Visit the Chateau Vincennes in Val-de-Marne, Paris
From the 12th century an important manor house stood here, but nothing of that original building remains (except for some parts of wall and tiled flooring uncovered in recent archaeological work). The chateau we now see dates from the 14th century (and 17th century).
Vincennes is one of the most impressive and largest castles in France, and one that has played an important role in the history of France. During the 13th and 14th centuries it was the Royal residence, and several future kings were born at Vincennes.
The castle takes the form of a large rectangle of defensive walls, enclosing approximately 6 hectares (14 acres) of space and surrounded by broad moats. There are nine towers, set at regular intervals along the defensive walls, although these were reduced in height during the 19th century.
The donjon (keep) that forms part of the defences is the tallest fortified medieval building in Europe, and faces across to the gothic style saint-chapel - started soon after the donjon but only completed 170 years later.
The two large palaces that line the edges, known as the Kings Pavilion and Queens Pavilion, were added later - in the 17th century - and are one of the finest example of renaissance chateau architecture in France. The work was supervised by Louis le Vau prior to work starting on the Palace of Versailles.
The glory days at the chateau over, by the 18th century it was abandoned as a home for Kings. It continued to have various roles however, as a factory, a prison and a nunnery. From the imprisonmant of the Marquis de Sade, to the hanging of Mata-Hari and the execution of hostages by the nazis, the colourful and dramatic history of Vincennes continued into the 20th century.
Since the early 1990's the chateau at Vincennes has been subject to an extensive range of renovation work, under the control of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Culture. It reopened for public visits in 2007 - the castle is a listed National Monument of France.
Map showing location of Chateau Vincennes