The Roquebrune-Cap-Martin Chateau is a stark, defensive 10th-century castle looking out over the Mediterranean from a rock peak above the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. The high, crenelated donjon tower is the oldest in France, and the castle is open to visitors.
The Roquebrune-Cap-Martin Castle dominates the village, along with the rest of the Mediterranean coast east of Monaco. It was built in the 10th century as a defense against the return of the Barbarian Invasions and Saracens.
The original castle was larger than just the towers on top of the rock, and included the walled village. One of the original Medieval fortified gates still stands, at the east end of the village, on the wide Rue de Souta Riba.
Entry location: Place William Ingram, top of the village, well above the main square
Entry: 5 euros (2017), kids-students 3 euros, under 6 free
Open: 1 June - 30 Sept (2017), 10-13h, 14h30-19h
Auto-guides available, English, French, German, Italian
Stairs, and more stairs, are part of the visit. First, the chateau entrance is at the highest part of the old villages, accessable only via the step-streets that circle up to the top. Then, since the castle contains a compact set of defended rooms on different levels, many steps are required to navigate the interior, beginning with a steep flight of steps up to the Great Room, on the lowest level.
The Great Room was once the principle room of the castle, used for ceremonies and receptions.
The castle was restored in 1528 by the Grimaldis (of Monaco fame), and the great room was transformed with a fine wooden ceiling. In 1597, a conflict with the Duke of Guis during a Provencals uprising set fire to the room and transformed it to its current open-air configuration.
Some of the castle's interior rooms, seemingly carved out of the solid stone peak, are decorated to give you the sense of what it might have felt like in Medieval times. The archers chambers and the armory both have period figures along with period furniture.
There are many fine panoramic views of the Mediterranean coast from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, but the view from the top of the chateau is the best. Southwestward there's a clear view of the coast to Monaco, and the Grimaldi castle on the far side of the millionaires playground village. To the northeast, the view out across the rooftops of the Roquebrune village across Cap Martin, with Menton and Italy up the coast.