The Chateau de Blois is one of the great castles of the Loire Valley. This beautiful castle is famous for its residents but also because it presents a unique view of the evolution of French chateaux architecture. Buildings dating from the 13th to 17th centuries are set before you. The stone markers of time from the middle ages to the Renaissance sit next to each other, vying for attention.
When in the 10th century Thibaud, Count of Blois laid the stones for a fort-like palace, Blois was not then a part of the French Kingdom. It was only at the end of the 14th century that Blois was sold to the French royal family and became a part of France.
Blois was home to several kings and queens of France including Francis I. It was his first building project when he became King in 1515. He lived here with his first wife Claude who was said to be boss-eyed, stooped and overweight. The poor girl gave birth to 7 children in 7 years and died aged 25. It certainly wasn’t all fun being a queen in those days. Catherine de Medici, who was married to Francis I’s son, Henry II, also died here (1589). The walls of her room are decorated with her monogram, 2 C’s intertwined with the H of Henri II, her beloved husband.
What to see at the Chateau de Blois
You can feel the history in those thick stone walls and beamed ceilings, in the tiled floors and chambers with secret cupboards hidden in the wood panelling. Some of the rooms are exquisitely decorated, bright, colourful and vibrant, even the the beams are covered in tiny illustrations. Seeing it like this really gives you a feel for how the castle would have looked when Kings and Queens lived here. There are wonderful tiled floors, sumptuous furnishings, portraits and statues. With 17 rooms to explore plus educational rooms, it’s not huge but there’s plenty to see and its easy to spend a few hours here.
The castle contains a strange portrait of a hairy-faced girl, Tognina Gonsalvus, a victim of hypertrichosis (“werewolf syndrome”). She was kept at the court of Henry II as a curiosity. It’s a horrible thought that the poor girl was treated that way but I like to think the painting shows there was some fondness there.
You’ll spot the royal emblems aplenty here, especially the salamader representing Francis I.
Head out the courtyard towards the river and you’ll see a stone tower, the oldest part of Blois with views over the river.
Walk into that inner courtyard and you’re surrounded by history and have a wonderful view of the truly outstanding stair case. It’s what most people remember above all else. It’s very reminiscent of the staircase at the nearby Chateau de Chambord, a Renaissance masterpiece.
Skulduggery, murder, drama and romance took place in bucket loads at this chateau – the audio guided tour explains all.
At the end of the tour, head to the throne room and sit on the replica throne for a fab selfie or souvenir of your visit! And leave time to visit the town, it’s very beautiful, ancient cobbled streets, fabulous restaurants, and wonderful views of the River Loire…
From April to September, every evening as the sun sets, a Son et Lumiere show takes place in the courtyard bringing this ancient castle to life – it’s terrific. Read more about it here: Blois son et lumiere
Visit the weird and wonderful Fondation de Blois
More on Chateaux of the Loire Valley
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Chateau de Chenonceau – the castle of flowers
Chateau du Clos Lucé – last home of Leonardo da Vinci
Chateau de Brissac – the tallest castle in France
Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire – like a fairy tale and home to France’s biggest garden festival