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The Château de Chambord is just glorious. The largest castle in the Loire Valley, its sheer grandeur is immediately impressive. Towers, long hallways, soaring turrets and a collection of chimney stacks all contribute to the charm and grace of this Renaissance castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s a castle to wander. To get lost a little. To discover the forest of chimneys, the terraces and one after another covered loggia. It’s a castle where one’s imagination can be sparked from the grand staircase to the immense grounds.
Please note: Right now in October 2022 until the beginning of summer 2023, there is maintenance on the towers at le Château de Chambord. The work in progress definitely detracts from its outstanding beauty. That being said, the Chambord Castle maintains its grandeur and it is still possible to thoroughly enjoy a visit here.
Château de Chambord: Practicalities
Getting To Château de Chambord From Paris:
To Château de Chambord By Train And Bus:
It is perfectly doable to do a fabulous day trip from Paris to Château de Chambord. Take a train from Gare d’Austerlitz to Blois. The journey will take about 90 minutes on a regional train (TER). Buy your ticket in advance. Book your train ticket.
Once in Blois, take the shuttle (navette in French) to the town of Chambord and then walk 15 minutes to the Château de Chambord. Buy your ticket for the shuttle from the driver. Here is the shuttle schedule.
To Château de Chambord By Guided Tour From Paris:
Another way to see the Château de Chambord is on a guided tour. Sit back and relax and arrive at several destinations in one day. This guided tour takes you to the Château de Chambord and Chenonceau. This full-day tour from Paris to the Loire Valley includes three châteaux.
To Chambord Castle By Car From Paris:
The journey via car from Paris to Château de Chambord takes about 2 hours and twenty minutes. Follow the A10.
Parking at Château de Chambord: Parking Lot P0 is 600 metres from the Château de Chambord and costs 6€ for cars and motorcycles.
Parking Lot 2 is further away and costs 4€ for cars and motorhomes.
Rent your car for a Loire Valley expedition.
Château de Chambord: Entrance And Hours
Access to the Château de Chambord and the French Gardens is 14.50€ (adults/ full day)
Hours: Low Season: Open from 9 am to 5 pm from October 31 to March 29.
High Season: Open from 9 am to 9 pm from March 30 to October 30.
Open daily except January 1, November 28, and December 25.
How Much Time Should We Plan To Visit At Chambord Castle?
There are many options to visit this château in the Loire Valley and plenty to do. To visit Chambord Castle, one can take a guided tour, take an audio tour with a Histopad, or wander the enormous castle with a map in hand and read the information signs, which are written in French and English.
Give yourself a minimum of 90 minutes to enjoy the castle. The views are outstanding and the history presented in the rooms is very interesting.
There are many ways to explore and connect with Chambord Castle:
- an equestrian and birds of prey demonstration
- a Landrover expedition through parts of the forest that are not accessible to individual guests. Will you see wild boar and deer?
- rent a bike, rosalie (pedal car) or golf cart to fully explore the grounds of the castle
- rent an electric boat and cruise the canal at the foot of the castle
- walk the 4 km circuit around the canal which has great views of the castle
- explore 23 km of footpaths on the grounds that are open all year
You can also take time to stroll around the French gardens (accessible with the entrance ticket to the castle).
A spectacular sound and light show takes place each year for a weekend in May. In 2022, it was the 70th anniversary of the first sound and light show at the Château de Chambord which took place in 1952.
Photographers will be in heaven at Chambord Castle. The light is particularly beautiful in the late afternoon and early morning.
Is There Accommodation By Chambord Castle?
Staying right beside a château such as the Château de Chambord is a dream come true! I stayed right here and was able to walk to the château, enjoy an exquisite meal with views of the château and see the silhouette of Chambord with the starry night as a backdrop. Truly magical.
Here are other hotels to stay at in Chambord and also nearby hotels in Mont-Prés-Chambord.
The Château de Chambord: 9 Best Things To Delight In
1. The Enormity Of This Loire Valley Castle
Bring comfortable walking shoes to explore the grandiose and immense Château de Chambord. With over 400 rooms (about 60 open to the public), 77 staircases and 282 chimneys there is plenty to explore. There are also the French gardens ripe for strolling, the walking trails, and the extensive grounds.
The castle sits in the National Hunting Reserve and Breeding Park which is 13600 acres (5000 hectares) large. A 20-mile (32 km) wall, the longest in France, surrounds the reserve.
2. The Château de Chambord – A Little History
Incredibly, Chambord is over 500 years old and has had a long and varied list of owners. It all started with François I (1494-1547) who had a grand vision. He wanted to build a large Renaissance-style château using the best architects from France and Italy. This château was to be his hunting lodge, one of François I’s favourite pastimes. In reality, this grandiose and majestic castle was a symbol of his political power.
François I didn’t spend much time at Chambord, in fact, less than 75 days.
