Visit Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau
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'.
Explore the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau
Smaller and less 'ostentatious' that many of the castles in the region the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau 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 mayor 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 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.
Inside the chateau is furnished in a typical Renaissance style. The bedrooms are particularly ornate with silk drapes, gold and silver embroidery, fine tapestries on the walls and as well as a selection of paintings.
In the 16th century bedrooms were in fact used for much more than sleeping. It was also a room where guests would be received and its owners would sit here during the day and even eat here.
Because of this mixed use bedrooms generally had an antechamber where guests waited before entering the bedroom. In Chateau d'Azay le Rideau the antechamber is decorated with portraits of kings from the Renaissance to the 18th century.
One of the bedrooms - the king's chamber- was used by King Louis XIII who stayed here for a few nights in 1619.
As well as the Renaissance rooms there are some rooms decorated by the Marquis de Biencourts in the 19th century. There is a comfortable salon containing some 16 and 17th century paintings and porcelain dishes from the Compagnie des Indes.
There is also a Billiards Room, kitchen, dining room and salon-library to explore.
Outside the chateau there is not much in the way of a garden which is a bit disappointing compared with some of the chateaux of the Loire Valley. However the chateau sits in a grassy park landscaped with some fine trees in the style of an English landscape garden and the river Indre runs along the edge of the park. Close to the entrance buildings there is a small potager and priory garden and also a small shop and refreshments area.
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.
Places to visit nearby
The Chateau d'Azay le Rideau sits in the charming village of Azay le Rideau which is well worth exploring.