You should watch it! 😀

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