The Château de Chambord has a long and interesting history with more tales than Walt Disney. From the very beginning of its 28-year construction, the château has been one of the most historically significant in the country.
Constructed by King Francis I, it became the largest castle in the Loire Valley and has influences of Leonardo da Vinci, a friend of the king’s, in many notable areas.
Its artistic significance runs right through to World War II, where Chambord housed many of France’s works of art, including the Mona Lisa.
Francis I constructed the castle during his reign as king. He used the château as a hunting lodge.
King Louis XIVmid-17th century
Much of today’s château pays thanks to Louis XIV. He restored much of it and added a 1,200-horse stable.
King Charles X1824-1830
The people of France bought the château for Charles X grandson Henry, but both were exiled in 1830, the family fleeing to the UK.
Today, it’s a national treasure in itself and is one of the finest Renaissance castles in the Loire Valley. Exhibitions are displayed throughout the year as well as equestrian shows which transports visitors back to the days where nobility occupied the 440 rooms of the castle.
The 13,000 acre grounds which surround the castle welcome over 700,000 visitors every year to enjoy the wildlife, cycle, and walk before spending an evening in Blois, an ancient city which has architecture to rival Chambord, and plenty more to explore.
Château de Chambord
Most châteaux in the Loire Valley lie beside the river or within the region, Château de Chenonceau is actually on the river. A mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture the castle and was built in the 16th century, although the estate of Chenconceau dates back to the 11th.
On the bridge lies a gallery which has welcomed many of the world’s great artists over the years, and has inspired many more. Like Chambord, it played a major part in both WWI and WWII. The gallery doubled up as a hospital ward in the first, and was bombed multiple times in the Second World War, by both the Germans and allies as it changed hands throughout the war.
By 1951 it was restored to its former glory and remains one of the most beautiful castles in France.
The Marques family13th century-1430s
The original château belonged to the Marques family. It was torched in 1412 to punish the family for an act of sedition before being rebuilt and eventually sold.
Diane de Poitiers1547-1555
During the 16th century Henry II passed the château onto his mistress Diane de Poitiers as a present. She commissioned the famed arched bridge joining the building to the bank.
Duc de Vendome1609-1665
César, the Duke of Vendome and son of Henry IV acquired Chenonceau with his wife Françoise de Lorraine. The Duke died in 1665 but it stayed in the family for over one hundred years.
In 1773, Claude Dupin and wife, Louise bought the estate for 130,000 livres. Louise’s literary salon attracted many writers including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Marivaux.
Marguerite Pelouze restored the château in 1875 and removed rooms between the library and chapel.
Today the question is, what does Chenconceau not have to offer? The gallery is still a major draw for tourists alongside the gardens which have been kept looking fit for royals for generations.
There’s plenty to do for all the family with lots of wildlife to see. All this alongside luxury tearooms and restaurants which serve up some stunning menus.
Located close to the city of Tours, you’ll never tire of the history of the area, with architecture to continually gaze at as well as the stories of the Battle of Tours, the Middle Ages, and the Second World War in which the city had to rebuild itself.
Château de Chenonceau
The Château du Clos Lucé is one of the smaller châteaux in France, but it has a big history. Built in the late 1400s it is located just 500m from the Château d'Amboise, which was occupied by Francis I and his sister Marguerite de Navarre.
It was in fact Francis’ friend Leonardo da Vinci who has left a lasting mark though, arriving at the residence with three of his finest pieces of work, including the Mona Lisa. He spent his final years at the château, dying there on May 2, 1519.
Following da Vinci’s residence, the château hit times of bloodshed with Michel de Gast taking occupancy, the Captain of the Guard of Henri III, who helped assassinate Cardinal de Guise.
Charles VIII bought Clos Lucé for his wife Anne de Bretagne towards the end of the 15th century.
Leonardo da Vinci1516-1519
During the last three years of his life, Leonardo da Vinci stayed as the guest of Francis I. He arrived at the Close Lucé in 1516 with his Mona Lisa, Saint Jean Baptiste, and Sainte Anne paintings.
Located in Amboise on the banks of the Loire, the château is one of the most popular castles in France thanks to the great Italian painter and sculptor, and is now a museum dedicated to the great man. The grounds and house include over 40 models and inventions designed by da Vinci as well as a copy of the Mona Lisa to gaze in awe at.
Amboise itself has lots going on and was once home to the French royal court. Many notable names have passed through the town including Joan of Arc, Mary Queen of Scots, and Clovis I, all leaving a lasting impact on a now small market town.
Located in the town of Azay-le-Rideau, the château has had a chequered past right from day one, with the original castle burning down during the Hundred Years’ War.
The château we know and love today was built from the ruins in 1518 and housed the Mayor of Tours and the rest of the Berthelot family. It remained incomplete for nine years, and when the Mayor had to flee the city it was taken over by the Raffins. It passed hands once again in 1787 and in the following century was threatened by destruction once again during the Franco-Prussian War.
Due to its incompletion over many years, and continual restorations, you’ll notice many different styles throughout the castle. It’s divided into two sections with the central area heavily influenced by the Italian renaissance, while upon its reconstruction in 1518, many of its original bastion features were kept by the Berthelots. What it makes, is one of the most interesting châteaux in all of France.
Gilles Berthelot started reconstruction of the château in 1518. The family stayed there until 1535 when Francis I confiscated it from them, still unfinished, and handed it to Antoine Raffin.
