Tourism Région Centre Val de Loire / Loire Valley

Chambord ? The shadow of Leonardo da Vinci's genius on a fascinating monument

When you see it appear on the horizon, at the end of one of the alleys of a park so immense that it is the size of the city of Paris, your heart tells you that you are discovering a fairy tale castle. Born from the will of François 1st king of France, the castle of Chambord is immense, magnificent and it is said that it is due in great part to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci...

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The most famous castle of the Loire Valley. 

Château de Chambord Photo par Tsomchat/ShutterstockChâteau de Chambord Photo par Tsomchat/Shutterstock

 

The castle of all records 


It is a name that sounds like a dream. Chambord is the crazy dream of François 1er (1494 - 1547). First, the deep forest, more than 50 km2 surrounded by 32 kilometers of a stone wall that announces that here, we enter a royal forest. Further on, the castle. 440 rooms, 365 chimneys and 83 staircases. Built there, on the ancient feudal mound of the Counts of Blois. In 1516 Francis I himself supervised the construction of his stone dream. At the time, he was a new king, winner of Marignan a year earlier. 

 

The genius of Vinci. 

L'escalier à double révolution du château de Chambord Photo par Gimas/ShutterstockL'escalier à double révolution du château de Chambord Photo par Gimas/Shutterstock

So basically he has the baraka and he's enjoying himself. It is not impossible that his friend Leonardo da Vinci put his touch on the design of the castle. His genius can be seen in the grand staircase with its double revolution. An incredible staircase that allows those who go down never to cross those who go up. It must be said that Leonardo lived not far away, in a beautiful castle put at his disposal by the king who called him "father" because of his admiration for the Florentine genius. It was there, at the Château du Clos-Lucé, that Leonardo died on May 2, 1519, in the arms of the king, near the Mona Lisa, which became French property upon his death. 

François 1er reçoit les derniers soupirs de Léonard de Vinci / Par Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresMontauban, 1780 – Paris, 1867

Francis I receives the last breaths of Leonardo da Vinci / By Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresMontauban, 1780 - Paris, 1867


Francis was a great king


In every sense of the word... By the size in particular. 1m98 according to some calculations, which makes him still the tallest head of state that France has ever known, ahead of de Gaulle, and which makes any man of his time seem very small by comparison. That explains why he beat Henry VIII so easily in that fight at the camp of the golden sheet. Freshly allied, the two kings decide to fight in front of their respective courts. A show what. And it is Francis who wins. He wins especially to have humiliated the king of England and thus to make an enemy of it. Some time later Henry VIII allied himself with Charles V, the worst enemy of Francis. Moral: never offend the vanity of the one you want as a friend.

Le Roi François Ier vers 1530 (par Jean Clouet, huile sur toile, 96 × 74 cm, Paris, musée du Louvre).

Francis I circa 1530 (by Jean Clouet, oil on canvas, 96 × 74 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre).


But brief. Curiously, in 32 years of reign, the king spent only a little more than 40 days in his castle of Chambord. He had so much to do. Sowing the seeds of the Absolute monarchy, fighting against the Habsburg empire, fighting women, his great passion, and being curious about art and inventions of an era that he embodies in our imagination: the Renaissance. Chambord was a king's dream. And it is one of the rare eternal dreams since it is 5 centuries that we marvel at so much beauty.


The Count of Saint Germain


Many historical figures have stopped at Chambord. Louis XIV brought it up to date and completed the work of his predecessor thanks to the knowledge of Jules Hardouin-Mansard, the architect of Versailles. It is there, also, that the Count of Saint Germain lived and made researches to discover the secret of the philosopher's stone. This Count of Saint Germain was an astonishing character, who appeared in the history of France in the middle of the 18th century, and who was said to be immortal (something he never denied). Voltaire spoke of him saying "he is a man who does not die and who knows everything".

Le comte de Saint Germain / Gravure XVIIIe siècle

The Count of Saint Germain / 18th century engraving

He would have predicted to Marie Antoinette and Philippe-Egalité their fatal fate. Very fond of jewels, especially precious stones, Saint Germain has always kept a part of mystery... He died in 1784 at the supposed age of 93. I say "supposed" because we don't really know when he was born, and asking his servant if the count was 300 years old, a courtier was told "I can't tell you for sure, I've only been in his service for 100 years..."

 

The domain of Chambord  


Devastated during the French Revolution, the castle was saved by General Augereau who did the first conservation work. Watched over by Napoleon, it was offered in 1821 by subscription to Henri d'Artois, grandson of King Louis XVIIIE and heir to the throne of France. The child will carry this title of "Count of Chambord" all his life, without ever becoming king because at the time when he was proposed to gird the crown, in 1873, he refused the tricolor flag and the idea of having elections ...

