Top 14 French Castles of Loire Valley
Created by aga marchewka the 09/08/2015
I dont know if there is anyone who has counted on how many castles - amazing ‘Chateaux’ France have...there are loads of them, countless number. There are big ones, small ones, the ones owned by the government, the ones that are currently inhabited by the honourable (and very rich) families, the smaller chateaux who produce the wines the huge ones which become museums. The chateaux which are beautifully preserved and reconstructed and the ones that remain as ruins...So you might feel confused on how and where to start to discover them, learn about the rich royal life and and have an amazing trip back to the interesting history of France but mostly to have fun and valuable summer holidays this or any time of the year really… so let me tell you about My Best French Castle = The Chateaux de Val du Loire = The castles that are the Must Be Seen Places in France!
Château de Cheverny is my best and number 1 castle of the Loire Valley!It is classic in style and was constructed by Jacques Bougier in 1624-34 castle of the Loire Valley. Its architectural unity reflects that fact that it was built without interruptions and additions, as other royal châteaux. Nowadays it belongs to the Charles-Antoine de Vibraye and serves as the museum. The castle is very solid thanks to the white stone which was used to build it. The Cheverny Castle is well known for its references to the Belgian comic book - The Adventures of Tintin book. Its creator Hergé used Cheverny as an inspiration to create his "Château de Moulinsart". But the castle is more well known and famous for its hunting with hounds traditions. Nowadays there are over 70 of these hunting dogs which live at the castle. Each day at 5pm there is a public feeding of the dog, so each tourist can see it. It is an interesting yet odd experience to see those hungry dogs. Remember to come to see it earlier to find a good spot where you can see the feeding ritual. The event gets popular so there are always loads of people.
Château de Chambord is definitely the number 1 French Chateau! It is a castle that you cannot compare to any other, Its enormous, huge, beautiful, stunning! It is the masterpiece of the Renaissance, the home of François I. This 16th century castle is obviously the most visited monument in the department of the Loir-et-Cher. It is a National Historical Monument, and since 1981 it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is said that the castle has been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. And definitely One of the important highlights of the Chambord Castle are the famous double staircase (helix staircase) which have been created by Leonardo da Vinci. Actually people believe that the whole castle has been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Chateau de Chambord has 440 rooms, 335 fireplaces, 12 staircases and 70 main stairs are laid out over an area of 200.000 sq ft. So we can actually imagine that François spent fortune to build his dream castle.But then it served many kings: François I, Henri II (son) Louis XIII, Gaston d’Orléans; Louis XV, his step-father, the former king of Poland Stanislas Leszczynski. In 1809, the Emperor Napoléon gave it to Marshal Berthier and in n 1821 it was sold to the Duke of Bordeaux . In the late 19th The Duke of Parma inherited it and in 1932 the French government bought the Chateau and returned his original appearance. Book a lot of time to visit this castle, as on top of the indoors visit, you need to have a look into castle’s enclosed huge park . It is the largest in Europe, it has 32 kilometers of wall and 440 hectare. It is national hunting reserve, it is open and free to all. Only one thing that disappointed me when I visited the castle was the fact that this is the only one chateau that you will need to pay for parking! Anywhere else the parking is free. But maybe it is due to the fact that the access to the park is FREE.
Château de Brissac - is the one I truly felt in love with! Its small & cosy but very tall! It is the tallest chateau de France and even people call it “ The Giant of the Loire Valley”. I love it for its atmosphere, beauty and calming surrendering, the flowers and rich indoors expositions. The castle has 204 rooms nicely decorated and preserved. René de Cossé, first Lord of Brissac bought it in 1502 and today the 13th Duke of Brissac actually lives there with the family. You can visit the castle only with the guide which can be a very pleasant experience as the guide is very nice, funny & dedicated to the case. You can see he loves the castle and the family very much! So i explored the castle well. It has impressive ceilings, precious furniture and a ravishing theatre Belle Époque, dedicated to Opera. It has small chapel and hidden rooms which we visited. The park which surrounds the castle is also very nice, it gives the shaded century old trees, you can admire the stable and small chapel as well as the vineyards which are located next to the castle. Have a walk, it's relaxing and calming.
