Built on a huge mound in the 15th century, the Château de Pierrefonds was dismantled in 1620, and then recreated to reflect its imagined former glory in the 1860s at the behest of Emperor Napoléon III, who was seeking to cash in on the craze for the Middle Ages. Architect Viollet-le-Duc left a crenellated fortress with a fairy-tale silhouette, although, like the fortified town of Carcassonne, which he also restored, Pierrefonds is more a construct of what he thought it should have looked like than what it really was. A visit takes in the chapel, barracks, and the majestic keep containing the lord's bedchamber and reception hall, which is bordered by a spiral staircase—its lower and upper sections clearly reveal what is ancient and what is more recent in this former fortress. Don't miss the plaster casts of tomb sculptures from all over France in the cellars, and the Collection Monduit —industrially produced, larger-than-life lead decorations made by the 19th-century firm that brought the Statue of Liberty to life.
Rue Viollet-le-Duc, Pierrefonds, 60350, France