We took the kids to visit the Château de Pierrefonds near Compiegne this past week-end. It's a short trip from Paris of about 60km. The château fort was built in 1393 for Louis d'Orléans the second son of Kind Charles V. In 1857, under Napoléon III, it was restored by Viollet-le-Duc and was eventually opened to the public as a museum.
We arrived in Pierrefonds around noon and decided to have lunch before making our way up the castle perched on the hill. (Note to any future visitors, you do not go to Pierrefonds for the food. What we ate was seriously overpriced and horrible. We weren't alone in our disappointment as we heard complaints from customers leaving the neighboring brasseries as well.) The château does not disappoint, however.
The winding road up to the castle is lined by a few medieval shops (re-constructed) and a park and finally a real drawbridge to the great delight of my son and as you should expect from any descent medieval castle.
Once inside, I enjoyed the wall frescoes most of all. The ceilings and walls are beautifully painted in bright colors and the whole château is incredibly well maintained.
You only need about an hour or two to visit the castle. The day we happened to visit was the first Sunday of the month and so we didn't even have to pay for an entrance ticket. And unlike visiting Paris monuments on free days, there was absolutely no line here. It was a beautiful sunny day, but you'll need to dress warmly to visit the castle as the thick walls will keep you very chilly, especially the little ones.