Forteresse Royale de Chinon

Top choice fortress in Chinon

Surrounded by massive walls, this hilltop castle – offering fabulous views across town, river and countryside – is split into three sections separated by dry moats. The ticket counter and shop are inside the 12th-century Fort St-Georges. Pass under the 14th-century Tour de l’Horloge (Clock Tower) and you'll come to the Château du Milieu (Middle Castle), vestige of a time when the Plantagenet court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine assembled here. Finally, Fort du Coudray sits on the tip of the promontory.

In the Château du Milieu, the restored south wing of the Logis Royaux (Royal Lodgings) has a multimedia exhibit, scale models of the castle, Joan of Arc memorabilia and archaeological finds; it's scheduled to be upgraded in 2019. In the garden you can see scale models of a trébuchet and a bricole, used in the Middle Ages to catapult projectiles at the enemy. At the far end, the round, 13th-century Tour du Coudray was used to imprison Knights Templar in the early 1300s (find their graffiti inside) and hosted Joan of Arc in 1429.

The castle gives visitors neat booklets whose embedded chips activate about two dozen audio and video commentaries (in four languages) around the site; out-of-doors, look for wooden benches. Also has iPad Mini audiovisual guides (€3), with versions in French and English for adults, kids and people with limited mobility. The ticket counter can supply you with a map of town.