Loire Valley

Castle of Azay le Rideau

The vision of this château will leave you speechless: 'a facetted diamond set on the Indre', resting its foundations directly in the water.

Nestled in the heart of the Turenna, the marvellous château of Azay le Rideau is one of the best examples of harmony and elegance of form. In fact, it was built on an island in the middle of the river and Honoré de Balzac himself described it as ‘a facetted diamond set on the Indre’.

Built between 1518 and 1523 by King François I’s treasurer, Gilles Berthelot, and his wife Philippa Lesbahy, it is one of the greatest masterpieces of the early French Renaissance and owes its extraordinary beauty to its L-shape full of turrets, reflected in the waters surrounded by an idyllic park.

The picture you will admire is also called The Enchanted Mirror and offers visitors a unique spectacle, which becomes exceptional during the Sound and Light night projections that take place in the summer months.

Things to do at Azay le Rideau Castle

Built during the reign of François I by Gilles Berthelot (treasurer of France and former adviser to King Louis XII), the Château d’Azay le Rideau offers all the charms of the Early Renaissance, combining French architectural tradition and Italian art influence in the decoration and layout of its façades.

This 16th-century masterpiece is surrounded by a romantic park and sits on an island designed by the Indre, the river that feeds a reflecting pool just below the castle walls.

The structure

The façade, completely renovated in 2016, appears to be a veritable lacework in stone. Above the entrance, we find the salamander, emblem of François I, and his most recurrent motto “Nutrisco et extinguo”, i.e. I feed (the good fire) and put out (the bad one).

As a whole, including the west wing, the castle forms an ‘L‘, with each corner of the building featuring a significant tower. The predominant architectural style is based on influences from the Italian Renaissance, although the roof and conical turrets are more in the French style.

The Interior

The interior of the castle of Azay le Rideau is very impressive, with several luxuriously furnished rooms, much larger than the most famous chateaux in the Loire Valley. You can admire fireplaces, paintings and original furnishings, spanning four centuries of French history, with sumptuous collections of objects, tapestries and furniture.

On the ground floor are fabulous decorations and you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the 19th century by visiting the Marquis de Biencourt’s salon, kitchen, dining room and library.

On the first floor you will find the king’s flat, the Renaissance hall, the oratory. One of the most interesting components is the grand staircase, built within the castle walls and with a façade richly decorated with intricate Gothic motifs.

But the truly exceptional part of the château is the under-roof: a masterpiece of carpentry hidden in the attic, a large open space made from wood cut in the Chinon forest in 1517. It resembles the upturned keel of a large ship and served as servants’ quarters.

The garden

When he bought the château in 1791, Charles de Biencourt, a botany enthusiast, wanted to transform the classic garden into a landscaped park. The so-called ‘English’ gardens, with their irregular lines, free forms of plants and movements of the soil, reflect a natural and uncontrolled conception of nature. The topography of the Azay le Rideau site and the abundance of water lent themselves perfectly to such a project.

Revolutionary events postponed the creation of the garden, the work on which would be in progress when Charles de Biencourt died in 1824. His son, who inherited the property, continued them. Trees of exotic species for the time such as redwood, cedar and tulip trees were planted in the park, and winding paths were created to offer pleasant and surprising views of the castle.

But the real wonder of the park is its water mirror, an invention of the 20th century. In the previous century, a terrace ran along the south wing. It was only in 1950 that the river arm was widened so that the water bordered the foundations of the castle: this work had the consequence of slowing down the current and since then, the castle has been reflected in a sheet of water.

The sound and light show

If you are lucky enough to visit the château of Azay le Rideau during the summer, you can witness one of the most fascinating sound and light shows in the entire Loire Valley. During Les Nuits Fantastiques, the park is transformed as if by magic and becomes the setting for an enchanted world, where one encounters marvellous animals, chimeric creatures and imaginative plants, as well as Renaissance treasures and jewellery. A dreamlike atmosphere is created with fairytale characters, artificial fog, light installations and melodious sounds that leave spectators enraptured and speechless.

At the end of a walk lasting about one and a half hours, the audience reaches the highlight of the evening: a show of images that tell the story of the castle, projecting them onto the walls of the building. With skilful use of colours and reflections on the water, the projection (which is repeated in a continuous cycle for the staggered flow of tourists) enchants visitors in all its magic.

Timetable

The castle is open all year round except 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. Times vary according to the seasons.

Admission is free for under-18s.

How to reach Azay le Rideau from Paris

The tiny village of Azay le Rideau is located in the heart of Turenne, an ancient French province with Tours as its capital, crossed by the Loire and its tributaries, the Cher, Indre and Vienne rivers.

By car

The castle of Azay le Rideau is located 270 km from Paris and can be reached in about 3 hours by car: you must take the A10 motorway, exit 24 Joué les Tours, then continue in the direction of Chinon, Azay le Rideau.

By train

The fastest way to reach Azay le Rideau by train is to take a TGV from Paris Montparnasse station to Tours. From there it is necessary to change to a TER train to the village of Azay le Rideau: the journey time is about 2 hours in total.

Where to stay in Azay le Rideau

The village of Azay le Rideau is a tiny hamlet: the accommodation scene is obviously limited, although of high quality, as is the evening life and opportunities to go out for dinner or to a few clubs. Accommodations are scattered throughout the enchanting French countryside, rich in vineyards and bucolic landscapes, and are often housed in old buildings, elegantly restored and charmingly furnished.

A good alternative is to stay in nearby Tours, which is only a 25-minute drive away. Here you can enjoy a lively, young evening life, with a historic centre full of cafés, bistros and gourmet restaurants.

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Recommended hotels in Azay le Rideau

Hotel
Hôtel de Biencourt
Azay-le-Rideau - 7, rue BalzacExtra sanitary measures
9.3,0Superb 914 reviews
This hotel is divided into 2 buildings from the 18th-century, a former school, from Napoleon III period. Hôtel de Biencourt is located in Azay-le-Rideau, in the Parc naturel régional Loire-Anjou-Touraine.
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Hotel
Logis Hôtel Restaurant des Châteaux
Azay-le-Rideau - 2 Route de VillandryExtra sanitary measures
8.4,0Very good 755 reviews
Set in Azay-le-Rideau in the heart of a beautiful valley, near world-known vineyards, the Logis Hôtel Restaurant des Châteaux offers the ideal backdrop to your stay.The hotel welcomes you in a green area and features beautiful guest rooms with warm, quiet atmosphere and view of the park and nearby valley.
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B&B
Manoir de la Touche
Azay-le-Rideau - 24 Rue du Vieux Chêne, CheilléExtra sanitary measures
9,0Superb 127 reviews
Featuring free WiFi, Manoir de la Touche is situated in Azay-le-Rideau (Cheillé), 700 metres from Château d'Azay-le-Rideau. Free private parking is available on site.
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Castle of Azay le Rideau Weather

What's the weather at Castle of Azay le Rideau? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Castle of Azay le Rideau for the next few days.

Saturday 2
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10°
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12°
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13°
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14°

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Useful information

Address

19 Rue Balzac, 37190 Azay-le-Rideau, France

Contacts

TEL: +33 2 47 45 42 04

Timetables

    Open every day from 10:00 am  to  5:15 pm

Where is located Castle of Azay le Rideau

The castle of Azay le Rideau is located in the small town of Azay-le-Rideau, in the department of Indre-et-Loire, in the Centre-Valley of the Loire region.

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