Chateau de Fougeres – Medieval Life in Fougères France
After falling in love with the medieval village of Dinan and the medieval port of Saint-Malo on our 10-day trip to Brittany France, we wanted more. We were completely charmed by these towns that had whole sections still preserved from the Middle Ages. Thousands of years of history and so many layers of stories kept luring us in. We had Fougères on our itinerary but I wasn't prepared for just how the massive Chateau de Fougeres was!
As usual, the weather in Brittany during spring provided a challenge. Our early morning spent exploring the chateau and surrounding medieval quarter including Place du Marchix and then even getting up and down the hill to see the view from St Léonard’s church we pretty much had blue skies until right before we left and the clouds darkened and the rain started. The hours we did get in were enough to have us enchanted by yet another beautiful medieval village.
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Fougeres has 2 parts: upper and lower. We spent the vast majority of our time in the lower section where the castle and medieval quarter are. The second part is the up the hill from the chateau and it is newer (still 18th century) because it was rebuilt after a massive fire. The visitor center (2 Rue Nationale) is in the upper part, so is the main shopping (on Rue Nationale where there is also a 14th-century belfry, the oldest one in Brittany). We didn't see any shopping in the lower part but did see some restaurants. We climbed to the upper part from the back side of St Léonard’s church for the view and then walked through the Place du Theatre and back down the hill to our car where it promptly started raining! I'll walk you through where we visited.
Chateau de Fougeres
The Chateau de Fougeres (or castle) is more than 1,000 years old! It was built on a rock between the 12th to 15th centuries and was sheltered by hills and surrounded by the Nançon River and marshes. The river created a natural moat that exists today, we even saw an elderly lady fishing out of it! The chateau has 13 towers that have ramparts connecting them. It had a lot of strategic importance because Fougères is at the crossroad of 4 regions: Normandie, Brittany, Maine, and Anjou. Its location was at the old border area between Brittany (before it was annexed to France) and France where big and small fortresses were built as protection by the Duchy of Brittany.
[Sony A7RIII; Lens: FE 35mm; Apertures: F16 ]
What I was impressed with was how intact it is and how the surrounding grounds and gardens are incorporated into the residential area neighboring it. I also liked the different discovery trails and walking routes signage around the chateau and around town. Lots of city's fail badly with their signage, but not Fougeres!
If you are walking downhill on the backside of the chateau on the Rue del la Fourchette and follow along until it meets Rue le Bouteiller look for a small opening where you can walk into a little courtyard to see the water system flowing along the castle wall that was used for milling, etc. It's pretty cool. Look at the first photo and the last. We were there for about 15-minutes and that was our last 15-minutes of luck before the rain came!
We walked around the entire chateau but did not go inside as it wasn't open yet. The City of Fougères has done a really great video of what the outside of the Chateau de Fougeres looks like:
Chateau de Fougeres opens at 10:00 every day and closes at different hours depending on the month, you can see their hours listed on their site. A tour is 8 Euros for adults and there are children and family packages as well. You can explore on your own which takes about 90 minutes or a 45-minute guided tour.
Around Chateau de Fougeres
The rest of our visit involved wandering away from the chateau, into the medieval quarter up to Saint-Leonard Church. Here is the path we took.
The Nançon River, Place du Marchix and Medieval Quarter
After circling Chateau de Fougeres, we walked past the church of Saint-Sulpice (Rue le Bouteiller) which was built between the 15th to 18th centuries and followed the Rue de Lusignan towards the Place du Marchix. The Nançon River was used by cloth-makers, dyers and tanners, and then shoemakers. Tanning was a by-product of cattle-breeding which was the major economic activity during the Middle Ages. The cattle were sold at the Place du Marchix, but you wouldn't know it from looking at it today, the area is now residential with half-timbered houses, mansions, and gardens. It's quite beautiful and the wisteria was in bloom when we visited.
From there we wandered through the streets admiring the half-timbered houses. These medieval homes have their frames, studs, and beams on the outside. The ones in Fougeres were built between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Rue des Tanneurs was where many of the tanners lived because they used the river water for their work. Walking through I could imagine people from the Middle Ages, washing, cooking, working by the river.
