Visit Chateau Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley

Photo of Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau visitor guide and history

The Azay-le-Rideau chateau, to the south-east of Tours in the heart of the Loire Valley, is a very pretty castle standing in the calm waters of the Indre river and surrounded by parkland and open woodland. Balzac romantically described it as 'a facetted diamond set in the Indre'.

Less 'ostentatious' that many of the castles in the region it is a masterpiece of architecture that helped herald the renaissance style in to France.

Although an earlier castle already stood at the same location, this had been destroyed during the Hundred Years War. The building we see today was constructed between 1515 and 1527 by Gilles Bertholet - a local nobleman who was treasurer to King Francois I and also the Major of Tours.

The King decided that his treasurer should not be able to affort such a castle, so must have used state funds to pay for it, and hence took it away from M Bertholet. (Similar to the story of M. Fouquet at the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte 150 years later).

The style of the castle is the first thing you will notice. The river looks rather like a moat - although no defensive moat was required by the castle. Likewise, the round towers at the corners of the chateau vaux-le-Vicomte owe more to the architecture of a defensive castle than an 'ornamental' one. But otherwise, the castle is much more 'renaissance' in style than medieval.

This is especially the case inside the L-shaped chateau, which is very impressively and carefully designed. Among the highlights, admire the internal staircase that overlooks the courtyard and the decorative stonework and features.

Other highlights include some very pretty painted and sculpted ceilings, the Great Hall and its tapestry hangings, and the grand fireplace in the Salon Biencourt.

During the 20th century the castle has been transferred to the French state who have taken responsibility for the running, renovation, maintenance and furnishing of the castle.

Map of Chateau Azay-le-Rideau & places nearby

Castle Town village

Selected places to visit in or near Chateau Azay-le-Rideau, Loire Valley