Le comte de Chambord dans les années 1840 par Adeodata Malatesta.

The Count of Chambord in the 1840s by Adeodata Malatesta.

The state bought the estate from the prince's heirs in 1930 and took charge of a restoration that lasted for years. 


Refuge of the Louvre during the Second World War 

Mona Lisa "la Joconde" a séjourné au château de Chambord quelques années dans une caisse pour être protégée lors de la 2nde Guerre Mondiale. 
"The Mona Lisa" stayed at the Chateau de Chambord for a few years in a crate to be protected during the Second World War. 

The Chateau de Chambord then became one of the reception places of the Republic. The president received distinguished guests and invited them to hunt on the immense estate. It was also at Chambord that the greatest works of art from the Louvre were installed in 1939 for fear of bombing Paris. This is how the Mona Lisa came back a few years not far from the Clos-Lucé where the man who gave her life died...

 

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Visit Chambord 

château de Chambord Photo par Roman Babakin/Shutterstockchâteau de Chambord Photo par Roman Babakin/Shutterstock

 

What to see in Chambord ?


Chambord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, which means that it is one of the first sites on the list (for France there are 44, including Versailles, the Eiffel Tower...). It is the biggest and the most visited of the Loire castles.

Intérieur d'une chambre au château de Chambord / Photo by Dorian Mongel on Unsplash

Interior of a room at Chambord castle / Photo by Dorian Mongel on Unsplash

The gardens are huge, the park even more so. You won't be able to discover the whole domain since it is more than 5000 hectares. But you will discover the splendid French gardens, the English garden and even a vegetable garden. 

Huge domain of Chambord Photo par saiko3p/ShutterstockHuge domain of Chambord Photo par saiko3p/Shutterstock

The castle offers a fascinating visit. You will see the amazing double staircase that is said to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci and that makes that those who go up never cross those who come down. You can see some furniture on the second floor, notably the bedroom of Louis XIV, but don't be surprised to see empty rooms. The castles of the Loire Valley were only furnished when the sovereign resided there. 

When: 


Mostly in good weather, especially in spring when the flowerbeds are beautiful, but the castle has a lot of charm in autumn. 

 

Hours: 


The Domaine de Chambord is open every day of the year except January 1, November 28 and December 25. Be careful, there may be changes, always check the website before going there. 

From January 02 to March 29: 9H00 17H00

From March 20th to October 30th: 9H00 18H00

From October 31st to November 30th 9H00 17H00

From December 1st to December 16th 9H00 17H00

From December 17th to December 30th 9H00 18H00 (except on December 24th/25th/31st and January 1st). 

The last entry is 30 minutes before closing time. Attention, don't ask me why, but only payment by credit card is possible after 17H00. 

château de Chambord Photo par Ralf Gosch/Shutterstockchâteau de Chambord Photo par Ralf Gosch/Shutterstock

 

Prices : 


Full price 14,50 € including visit of the castle and gardens. 

Free for children under 26 years old, European Union citizens.

(indicative price as of November 27, 2021, to be sure of the rates visit the website of the domain). 

To this must be added the price of parking from 4 to 6 euros depending on the location.

Guided tours are extra: with a "histopad" (a tablet) it is 5 euros per person. It's worth it because it reconstructs the places you visit and explains them to you. With a guide it's 7 euros per person (4 for the 5-17 years old).  There are games for children. 

le château de Chambord / Tour / Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash

Chambord castle / tower / Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash

Our advice: 


Note that everything is big at Chambord, so you'll have to walk a lot. The nearest parking lot is 600 meters from the castle (P0 at 6 euros per day), another is 750 meters away (P2 at 4 euros per day). Remember to pay the parking when you arrive, you will save time at the exit when everyone is waiting in line to pay.

Baby carriers, walking sticks, luggage over 55 cm are not allowed in the castle, in the stables and in the French gardens. Lockers are available at the reception desk. Dogs are not allowed in the castle, in the French Garden and the stables. 

 


GPS address :


chateau : 41 250 Chambord

Latitude : 47.616211
Longitude : 1.516793

The car: 


Chambord is located in the department of Loir-et-cher. It is less than 2 hours from Paris to the South, a little less than 50 minutes from Tours or Orleans and 3 hours from Nantes

 

The train


There is no train station but there are shuttles from the station of Blois 

 

The official website

It is complete and very well done. Browse the official website of the Domaine de Chambord before going there.  

Image par baccus7 de Pixabay

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.