Château de Chambord (Chambord Castle)
Château de Chambord is probably the biggest, most popular, and easily the most spectacular château in the Loire Valley, so it only makes sense that it's where we start our journey!
Nestled in the heart of the forest of Boulogne, the Château de Chambord is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and opulent decoration. Imposing and lavishly furnished, this château is a bold statement of the unprecedented wealth and monarchical power that Francois I already had at just 25 years old. Boasting 440 rooms, 800 carved capitals, and 282 fireplaces, the grandeur of Château de Chambord is unrivalled.
Château de Chambord in Pictures
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley
Furniture Inside Château de Chambord
Massive Façade of Chambord Castle
Château de Chambord's Double Helix Staircase
Things to See & Do at Château de Chambord
1. Explore the Colossal Interior
Roam through the ‘central keep’ and four round towers, before taking a walk around the château terrace to view the thousands of attic windows, spires, capitals, chimneys, and little steeples. This is also a fantastic vantage point to take in the enormity of the Chambord national estate. Whilst inside the château, remember to ascend the famous double-helix staircase attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.
2. Gaze upon the splendour of the façade
The façade of the Château de Chambord stands at 156 meters high – an example of pure Renaissance architectural brilliance with its jaw-dropping displays of intricate masonry. Built in 1519, this symmetrical French-Renaissance style castle is now protected by UNESCO.
3. Walk one of the trails through the surrounding park
The Park and hunting reserve in which the Château de Chambord sits is bigger than central Paris, spanning 13,000 acres. Surrounded by a 32-kilometer wall, it is also the largest enclosed forested area in all of Europe. Go for a walk along one of the many footpaths, or take a horse-drawn carriage tour from the Marshal of Saxony stables.
The Château de Chambord in Video
Château d’Ussé (Usse Castle)
Become enchanted in childlike wonder as you open the storybook and step inside the Château d’Ussé. The magic of the Château d’Ussé is enough to make you feel like a prince or princess, full of character, delightful views, and immersing you into the fairy tales you were so fond of when you were young.
Château d’Ussé in Pictures
Aerial View of Château d’Ussé
Château d’Ussé Gardens
Fairytale Scenes In Château d’Ussé
Collegiate Church at Château d’Ussé
Things to See & Do at Château d’Ussé
1. Follow the story of Sleeping Beauty
Once upon a time, author Charles Perrault fell so in love with the Château d’Ussé that it inspired him to pen the beloved fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, that was later adapted into the well-known Disney franchise. That’s right, this castle doesn’t just look like something out of a story book- it is. In tribute to Perrault, the attic of the Château d’Ussé tells the story of Sleeping Beauty through whimsical scenes, played out in various rooms, that are guaranteed to enchant everyone of all ages.
2. Fairy-Tale Views
Once an enclosed space, the modern courtyard of the château opens out onto the river. Soak up the magical views of the white towers and luscious countryside from the courtyard or the top of the château. From here you can also enjoy a good view of the formal gardens that were designed by the same landscape architect behind Versailles.
3. Walk the Collegiate Church
Upon leaving the château, follow the path to a Gothic Renaissance Chapel, otherwise known as the Collegiate Church. Built in the 1520s, the chapel bears the symbol and initials of Charles d’Espinay and Lucrèce de Pons, who lived in the château from 1485, along with many fascinating religious carvings and sculptures.
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau exudes the traditional elegance of the Renaissance, situated along the sprawling Cher River. The château is a magnificent sight to behold both day and night, and is especially romantic during a night walk on a summer evening when the château is lit in the soft glow of candles and lanterns.
Also known as the Le Château des Femmes (the Women’s Castle), the château has been shaped over the centuries by many powerful women. Katherine Bohier, the wife of a tax collector for King Francis I, was the first who oversaw much of the initial construction starting in 1515 through to its completion in 1535. Diane de Poitier, the mistress of Henry II, made a huge mark on Château de Chenonceau and was the visionary behind the arched bridge over the Cher River. Louise Dupin also took great interest in Château de Chenonceau. After acquiring it in 1777, she put great efforts into restoring it to its former glory after roughly a century of neglect. Louise Dupin was known for hosting many parties at the château and attracted guests such as Voutaire and Rousseau.
