The most striking of all French chateaux is
the Chateau Chambord featuring distinct
French Renaissance architecture and
a walled-in forest park.
nicknamed the "Garden of France," the Loire River Valley
is an enchanting region filled with charming towns, rolling vineyards
and magnificent chateaux.
In 2000, the
central part of the valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
for good reason. The river and its environs have long attracted
noble settlers and visitors with its beauty, history and moderate
River Valley is situated just a few hours from Paris,
making it the perfect day trip destination. But with more than
300 chateaux scattered throughout the region, creating an itinerary
can be difficult. A number of tour operators, like Paris International,
offer packages that can shuttle you around the highlights in a
day, or you can choose to explore the chateaux leisurely, on your
The small town of Blois is a popular base from which to explore
the surrounding chateaux, but it also has its own rich history.
The former royal residence of Louis XII and François I,
the Château de Blois is set upon a hilltop overlooking the
Loire River and is currently home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts
(featuring a gallery of 16th- to 19th-century portraits) and the
Musée Lapidaire (which primarily exhibits sculptures).
Convenient bus connections are available from the Blois main train
station to many of the surrounding chateaux.
Chateau Chambord's central tower.
The former hunting lodge of François I, Chambord is distinguished
by its grandeur, its magnificence and its distinctive French renaissance
architecture. The château was constructed in the mid-16th
century and is surrounded by a walled-in park forest, the largest
in Europe. Rent bicycles or boats to explore the extensive surrounding
woodlands, where you can glimpse deer or wild boar.
de Chenonceau Chenonceau, a 16th-century royal residence on the Cher River,
is elegant and romantic, a reflection of the feminine influence
exerted on it over the years. The Château was built by Katherine
Briçonnet in 1513 and was later acquired by Diane de Poitiers,
Catherine de Médicis and a Madame Dupin. Visitors can rent
boats to glide down the Cher, or take romantic night walks through
The Château Villandry is the last Renaissance monument in
the Loire Valley, completed in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister
to François I. Villandry is located on the Cher River and
offers beautiful views, but the real draw is the collection of
magnificent terraced gardens surrounding the chateau.
Cheverny's façade is more modern than most Loire chateaux,
taking from the Louis XXII classical architectural style of the
17th century. The Chateau de Cheverney is most famous for its ornate interior
and its collection of furniture, tapestries, and objets d'art.