I planned a visit to Château de Chambord ever since I began researching the Loire Valley. Its architecture attracted me and I was determined to go there and photograph it myself. I couldn’t help but stop at Chambord on my way down from Champagne.
You know you are about to enter a monument of significant importance and grandeur when you have to drive for five kilometres (on a straight road through woodlands) to reach the entrance. When I first saw the top of Château de Chambord, I squealed. I was that excited to see it and be there! That’s how my visit to Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France began.
It is described as “a work of genius, radically unique and belonging in its essence to the heritage of mankind”. Bold claims but even they don’t capture the full magnitude of this imposing chateau.
The château was built by King François I – patron of the arts and the initiator of the French Renaissance. He attracted a number of Italian artists to work on the creation of Château de Chambord. One of those artists was none other than Leonardo da Vinci.
The Italian master took the painting of Mona Lisa with him as he kept adding details to it whilst he was alive. When da Vinci died in Amboise (which is not far away from Chambord), he left the masterpiece to his assistant who sold it to King François I. That’s why the Mona Lisa is in The Louvre today and not in Italy.
Chambord is also referred to as “one of the most beautiful works in the world” and “it is to architecture what the Mona Lisa is to painting”! And that’s why, if you had to visit just one of the thousand châteaux in the Loire Valley it has to be Château de Chambord.
I arrived there in the early afternoon but I suggest you start in the morning and dedicate the entire day to it to make the most of your visit to Château de Chambord.
Must-see places on your visit to Château de Chambord
It took me the whole afternoon to explore just the château and here are the “must-sees”:
The double-helix staircase
You can’t miss it as this spiral staircase is the first thing that will WOW you. It’s made out of two separate flights of stairs which go upwards around a hollow newel post. It is an architectural must-have experience on its own. I went up and down it quite a few times as I was so fascinated by it.
The furnished apartments
Very quickly, you will notice that most of the rooms in the château are empty. That’s because it was used as a hunting lodge and not as the main residence of the King. Therefore furniture was only shipped in prior to Royal visits.
There are, however, numerous furnished apartments on the first floor. You must see them as they are prime examples of French interior decoration, from the Renaissance through to the Revolution.
The vaulted rooms
A salamander was the emblem of King François I. They appear in patterns with alternating letter F throughout the château. There are hundreds of them in the ceilings of the vaulted rooms on the second floor. see how many can you spot before your neck begins to hurt.
If the above “must-sees” fail to impress you, the terraces certainly will. You will spend a long time looking at (and photographing) the panoramic views of the park and gardens. The terraces will guide you through a labyrinth of chimneys, leading to the masterpiece in the centre – the lantern tower topped with the Royal fleur-de-lis.
Travel tips for visiting Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley in France
I did explore Chambord on my own and the majority of the other visitors at the time did too by the look of it. If you prefer to opt in for a guided tour or a Histo Pad (see below), here’s the information you need along with admission rates and contact information:
41250 Chambord – FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0)2 54 50 40 00
The château is open all year long, except for 1 January, the last Monday of January and 25 December.
Peak season – 01/04 – 31/10
9:00am – 6:00pm
Off season – 01/11 – 30/03
9:00am – 5:00pm
*Last entry ½ hour before château closing.
**The French formal gardens close 1/2 hour before château closing.
Château and French gardens:
Full rate -13€
Reduced rate – 11€
*Car park – 6€ per day
Tours and guides
Daily guided tour – July to September – starts at 11:45am
Adult – 5€
Child – 3€
*That cost is on top of the entrance fee
A virtual 3D tour of the château as it was during the time of King François I.
Individual tablet – 6.50€
Family pack (3 tablets) – 17€