The Castle of Chambord is simply spectacular: a grandiose scenic construction of great elegance and imposing dimensions. It is a Renaissance jewel of immense historical and artistic value, designed, in some of its parts, by Leonardo da Vinci, hired by the sovereign for his genius.
In fact, the largest castle in the Loire was built at the behest of King François I, who was never fortunate enough to see it finished. Built between 1519 and 1547, the castle was conceived as a hunting reserve rather than a royal residence.
A great hunter but at the same time a lover of art and architecture, the monarch wanted to create the most sumptuous building ever seen: a projection of his immense power.
Nicknamed the builder king, since he upset the traditional rules of architecture of the time, François I created an ambitious and futuristic project: on the one hand influences from Italian aesthetics, on the other the principles of symmetry and the aesthetic canons of the Renaissance . All this combined with the layout of a medieval fortress, the ingenious flair of Leonardo da Vinci and the inclusion of elements hitherto reserved exclusively for religious buildings.
Today, Chambord Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the numbers reveal why. The construction is a true prodigy: the façade is 128 metres long, there are 426 rooms, 83 staircases, 800 sculpted capitals, 282 fireplaces and 4500 art objects. Its construction took 15 years and no less than 1800 masons and craftsmen were at work.
Although it was not intended for defensive purposes, Chambord Castle is characterised by a mighty keep, a symbol of the military power of medieval castles, surrounded by four large towers: a clear demonstration of strength and grandeur.
Inside, the cross plan, until then the exclusive preserve of religious buildings, divides the castle into four similar flats on each floor.
What makes the interior of Chambord truly unique is the double-helix sta ircase, designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Positioned in the centre of the huge keep, the staircase is completely invisible from the outside. At first glance, it appears to be a single staircase, but in reality it is two separate, spiralling flights of stairs, which twist into each other without ever crossing. Do this fun test: go up to the upper floors together with someone using the two staircases. You will never run into each other, although you can constantly follow each other with your eyes.
On the first floor of the castle are the sumptuous flats of the king and queen, richly decorated with more than 4500 objects of art, including antique paintings, elegant tapestries and period furniture. The peculiarity of the royal flats is that they are strictly separated, but at the same time communicating through some secret passages, reserved for meetings with lovers.
Also not to be missed is the chapel located in one of the two wings that enrich the castle structure.
The second floor of the castle is richly decorated with splendid coffered vaults, which leave visitors speechless. They all bear the coats of arms and symbols of King Francis I: the crowned F with a knotted rope, an effigy of his mother Louise of Savoy, and salamanders, an animal dear to the sovereign, who chose it as a representative element of his regal figure.
Depicted more than 300 times inside the castle, in popular legends salamanders have the power to resist flames by eating fire: a powerful symbol of invincibility.
After visiting the Hunting Museum, which is located on the second floor, you can go further up and reach the château terraces: from here you have a spectacular 360° panorama over the immense Chambord park.
From the terraces you will have an unprecedented view of the marvellous castle roofs, adorned with spires, chimneys and skylights that contrast with the soberness of the castle façades.
In addition, at the double-helix staircase, the lantern tower rises 56 metres high: its top is adorned with a snow-white lily, the symbol of the kings of France.
The castle of Chambord is surrounded by magnificent French-style gardens, conceived and designed by Louis XIV and completed during the reign of Louis XV. Unfortunately, this marvel was completely forgotten and abandoned in the period between the two world wars. It took 15 years of studies and archaeological excavations to bring back the original layout of the gardens.
Today, you can admire the two main segments, which have more than 600 trees, 800 shrubs, 200 roses, 15,250 plants bordering them and 18,874 square metres of lawns.
The park is actually much more extensive: it includes an entire forest, covering an area of 5400 hectares . As large as half of Paris, the Domain National de Chambord is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.
There are many paths, meadows, streams, ponds and hidden corners where more than 800 deer and 1500 wild boars live. The estate offers a varied habitat in which you can walk for hours: you will pass through oak forests, pine forests, heaths, ponds and clearings that come alive during the mating season of the deer . Every year, from mid-September to mid-October, this spectacular event attracts enthusiasts from all corners of Europe, who lurk for long photo sessions.
