Chateau de Tarascon visitor guide

Photo of Chateau de Tarascon

Visit Chateau de Tarascon, France

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The Chateau de Tarascon is in the centre of Tarascon, a small Provençal town in the Bouches-du-Rhone department between Nimes and Avignon. Unlike most castles in France, the castle is largely the same as when it was built in the 15th century.

Explore the Chateau de Tarascon

On the banks of the Rhone River, the Chateau de Tarascon is quite a foreboding sight, with strong walls barely pierced to let the light in. The walls and the towers of the castle are both the same height adding further to the solid appearance.

Walls and towers of Chateau de Tarascon next to the river

Built during the first half of the 15th century by Louis II of Anjou and his son Roi René, on the site of an earlier defensive structure, the castle was designed to protect the Provence region from attack. It was built in this important strategic location because of its position at the bottom of the Rhone Valley and on several important trade routes.

After the 15th century the region became part of France and the Chateau de Tarascon was no longer strategically important, although it still served as a castle during the Wars of Religion, during which it played a role in confronting the protestants of the Languedoc region to the east.

By the middle of the 17th century the Chateau de Tarascon had been pressed into service as a prison, a role it was to hold until almost the end of the 18th century, and sporadically into the 19th century.

The deterioration of the condition of the castle continued during this period, made worse by the damage done as a result of the Revolution, and the castle entered the 19th century in very poor condition. Numerous decisions to demolish the castle were passed, even as late as the 20th century, but each time circumstances or opposition prevented it taking place.

It was only in 1932 that the future of the chateau was assured and restoration work began.


Visit the Chateau de Tarascon

Despite the austere outside, the castle has a certain impressive charm. The interior of the castle was originally richly furnished and decorated, although little now remains of this decoration.

The chateau is entered by a small bridge (part of this bridge was originally a drawbridge) which passes into the 'lower courtyard', from which the main castle can be accessed. The interior courtyard is now planted with small formal gardens and has several examples of renaissance style decoration.

In Tarascon castle you pass through several large halls, although these contain no historic furnishings which is a bit disapponting, and you can also see various examples of wall paintings and graffiti from the time the castle was a prison.

You can also enjoy impressive views across the town and the Bouches-du-Rhone countryside from the large terrace at the top of the walls.

Historic photo of the Chateau de Tarascon

Attractions nearby

The town of Tarascon has an interesting centre to explore.

There are many other towns and villages close to Tarascon that you will want to visit in this part of west Provence including the village of Les Baux-de-Provence - one of the most beautiful villages we have visited in France, and with an exceptional castle - as well as the towns of Arles and Avignon.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Bouches-du-Rhone guide and the Provence guide.

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The French version of this page is at Chateau de Tarascon (Francais)