Standing proud on an island in the middle of the Indre River, the exquisite little Château of Azay-le-Rideau was built between 1518 and 1527, during the reign of François I and is one of the most popular of the Loire Valley Chateaux.
Chateau Azay le Rideau History
It was one of the first of many Renaissance Chateaux that were constructed in the early part of the 16th Century and its owner Gilles Berthelot, the Mayor of Tours and Treasurer for Francois I, wanted his fabulous new home to combine the latest technical innovations from Italy and the best of the art of French architecture. He built it on the site of a much older chateau which had been burned down – that had been called Azay-le-Ridel after a local noble family and became over time, Rideau.
The result was an absolute star of a castle when it was built, elegant, beautiful, innovative and quite luxurious. Sadly Monsieur Berthelot learned a lesson about the jealousy of Kings (as would Fouquet, treasurer to Louis XIV over a century later when he built Vaux-le-Vicomte). Azay-le-Rideau was confiscated by King Francois when he felt the splendour of the chateau was evidence that his treasurer was pilfering funds from the royal coffers.
Surrounded by parkland and forests, the beautiful Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is reflected in the mirror-like water in which it stands. The great French writer Honore de Balzac called it “a faceted diamond set in the Indre… it bathes in the River like a princely creature”.
When it was first built, the interior walls would have been adorned with tapestries and textiles as well as woven bulrushes. The inventory documents that have survived tell us about the decor, paintings and engravings from the period. These coverings warmed bedrooms up in winter and cooled them down in summer and at that time bulrushes were a popular material to cover floors and walls (much like seagrass rugs today). There are no surviving examples of this décor in France but one of the bedrooms at the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau has been restored in this style so that visitors can see an authentic 16th century bedroom for the first time in France.
The roof top of Azay-le-Rideau has also been restored and visitors are invited to mount the stairs, admire the 16th Century roof and drink in the spectacular views over the grounds.
The chateau is small compared to some of the major chateaux of the time and is built in an L shape. Inside the architectural details are impressive and there is a good collection of paintings and furniture. The interior is very much that of a castle in the French Renaissance style. The staircase is richly sculptured, the rooms are decorated with tapestries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the furnishings and paintings are plentiful and reflect that the castle was updated and lived in through the 16th to the 19th Century.
When you’ve finished your visit and want a break, the town of Azay-le-Rideau in on the doorstep of the castle and is well worth a stop. It is very pretty, a typical sleepy Loire village and there are plenty of restaurants and cafés where you can take a break.
See the Monument Nationaux Video of the Chateau Azay-le-Rideau.
Getting there: The Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau is located approximately 15 minutes from Tours by car. You can take a train from Paris to Tours and then a regional train to the station of Azay-le-Rideau, the journey takes between 2 – 2.5 hours.
Chateau Azay-le-Rideau address: Main entrance to the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is in rue Pineau, 37190 Azay-le-Rideau
Chateau Azay-le-Rideau opening hours: Open daily (except January 1, May 1 and December 25). October to March : 10 am to 5:15 pm; April to June and in September : 9:30 am to 6 pm; July and August : 9:30 am to 7 pm. Last admissions 1h before closing.
Useful website: Monuments-Nationaux – Azay le Rideau
Where to stay Azay le Rideau: Lagrange Vacances Les Jardins Renaissance is located in Azay-le-Rideau, on the banks of the Indre and Loire rivers. The residence offers self-catering holiday cottages with furnished terrace and a small garden. Perfectly located just 800 meters from the centre of Azay-le-Rideau guests have access to heated indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and tennis courts. Hotel service available plus daily reception. It’s the perfect base for your Loire Valley visit…