Upon his death, the Château de Chambord, which was still not finished, was inherited by his son, Henri II.
This Loire Valley castle had many owners over the centuries including Louis XIV, Louis VX and the deposed king of Poland, Stanislas Leszczyński. It was given as a reward to two Marshals (Maurice of Saxony in 1745 and Marshal Berthier in 1809) for military victories.
In 1840, it was listed as one of France’s historic monuments and in 1930 the French State bought the Château de Chambord.
3. The Spiral Double Helix Staircase At The Château de Chambord
Not only is the world-famous spiral double helix staircase spectacular it also holds a few mysteries. First of all, it is possible to have someone ascending and another descending at the same time and never cross paths even though they can see each other. It’s magical.
Who could possibly have designed such an inventive and spell-binding staircase? Theories abound that it was Leonardo da Vinci who was friends with François I and whose notebooks contain sketches of similar staircases. If not Leonardo himself, one can definitely say that the staircase was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. It remains a mystery. But the fact is that the staircase in the Château de Chambord is as enchanting today as ever and Leonard da Vinci’s spirit lives on!
4. The Interior Of The Château de Chambord
The château was never meant to be permanently lived in and the itinerant royal court would arrive with its entourage of 2000 people and the furniture needed for the length of its stay. Imagine the logistical nightmare!
The 60 rooms that are open to the public are decorated with Renaissance furniture and the castle holds 4500 objects of art. Take your time and find François I’s residence, the Queen’s bedchamber and the chapel. Don’t miss Louis XIV’s theatre where Molière presented his plays in 1669 and 1670.
5. The Coffered Vaults
It’s not hard to see the lasting legacy of François I at the Château de Chambord. On the second floor gaze up at the ceiling and find the coffered vaults alternately displaying hundred of “F”s and Francois I’s symbol, the salamander. The salamander at Chambord is topped with a crown and is portrayed as either spitting water or swallowing flames.
6. The Castle Terraces
The Chambord Castle terraces are one of the exquisite pièces de resistance at Chambord. The array of chimney stacks and turrets is magnificent. The intricately carved white stone paired with the black slate rooftops is a breathtaking site. Placed perfectly in the middle, is the spectacular lantern, 30 metres (100 feet) tall and crowned with a fleur-de-lys.
The terraces are a place to wander. Look out over the domain, find the little chapel, admire the courtyards and external staircases from above and keep returning your gaze to the magnificent forest of chimneys stacks. Did someone say magical?
7. The French Gardens
From the terraces, soak up the view over the French gardens. It took sixteen years of research to finally recreate the identical layout of the gardens from the 18th century during Louis XIV’s reign. The gardens had been changed and eventually lost over the years.
Admire the gardens from above and then descend to the ground floor and stroll the alleys of the beautiful gardens at the Château de Chambord.
8. The Harboring Of Museum Masterpieces
Between 1939 and 1945, thousands of works of art were taken from France’s National Museums and hidden in châteaux around the country. Jacques Jaujard, the director of the Louvre, orchestrated the emptying of the Louvre. Two hundred trucks filled with thousands of carefully wrapped art treasures left the Louvre and headed for various châteaux. Chambord became a repository for the largest number of masterpieces during World War II.
The Germans knew where all the masterpieces were being stored from a leaked document. Luckily, Count Wolff-Metternich, an art historian, knew the art treasures should stay in France and not be sent to Germany as per Nazi orders. Wolff-Metternich convinced the Germans that it was too dangerous to move the art treasures. After the war, Géneral de Gaulle awarded Wolff-Metternich the Légion d’Honneur for protecting France’s art treasures.
Spend a few minutes watching the fascinating video depicting the Louvre being emptied of its treasures and the story that accompanies it.
9. The White Stone Of The Château de Chambord
Throughout the Loire Valley, the creamy white stone used to build the castles and homes paired with slate rooftops create an alluring regional beauty. The white stone called “tuffeau” is porous, light and perfect for building. It is however soft and easy to carve with a knife. Don’t be surprised upon entering through security if the guard asks you if you are carrying a small knife.
I hope you enjoy visiting the magical Château de Chambord as much as I did.
Until next time,
More Travel Info…
If you’re a real castle fan, these articles are for you.
The Château de Versailles – the most popular day trip from Paris
The Château de Chantilly – the perfect day trip from Paris
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley
The Château de Brissac in the Loire Valley
Château d’Amboise perched on a cliff overlooking the Loire River
The Château de Chenonceau, also known as the Ladies’ Castle!
Resources For Other Regions of France:
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Provence is always a winner. Follow this 7-day itinerary for a great trip.
The Dordogne Valley is a little less-discovered and a fabulous region to plan a holiday.
And a trip to le Pays Basque is never a bad idea! Start here in Biarritz.
My Paris posts will help you get off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and unique Paris experiences. Uncover Paris right here.