Chambord, 180km (112½ miles) south of Paris, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a veritable ‘Gateway to the Loire Valley’, the most famous and most impressive of the Loire châteaux, rising out of the Sologne marshes not far from Blois.
All images © The Chateau
Created by François
1 in about 1518, this chateau-cum-hunting lodge imitates the structure of a
mediaeval fortress with its vast rectangular surrounding wall. Its
architecture, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, is both a symbol and model of the
Renaissance. Do not miss the double helix staircase, Francis I’s and Louis
XIV’s apartments, the chapel, the terraces and its forested estate the size of
Exhibitions and events throughout the year. Horse show, horse drawn carriage rides, biking and boat rental from April/May to end of September.
To understand this magnificent building, you have to appreciate the elation and extravagance of François I who, at the tender age of twenty-five, wanted to show the world in spectacular fashion what his two favourite pastimes were: hunting and architecture.
This is the largest by far of the Loire chateaux, and gave a foretaste of what was to come at Versailles. Already listed as a World Heritage cultural site in 1981, the estate is now listed as part of the Val de Loire site, specifically the “Val de Loire between Sully and Chalonnes” area.
A visit towards the end of the day will reward with a spectacular display of sunlight on magnificent architecture; and if that fails, there is often a lovely display when the castle's lights are turned on.
Allow at least two hours to tour the castle and its grounds, which are located about 1½ hours' driving south-west of Paris.