Visit Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley
Chateau de Chambord visitor guide and history
The Chateau de Chambord is located ten miles east of Blois, and four kilometres from the Loire, in countryside surrounded by woods. The Counts of Blois had originally built a palace to be used for hunting - until 1518 it belonged to the Counts of Blois, at which time Francis I decided to demolish it and build a luxurious mansion. Francis I, who delighted in this very practical exercise, could not have picked a better place to construct a castle.
Explore the Chateau de Chambord
Chambord is the most impressive of the castles of the Loire. It is huge! With about 400 rooms, more than 80 staircases, 365 fireplaces, and an exceptional number of towers, high ceilings, pointed domes and graceful pinnacles. The castle is situated in a vast park with an area of about 5000 hectares. The encircling walls are about 30 kilometres long.
The castle consists of a large rectangular area, surrounded on three sides by buildings in the form of wings attached to the body of the main building, which occupies half of one side. Designed in the shape of a cross, it has a central tower flanked by four towers and surrounded by a courtyard. The external structure of the castle of Chambord has a very clear defensive logic, being formed by a donjon, shaped like a quadrangle, flanked by four towers, which contain within itself another quadrilateral, in turn flanked by four towers.
The Chateau de Chambord can be considered as an old French castle, decorated with an Italian Renaissance style, and it presents one of the most striking of the buildings of mixed style to be built in France at the beginning of the reign of Francis I, before the ‘French style’ was better defined.
It is very likely that the architecture of the castle of Chambord is the work of French artists who were very influenced by Italian architecture, and while in the use of this new decorative style they showed some occasional inexperience, at other times they also proved very skilful.
An example of this is in the arrangement and decoration of the central staircase, which still today has a high reputation - the bastion and stairs was built in a very original pattern consisting of two spiral ramps, combined so that those descending the staircase do not meet those who are climbing the staircase – an idea of considerable originality and ingenuity. The design of the double helix staircase is thought to be influenced by Leonardo de Vinci.
What particularly distinguishes this castle, already very impressive by itself, are the wondrous spires, chimneys and pinnacles that arise on many of the roofs and terraces in which we can recognize the persistence of the Gothic style. Walking around on the roof amongst these chimneys and spires is one of the highlights of the visit.
Although begun by Francois I the Chateau de Chambord was not completed until the reign of Louis XIV. It is said that during the reign of Francis I, 1800 workers worked continuously for twelve years in the construction of Chambord, without being able to finish it. It was continued under Henry II and under his successors until Louis XIV, but it was never been completely finished.
During his reign King Louis took his court to the chateau several times and it is here that Moliere first presents his famous play - Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Inside the chateau the interiors date to various different epochs. On the ground floor you can visit the 18th century kitchens, the carriage room and the hunting room and of course you get to walk up the magnificent double helix staircase to the next floor.
On the second floor are various 16th to 18th century furnished apartments often with beautiful fabrics , especially around the four poster beds.
The beautiful carved ceilings of the oratory and chapel are also on this floor.
On the second floor are the vaulted rooms with more finely carved ceilings and also the trophy gallery lined with antlers. There are also some rooms which are often home to temporary art exhibitions.
The two rooms which have best retained their original decoration are the great chapel and oratory, both masterpieces of sculpture. The salamander, the emblem dear to Francis I and the motto: " Nutrisco et Extinguo” are seen many times in the castle. Other motto such as “Donec totum impleat orbem” (until it fills the whole world) mark the work done by Henry II (1519-1559), and finally the sun and the inscription: "Nec pluribus impar" (above all / alone against all) show that Louis XIV (1638-1715) also embellished the Royal Palace.
This luxurious and unparalleled castle, after having had many owners over the centuries (the Prince of Wagram, Duke of Bordeaux and others) now belongs to the French State.
As well as visiting the castle the grounds are extensive with formal gardens close to the chateau and a huge park and woods that you can explore on foot or by bike. You can also hire a boat on the canal at the foot of the chateau and watch a horse and bird of prey show.
Places to Visit Nearby
The much simpler but richly furnished Chateau de Cheverny is nearby. It also has pretty gardens to explore. Blois is one of the lovely towns of the Loire Valley and well worth a visit or even making your base for a visit to the area. It is also home to the Chateau de Blois.
Map of Chateau de Chambord & places nearby
Castle Town village