Chateau de Pau visitor guide

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The Chateau de Pau is an important castle, in the town of Pau at the west end of the Boulevard des Pyrenees.

Explorer le Château de Pau

France This Way review: the castle in Pau is an interesting and attractive castle which also has gardens and a park and a museum of tapestries and is a highlight of your visit to the town

The Chateau de Pau is the oldest monument in the town, which originally developed around the castle. A castle has stood in this location since the 12th century although most of what you see today is much more recent...

Tower at the Chateau de Pau

Brief history of the Chateau de Pau

The original fortress on the site was developed over the centuries, and by the time of the Renaissance it had become a comfortable palace, that was the seat of the Counts of Navarre. From the 14th century until the 16th century, many important local lords lived in the castle including Gaston Fébus, Catherine Navarre and Jean d'Albret and their descendants.

Gaston Fébus was a renowned local lord in the 14th century who successfully kept his territories safe during the Hundred Years War between England and France, by creating a separate nation that sided with neither country. He began the transformation of the castle from fortress to dwelling, and the Vicomtes of Béarn further transformed it into a renaissance palace.

The Chateau de Pau continued to be important during the 17th,18th and 19th centuries, with many royal visitors staying here as they travelled in the area, and many artists and writers also spending time at the castle. Because of this continuous occupation, the chateau was never abandoned and never fell into ruin, unlke most castles in France.

Further substantial alterations and additions took place in the 19th century, with the addition of a substantial wing dedicated to Napoleon III, as well as the monumental porch. Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon II, stayed at the castle when she was travelling between the seaside resort of Biarritz and the spa town of Eaux-Bonnes, both popular destinations with people in high society in the 19th century.

The promenade that is now called the Boulevard des Pyrenees, one of the main attractions in Pau, was established to allow these dignitaries to promenade between the Chateau de Pau and the Place Royale, at the other side of Pau centre, while enyoying a view of the Pyrenees.

The last time the castle was used for royal purposes was in 1868, when Queen Isabelle II of Spain stayed here after being forced out of Spain. The queen, who was a descendant of King Henri IV, remained at the castle for several weeks before continuing to Paris.


Visiting the Chateau de Pau

The castle has three wings around a large courtyard, with multiple towers added at various times. The buildings and towers are all in white stone or red brick, and together create a very attractive ensemble of buildings.

On the other side of the small area of formal gardens you can see the Tour de la Monnaie (the 'Money Tower'). Before the revolution, Béarn had its own currency, with coins showing the King of France on one side and young cows, a symbol of the region, on the other side.

Inside the Chateau de Pau you will see the beautifully decorated rooms that were used by Eugenie, as well as wood panelled rooms, and a turtle shell whch was the cradle used by Henri of Navarre, later to become King Henri IV of France, who was born in the castle on 13 december 1553.

An interesting story tells us that the shell was supposed to be burned in the square in the town in 1793 as part of the revolution, but the original had been hidden and a substitute shell from a local collection handed over to the revolutionaries in its place - the original remained hidden until 1814 when it was returned to the castle.

The main highlight is the tapestries, which is the most important collection of tapestries in France to be seen outside Paris. These were collected here in the 19th century as part of the program of enhancing the castle for Napoleon III.

After your tour of the inside of the chateau de Pau you can vsit the area of formal gardens that are below the south wing - these are quite small but very pretty.

gardens of Pau castle

Attractions nearby

The town of Pau is very pleasant to explore, with the boulevard des Pyrenees and the town centre among the highlights: see the Pau guide for information.

The area around Pau is not a major destinaton and most visitors will be en route to the Pyrenees: these are accessed by travelling south-west from Pau to reach Oloron-Sainte-Marie, or via Lourdes to the south-east of here.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques guide and the Aquitaine guide.

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The large town of Pau is well known for the views from the belvedere that cover a large section of Pyrenees mountains

Pau guide


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Oloron-Sainte-Marie guide
Church Sainte-Croix in Oloron-Sainte-Marie

Church Sainte-Croix in Oloron-Sainte-Marie

The Church Sainte-Croix is an interesting roman style church built in the 12th century

Church Sainte-Croix in Oloron-Sainte-Marie guide
Cathedral Saint-Marie in Oloron-Sainte-Marie

Cathedral Saint-Marie in Oloron-Sainte-Marie

The cathedral of Sainte-Marie is best known for its remarkable 12th century entrance

Cathedral Saint-Marie in Oloron-Sainte-Marie guide


Navarrenx is a traditional fortified French bastide town in the western pyrenees

Navarrenx guide


The small village of Sarrance is in the valley of the Gave d'Aspe and has an interesting church to visit

Sarrance guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Pyrenees-Atlantiques

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