The Chateaux of the Loire Valley are real-life fairy tales.
France is known for its food, architecture, monuments, cafés, but especially for the most astonishing chateaux you have ever seen. Located in the Loire Valley, these castles are one of a kind. Dive into the Renaissance period with this list. We promise a beautiful journey back in time!
Here is our selection of the top five chateaux you have to explore!
Château de Blois
Explore the world of both art and architecture with the most popular chateau of the Renaissance kings. Built around the 13th century – mainly by the architect Francois Mansart – this chateau is a perfect representation of the Gothic era in France. Many kings and princes lived in this historical monument, including: the Duc of Orleans, Louis the 12th, and Francis I. Between its astounding staircase, the interior court, and the perfectly well-preserved rooms, it’s like walking into a fairy-tale book.
This chateau is the only one in the Loire Valley to also be a museum. Indeed, you can admire paintings, sculptures, historical costumes, and the original furniture. Moreover, every night in the interior court, you can marvel at the display of light and sound, retracing this castle’s history. Symbolic of the religion wars in France, come and discover its unique past.
This beautiful but less famous chateau is worth visiting! Surrounded by the Indre river, this castle is atypical due do its shape in the letter L. After visiting the interior, you can rent a small boat and discover the exterior façades or stroll in the charming park, which encloses the castle. This monument embodies the Renaissance art of the 19th century, although it was built around 1510 during the rule of Francis I. The décor is a mix of French and Italian which results in an astounding architecture. The enchanting setting directly plunges you into a relaxing atmosphere. On a sunny summer day, you can either picnic in the park or enjoy a meal in the restaurant, overlooking a painting come to life.
Château de Chenonceau
This domain is famous for being on the water. Nicknamed “The Chateau of Ladies,” this castle was mostly occupied by women until the 19th century, such as: Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Dating back to 1513, this castle was a gift from King Henri the 2nd to his favourite mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Who wouldn’t love a chateau as a gift? The Queen at the time, Catherine de Medici, was unhappy with this situation and decided to occupy it herself.
During World War I, this castle served as a military hospital and more than 2,000 soldiers were healed from 1914 to 1918. Later, as most of France was under Nazi occupation, the chateau served as a clandestine route towards the unoccupied zone. If you get the chance to visit it – and we strongly urge you to – do not forget to visit the “Gallery of domes,” a tribute to the nursing staff during World War I.
Château d’Ussé or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Once upon a time, a chateau was so magical that it inspired Charles Perrault to write the world-famous fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, around the 17th century. Come and relive this tale as you are visiting the chateau’s rooms, including the dungeon. Different types of architectures can be seen as the chateau evolved through time. For example, the towers date back to the Middle Age while the pavilion represents the Classical style of the 17th century. This chateau is also renowned for its stunning collection of tapestry, armoury, and Chinese porcelain.
You cannot visit this monument and not take a walk in the garden, imagined by Le Nôtre. His name may seem familiar to you because of his iconic work in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. This chateau is unique because it is the only one in the Loire Valley which remains to be occupied by the same family.
Château de Chambord
Chambord is world-renowned for so many reasons: the “double revolution” staircase, the 282 chimneys, the 426 rooms… Chambord is truly a witness to French history and the most popular chateau of the Loire Valley. In 1516, Francis I ordered the construction of this castle for one sole purpose: as a symbol of his power. In total, Francis I lived in Chambord for 72 days. The chateau was finished around 1685, under the rule of Louis the 14th. The castle’s structure was built around one single axe, inspired by Leonardo de Vinci. As you are walking in the chateau, try to spot the salamanders. This animal was the insignia of Francis I and is depicted more than 300 times on the ceilings and walls.
Do not forget to visit the enormous terrace surrounding the entire castle; the view is magnificent.
Eve visited these châteaux of the Loire Valley 3 times.