Chateau de Pierrefonds

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My favorite place in France has to be Chateau de Pierrefonds! I just absolutely adored visiting this fairytale French castle! It costs a pretty penny to get there, but it is well worth it to see one of the best castles in France. Situated on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne, just northeast of Paris, makes it a great day trip from Paris. So my lords, ladies, and knights let’s go onward to Camelot!

Chateau Pierrefonds

How to Get from Paris to Chateau de Pierrefonds

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, 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 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 no need to fork out extra money to gain entrance. Upon arriving, you’ll find a quaint little town surrounding this gorgeous French castle. I can’t imagine growing up there; having a castle in town?!? Crazy!?!?

fairytale castle

When Was the 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 in between 1393 and 1407, the castle was rebuilt by the French court architect, Jean le Noir. Fast forward two centuries more 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 de Pierrefonds Facts

Remaining a ruin for two centuries, Napoleon I bought it 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 with the “picturesque” ruins in front be kept for decor. However, plans changed in 1861, as he now wanted it to be an imperial residence, so the entire castle was rebuilt. The death of Napoléon III halted the reconstruction as well as a lack of money. This in effect left the room decor unfinished.

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

best castles in france

One of the Best Castles in France

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. Probably helped out the TV series Merlin as they could bring in their own decor rather than having to worry about not damaging or moving what was already existing. The castle has eight towers adorned with “statues of worthy” knights:

  • Biblical Warrior Kings: David, Judas Maccabeus, and Joshua
  • Kings of Great Empires and Heroes of Antiquity: Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Hector
  • Christian Heroes of the Middle Ages: Charlemagne, King Arthur, and Godfrey of Bouillon

Chateau de Pierrefonds with Merlin

For those TV and Film buffs out there, you’ll probably recognize it from Merlin, Narnia, Man in the Iron Mask, and more! Since Merlin‘s filming ended, the traffic at the Chateau de Pierrefonds has slowed down. There were probably ten other people in the whole place while 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 say about going to further reaches outside of Paris to get a quieter experience than say 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 this French castle alone was entirely sufficient to take a tour.

chateau pierrefonds merlin

french castle

Knights of the Round Table

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

Tales of the Crypt at Chateau Pierrefonds, France

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. It felt like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland but better since it was real!

The exhibition is made up of casts of “Le Bal des Gisants” which are funerary sculptures commissioned by King Louis Philippe to pay tribute to the significant figures of history that brought glory to France. Initially displayed at the Palace of Versailles, this collection is today kept at Pierrefonds. Just another reason Chateau de Pierrefonds should be on your list of the best castles in France to visit!

Want to remember this? Post this Visiting Merlin’s Fairytale Chateau de Pierrefonds article to your favorite Pinterest board!

chateau de pierrefonds chateau de pierrefonds

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Michelle Jensen is a twenty-something traveler, occasionally solo, you’ll find road tripping across the U.S. or hostel-hopping in Europe. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA with a day job in Television.


  • 03/08/2014

    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 !

    • 03/09/2014

      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!

  • 03/10/2014

    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! 🙂

    • 03/11/2014

      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!

  • 03/12/2014

    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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