Considered one of the most famous and romantic châteaux in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chenonceau is one of the greatest testimonies to the refinement and elegance of the Renaissance, thanks to the richness of its decorations, furnishings and, above all, its gardens. And this is no coincidence.
It is often called the Château des Femmes since it was built, designed and enlarged by a series of extraordinary and unusual women such as Katherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici and Madame Dupin, who loved it and preserved it from conflicts and wars.
Every nook and cranny of the château reflects the feminine imprint, with its gracefulness and elegance . It is above all the gardens that make it so special: the part created by Diane de Poitiers, houses a fountain that sprays a six-metre high jet of water, while the one cared for by Catherine de Medici boasts an area of 5,500 square kilometres, a labyrinth of over a hectare and a botanical garden.
Known as the ‘château des dames‘, Chenonceau’s history is inextricably linked to that of the extraordinary female figures who have inhabited this elegant residence, each leaving their own distinctive mark.
The first lady of the château was Katherine Bricconet, wife of Thomas Bohier, financial secretary to King François I. It was the lady of the castle who gave life to the castle’s refined Venetian-style appearance by having the original medieval fortress demolished. In addition, Katherine began the construction of the first gardens.
This was followed by Diana of Poitiers, King Henry II’s favourite: on the strength of her position of power, Diana had spectacular gardens created and built the famous bridge across the river Cher, giving the castle its sophisticated shape.
The great protagonist of the residence was certainly Catherine de’ Medici: as the king’s widow, she immediately distanced her rival Diana and had the two-storey gallery built where she organised sumptuous parties during her regency. In the meantime, she educated the future King Henry III.
When her husband, King Henry III, died, Louise of Lorraine wore mourning in white, wearing only white clothes, according to court etiquette. Widowed and without possessions, the morganatic queen (i.e. without titles or privileges) spent her days reading and praying. She was the only woman to make no improvements to the castle, locked in a bubble of mourning and grief. Her death marked the end of royal history at Chenonceau.
Louise Dupin followed, representing proud and independent, the new Age of Enlightenment. Louise took over the castle, turning it into a brilliant salon, frequented by philosophers of the calibre of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. She will be the one to defend the castle from the axe of the Revolution.
New era, new mistress. Belonging to the industrial bourgeoisie, Marguerite Pelouze decides to make the estate the mirror of her success: after spending a fortune to restore it, she ends up in poverty.
Finally, Simone Menier, head nurse, arrives: she will administer the hospital installed in the château’s two galleries, where more than 2000 war wounded will be treated until 1918.
The Château de Chenonceau is a spectacular sight that leaves visitors breathless: the blinding white of the stone contrasts with the dark, pointed black slate roofs.
The building, sinuous and elegant, seems to float on water: in fact, its foundations lie in the depths of the river Cher, creating magnificent reflections and creating an exceptional panorama.
A visit to the estate begins with the gardens: immense, imaginative, manicured, idyllic, each reflecting the character, history and personality of the person who designed and commissioned them.
Strolling through these gardens in spring and summer is a feast for the eyes: you will be immersed in colourful geometries, a splendour of different roses. More than 40,000 flowering plants cultivated and spread over the 70 hectares of the park await you.
Unlike the other portions of the estate, these gardens are raised by a plinth to prevent them from flooding during the flooding of the Cher river.
They are laid out in the traditional French style, thus based on symmetry and refined decoration. The gardens are embellished with statues and the presence of water features and grand perspectives. They have a rectangular shape, formed by 8 triangular segments: in the centre stands a fountain with a mighty jet, several metres high.
Catherine’s Italian gardens are certainly the most imaginative and the most creative. Situated on a terrace directly overlooking the Cher river, the gardens are laid out around a circular pool with paths decorated with roses of all varieties and lavender bushes. More intimate and cosy, Catherine’s garden is the epitome of elegance: the paths overlooking the water and the park provide a magnificent view of the west façade of the castle.
Catherine was also responsible for the design of a magnificent Italian labyrinth, created with 2000 yew plants and surrounded by the small Caryatids garden.
The flower garden is a quiet, bucolic place, organised in twelve squares bordered by apple trees and tree roses. A dozen or so gardeners cultivate a hundred varieties of flowers, necessary for the floral decoration of the castle, over 400 species of roses. In fact, every day, every room in the mansion is decorated with fresh flower arrangements.
Extraordinary vegetables and flowers are also produced, such as tuberoses and agapanthus. A true paradise for plant lovers. Near the vegetable garden, there is also the Donkey Park.
The farm is a magnificent complex of buildings from the 16th century: it houses the stables of Caterina de’ Medici.
