The group forty-two fairy-tale châteaux in the Loire Valley is one of France's most popular tourist destinations. Visiting them all can be a daunting task, so here we pick the five most spectacular castles for you.
Château de Chambord
The largest chateau of the Loire Valley, Chambord boasts 156-metre façade, 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, 77 staircases and a beautiful park stretching over 13,000 acres. The castle was built by François I who was only 25 years old when he commissioned the construction. Château de Chambord was never furnished as it served as a hunting lodge for short stays and all the necessities were brought by the king’s entourage that consisted of up to 2,000 people. During World War II, some of France's most valuable national treasures and works of art, including the Mona Lisa, were housed in Chambord.
|Château de Chambord|
Château de Blois
A former residence of seven Kings and ten Queens of France, Blois consists of 564 rooms in total, 75 staircases, and 100 fireplaces. The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 13th century where the spectacular Salle des États (Hall of States) is located. Three wings, built over centuries feature gothic, Renaissance and classical architectural styles. Today the castle houses Blois’ Fine Arts museum as well as various temporary exhibitions in the lavish decorated royal apartments.
Nestled on a small island hidden by centuries-old trees, Château d' Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most romantic castles in the Loire Valley. Although significantly smaller than many other castles in the area, Azay-le-Rideau packs a punch with its richly decorated drawing rooms and stately apartments boasting a splendid collection of of Flemish tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries.
A favourite of many French kings, Chateau d'Amboise witnessed some gruesome events: King Charles VIII died here in 1498 after hitting his head on a door lintel; in the 16th century 1200 Protestants who had tried to revolt were hanged on iron hooks on the castle’s walls. A few hundred metres from the castle stands Le Clos-Lucé manor where Leonardo da Vinci spent final years of his life.
|Château de Chenonceau|
Château de Chenonceau
Famous for its arches spanning the River Cher, the Chenonceau castle has opulent furnishings, beautiful formal gardens and an impressive art collection, which includes masterpieces by Rubens, van Dyck, van Loo).
Photos via Flickr by: Dimitar Denev, Mark Weston, Andrea Schaffer.