We took a little path along the river to check out more homes before circling back to the Rue des Tanneurs and the Duchess Anne Staircase or as I called it Balzac's staircase.
Fougères has a lot of literary ties. The city is also connected to the 18th-century writer and father of Romanticism François-René de Chateaubriand, whose sisters lived in the town. Chateaubriand was born in Saint-Malo and was raised in Brittany. His sisters had stone mansions in Fougeres at 3 Rue Leseur and 18 Rue Chateaubriand. There is a literary circuit walk that you can follow and see locations that inspired authors.
These authors include Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables in Fougères with the help of his mistress and muse, Juliette Drouet (also known as Juliette Gauvain) whose own personal experiences contributed to the book. She was from Fougères. And Honoré de Balzac ( I LOVE Gérard Depardieu's interpretation of him in the 1999 film Balzac!) who stayed in Fougeres for a few weeks to scout locations for his novel Les Chouans. Locations such as La Vivetière which is actually Chateau Marigny, a property owned by Chateaubriand's older sister and then the Duchess Anne Staircase became the Staircase of the Queen.
We walked up that staircase on our way to Saint-Leonard church.
Saint-Leonard Church – the Best View of Chateau de Fougeres
Saint-Leonard church is on the hill and we walked up the pretty Ruelle des 4 Vents until it hit the Rue des Vallées where we entered the terraced cliff and gardened path along the way up to the church. The church of Saint-Léonard was built in the 15th and 16th century and then refurbished and enlarged in the 19th century in a neo-Gothic style. There are exceptional stained-glass windows depicting the life of St Benedict but I never got to see them. I immediately fell in love with the hilltop garden and decided I never wanted to leave.
I could envision myself, medieval dress and all (of course I was a noblewoman), walking along the tree-lined path and flower gardens with my book of poetry in hand pining for my knight or lord. The Place aux Arbres is a public garden and has a fantastic view of Chateau de Fougeres and the medieval quarter below the gardens. Why do churches own all the best land? Wait. Don't answer that. No politics or religion here.
We exited the church from the street and walked along the Rue Nationale until we made or back around to the Rue de la Pinterie and the Rue le Bouteiller where we stopped in the chateau's mill before getting rained on. We made it back to the car just in time!
How to get to the Chateau de Fougeres (and Fougères)
Fougeres By Car
Fougères is a 3-hour and 20-minute drive from Paris on the A13 Autoroute. It will cost you about 35-40 Euros in tolls before you eventually find yourself on national and departmental roads.
Fougeres By Train
There is no train service directly to Fougeres. But there is an option with a train/bus combo. There is a TGV from the Gare Montparnasse (Paris) that goes to Rennes, the capital of Brittany where you make a quick transfer to a bus for a 1-hour ride to Fougeres. Check out OuiSNCF for schedule information.
Places to Visit Around Fougeres
- Visit the medieval village of Dinan, it's 1-hour and 10-minutes away.
- Check out where Chateaubriand was born and is buried – Saint-Malo, 1-hour and 10-minutes from Fougeres.
- Cancale, a beautiful fishing port and the oyster capital of France, 1-hour and 15-minutes from Fougeres
- Mont Saint-Michel, the UNESCO World Heritage medieval monastery built on top of a single rock cut off to the French coast at high tide is 1 hour from Fougeres.
- Fort La Latte, a historic 14th-century fort/chateau on the coast is a 2-hour drive from Fougeres.
- Cap Frehel – peninsula in Côtes-d’Armor with 2 well-known lighthouses, a 2-hour drive from Fougeres.
Camera History in Fougeres
Since Mr. Misadventures is a huge fan of photography and I know he is not the only one, I think it is also kind of cool to note that once the Industrial Revolution hit Fougères the intricacies in making fine leather shoes (similar to eyeglasses and watches in the Jura mountains) started transferring to glasswork and workers developed the meticulous know-how which led to pioneers such as Carl Zeiss who opened a laboratory in Fougères dedicated to the glass digital machining for lenses!