Inside is the Carriage Gallery and Shooting vehicles, housed in the farm’s large stable: you can admire a vast collection of horse-drawn vehicles for noble or agricultural use. Some vehicles are exquisitely French like the Tonneau, others of English origin like the Tilbury or the Break. A precious testimony of a not too distant past.
The château has a square layout on four levels: each floor has a central corridor providing access to the various rooms.
Inside the different rooms you will find numerous masterpieces by Murillo, Tintoretto, Nicolas Poussin, François Clouet, Correggio, Rubens, as well as a vast collection of tapestries, furniture, paintings and period objects.
Not to be missed are the lodgings of the ladies of Chenonceau: the chamber of Catherine de Medici, the chamber of Diana of Poitiers, the chamber of the Five Queens, and the chamber of Charles de Vendome, in which large fireplaces, majestic four-poster beds and marvellous tapestries dominate. Unlike all the others, the chamber of Louise of Lorraine is a very sombre room, unmistakable with its black walls decorated with symbols of mourning. In fact, when her husband Henry III died, she turned the castle into a place devoted to grief and confinement.
The kitchens, located in the basements of the first two pillars of the bridge, are also beautiful: they flooded every time the river flooded. You can admire all the tools and objects of the time, the large fireplaces used for cooking, the utensils used for preparing meals, the butcher’s shop, the larder and the moorings for unloading food.
This architectural marvel was designed and commissioned by Catherine de Medici, who organised ceremonies and festivities here in honour of her son Henry III. This immense walkway is no less than 60 metres long, 6 metres wide and lit by 18 windows that look out over the waters of the River Cher, providing an enchanting view.
With its chequered tufa and slate floor and bright white walls decorated with effigies of historical figures, the gallery reflects the joyful character of the hostess.
On the west side of the courtyard is the Dome Gallery, a secondary building housing two very interesting rooms. On one side you will visit the Spezieria: Catherine de Medici, a great lover of herbs, spices and poisons, used to collect medicinal plants. She therefore wanted to create a vast collection of herbs, kept in wonderful apothecary jars.
Next door is the Infermeria, a faithful reconstruction of the military hospital that had been placed in the Galleria de Medici during the First World War, to heal the wounded of the conflict. In fact, the Galleria Medici could accommodate 120 beds. On the lower floor, on the other hand, an operating theatre was set up, boasting one of the first X-ray machines of the time.
Overlooking the gardens and originally intended to protect the orange and lemon trees from the cold during winter, the Orangerie is now a gourmet restaurant awarded a Michelin star. Great cuisine and refinement at the table are a tradition cultivated over the centuries at the Château de Chenonceau, where grand sumptuous feasts were held.
The marriage of Henri II and Catherine de Medici was also an association between French gastronomy and Italian cuisine. Here at the château, the modern trend of consuming local produce, following the rhythm of the seasons, was followed centuries in advance, with a preference for whatever was grown locally rather than delicacies from faraway lands.
The castle is open every day of the year, with opening hours varying with the seasons. The castle and shop remain accessible 30 minutes after the ticket office closes.
Visits to the castle are free: you can either use a brochure or an audio guide available in 11 languages.
The gardens are included in the ticket and are particularly impressive in the spring months, when the rose garden is at its most beautiful.
If, in addition to the Château de Chenonceau, 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
There are no official guided tours of the château but you can download the Découvrir Chenonceau mobile application free of charge: this tool will be very useful for discovering every corner of the château, learning about its history and preparing for your visit.
The Château de Chenonceau is located in the province of Turenne and can be easily reached from Paris: many tourists visit the château along with a stay in the French capital.
Those who prefer to travel by public transport can reach the Château de Chenonceaux comfortably by train from Paris with two options: it takes 1 hour and 40 minutes by TGV train, the high-speed train, from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport station to St. Pierre des Corps station, or 1 hour by TGV train from Paris Montparnasse station, also to St. Pierre des Corps.
Once you arrive at St. Pierre des Corps, change and take a regional train, which will take you directly to Chenonceaux station, located a 200-metre walk from the castle ticket office, in 25 minutes.
The Château de Chenonceau is located on the river Le Cher and is surrounded by an enchanting bucolic landscape and a series of delightful villages.
The choice of accommodation is extensive within a 15 km radius: you can range from charming hotels in comfortable and elegant period buildings to B&Bs run by locals who are welcoming and attentive to your every need.
What's the weather at Castle of Chenonceau? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Castle of Chenonceau for the next few days.
The Château de Chenonceau is located in the village of Chenonceaux: it is only a 2-hour drive from Paris and 40 minutes from Tours.