Guide to Top 5 Chateaux to see in the Loire Valley

France has some of the most beautiful and visually enticing historic chateaux and castles in the world.  Traveling throughout France, from North to South and East to West, you can find these architectural marvels scattered all over the country.  The Loire Valley, an area of about 300 square miles in central France, has the largest concentration of chateaux, numbering more than 300. Spring is a wonderful time of the year to visit France’s chateaux as nature is in full bloom and driving to these historical places is truly enjoyable.  Most chateaux are located on multiple acres and many have beautifully manicured gardens with multi-colored flowers and French garden designs as well as woods and streams running through them. As mentioned above, there are a great many chateaux in the Loire valley.  Some, of course, are privately owned and cannot be viewed by the public.  Many, however, are open to the public and are open year-round. My husband and I have taken several trips to the region and from the many chateaux we have visited, I can recommend the following (at least to begin with):

 

8-Bottle, 4-Tier Black/Wood Metal Food and Wine Cart with Wine Glass and Bottle Storage

 

Chambord

One of the most impressive and recognizable chateaux in France is Chateau de Chambord.  Initially built as a hunting lodge by the young King François I in 1519, when the king was only 25 years of age, the chateau took 28 years to be constructed.  Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire region and was built to show off the enormous wealth and power of King François.  The French Renaissance style of the chateau, its magnificent façade, 440 rooms and its beautiful 13,000 acre grounds and woods are a glorious site to behold.  The chateau also houses magnificent furnishings, tapestries and a most impressive royal carriage collection.  One truly outstanding feature of the chateau is the famous and ingenious double spiral staircase that links the chateau’s three floors.  This truly innovative staircase is said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, whom François admired and looked up to as a friend and father figure.

Chenonceau

A truly romantic and awe-inspiring chateau built over and spanning the Cher river.  A mixture of architectural styles of late Gothic and early Renaissance, the chateau was built in 1514 over the remains of a mill from the 11th century.  This magnificent historic chateau is the most visited chateau in France, after the Royal Palace of Versailles. Its magnificent architecture inside and out are a marvel.  Its rooms are beautifully decorated with magnificent period furnishings, tapestries and paintings.  Many of the ceilings are handsomely hand-painted throughout the chateau.  The upper level of the long hall, over the river, is used as a gallery to exhibit various artists’ work.

Amboise

The grand 15th century medieval fortress Chateau d’Amboise was the royal residence during the reigns of King Charles VIII as well as King François I.  The impressive chateau received many noble lords and ladies as well as famous artists who stayed at the Court of Amboise at the sovereigns’ invitation.  The young King François I who greatly admired the elderly Leonardo da Vinci, built a residence for him near to the castle with a tunnel that ran from the castle to the residence.  It is said that François visited Leonardo every evening until Leonardo’s death in 1519.  The chateau’s chapel houses Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb.

Ussé

Considered the fairy-tale castle of the Loire valley, the majestic white castle of Sleeping Beauty, the chateau inspired Perrault to write his famous fairy-tale stories.  The medieval castle built in the 14th and 16th centuries over the foundation of an 11th century fortress, was home to lords, ladies and poets.  Lavishly furnished, the chateau also houses various displays and mannequins telling the story of the Sleeping Beauty.

Cheverny

Located in Sologne near Blois, Cheverny is one of the best known chateaux in the Loire region.  It was one of the first stately homes to open to the public in 1922.  The estate has been in the same family for more than 6 centuries: the Huraults, a family of financiers and officers. The sumptuous interior decoration is the work of Jean Monier, who became famous by the help of Queen Marie de Medici.  Lavishly decorated with palatial grandeur, Cheverny is a must-see on the list of the Loire Valley chateaux.