Tickets: Free for under age of 26 (self guided tour)
8.5€ for guided tour
Gift and book shop free admission
Hours: From Sept. 22 to May 20: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday (low season)
From May 21st to Sept. 21: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday (high season)
Closed: Jan. 1, May 1, Nov. 11, and Dec. 25
Metro: Ligne 1, Château de Vincennes
Recommended 2 hours for visit. Guided tours are available and audio guide tours are available in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian. Tours are also available to disabled visitors, including visually impaired, handicapped and hearing impaired.
Château de Vincennes is a testament to its era: a stronghold of the French monarchy, a reminder of the human fault, but also, a symbol of resolution and triumph. This medieval fortress, located to the east of the center of Paris in the suburb town of Vincennes, is a majestic remnant of the past. It’s structure has endured sieges, remodels, and world wars. Its walls have house French royalty, Parisian courts, and the most heinous criminals-accused traitors of the monarchy. Its dry moats have experienced countless deaths by gunshot, one victim whose remains now rest in the chapel. The architecture is extraordinary and well preserved. Walking through the courtyards and the donjon is the closest to which one can actualize an authentic experience of days of old.
The castle grounds are extensive. The site contains the original walls with medieval towers, the Sainte-Chapelle, the donjon, two pavilions, and an ensemble of annex buildings. The castle is one of the largest constructions of the medieval time period and served as residency for French royalty from the 12th to 14th century. Like many great attractions of Paris, Château de Vincennes had humble beginnings and as time passed, evolved with each distinct generation/cycle of residency. The donjon is Europe’s highest medieval fortified structure–Its six levels measure 50 m high. The free tour includes access to the Sainte-Chapelle, the donjon, and the central courtyards.
The donjon also houses seasonal art expositions. When I visited, the expo was “ZEVS Noir Eclair” (http://www.zevs-noireclair.fr). This exposition used modern and urban pieces placed among the castle to create a great contrast but also links to the past.
My favorite piece was a sculpture of the word “YES” made of the symbol of the yen, euro, and dollar with the texture of melting gold. Though most of the modern art seemed out of place, this sculpture’s significance of money’s power over society seemed timeless after walking through the kings’ medieval treasury and experiencing the luxury of the monarchy during this time period. There is also an exhibit in the annex of the donjon about the renovations of the castle and in the clock tower.
Video source: http://www.montjoye.net/chateau-de-vincennes
During the 12th century, the Capétian monarchs (relating to or denoting the dynasty ruling France 987-1328) established a hunting lodge in the Bois de Vincennes (forest of Vincennes) and it served as a royal residency during the 12th to 18th centuries. The first evidence of a French monarch’s stay was an act of Louis VII (1137-1180) in 1178. Later, Louis IX, known as Saint Louis (1226-1270), made Vincennes the official residence.
During the 13th century and the beginning half of the XIV century, the isolated annex buildings of the the capétien manor were developed into a quadrilateral of about 200 to 230 feet (60 to 70 meters) with a central courtyard, in the middle of which was a feeding basin. At this time the rural manor was a moderate aristocratic residence without fortification or defense.
At the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, Philipe VI established foundations for a new donjon (1336-1340) to the west of the old manor. After his return from British captivity, Jean II le bon (known as John the Good,1350-1364) confirmed the project of Vincennes as a reaction to the threats to the monarchy in Paris from both internal revolutions and the British, construction of the new fortress began around 1136.