The Raffins began making a number of minor renovations, but still left the château incomplete, giving it the distinctive L shape it has today.
Marquis Charles de Biencourt bought d'Azay-le-Rideau for 300,000 livres in 1787; the château remained in the family until 1899 when Charles-Marie-Christiain de Biencourt had to sell the home due to financial difficulties.
The island château is just a short drive to the south west of Tours and is now one of the most picturesque parks in the region. Alive with flora and fauna, for generations it has been a hotspot for nature enthusiasts and the grounds have an array of wildlife including rare and endangered species.
Much of the château itself has been restored to its 19th century state and has a rich collection of portraits throughout building. It looks as though it has been untouched for hundreds of years, and gives you a real insight to how French nobility once lived.
Originally built as a stronghold in the Middle Ages, the Château d'Ussé has transformed into a real jewel in the Loire Valley crown and was even the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty.
It’s Renaissance style along with flamboyant gothic architecture has made it one of the most unique châteaux in France. Overlooking the Indre Valley, the once ruined castle was bought by Jean V de Bueil in the 15th century before his son bought the castle for 40,000 golden écus before falling into debt and seeing the home passing hands numerous times.
In recent history its picturesque nature has seen it influence a number of Walt Disney’s castles as well as the subject of many tourist posters and postcard pictures.
The de Bueils1440s-1455
The de Bueil family purchased the ruins of d’Usse in the 1440s and began to rebuild it before debts built up and Antoine de Bueil was forced to sell in 1455.
The RohansLate 18th century
In the late 18th century the Rohans, a noble family of viscounts, dukes, and princes owned the château. The hailed from Brittany, but spend periods further south in the Loire Valley.
For over 130 years the château has been in the hands of the Blacas family and today it belongs to Casimir de Blacas d’Aulps, the seventh Duke of Blacas.
Today the castle sees tourists travel from all over the world to sample its fairytale like surroundings. If Sleeping Beauty was around today, she’d be in a constant state of sleep and relaxation thanks to its beautiful, calming gardens and interior fit for a king – or princess of course.
Located just half an hour from Tours, the château is surrounded by rolling countryside perfect for walks and to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The château’s garden dates back to the 17th century, and it was in face Le Nôtre, the man behind the Gardens of Versailles who perfectly designed them and can still be admired today.
Once an ancient fortress, it wasn’t until the 14th century that King Francis I constructed a new château. Over the years it has seen its fair share of important figures pass through the doors, making important decisions for the future of the country.
Before the grand house was built, the original keep was the spot where King Philip II of France met Richard I to discuss peace, while Napoléon acquired it for his brother Jerome following the French Revolution.
As late as the 1900s however, Villandry has had lots of time, devotion, and money pumped into it, with the Carvallo family transforming it into one of the finest châteaux in the world with gardens that many consider to be the finest on the planet.
Jean Le Breton acquired the château in early 16th century, he began the construction which turned it into the delight it is today.
Jerome BonaparteEarly 1800s
During the French Revolution Napoléon Bonaparte bought the property for his brother Jerome, King of Westphalia.
The Carvallos own the château today after Joachim, a Spanish doctor bought it in 1906. He restored the château and the 16th century style gardens back to their former glory.
Today you can spend hours upon hours at the gardens, and that’s just getting lost in the maze! The Sun Garden opened to the public in 2008 completing a stunningly well-kept set of gardens.
The Carvallo family still own the château and not only have they transformed the gardens, the interior is also worth marvelling at, and has been restored to the days when the Bonapartes walked the corridors.
Around Villandry there’s plenty to do with the Balzac Museum just a short drive away along with the Savonnières caves, which offer 100 million years of history topped off with a wine tasting in the most inspiring setting.
Château de Villandry
Just a stone’s throw from the historic city of Blois, Chaumont originally started life as a castle in 995 and has since seen many invasions and crusades. It wasn’t until the 1400s however when the castle we know and love today began to form. The castle was burned down by Louis XI as a punishment to the owner Pierre d’Amboise and was reconstructed between 1465 and 1475.
Catherine de Medici took over the château in 1560, swapping Château de Chenonceau for Chaumont, which was owned by Henry II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers. Here she would entertain many in high society including oracle Nostradamus.
In 1700, when Monsieur Bertin took over following Spanish ownership, the north wing built by the d’Amboise family was demolished to open up the house to the gorgeous river views tourists marvel over every day. By 1877 the finishing touches were added, restoring the château to former glories and adding luxury stables which are a big part of the château’s appeal today.
The family helped build the château it is today after it was razed to the ground by Louis XI as a punishment for participating in a feudal nobles alliance.
Paul de Beauvilliers spent a great deal of money renovating the château. His eventual heir was then forced to sell to Louis XV.
Madame de Stael acquired the château in 1810 until her death in 1817. She was a principal opponent to Napoléon, and upon her death the château remained neglected of over 15 years.
Today the château is well worth a visit not only for its magnificent grounds and rooms, but also for the many fantastic events they hold every year. A centre for art and nature, each year Chaumont puts on a host of exhibitions from world-renowned artists.
A number of other châteaux are within the area including the Château de Chanteloire . The intriguing city of Blois is nearby and is home to La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin magic museum. The breath-taking Saint Nicolas church by the art gallery, well worth a visit.