Camera Equipment used in our Fougeres Photos
Photos that were taken by me were done so on an iPhone and Sony Cybershot RX100. If you mainly use your camera on “Auto” this is the camera for you (and me!). I use 3 accessories: a Sony VCT-SGR1 Shooting Grip; and 2 straps: the Peak Design SLL-AS-3 Slide Lite Camera Strap, and the Peak Design CL-2 Clutch Camera Hand Strap. I used my red Osprey 18 backpack (the closest thing to it) to carry it all. For the photos taken by Mr. Misadventures (anything with a Sel & Poivre Photography watermark), the real pro in the household, he used his Sony A7RIII and the following lenses: Sony FE 12-24mm and Sony FE 35mm. Under each photo, we have provided the lens and aperture information. His camera equipment was carried around in a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L backpack.
How about you? Have you been to Fougères? Or other parts of Brittany in France? Do share! If not, have I inspired you to visit? Do tell!
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Fougères web story!
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The Chateau de Fougeres looks beautiful. I love the greenery surrounding it, giving it a vibe of tranquility. I hope to visit some day, looks like quite the adventure.
This looks so beautiful! I’ve been to Paris, but the less urban areas of France look so incredible. This made me want to travel there.
I know when I think of going to Europe and finding amazing castles and rich traditions I always think of England and Germany. I don’t know why I don’t think of France more often. It looks so amazing there. I just love keeping it old world in all its beauty and splendor. I will have to visit there. Definitely adding to my bucket list of places to go.
I have been to France but not here. I would love to visit this place. It looks lovely!
Never been to this place but that place looks very vibrant to relax and unwind. Looks like you had a great time there!
I have been following you on social media and FB groups. I just want to say that your website is beautiful and your posts are so informative!
What a gorgeous place! France is still on my bucket list, and this really makes me want to move it on up!
wow! This place is fascinating. I can’t believe that this 1000-year-old castle is still standing. I would really love to visit in the future. Everything looks like something straight out of the postcard.
Wow, this looks so cool! Pinned to my travel board so I don’t forget about this awesome destination!
I love travelling around France, especially to smaller towns like this seems to be. Beautiful unique places, medieval history, and stunning views. I once did a roadtrip around northern France but never made it to this area. Another time I hope
This is so beautiful! It is my dream vacation for sure. The pictures I’m sure are only a hint to the gorgoeousness that exits in that beautiful location.
What a beautiful little place with so much history! I want to visit France one day and would love to stop by here.
What a beautiful part of the world and how lucky you are to have spent time there. I love areas like this that have seemingly remained untouched over the years. All of the history is just overwhelming.
How beautiful is Chateau de Fougeres ! And to think is more than 1000 years old. I love these ancient castles. They have so many history behind them. Also, there’s so much to see around the castle. Would definitely like to visit this place one day.
Wow! Such beauty!
Fellow travel blogger here, but I just wanted to say that your photos are so lovely. Kudos on how gorgeous they are!!!
Your photos are always so incredibly beautiful! Does Mr. Misadventures take all of your photos? If so, does he have a brother who wants to be my Instagram husband? 🙂
This sounds idllyic! I love the literary ties, I had no idea Victor Hugo was associated with the town! Also love your photography <3
Wow! I loooove castles. I try to see a few every time I’m in Europe, and I even stayed in a few in Ireland. But this is just – wow! Breathtaking!
The Chateau de Fougeres is the quintessential medeival castle, it’s really a mix between some of the ones I’ve seen in Germany and the Baltics. What an absolute little gem, I’ll be adding this to my fairytale castles list. Thank you.
Now, this is incredibly beautiful and impressive! This chateau must be huge! But I also love these little alleys and the watermills. Everything is so quaint – très francais! I prefer these smaller places, anyway, since they are far more authentic than all those big, globalized cities.
France’s chateaux from the Middle Ages stand proof to its greatness during that time. I visited many of the castles in France, but I have to confess I’ve never heard of the Chateau de Fougeres. Definitely an impressive and incredibly beautiful castle! Good to know there is a direct train service to Fougeres from Paris.
Absoutely beautiful town! I always seek out small towns and villages with interesting histories! Will definitely be putting Fougeres on my list! (And beautiful photography as always!)
Wow! Your photos are so captivating. 😉 This reminds me so much of Eze, have you been there? I visited a few towns in the Brittany region and really loved the feel of the towns and the warm cheerful people who lived there. So much beauty. I’m much more a fan of this part of the country than the southern counterpart. Thanks for the introduction.