Château de Usse is another beautiful castle located in the Valley of Kings, in Rigny-Ussé of the Indre-et-Loire département. It looks so romantic because of its clean, creamy walls and towers...and the special tower which is believed to be an inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty story. The Château of Ussé was built in stages between the 15th and 17th centuries. It represents late Gothic and Renaissance features. The rooms contain period furniture, tapestries, and weapons. There is a chapel designed in pure Renaissance style constructed between 1520 and 1583, in the park next to the castle. Nowadays, the château is privately owned. In 1885 the comte de Blacas inherited it from his aunt - the comtesse de la Rochejaquelein and today it belongs to his descendent Casimir de Blacas d' Aulps the 7th Duke of Blacas. In 1942 it has been appointed as a monument historique.
Château de Chenonceau is another castle which cannot be missed out! It was build in 1513 by King Charles VII and was given by Henry II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. But once the king died, his wife, Catherine de Médicis forced Diane de Poitiers to move out to Chaumont. The castle then is well known for its feminine touch. They created beautiful gardens. Diane de Poitiers added the arched bridge across the river and Catherine ordered to build a three-story structure atop Diane’s bridge, giving the château its unique river bridge charm. She also created the Corps de Logis gallery which displays exquisite paintings and antique tapestries. To add to the castle beauty, there is an impressive avenue of trees which leads you directly to the entrance.
Château de Valencay was built by Louis XIII and it represents the architectural harmony between the Renaissance and classical period. The d'Estampes and Talleyrand-Périgord families lived in the Château de Valencay. There is the exceptional collection of Louis XVI and Empire-style furniture displayed in the ceremonial rooms and private apartment. It is said to be the richest furniture collection of all other castles. But this is not all, the château Valençay has many gardens: the French gardens, the flower chessboard, the Duchess garden. All together, the park and forest have more than 53 hectares. Except of this, it is highly recommended to see the impressive kitchens and Napoleon’s maze (Grand Labyrinthe). Amazing experience – just make sure you have a water & time and there is no heatwave...otherwise its not pleasant experience....
Château de Villandry is the best castle of the Loire Valley for its spectacular gardens!It started to be built in the 12th century and finished in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister to François I. It is another Renaissance monument in the Loire Valley! The state apartments of the château contain 18th-century furniture and tapestries, along with paintings by Italian and Spanish masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Château Villandry has amazing Renaissance gardens which represent typical French-style formal gardens. They were created for the first time in the 16th century and now they cover huge area of five hectares. Starting from the left side, you can admire the ornamental gardens, with the "Garden of Love" and the vegetable gardens. Dont miss out on the ‘The water garden’ for its peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.
Château de Sully-sur-Loire is a 14th-century medieval fortress located in the Loiret department of the Loire Valley. It was inhabited and owned by the Duke of Sully (1560-1641), Minister to King Henri IV. The chateau is quite big, there are interesting medieval dungeon and 14 nicely furnished rooms which display a rich collection of pictures, tapestries, statues and painted decors. lt has been listed or registered (CNMHS), UNESCO World Heritage. The castle is famous for the guests it hosted. There were Joan of Arc, Louis IV and Voltaire who stayed at the castle.
Château de Blois is another Renaissance gem in the Loire Valley area. It has been constructed between the 13th and the 17th century. It has also been a castle of many kings and queens therefore the castle represents different architectural styles and different parts of the castle look completely different. It is interesting to see those differences and take a photos which are difficult to match later. The Francis I wing is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture with a famous octagonal staircase. There is a Benedictine Church of Saint-Nicolas, built in the 12th and 13th centuries in the south part of the castle. There is also the Cathedral of Saint-Louis on high ground in the old town. You can find there also many nice looking burghers' houses. Château de Blois was the favourite home for such French royals such as: Louis XII, François I and Catherine de Medici, the King Louis of Orléan just to name the few. Chateau de Blois is the was the first historical castle which has been restored (in 1845) and become a model for other chateaux.
Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire is the fortress-like castle of Loire Valley located in its Loir-et-Cher department, on the left bank of the river. It is not far away from Blois, just 18 kms. It was founded in the year 1000 and ubnd 1465 the King Louis XI rebuilt it. Then it was owned by the Amboise family for over 500 years. In 1550 Catherine de Medici bought the castle and ordered Diane de Poitiers to move out from Chenonceau and live here. In 1875, Princess Marie-Charlotte de Broglie bought the château and decorated it with Renaissance furniture. Nowadays it is owned by the Centre-Val de Loire Region and it has been listed on the UNESCO site. The château is an example of the Gothic and Renaissance styles. It is beautifully preserved and rich in its historic tapestries and works of art. The gardens around display the English style. You should visit both both the castle and the garden. And if you are a big flowers & gardens fan you might consider visiting International Garden Festival. It is hosted by the castle since 1992 and worldwide known. The gardens are transformed by light and art installations, look impressive and bring back tourists each year to see new things. The only thing is that you need to buy 2 tickets if you want to visit the castle and the International Garden Festival. But this is worth it for 2 different experiences you will get!
Château de Amboise is located in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Valley of Kings. It represents the Gothic & Renaissance style and the first royal castle which introduced the Italian taste in the Loire Valley. It is also the first castle which created famous and beautiful 'French style gardens'. The history of the Château d'Amboise starts in the 11th century, when the Count of Anjou built the castle on the Loire River. The French Royals acquired the castle in the 15th century .François I, Charles VIII and Louis XI lived there. In 1516 King François invited Leonardo da Vinci to come to Amboise, he than stayed at the the Clos Lucé Domaine which is located just 500 yards from the Royal Château. He spent there his last years and is body lies now in in Saint-Hubert’s Chapel of the castle. Since 1840 the chateau is classified as the monument historique.
Château de Azay-le-Rideau is another castle I liked a lot. It is located on an island on the River Indre in French département of Indre-et-Loiret. A wealthy financier, Gilles BertheloIt built this castle in the 16th century. It was during the reign of François I. The design of this castle was greatly influenced by Italian architecture. The highlights of the Château de Azay-le-Rideau are the notable features on the ground floor, the rib-vaulted kitchen and the dining room with a richly decorated chimney and numerous tapestries. So make sure you will have a look when visiting
Château de Saumur was build at the end of the 11th century by the Valois dynasty. It belonged to the Dukes of Anjou in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was the home to King René (who by the way, called it "castle of love.") At the end of the 16th century, the château was converted by its Protestant owners into a fortress, and it still retains its defensive character. But on top of this, it has also been a a manor house, a residence for the town governors, a prison, and even an arms and ammunitions depot. Nowadays, the château serves as the Musée de Saumur and display the collection of antiquities, 15th and 16th-century tapestries.
Château de Breze is a small yet elegant castle located in Brézé town, near Saumur in the Valley of Kings. It was built around 11th and deconstructed between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Nowadays this elegant residence belongs to the Colbert family who lives here and since 2000 it has been listed historic monument and open to the public. The current structure is Renaissance in style yet retains medieval elements but it also represents the finest and the rarest examples of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance interior architecture.
The Château of Brézé has amazing underground fortress to discover. This impressive world of rock opens out onto the deepest (18m) dry moats in Europe. Other thing to be explored in the castle is definitely the Renaissance wing where the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé lived. It is worth mentioning that this small castle is known for its wines. It produce a range of them thanks to the 30 hectares of vineyards it owns.
So how did you like my selection of the best French Castles? Do you agree with my preferences? Do you have any other important place to visit in order to discover Chateaux de France? Let me know...I would love to explore more of France as well as I am constantly learning about France and French lifestyle, culture, cuisine and places to visit, Check out my blog: shopaholicfromhome.com and see all the good/bad things which i find in France...still loving it all at most!
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