Château de Chenonceau in Pictures
View of Château de Chenonceau
Grand Gallery, Château de Chenonceau
View of Chapel (left) and Marques Keep (right) at Château de Chenonceau
Five Queens' Bedroom, Château de Chenonceau
Canoeing Towards Château de Chenonceau
Things to See & Do at Château de Chenonceau
1. View The Grand Gallery
The Château de Chenonceau is famous for its grand gallery that spans the Cher River. At 60 meters long and containing 18 windows, the iconic five arches reach delicately over the river, overlooking the flowing waters below.
2. Private Quarters For Queens & Mistresses
Visit the chambers of Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici and the five queens. Part of the reason why this castle is such a masterpiece is down to the embellishments made by both Catherine and Diane during their times as the wife and mistress of Henry II respectively.
3. Explore On Foot or by Boat
Bask in the serenity of the Loire Valley as you stroll through the park, looking back on the stunning architecture from afar, or take a boat ride on the Cher to get up close to the building. You can also wander through floral gardens or try and escape the maze.
Château de Chenonceau in Video
Though considered one of the most famous Loire Valley castles, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is gently nestled along the Indre River, at the eastern end of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Natural Park. One of the earliest examples of French Renaissance architecture in the Loire Valley, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is potentially the most beautiful. This is largely to do with how the whole castle appears to ascend from the river itself, magically reflecting in the surrounding waters.
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau in Pictures
Aerial view of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau at night with pond reflection
Detailed Interior Carpentry of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Tapestry in Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Gardens of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Things to See & Do at Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
1. Check out the exceptional carpentry
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau has some unrivalled examples of carpentry within its walls, namely on its staircase and within the attic. The iconic staircase within the castle walls is richly decorated both on its façade and ceiling. From here, check out the remarkable woodwork in the attic, using wood that was cut down in the Forest of Chinon in 1517.
2. Rare Flemish Tapestries
The estate of the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau includes an impressive collection of furnishings, tapestries, and paintings. The highlight of these are the rare 16th and 17th century Flemish tapestries that are on display all year round in the château.
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau in Video
Château du Clos-Lucé
The famed home of Leonardo da Vinci between 1516 to 1519, Château du Clos-Lucé is a love letter to the iconic artist who took his last breath within its walls. This château is located a few hundred meters from the center of Amboise, showcasing the artistry, botany, and inventions of the brilliant mind that once inhabited the castle.
Château du Clos-Lucé in Pictures
Château du Clos-Lucé
Interior of Château du Clos-Lucé
Gardens of Château du Clos-Lucé
Model of Leonardo da Vinci Flying Machine at Château du Clos-Lucé
Things to See & Do at Château du Clos-Lucé
1. Tour the Château
The exterior of the Château du Clos-Lucé is a vibrant red brick with stark white stone detailing. Once inside, you will find that several of the important rooms of the house have been dutifully restored, including the bedrooms of Marguerite de Navarre and Leonardo da Vinci, plus the Queen Anne chapel.
2. Visit the Underground Rooms
After you have made your way through the house itself, visit the underground rooms of the château. These rooms contain around forty authentic recreations of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. Many of these inventions were detailed centuries before anyone else built them, including a machine gun, car, and flying machine.
3. Stroll the Surrounding Gardens & Parkland
To see more of da Vinci’s larger inventions brought to life, stroll around the surrounding gardens. These gardens also boast a dovecote from the original castle, a natural marsh garden, and a quaint boating lake.
Château du Clos-Lucé in Video
Château de Blois
During its heyday in the Renaissance period, Château de Blois was the favourite residence of many kings of France. In fact, seven kings and ten queens have lived in this castle. Due to this, Château de Blois played an important role in French history as a hub of royal power.
Château de Blois in Pictures
Outside Château de Blois
View of the Château de Blois Tower
Son et Lumière (Sound and Light) Show, Château de Blois
Château de Blois
Interior of Château de Blois
Things to See & Do at Château de Blois
1. Explore 30 Furnished Rooms
The interior of the château includes 30 furnished rooms for you to visit, plus an unbelievable collection of art in the onsite museum. Highlights of the numerous rooms include the ornately decorated 13th century state room, Catherine de’ Medici’s ‘Chamber of Secrets’, and the lavish bedroom of Henry IV.
2. Climb Up to the Top Tower
Clamber up the iconic buttressed staircase to the very top of the highest tower for stunning panoramic views of the Loire Valley, especially at dusk.
3. Son et Lumière
Ideally plan your visit for between April and September when the Son et Lumière (Sound and Light) show takes place in the castle courtyard every evening after dark. The visual special effects play out events from the château’s rich and colorful history.
Château de Blois in Video