I’m also impressed that Chateau de Fougeres is in such incredible condition! I love the hilltop garden of Saint-Leonard church and all the history in Brittany! It looks like the perfect spot for a history fanatic like me.
Gorgeous pictures! Walking through the streets of Chateau de Fougeres is like walking through a fairy tale village. It is the perfect place to go for a day trip, I’ll have to try and visit it on my next trip to France! xo – Kam
Love the old charm of these medieval villages. Interesting water system, so well preserved. Thanks for suggesting Cancale, the fishing port nearby. It will be a good addition to itinerary.
I love the literary connection with this city. I had no idea Victor Hugo had connections to the city. Plus it is a really cute charming town. SO beautiful
Chateau de Fougeres looks like an amazing spot to explore. I’m always a fan of walkable walls and motes, the mill is an added bonus for sure.
The landscape of Chateau de Fougeres looks breathtaking, can see why you love it so much. I imagine the gardens of the Place Aux Arbres must be pure magic against such architectural wonders. Your photos captures are stunning.
Just beautiful!! I always like hearing about any historical or literary connection to sites like this. Your photos and descriptions are always wonderful and I look forward to all of your posts. Adding this to our France itinerary
Looking through all of your pictures of Fougeres and it’s castle I half expected Belle to come out singing at any moment. As much as I love the capitals is the small villages and castles that make me love Europe 🙂
Gorgeous photos! I love visiting ancient castles…the fact that it’s survived for 1,000 years is incredible. Seems like a lovely place to visit!
Chateau de Fougeres Looks so gorgeous! It looks like Belle’s village from Beauty and the Beast. Seem like a trek to get there, but worth it. I would love to walk along the river.
Your photos are breath-taking! Your post has made me realise I need to explore more of France! I’m a literary nerd so that walk would be ideal for me!
More reasons to visit France. Pictures seem luring. Great info 👍🏻
I really need to visit those medieval villages in France!! This looks stunning and very well preserved!!! Thanks for sharing such a detailed itinerary!!
I am from Brittany and I’ve never even been there! It does look very beautiful and worth a trip, you were there at a very nice time as it looks like the weather was pretty good!
Oh my goodness, what a charming city! I can’t wait to take my kids to Europe and see real-live castles. Their minds will be blown. Also, I appreciated that you shared the walking route you took. I always end up wandering by foot and love to see others’ routes!
I had never heard of this town, but now I want to go! Charming is the perfect word for it, and I love places like this that are off the beaten path but still so beautiful. Thank you for sharing – I’m saving this for our next trip to France!
Fougeres looks so beautiful and really does look like a fairytale come true! I agree it would be so fun to imagine being a woman from that time and wandering the lovely gardens. Great post with all the helpful tips and info!
Wow what a wonderful village! Hadn’t heard about it until now, thank you for the inspiration:) Ohhh and the photos are incredible, thanks for the info about each one 🙂
WOW this town looks absolutely beautiful! Love the architecture and I think it’s time I plan a trip to France 😉
What a magical and charming place to visit and 1000 years old! Such beautiful photography really brought the area alive for me and I loved the water wheel, there’s just something about a village that has one isn’t there. Brittany is only a hop over the channel so I think I will check it out myself one day.
OMG! This is such a cool chateau and charming town. Love that there is a walk too. This part of France has been climbing higher and higher on my list. One more destination to add to the itinerary! Thanks, Andi!
Gorgeous shots Andi! Gosh there are so many hidden gems in France! Some stunning photography xx
Oh I was just thinking about all of these beautiful spots when I went also today! It’s like a fairytale isn’t it.
Can’t believe you took some of these shots on an iPhone! I lug a DSLR everywhere and definitely don’t get anything quite as stunning as these!😍
Wow this is beautiful. I would love to go back to France and explore more places like this. Love the photos! 😁
I’ve heard so many good things about le chateau de fougeres! Sounds and looks like such an interesting place to take a leisurely stroll!
I am a castle lover! The chateau de fougeres looks stunning and so are your pictures. As with all good castles, the gardens around are beautiful too. Have pinned this place for my future visit. Thanks for pointing towards a good castle.:-)