You will probably visit Azay-le-Rideau in order to visit its dramatic castle but whilst you are here take the time to visit the pretty town that has built up around the castle. Azay-le-Rideau is situated in the Loire Valley between Saumur to the west and Tours to the east.
The town of Azay-le-Rideau grew up in the 11th century around the Chateau de Azay-le-Rideau and a Benedictine priory.
Much of the town was destroyed in 1418 as punishment because the garrison insulted the visiting dauphin Charles. The captain of the garrison and his 350 men and the town were executed and the town burnt. It was then rebuilt between 1515 and 1789 but was known as Azay-le-Brulé, or Azay the Burnt up until the 17th century! Further building took place in the 19th century and as you walk round the town you will find examples of all these periods of architecture.
A leaflet picked up from the tourist office gives details of the important houses on each street of the town and the main historic or architectural features to notice.
Interesting chimneys, columns, windows, balconies and courtyards can all be admired as you wander around the streets near to the chateau. On the Place Gambetta is the Saint-Symphorien church. This was built over various different centuries and includes a facade from the 9th century in Carolingian syle. The original carved figures still decorate the wall.
Next to the church is the neoclassical market hall which was built in the 19th century but rebuilt in the 20th century following a fire. The tourist office is in an attractive building with a tower which dates from the 16th century.
Head down to the river to see he medieval/renaissance water mill. Cross over the bridge and there is a small chapel on the bridge which was built at the same time as the chateau. It was built for pilgrims and travellers.
At the other end of the Rue du Chateau from the chateau is a large 19th century manor house with a courtyard and this has been converted into a hotel. A little further out are the old gendarmerie barracks which are now the town hall of Azay le Rideau.
Of course the Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau is the main attraction of Azay le Rideau. It is a dramatic castle as it rises beautifully from the waters of the Indre river making it one of the most photogenic of the Loire Valley castles.
The castle was built in the 16th century with modifications in the Inside there are various rooms furnished in the style of this period. There is also a suite of rooms decorated with 19th century furniture.
A little further down the road the Chateau de l'Islette is very similar in style, though much smaller than, the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau.
Langeais and the Chateau de Langeais are nearby and worth a visit. The truly beautiful vegetable garden of the Chateau de Villandry makes this an unmissable visit even if you are not normally a gardening fan.