Châteaux of the Loire Valley
Think of the Loire Valley and one immediately envisages breathtaking chateaux – there are more than three hundred in the area. Built around the 17th – 18th century in the heyday of French royalty most of these chateaux have magnificent ornamental gardens which can be as interesting as the chateaux themselves. Just 2 hours southwest of Paris is France’s wonderful array of the most amazing stately properties you will ever see. Wander through sumptuous interiors, cared for by noble families who have lived there for centuries and marvel at the tapestries, the furniture and the sheer size of some of them. Many are open to the public as well as the ornamental gardens.
Listed below are just a few to visit and are open to the public:
Chateau de Chenonceau This château is one of the favourites for its beauty and history. If you have read the biographies of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, this château is nicknamed the “Château des Dames” because King Henry II gave this castle to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. When he died, his wife, the Queen Catherine de Medici evicted Diane and installed herself there. Everywhere you’ll see the symbols HDC, originally it was H and D entwined and after the King’s death Catherine added her initial C.
The interior of Chateau Chenonceau.
The gardens at Chateau Chenonceau.
More information about the chateau here.
Other Chateau in the Loire
Chateau de Chambord
Built as a hunting lodge for François I, Château de Chambord is one of the finest examples of the Renaissance architecture in France. It took over 30 years to build during the 16th century and it’s one of the most extravagant châteaux with elaborate rooftop of 800 sculpted columns and over 440 rooms and 85 staircases, making it the largest château in the Loire Valley.Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau
Built in the reign of King Francois I Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is a small and charmingly romantic castle with Italian style architecture.
Chateau de Chaumont
Built on the 10th century remnants of a fortress built to protect Blois, the Chateau de Chaumont was built in the years between 1465 and 1510 by Charles I and Charles II d’Amboise. The Château de Chaumont was purchased by Catherine de Medici a year after Henry II’s death and it was there that she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. In 1559 she forced Diane de Poitiers to exchange the Château de Chenonceau for the Château de Chaumont.
The Chateau d’Ussé is where Charles Perrault the author of Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au Bois Dormant) was inspired to use this castle as Sleeping Beauty’s castle and later on it was depicted by Walt Disney. Located on the edge of the Chinon Forest overlooking the Indre River the chateau sits atop the bank along the river and has terraced gardens.
Chateau de Villandry
For those who have a passion for gardens, then Chateau de Villandry is for you as it has the most spectacular gardens. Completed in 1536, the chateau was built in a Renaissance style by Jean le Breton, one of François I’s Finance Ministers.
Chateau de Blois
The Château de Blois sits right at the Blois’ city centre. The wings and buildings were built between the 13th and 17th century and they surround a wonderful central courtyard. The François I wing houses the chateau’s most famous feature – a spiral staircase. The chateau was the location where the Archbishop of Reims blessed Joan of Arc before her march on Orleans in 1429 and has also served as the residence of many French kings.
Chateau de Cheverny
Chateau de Cheverny was built the chateau between 1624 and 1630 by Philippe Hurault. Renowned for its exquisite interior which was renovated in 1768, the chateau holds a large collection of tapestries, furniture and artwork.
Looking for a holiday in a French chateaux of your own? If so, a small selection in the Loire valley are shown below.