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The Château of Azay-le-Rideau is a true gem of the Loire Valley. Nestled on a small island on the Indre River, this stunning Renaissance castle stands out with its elegance and attention to detail. The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded by lush greenery, including a romantic park and gardens that add to its peaceful and romantic ambience.
I first visited Château d’ Azay-le-Rideau in 1980 with my mother. Standing before Château d’ Azay-le-Rideau decades later, the small white castle with its same turrets unleashes a flood of memories of a Loire Valley Castle expedition that left an unforgettable impression. The Château d’ Azay-le-Rideau is exactly as I remember it, reflected in the stillness of the Indre River waters. Just like a fairytale, a photographer’s dream.
Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau: Practicalities
Where Is Azay-le-Rideau?: The Château of Azay-le-Rideau, in the Indre-et-Loire department in France, is located at 19 rue Balzac in the town of Azay-le-Rideau.
Cost: 11.50€ per adult; Audio guides are available in French, English, Spanish, German and Italian for €3. Buy your skip-the-line ticket.
Azay-le-Rideau Opening Hours: October 1 – March 31: 10 am to 5:15 pm; April 1 to June 30: 9:30 am to 6 pm; July 1 to August 31: 9:30 am to 7 pm; September 1 to 30: 9:30 am to 6 pm
Closed January 1, May 1, and December 25
Getting To Château d’Azay le Rideau:
From Paris, trains leave from Gare Montparnasse and Gare Austerlitz to Tours. Switch in Tours for the train to Chinon. Buy your train ticket here.
The chateau is accessible from the Chinon train station (2.1 km), about 20 minute walk
From Paris: A10 exit #24 towards Chinon. 2h 53 min 267 km 165 mi
From Poitiers: N10 to Sainte- Maure-de-Touraine, then D 760 and D57 1 hr 17 min 97 km 60 mi
From Tours: D37 exit #11 30min 26 km 16 miles
The town of Azay-le-Rideau is located on the “Indre à Velo” and the “Loire à Velo” cycling routes.
A Brief History Of The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau was built during the reign of King François I at the beginning of the 16th century by Gilles Berthelot and his wife Philippe Lesbahy. It combined French architecture with Italian influences making it one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in France.
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau had several owners including Henri-François de Vassé in the 17th century until landing in the hands of the Marquis de Biencourt in 1792. For over one hundred years, until well into the 19th century, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau stayed in the Biencourt family. They maintained and lovingly restored their marvellous castle until Marquis Charles Marie Christian, fourth Marquis de Biencourt, was forced to sell the château in 1898.
The Biencourt family had an incredible collection of over 300 historical portraits. Portraits of French, who, they believed, were the great figures who had shaped France’s history. Many people came to admire this extraordinary collection of paintings.
When the Marquis Charles Marie Christian, the fourth Marquis de Biencourt was on his deathbed, only 52 portraits remained. He had encountered financial losses and the Château and many of the portraits were sold. Marquis Charles Marie Christian’s niece, Marguerite de Biencourt, inherited the remaining 52 portraits. She donated them to the musée Condé at the Château of Chantilly in 1939.
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau came under French State ownership in 1905.
The Exterior of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
It is just a magnificent sight to walk along the wide avenue towards the castle of Azay-le-Rideau. Multiple turrets and intricate towers soar skyward. Carved dormer windows encircle the towers. The main courtyard, with four tiers of windows drawing the eyes to the roof line, epitomizes grandeur.
To fully appreciate the exterior of the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, follow the path around the castle. Here are the most magnificent moments to observe the detailed stonework in the local white tuffeau stone and to marvel at the reflection of the castle in the Indre River. Plan on dilly-dallying. It’s a magical part of the visit to the chateau.
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau: The Interior
There are many highlights of visiting the interior of the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau but the most memorable is the grand staircase. A very modern staircase in the 16th century, this staircase was not in spiral form and not in a tower. Rather it is found in the centre of the main building. The landings open into loggias, allowing people to look out over the courtyard and gardens.
All the stonework that can be seen from the Main Courtyard is remarkable. It’s very lacey and I love looking for the emblems, such as the salamander of King Francois I, and people’s initials. Look for the initials G. and P., representing Gilles Berthelot and his wife Philippe Lesbahy. They live on in the chateau they created.
Another highlight is Psyche’s Chamber full of tapestries woven in wool and silk. I also loved the Great Hall, used for balls, the King’s Chamber and the kitchen and dining room with its set table. Who’s staying for dinner?!
The Park At Azay-le-Rideau
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau situated on an island where two branches of the Indre River pass by is surrounded by lush greenery, including enormous cedar and sequoia trees. The natural setting is exquisite.
There are two gardens to visit at The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. Don’t miss the Secret Garden, near the entrance and the great gift shop, which was a vegetable plot in the 19th century. Today flowers and herbs are grown. Wander through the Prioiry Garden, a beautiful English Garden.
The Town Of Azay-le-Rideau
Azay-le-Rideau is a charming town in the Loire Valley full of historic buildings, quaint cafés, and boutiques selling artisanal goods. The main draw is the Château of Azay-le-Rideau but be sure to leave time to stroll the cobbled streets of this small town.
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau Things To Do Nearby
Château de l’Islette
Just one mile (2 km) from the Château of Azay-le-Rideau is the privately owned Château de l’Islette. With the Indre River winding through the domain, it is rather idyllic. Auguste Rodin and his mistress Camille Claudel would come to the Château de l’Islette for their romantic getaways. There is a room dedicated to their love letters. Don’t miss the English gardens and the tea room. Why not rent a boat and cruise along the Indre River?
Loire Valley Pro Travel Tip: The Château de l’Islette opens yearly from May 1 to September 30
Château de Saché – Musée de Balzac
Ten minutes by car from the Château of Azay-le-Rideau is the Château de Saché. Honore de Balzac, one of the most influential French writers of the 19th century, spent a significant amount of time at the Château of Saché. This beautiful castle was a peaceful retreat for Balzac, allowing him to escape Paris and focus on his writing. It was at the Château of Saché that Balzac wrote some of his most famous works, including “Le Père Goriot” and “La Comédie Humaine.” The museum has over 2300 items such as manuscripts and prints. Balzac fans will be in heaven!
Only a 20 minute drive from the Château of Azay-le-Rideau, is the Château d’Ussé. This magical château inspired Charles Perrault to write the fairytale “Sleeping Beauty.”
I hope you enjoy visiting the Château of Azay-le-Rideau and its surrounding area as much as I did.
Until next time,
More Travel Info…
Resources For Travelling France:
Here are my most popular Paris resources: 25 Essential Paris Travel Tips. If you like getting off the beaten path, here are 25 hidden gems in Paris. Really want to explore secret Paris? There are over 60 secret spots in my eBook, Paris for the Curious Stroller. Uncover Paris right here.
More French Castles:
You may want to visit Chambord in the Loire Valley, Chaumont-sur-Loire in the Loire Valley and the Château de Brissac, a family-owned castle. Don’t miss Château d’Amboise perched on a cliff overlooking the Loire River. And the elegant Château de Chenonceau, also known as the Ladies’ Castle.
Chantilly is the perfect day trip from Paris.
Versailles, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most famous of French castles is also just a day trip from Paris.
Other Regions In France:
Normandy is another beloved region of France for locals and visitors alike. Read 19 Wonderful Things To Do in Normandy France to help you plan your itinerary in this region.
Brittany France is on many people’s France Bucket List! Here are 13 Reasons to Fall in Love with Brittany France.
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.