The Loire Valley is often called the Cradle of the French or the Garden of France. This comes from the many vineyards and orchards in the area. Located 200km South from Paris, it’s also well known for the incredibly high number of castles!
Here are five exceptional castles worth a visit
Château de Blois
The château’s construction dates from the 13th century. It currently boasts four architectural styles: 13th-century Medieval fortress, The Louis XII Gothic wing, The Francois I Renaissance wing, and the Gaston of Orleans Classical wing. This is a result of every lord and king of France adding their distinct style to the château. Because of it, this particular building is a beautiful showcase of their tastes and the times they lived there.
Every evening in spring and summer you can enjoy a spectacular Sound & Light Show that will highlight the history of the castle through those four architectural styles present today. It’s an immersive special effects show projected on all four facades of the château, viewed from its courtyard.
Château de Cheverny
The château has remained in the Hurault family for over six centuries. The château dates from between the 15th and 16th century. Its original owner, Henry Le Mareschau, sold the estate to Jean Hurault, whose grandson, Jacques Hurault became the first Marquis de Vibraye. This has helped the château maintain its classical Louis XIII architectural style.
One of the fascinating attractions at the château is the feeding of the over a hundred hunting dogs at the estate’s kennels. The château also happened to be the inspiration for the fictional Marlinspike Hall (Château de Moulinsart in French) in the Adventures of Tintin books. Read more about this château here.
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau was once a gift from King Henry II of France to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. And when the King died, his wife, Catherine De’ Medici, took control of it. Both women were particularly attached to the estate, overseeing many enhancements. These included expansions of the property and beautiful, lavish gardens.
Besides Diane de Poitiers and Catherine De’ Medici, and since the beginning in the 12th and 13th century, the château has been almost uninterrupted passed down to women who’ve taken further charge of its embellishment and management. Read more about this château here.
Château Royal Amboise
At 81 meters from the Loire river, in the town of Amboise, sits the Château Royal Amboise. The site dates from Neolithic times and includes occupation by Roman legions and it even saw the Norman invasions in the 5th and 6th centuries. The château was incorporated into the French Crown in the 13th century and by the 16th under the rule of Francis I of France it became a hub for numerous Italian artists.
One of these Italian artists was Leonardo Da Vinci, who resided there between 1516 to 1519. After his stay at Amboise, he lived at Clos de Lucé, just 5 minutes walking distance. The Saint Hubert chapel on the château’s grounds is his final resting place.
Château de Chambord
A great example of French Renaissance architecture, King Francis I of France commissioned the château as a hunting lodge. He still maintained Blois and Amboise as his primary residences. Because the rooms where to big to heat and the only source of food was game from hunting, it was very impractical as a residence. King Francis probably stayed there no more than seven weeks in total.
Nevertheless, it’s still one of the most impressive and recognizable estates in the Loire valley. It’s also the largest. Its double helix staircase, inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci, is the anchor point for its incredible construction.
Which château would you most want to visit?