Christmas… chateaux… culture … celebrate the holiday in style with a visit to the Loire Valley chateaux which dress up in their finest decorations to celebrate this happy time.
Visiting one of the great chateaux in France is always special but at Christmas it provides for a positively enchanting experience! Lots of Chateaux put up special decorations and illuminations – here are just a few of our favourites:
Vaux Le Vicomte, Ile de France
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department of France. The Vogué family extends a festive welcome to visitors for its Christmas celebrations in a truly unique setting. In the Grand Salon of the Vaux-le-Vicomte chateau, a forest teeming with animals and historic characters awaits you and an 8 metre high tree bedecked with around 5000 decorations. Each one of the castle’s rooms is an enchantment in itself with profusion of lights, figurines, garlands and themed decorations – 12,000 decorations to be precise!
Outside, flurries of snow fall every half hour at the entrance to the castle, while in the French-style garden, box trees and the lawns are adorned with kilometres of brightly lit garlands which create a magical spectacle as night falls. At dusk, the famous gardens, designed by French gardener André le Nôtre, are illuminated, and there’s even a theatrical production of Pinocchio.
See website for confirmation and details of the full Christmas programme Vaux le Vicomte website
Chenonceau, Loire Valley
The Château de Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France, is often known as the “ladies Chateau”. It was given to Diane de Poitiers by her lover, Henry II and had many famous lady owners over the centuries who shaped its fortunes.
Perhaps it is that feminine touch that gives it such a beautiful look at Christmas when every room in the Castle is filled with sumptuous displays of flowers and garlands. The kitchen, bedrooms, hallways have beautiful Christmas trees, flower arrangements and thousands of gorgeous decorations.
Every December, the Chateau de Chenonceau is decorated with magnificent fir trees, decked out in the colours of Christmas. Throughout the grounds, you can hear music playing and traditional songs from different countries around the world. You can even warm yourself in front of the fires lit in the castle’s extraordinary fireplaces.
Amboise Chateau Royale
Not far from the Chateau de Chenonceau is the royal Château at Amboise. It was a favoured royal residence and is famous for being the chateau where King Charles VIII died in 1498 after hitting his head on a door lintel and many famous footsteps were left here, like Mary Queen of Scots’ and Leonardo Da Vinci’s.
In the exceptionally well decorated royal residence, visitors can discover the origins of Christmas traditions, from the Renaissance to the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll be able to walk through the halls listening to Christmas music, ogling at the beautifully decorated Christmas trees whilst children will be able to enjoy a variety of activities and events.
See the Chateau Amboise website for details
Christmas at the royal city of Blois
Blois will be celebrating the holidays with its annual Winter Festival. On the agenda: some 50 shows and street theatre performances, concerts, choirs, sleigh rides, ice-skating, and more. For those of you looking for ideas for Christmas gifts, there’s the lively St. Nicolas rummage sale and the fabulous Marché de Noël, place Louis XII, with its cheerfully decked stalls and tempting aromas of gingerbread and mulled wine.
The locals love their festival and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the event, decorating and illuminating streets and storefronts from the cobblestoned downtown area up to the Château Royal de Blois, perched majestically above the town and overlooking the Loire. Wander to your heart’s content, taking in the Christmas sights, sounds and magic.
While you’re at it, don’t miss a visit to the château, the home of 7 kings and 10 queens of France, and a splendid example of medieval, Renaissance and 17th century architecture. The château was magnificently restored in 1984 and has since been used as a model for the restoration of numerous other chateaux.
Details: website for loirevalley-france.co.uk