If you find yourself in the Loire Valley and have a day to dedicate to just one of its thousand châteaux, then I strongly suggest a visit to Château de Chenonceau. It is full of history, drama and architectural aesthetics.
The château was built on the foundations of an old mill in the early 1500s. The bridge over the river was added in the 1550s and the gallery over the bridge – in the 1570s. It is the bridge and the gallery that set Château de Chenonceau apart from any other château in the Loire Valley.
Through the centuries, six different Ladies were in charge of the château. Arguably the most famous (and controversial) one of them was Catherine de Medici – the widow of King Henry II. She removed Diane de Poitiers who was King Henry II’s favourite lady and the château’s owner at the time. During her ownership, Catherine raised the height of the gallery so that she could host her lavish parties there.
When Simone Menier was in charge of the château, the galleries were transformed into a hospital to look after World War I wounded soldiers.
Today, Château de Chenonceau is an historical monument and the second most visited château in France.
Must-see places in Château de Chenonceau
It is very difficult to advise on must-sees because everything at Château de Chenonceau is a must-see. The interior is just as attractive as the exterior and the gardens. The rooms are beautifully preserved and give you a very good, and accurate picture of what it was like to live in the château.
I suggest you take your time and arm yourself with patience as you won’t be the only visitor there. The good thing is that there is a gap between the clusters of visitors. So, if you wait a little you can enjoy the rooms without the big crowds of tourists and “happy snappers”.
The flower arrangements are particularly good and worthy of your time too! Yes, the flowers are real and yes – they smell as good as they look.
My favourite part of Château de Chenonceau was the Medici Gallery. I felt that I could have spent the whole day there, looking at the artefacts and reading about the six Ladies who influenced its destiny through the centuries.
This garden is named after its creator – Diane de Poitiers. It’s made out of two perpendicular and two diagonal paths which divide the eight lawn triangles within. All paths lead towards the water feature in the centre.
Take a gentle stroll on the raised terraces around the garden, to get a much better sense of its scale and design.
This is definitely the château’s smaller garden. It’s arguably the more refined one too. There are no raised terraces around it but you don’t need them to appreciate its design, which is centred around a circular pond.
Keep your camera handy as you will be able to photograph the château’s west facade as you walk through Catherine’s Garden.
The Vegetable and Flower Garden
You must find the time to go and see this garden. It is vast and that’s where they grow the flowers for the floral decorations of the château. There is also a selection of vegetables and other plants to admire (and photograph).
I did all of the above before the heavens opened at Château de Chenonceau. My walk through The Vegetable and Flower Garden was cut short by the rain. I still managed to explore quite a bit of it though.
Travel tips for visiting Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France
I spent close to four hours in the afternoon, exploring the interior of the château and wandering through the grounds. I could have easily stayed for another couple of hours had it not started to rain as there is so much to see and so much to explore. Here is some information to help you plan your visit to Château de Chenonceau:
Château de Chenonceau
Tel: +33 (0) 2 47 23 44 06
The château is open all year long but you should check the website prior to your visit for precise opening hours.
Peak season – 01/04 – 31/10
9:30am – 7:30pm
Off season – 01/11 – 30/03
9:30am – 5:00pm
*Last entry ½ hour before château closing.
Château and gardens:
Full rate -13€
Full rate with audio guide – €17.50
Reduced rate – 10€
Reduced rate with audio guide – €14
*Car park – FREE