Château de Vincennes is located on the far east edge of Paris. It is the last stop on the Metro 1 line and a stop on the RER A train. I, of course, started my visit by going the long way around the outside of the entire place. Instead of staying straight on the main road I turned. I didn’t mean to do this but it was nice to see the outside and some of the surrounding forest. It’s a nice walk if it’s not 100 degrees out.
The original hunting lodge constructed on the site was built around 1150 for King Louis VII in the forest of Vincennes. Small parts were added until the late 14th century when a large tower was added by King Philip VI. This is the tallest protected medieval structure in Europe. It also became the residence for the royal family. The church on the site, Saint-Chapelle of Vincennes, was founded in 1379 by Charles V. They started building it in 1390 and was finally completed after 1550. It was modeled after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris which was built in 1244.
Charles V updated The Keep, the tower, to have a wide staircase from the first floor to the Kings office. This allowed two people to walk next to each other, something that had never done in castles before. He also added brand new indoor latrines on every floor.
The audio guide starts in the Sainte-Chapelle church which houses an original bell from King Charles V. Other original pieces from the church are also on display here as well.
After I had my fill of the beautiful rose window, I headed across the way to the Keep. I looked around the courtyard and learned about how there used to be merchants inside the walls. You can climb the ceremonial stairs and check out the old clock, then walk completely around the fortress wall.
Once you’ve walked the curtain wall, as it’s called, take the footbridge from there into the Keep itself. The first floor used to be the only way to enter the Keep until the 18th century. Here you can walk around the King’s Floor and chambers. You can learn about King Charles V’s daily routine.
Next walk around the royal family’s private quarters which are on the floors above the King’s chambers. You can see the treasury and the King’s closet as well as his study and the latrines. There is also a private library and chapel. Many of these rooms are quite tiny. There is barely room for 3 or 4 people and even that would be cramped.
On your way back down towards the entrance the audio guide tells you about the time the Keep was used as a prison. It also tells you about some of the people that were kept there, such as Louis II de Bourbon. There are drawings on the walls in some of the rooms that were created by prisoners.
After touring the Keep, I headed to one of the buildings that houses military artifacts. One room has medals and old uniforms. Upstairs there was an exhibit of “Wars and Peace on Posters”. The exhibit seemed to be some propaganda and posters about helping war efforts.
It was then time to find coffee and explore the local part of town a bit more. I found one chocolate store but there is still more to explore on my next trip. http://www.chateau-de-vincennes.fr/en/