The Loire region to the west of Paris is famed for the opulent residences of the kings and nobility of pre-revolutionary France. In medieval times it was a seat of power but became a favored retreat as Paris became the epicenter of renaissance France.
The most ambitious of the Loire Valley palaces, Chambord was intended as a demonstration of the power and wealth of the French king Francis I. It combines classical French castle architecture with the more modern Italian renaissance styles of the period. It’s scale and ambition exceeded it’s practicality and so it’s story is as interesting as it’s sheer visual appeal and audacity.
Dozens of chimneys, hundreds of rooms each with their own fireplace and 84 staircases, it’s no surprise it’s the largest châteaux in the Loire region. During the renaissance it was simply the most impressive castle in Europe and designed from the start to impress. It earned Francis I a nickname Le Roi Batisseur – the builder king.
The inner courtyard at Chambord
Seeing the château from the water adds another dimension to your visit
A Short History
By the 16th century Paris was established as the commercial and political center of France. Ruled by an absolute monarch who quite enjoyed his spare time what was a king to do ? King Francis I (1494-1547) decided he would like a hunting lodge in the Loire region but not just any hunting lodge. He wanted one that would demonstrate his power and wealth. King Francis already had royal palaces at Blois and Amboise so he decided to build at Chambord. Famed for it’s vineyards, forests and lush verdant landscape this would be an ideal place for a few weeks holiday. Thus a plan to build what became the Château de Chambord was born.
Building work began in 1519 with periods of building, additions and refurbishments going on until the time of King Louis IV (1638-1715) who finally abandoned it in 1685. It is said King Francis only stayed there for seven weeks by the time of his death. This is not surprising as the château was unfurnished when not in use, the large rooms and windows made heating difficult and the lack of local food suppliers meant everything had to be brought in.
The French revolution at the end of the 18th century saw the château stripped of anything of value. Napoleon Bonaparte gave it to one of his subordinates but the 19th century saw it change hands several times with new owners attempting but ultimately thwarted in their attempts to restore it’s glory. The final owners were of Austrian descent which led to it’s confiscation during WW1. The French state became the final owners of the Château de Chambord in 1930 and continue to manage it to this day.
King Francis I of France – liked to build
Where is Chambord ?
How to Get to Chambord
If you want to visit from a holiday base in Paris the best way to get there is by car or train. Driving is certainly convenient but the French rail network is very effective and good value for money. If you would like some more detailed information on the French railway network we have a detailed post here.
Once you leave Paris it’s a clear run down the A10 bypassing Orléans turning off just before Blois. Timewise – probably a couple of hours or so allowing for a stop. An early morning departure should see you in Chambord with plenty of time to explore. It will also make it easier to get out of Paris.
There are a number of options to get you to Blois-Chambord SNCF rail station including the high speed TGV if you’d like to experience really high speed rail travel. That said the normal rail service Intercites may actually get you there quicker as it’s a more direct route from Paris Austerlitz via Orleans. Depending on your route you’ll be able to get a train in under 2hrs and from there a shuttle or taxi service to the Chateau. It’s about about 25mins by taxi to the château.
France has an excellent high speed rail network
“I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.
Things to Do and See at Chambord
In the Grounds
The house is set in a large wooded estate with formal gardens. There is much to explore on foot, bike, buggy or even boat – more on that below. There are 15 miles of trails to explore including one into the heart of the 13,000 acre wooded park so don’t be surprised if you see some red deer while exploring. If you prefer something a little shorter then the 3m trail around the canal is a great location for your Instagram shots. Chambord offer two other ways to enjoy the grounds.
Visit the Nature Reserve – a guided tour in an all terrain vehicle of the woodland estate. A chance to see close up the wild boar and red deer and other flora and fauna that live in the forest. There are up to six departures a day during peak season and pre-booking is advised. Price is €18 ($22) for adults and €18 ($15) for under 18
The Horse and Bird of Prey Show – as befits a hunting lodge is an outdoor demonstration of the horse and birds of prey that would have been an essential feature of the Châteaux de Chambord in it’s day. The show is schedule to run everyday (except Mondays) from 28th April to 30th September. During the peak holiday season from the 4th July-28th August it runs everyday.
In The Château
The architecture of Chambord is certainly interesting – it will probably be the first things that strikes you when you see it for the first time. Although it draws on many aspect of castle design – central keep, corner towers and a moat it was never meant to be somewhere that would be defended from attack so much of the design is decorative rather than functional. It was meant to embody renaissance ideas. Some features such as an open roof area are perhaps more at home in the warmth of Italy than the cooler and damper Loire Valley. The exterior views are stunning and best viewed from a slight distance.
The interior is equally impressive. The open double spiral staircase supposedly designed or at least inspired by Leonardo da Vinci is a highlight where you might glimpse other visitors walking up the staircase but you won’t actually meet them on the way. A selection of the 440 rooms and 84 staircases are available for you to explore. Most visitors report they get quite the workout when visiting.
There are a range of options in terms of guides for visitors.
- A daily English language guided tour (July-Sept at 11:15am)€5 ($6) adult / €3 ($2) 5-17yrs
- L’Histopad – tablet based guide in a choice of languages€6 ($7) or family pack of 3 for €17 ($21)
- Detailed guidebook at ticket office for €6 ($7)
- Free visitor guide
If you’ve worn your feet out seeing the chateau itself you might like some of the other options touring the grounds. Some of the best photographs of Chambord are from a slight distance. Fortunately they’ve thought of that and you have a few options to make it more fun visiting the very extensive grounds and gardens.
- Hire a small motor boat to explore the canal
- Bike – a choice of adult and children’s bikes and bike trailers for the small ones. Prices start at €7 ($9) or €4 ($5) for one hour for adult or child bikes
- A “Rosalie” bike buggy (1-4 passengers) with the option for a small trailer – €20 ($25) for 1hr
- Golf cart style electric buggy (1-4 passengers) €28 ($35) for 45 minutes or €50 ($62) for 2hrs
Contact the reservations line for more details +33 (0)2 54 50 40 00 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Hours and Ticket Prices
The Chateaux is open all year round with the exception of December 25th, January 1st and the last Monday of November.
January 1st to March 30th – 9am to 5pm
March 31st to October 29th – 9am to 6pm
October 29th to December 31st – 9am to 5pm (4pm on 24th Dec and 31st Dec)
Ticket Prices (2018)
Adults – €13 ($16)
Group Rate (20 or more) €11 ($14)
Under 18yrs or long term EU residents aged 18-25yrs – Free admission
Website – https://www.chambord.org/en/
email – email@example.com
Tele – +33 (0)2 54 50 40 00
Please note all prices as at publication date (E&OE) – US$ prices indicative only
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