Have you heard of William the Conqueror? To be honest, I hadn’t. That was until the night before I took a drive out to visit the city of Falaise in France. In all honesty, though the castle of William the Conqueror is one of the big name attractions of Falaise, I was actually going there to see the statue of the Viking leader who became a Duke of Normandy, Rollo. I’m a big fan of the History Channel show called Vikings and it seemed like a really cool idea to go see Rollo’s statue while I was in the area. I never would’ve guessed that while visiting his statue, I would also end up taking a journey back in time to walk through a magnificent castle, complete with interactive exhibits and learn about such an interesting historical figure. (If you haven’t heard of him, look him up. Spoiler alert: his story is quite interesting)! It was probably one of my favorite activities in France so today, come with me to the Castle of William the Conqueror as I share it with you guys.
Visiting the Castle of William the Conqueror
First up, where is it? You can find the Castle of William the Conqueror in the Normandy region of France in the city of Falaise. When I visited, I just put Falaise into my Google Maps (which I used in offline mode to avoid data roaming charges. Check out how to set that up here). I was staying in Bayeaux and the drive took about an hour and a half. Once I drove closer to the city, the grand castle walls emerged and I probably couldn’t miss them if I tried, so I parked out the front of them and ended up walking around the city from there.
If you’re interested, the statue of Rollo stands out the front of the castle and was accompanied by statues of five other Dukes of Normandy who stood underneath a large statue of William the Conqueror on horseback. To me Rollo was the coolest but looking up at the statue of William, he looked so fierce that I thought he must have an interesting history. I took a few photos here then moved on to the castle unaware of just how fascinating this activity would be.
As you enter the impressive castle of William the Conqueror, walking in past the large, defensive walls you are met with the outdoor grounds of the property. There is a video at the start which shows you how the areas would’ve looked in the past and changed over time which was a really good way to get an understanding of the space before seeing it all since it looks much different now. When you walk around the grounds, one of the really cool features is 3D binoculars which allow you to view the area how it would’ve looked in the past. I liked this because there’s just so much history in the areas but sometimes it’s hard to imagine and picture things from just reading about them (or maybe that’s just my brain), either way they added an interactive touch to the site and were a neat way to travel back in time.
Once you enter the actual building, there is a gift shop, toilets and information desk where you can pay the entrance fee which is only 8 Euro per adult or 20 Euro for a family pass. They also offer guided tours so you can choose which suits your style better.
Travel tip: Get an iPad! When you get your ticket, you can also pick up an iPad for no extra charge (you just have to leave an ID which you get back once you return the iPad at the end). Using this, you can scan a code in each room to bring up more information about the room and also show a visual of what it would have previously look like which was a really cool feature.
It’s hard to describe how awesome it was to be walking through a real castle. You can see the history etched in the walls, in carvings from bored soldiers who would use the walls to carve games and drawings – perhaps the original Xbox. You can even see the castle toilet which is basically just a hole on a ledge off the side of the castle wall! Apart from being glad I was born in a time where flush toilets exist, I couldn’t help but just wonder what it would be like to live there back in days gone by. I live in a small apartment so it’s strange to think of having that much room to move around in but I have to say that I did get a bit lost in my imaginations.
It was fun to learn about the people who have called the castle home and very easy to learn with the way in which the information is shared. Instead of an overwhelming amount of plaques to read, you can watch videos which are projected on to the walls where a character shares more information about themselves and their history. I don’t know about you but I can get a bit tired when there is too much to read but I’m always up for a video so I loved these projections and it was so well done that it made the stories come to life. If you were visiting with kids, I think they would probably enjoy the videos much more than plaques as well.
There was a lot to see too, it wasn’t like you only get to see one room of the castle. Instead you can walk through many rooms, climb up the steep spiral staircases and end up on the roof before going back down. The whole way is guided with arrows which are easy to follow along so there’s no risk of taking a wrong turn and getting lost in a dungeon. The final room in the self guided tour has a video which shows the story of William the Conquerors life complete with all the interesting details. Can you believe he was originally named William the Bastard and became Duke of Normandy at the age of 7? Clearly he had a lot on his shoulders – first get rid of that name and achieve something great so it can be replaced it with something better and also the responsibility of being a Duke (and dodging the attempts people made to kill him when they thought a child couldn’t be trusted with such a role).
He definitely has a fascinating story and one worth Googling, or even better, learning about when you visit his castle in France. I know I am showing my nerd side because I find this type of history so interesting, but I really loved this museum and even bought a book from the gift shop on my way out to learn more. The whole tour was so interactive that it transported you back in time as it brought stories from hundreds of years ago to life and made them fun to learn about which is why I highly recommend a visit.
Travel tip: I stopped in for lunch at La Bonne Raison and it was delicious homemade food in a cute and quirky setting. I tried the homemade pie of the day which was goats cheese and pear crumble that day and it was heavenly!
For more information: visit the official website of the Chateau Guillaume le Conquerant.
As always, I hope this post shared insights of this fun and interactive tour at the Castle of William the Conqueror. I hope it gave you inspiration to visit it for yourself, find something similar in your own local area or even gave you a getaway during your lunch break. Either way, if you enjoyed this post and want to support my work on this blog, please throw a like my way and give it a share on your social media feeds.