Why didn’t we trek out to Versailles instead?
Well, other than the aforementioned hordes of holiday travelers, Versailles in winter is mediocre at best. The musical fountains are turned off, many statues are covered, and bike rentals are impossible.
Perhaps if the palace grounds had been crowned with a fresh layer of fluffy snowflakes, I might’ve felt differently.
The lesser known Château de Vincennes guards the town of the same name to the east of Paris. From the castle’s website..
Dating back to the 12th century, a little before the Louvre, Vincennes is one of the few castles which, from the Middle Ages to our time, has consistently found itself at the centre of French History.
Now that the City of Light is a sprawling metropolis, Vincennes is a mere suburb easily reached by metro, RER, or bus. Bonus: our apartment was within walking distance.
The Donjon & the Enceinte
The Donjon (an eclectic mix of Don Juan and dungeon?) happens to be the highest medieval fortified structure in Europe.. which says a lot when one considers the sheer amount of castles on this continent.
Home of the royal family, the fortress was kept safe by incredibly thick walls (the enceinte) and a deep moat. More on the history and architecture of the donjon can be found here.
The enceinte, or fortified wall, impressed my boys immediately. More than a kilometer in length, the wall is armed with nine towers and a moat nearly as large as an Olympic swimming pool.
Started in the 14th century, the Sainte-Chapelle of Vincennes (see first photo in this post) is an elaborate Gothic chapel, albeit smaller than the more famous Paris version.
At one time, it housed the crown of thorns relics. The interior was destroyed during the French Revolution but has since been restored. For further reading on the history of the holy chapel, click here.
The Gift Shop
Okay, okay, you want find the Château de Vincennes gift shop on any list of French national treasures. But, I actually enjoyed browsing the wares here. Compared to the rest of Paris, prices weren’t astronomical and the selection of goods was exceptional.
Doc Sci ended up with a small yet sturdy knight’s helmet, and the boys both picked out medieval action figures.
Parc Floral de Paris
With purchases pocketed, we went once more around the perimeter of the castle before heading back to the apartment. Along the way, we discovered the gigantic sign for Parc Floral de Paris which lies just beyond the château.
After nearly suffocating from the sheer mass of people all week, our morning at the Château de Vincennes was a breath of clean forest air. We all needed a bit of quiet and a lot of space to stretch out, and a walk to the castle was an ideal ending to our last day in Paris.
I’m sorry to say that before our time at Château de Vincennes, I had never even heard of the place. I’d love to know – have you heard of or visited this castle before?
For more Paris with Kids posts, click here.