The Chambord estate is a nature reserve that is home to exceptional flora and fauna and its forest has been a Historical Monument since 1997. It is a true natural heritage site, preserving the deer and wild boar, the two main species that inhabit the park.
Beginning in May, visitors can explore more than 20 km of trails covering dozens of hectares in the middle of the forest. Walking along the Avenue du roi, which leads in front of the south façade of the château, you will be able to admire the château de Chambord from the very angle Louis XIV wanted.
You will also have access to the two small lakes, the Faisanderie and the Bonshommes, with enchanting views of the Sologne.
Strolling aimlessly and letting yourself be guided by the view of the park’s most picturesque corners is certainly the most popular choice for most tourists.
In fine weather, to explore such a vast area, you may also decide to take a guided tour or decide to rent bicycles or even hire a small boat to go up the canal that runs through the estate.
Every day except Mondays, from July to the end of August, there is a horse and birds of prey show: a company of actors in the world of equestrian acrobatics for the cinema stages the atmosphere of Francis I’s court, together with a falconry group.
There are 2 shows per day lasting about 45 minutes: tickets can be purchased with a dedicated ticket, or you can choose a combined ticket with a visit to the castle.
If you are lucky enough to visit Chambord in autumn, you can decide to take part in observing the deer mating season .
The park keepers will take you to an observation tower, located in the area closed to the public: the experience lasts 3 hours, with a group of a maximum of 16 people. The minimum age requirement is 12 years.
Chambord Castle is open all year round, except 1st January, the last Monday in November and 25th December. Remember that the last entry is allowed up to half an hour before the castle closes.
Visits to the castle are free and the entrance fee includes the castle, the park and the estate trails. Admission is free for persons under 18 years of age and European citizens aged between 18 and 25.
If, in addition to the château de Chambord, you intend to visit other Loire châteaux, you may find a combination ticket offering a discount on the total price convenient.Combined ticket Chenonceau + Chambord
A great opportunity to explore the château and immerse yourself in its period atmosphere is the visit with HistoPad. With a separate ticket, each visitor is provided with an interactive digital tablet in 12 languages, which allows them to virtually admire the rooms of the castle in Renaissance times.
Thanks to the use of 3D augmented reality, the HistoPad offers full immersion in the time of Francis I, bringing to life the ancient splendour of the castle, with the sounds, noises and furnishings of the period.
The best time to visit Chambord is definitely spring and summer, when the flowering gardens and mild temperatures favour walks in the park and exploration of the estate.
In addition, the château offers a full programme of cultural events, continuing the tradition inaugurated by Francis I, patron and great lover of the arts. Events not to be missed include the Chambord Festival, a classical music festival held in July, the Grande Brocante de Chambord, a flea market held on the château’s lawn, or the Music Festival on 20 June.
Learning all the details and curiosities from the viva voce of an expert guide is an experience that will make you appreciate your visit to the château even more.
Unfortunately, guided tours are only in French and vary in length (1, 2 or 3 hours), depending on the level of detail: the longer tours, for limited groups, offer a more complete knowledge of the château and give access to certain areas closed to the free visit such as mezzanines, attics and the lantern tower.
Guided tours have an additional ticket, in addition to the castle entrance fee.
The château de Chambord is located only 15 km from Blois: the beautiful little town can be a good base for visiting the grand hunting lodge of François I.
Around the château, there are several tiny villages offering high quality accommodation: you can choose between charming hotels in elegant country estates or charming B&Bs surrounded by greenery and with attention to detail. The enchanting rural scenery and hearty breakfasts with local products add an element of value to the hotels in the area.
Many tourists on holiday in Paris combine a stay in the French capital with a stop at Chambord Castle. It is in fact one of the Loire region’s locations closest to Paris.
Chambord Castle is less than 2 hours from Paris and only 15 km from Blois. You must follow the A10 motorway and exit at Mer (n°16) or Blois (n°17).
Paying car parks are located 200 metres from the château.
You must allow approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes for the journey: leave from the Austerlitz station in Paris and get off at the Blois stop. From here, you will have to take a shuttle bus to the château: it only runs from May to August.
What's the weather at Chambord Castle? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Chambord Castle for the next few days.
Chambord Castle is located just 15 km from the town of Blois, in the heart of the Loir-et-Cher département, in the Centre-Valley de la Loire region.