The Chateau de Chambord is a French Renaissance masterpiece. This jewel of the Loire Valley was begun in 1519, the year Francis 1 became King of France.
The flamboyant Francis I loved to put on a show and at Chambord, his imagination ran wild. This grand castle in true Renaissance style was designed to shout to the world that this was the home of the greatest King that ever lived.
The enormous Chateau de Chambord
426 rooms (60 of which are open to the public). 83 staircases including a double helix staircase said to have been at the very least inspired by (if not designed by) Leonardo da Vinci. 282 fireplaces (never enough to keep it warm). A tumultuous plethora of tall towers and turrets.
The double helix staircase mirrors the same structure as DNA! No one can say for sure that the staircase is the work of Leonardo da Vinci. But, he left behind drawings of this style of staircase and even one for a quadruple staircase.
Straight out of a fairy tale, Chambord is an absolute dream of a castle bought to life. It’s been called an “example of architectural megalomania”. Victor Hugo said it was “admirably bizarre”.
It was outrageously expensive to build. There were more than 2000 workmen employed on its creation. In fact the King ran out of money before it was completed despite raiding the treasuries of churches and grabbing silver from his subjects. When he was captured in battle in Italy in 1525, just 6 years after the first stone of Chambord was laid, he gave up his sons to take his place. Then found he couldn’t ransom them due to lack of funds. Work went on in in fits and starts but by the time he died aged 52 in 1547, the King had only spent 50 days t there in total.
UNESCO World heritage site
Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site and much loved monument to the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. The Chateau de Chambord is a truly amazing example of the style of the day. The castle grounds cover around 13,500 hectares, roughly the size of inner Paris. It’s the largest enclosed park in Europe, with boundary walls covering 20 miles. You can discover it on foot, by bike, horse, 4×4 or horse and carriag. There are 20km of trails to explore in the forest.
Inside there are 4,500 works of art, tapestries, paintings and furnishings. On cold days some of the fires are lit giving it a homely feeling so that you can imagine how it must have been when the court were in residence. In some of the rooms actors dressed in the costumes of the day regale visitors with stories and anecdotes.
A new formal garden was inaugurated in 2017 with thousands of trees, plants and roses and the terrace overlooking it, with its central great lantern tower is magnificent. In the grounds, actors on horseback roam the park evoking a spirit of the past and its grand heyday.
A chateau with its own village
There’s even a small village of shops and café’s. Don’t miss the fabulous biscuiterie where you can taste the local liqueur Chambord. There’s also a wine tasting store. You can even stay here at the 4* hotel Relais de Chambord. And, there’s a fabulous restaurant which overlooks the Chateau. It has to be one of the most extraordinary views to enjoy lunch or dinner anywhere in the world.
Before Chambord, medieval chateaux were the norm. This chateau ushered in a new style of building and a new art of living. Things in France would never be the same again.
Read more about the Chateau de Chambord here.
More on the castles of the Loire Valley
Chateau de Chenonceau in photos
Chateau d’Anet, where Diane de Poitiers preferred to live after she was evicted from the Chateau de Chenonceau
Chateau de Chambord, the French Renaissance jewel of the Loire Valley
Azay-le-Rideau, a castle of pure enchantment
Chateau de Blois, an incredible history and a beautiful chateau
Chaumont, the chateau that is also a centre of gardening
Fairy tale castle of Rivau with its enchanted gardens