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Loire Valley Chateaux


Chateau de Chenonceau:

Chenonceau, is probably the most visited and photographed chateau of the Loire Valley and the first one on most visitors 'must see' list. Its history, design and indeed destiny have been heavily influenced by great women of the Loire Valley, Katherine Briconnet, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de' Medic all leaving their mark.There contributions have lead to the chateau being described, with some justification as ‘the ladies chateau’.

Chateau de Chambord:

Next to Chenonceau, perhaps the most famous, certainly the largest, of the Loire Valley chateaux is Chambord. This vast Renaissance extravagance was started by Francois I in the early 16th century as a hunting lodge (seriously) it contains over 400 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 84 staircases. When you visit you will ask yourself why? Perhaps because he could! All for a residence which was really only used for about 2 months in the whole Francois’s reign!

Chateau de Blois is brilliant illustration of the evolution of the French architecture within the Loire Valley from the Middle Ages to the 17th century Renaissance . Its royal history dates from Louis XII who built the oldest part of the chateau to Francois I (he of Chambord fame) who added the renaissance wing with the unique open circular staircase. Indeed during Louis XII's time here, Blois was the political capital of the country. The chateau's ‘son et lumière ‘ (light show)- which is worth  hanging around for - is presented in English on Wednesdays.

Chateau d'Amboise:

As you approach the town of Amboise in the Loire valley it is not difficult to locate its fine chateau, Chateau d'Amboise's dominant renaissance style is there for all to see well before you even enter the town as its position high above the Loire river makes it obvious from quite a distance as you drive along the the river bank. When Charles VIII and Francois I  succeeded to the throne it was Chateau d'Amboise they chose as their 'home'. it was Francois I, who in 1516, invited Leonardo da Vinci to stay at the delightful 'Close-Luce' nearby and thus add a new (if brief) chapter to the regions history

Chateau d'Azay le Rideau:

Apparently floating on an island in the river Indre, chateau Azay-le-Rideau is one of the prettiest and most visited in the Loire Valley. It is another chateau which was built, in the then popular Renaissance style, during the reign of François I. It sits on the site of a former small fortified castle and its turreted façade is reflected in the still waters of the river making for a very popular photo opportunity. The small town, with a fine church, is also worth a visit

Chateau de Chinon:

The medieval town of Chinon rests on the banks of the majestic Vienne river in the heart of the Val de Loire wine country. It is a town rich with culture and steeped in history. The fortified castle here was the preferred residence of Henry II, one of the English Plantagenet kings, and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Their son 'Richard The Lionheart' was born at the chateau and in 1189 Henry died here. The town is a major draw for tourists to the region. It is also here that

Joan of Arc convinced Charles VII of his claim to the throne.

Chateau de Villandry:

The most attractive gardens in the Loire Valley can be found at Chateau Villandry. Although at their best in summer they can be visited at any time of year. There is the option to visit both chateau and gardens or gardens alone. If time is a problem we recommend the garden only option. They can be a good place to take children as there are plenty of paths and grounds for them to run around in.

Chateau d'Ussé:

Usse, like many of the other Loire Valley chateaux was built on the foundations of a small fortress but has had a very tranquil history. Its location almost hidden at the edge of the Forest of Chinon may well have had something to do with this. It is believed that Perrault wrote his famous story, “Sleeping Beauty,” based on Usse and on visiting you can see why.The chateau takes full advantage of the connection (and the animated Disney film), with one of its towers being dedicated to the fairy tale, with waxwork 'sets' of the main characters...the kids (very young) will like it.

Chateau Chaumont:

Or Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire to give it its full title, is a 'two for one deal' as not only do you get the beautiful chateau, stables and grounds but you also have the now world famous 'Garden Festival'. For some, the chateau is seen more as a backdrop to the plantings around will have to decide for yourself. Catherine de Medici the wife of Henry II, on his death, forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had gifted to her. Which one would you prefer?

Chateau de Cheverny:

Unusually for the Loire Valley, Chateau de Cheverny has remained in the same family, the Huraults, for six centuries. It is probably because of this that the Renaissance past it by without much influencing it. The other benefit of this longevity is you have a fully furnished chateau, a rare thing here in the Loire Valley. Cheverny's architecture, minus the two extreme towers, was the inspiration behind Herge’s Marlinspike and there is an exhibition dedicated to Tintin within the chateau grounds.

There are over 300 chateaux within the Loire Valley above are probably the 10 most popular

- you can see more information and map on these and another 20 popular chateau here.

Staying in Paris during your trip to France? find out about Paris here...


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