Visit Chateau de Blois
The Chateau de Blois sits in the centre of the lovely town of Blois. It is called the Royal chateau of Blois because it was a favourite residence of 7 kings and 10 queens of France!
Explore the Chateau Royal de Blois
The Chateau de Blois sits on the edge of a large square slightly raised up from the town of Blois and so offering great views over the town and the Loire river below. From the outside the chateau has the look of a large red-brick manor house though with the addition of the statue of King Louis XII seated on a horse and also a carved porcupine which was his royal emblem.
Passing through the gateway you enter a large courtyard surrounded on all 4 sides by the chateau and each wing was built in a different period of history and has a different architectural style.
The medieval fortress has its origins in the 10th century but this earliest wing was largely built in the 13th century in Gothic style. Inside it's seignorial hall is the largest Gothic hall in France from the early 13th century. Next came the Louis XII wing built from 1498-1501 in Flamboyant style. This wing has lots of arched arcades and is built in red-brick.
The Renaissance wing was built soon after the Louis wing in 1515-1520. The beautiful staircase is one of the most notable features of this wing. The Gaston d'Orleans wing was added in 1635-1638 and is built in Classsical style. This wing was built Francois Mansart using three types of arches with an eclectic mix of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian style.
Beside the chateau stands the Chapel of St. Calais, commissioned by Louis XII. It has some stained glass windows by Max Ingrand (1957) which show scenes from the chateau's history.
Inside the chateau your visit begins in the State room in the oldest part of Blois castle, dating from the thirteenth century. The States room was used by the Counts of Blois as a courtroom. The salon has two aisles, with a double barrel-vaulted ceiling and numerous columns and arches. The tapestries on the walls date back to the 17th and 18th century.
From here various rooms are filled with mouldings and sculptures from different wings of the chateau.
On the first floor you can visit the apartments of Francois I and Catherine de Medici. They have been restored and decorated in a style of the 16th century. The Queen's Gallery is particularly attractive with its long wall of windows opposite a wall of portraits and with a decorated wooden roof and blue tiled floor.
The Queen's chamber on this floor is the room where Catherine de Medici died in 1589. Also on this floor is the only remaining royal Renaissance study in France with its original wooden panelling. This charming room contains 237 Italianate panels dating from the early 16th century.
On the second floor is the Kings appartments from the time of Henri III. It was here that the murder of the Duke of Guise allegedly took place, under the orders of Henry III. In the neighbouring Council chamber there is a set of paintings exhibiting the Wars of Religion that led to the assassination of the Duke de Guise.
Today this part of the castle houses the Museum of Fine Arts, which keeps an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Among the many works, note the famous painting by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) of ‘the hairy girl’.
Sound and Light Show
The chateau is illuminated for a sound and light show telling the story of the history of the chateau. The show takes place every evening from April to September. 10.30pm in June, July and August and 10pm at other times of the year.
A little history of the Chateau de Blois
The Chateau de Blois has witnessed more than one notable historical events, including the stay in Blois of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), and the murder of the Duke of Guise (1550-1588), by Henry III (1551-1589). The castle of Blois was also the place of exile of Marie de Medici (1545-1642).
Later, it was with Gaston d'Orleans (1608-1660) that the castle reached its social high point, and also at this time the botanic gardens were added. This period had beneficial effects for Blois itself, which saw the beginning of a new and fervent construction activity, and the birth of the Jesuit College and monasteries.
Blois is in the heart of the Loire Valley and very close to many of the famous Loire Valley chateaux. The Chateau de Cheverny has some of the best chateau interiors and has pretty gardens. The majestic Chateau de Chambord and Chateau de Chaumont, home to the Chaumont-sur-Loire International garden festivalare also close by.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.