Featuring more than 300 chateaux (castles), the
In the 10th century castles were necessary for defense, but over the next five hundred years, which incorporated the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, French kings went on an architectural binge in the lush
Not wanting to be far from court, the nobility soon followed and, before long, the verdant, fertile region, known for its vineyards and gardens, was attracting the finest architects and landscape designers in the world.
In 2000, the central portion of the
Among the most popular of the
When Gilles Berthelot, the Mayor of Tours, acquired the property in 1518, his reconstruction concept was to marry contemporary residential status with aspects of the medieval past. Built in Italian Renaissance style, Azay-le-Rieau was competed in 1827 after nine years of restoration.
Chateau de Chenonceau:
With its stunning series of arches spanning the River Cher, Chateau de Chenonceau (www.chenonceau.com/en) is a visual feast.
Chenonceau is often referred to as “Le Chateau des Dames” (the Chateau of Women) because of the five aristocratic women who left their personal imprints on its design. For that reason, the castle features distinctively feminine elements, and it is smaller than many chateaux in the region.
Chenonceau was the favorite residence of Queen Catherine de Medici who was known for her grandiose parties, including the first fireworks display in French history in 1560.
Among the famous features of Chenonceau is the elaborate staircase decorated with human figurines, fruits and flowers. It was one of the first straight staircases in
Chenonceau is also noted for its fabulous collections of 16th and 17th century tapestries and paintings by Rubens, Rigaud, Nattier and Van Loo and remains one of the top tourist attractions in
Chateau de Chinon:
Though many people have heard of Chateau de Chinon (www.fortressechinon.fr/index.en.php), they may not know why. During the 15th century Charles VII encountered Joan of Arc who claimed to hear voices from heaven. As a test, Joan was challenged to identify Charles though she had never met him.
In an attempt to trick Joan, another man was chosen to represent Charles, but she was not deceived. Impressed by her clairvoyance, the regent granted Joan the supplies she needed and sent her into battle at
Since 1840, Chinon has been recognized by the French Ministry of Culture as a national historical monument.
Chateau de Villandry:
Chateau de Villandry (www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/) is famous more for its fabulous gardens than its architecture. Like so many of the
Today, the gardens are laid out in formal themed patterns with low box hedges. Among the most popular are the water garden, the ornamental flower gardens and the vegetable gardens.
In the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon acquired Villandry for his brother Joseph. Now owned by the Carvallo family, it is one of the more popular chateaux in
Chateau de Chambord:
Other than the massive size, the thing that immediately impresses travelers about
The multitude of towers is also striking. Lacking turrets and spires, they are not typically French. Rather, they resemble the 15th century minarets of
To showcase his vast wealth and power, Francois had the rooftop designed to accommodate large parties and shooting events. Eleven styles of towers and three versions of chimneys emerge from the roof, which has no symmetry.
Unlike many of the castles in the region,
Many major works of art from the Louvre in
The seemingly limitless array of chateaux in the
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