Château de Chambord

CENTRE Castello di Chambord

Outside the tine village of Chambord you can visit François I's remarkable Château de Chambord [ +33 254504000, www.chambord.org, ad/ch €9.50/Free] and one of the most iconic and largest French castles. Intended to be a simple weekend hunting lodge by François I, the castle morphed to be a grand building that stands proudly in the forests of the Loire. Today, it is full fledged tourist attraction that houses a museum, a restaurant and provides tours for almost everything. However, the magic is still retained within its old walls and towers.
   
T
he Chambord project took about 30 years to complete, as its construction was constantly interrupted by financial and design problems. There is much controversy regarding the original architect of this spectacular building. Names like those of Domenico da Cortona, Philibert Delorme and Leonardo da Vinci have been suggested to be the masterminds of this château. However, it has been widely agreed that the castle’s famous double helix stairs (a two-way staircase that raises and lowers 2 people without them meeting each other) was built by Leonardo Da Vinci, who was said to be the king’s ' pet'.
   
T
he castle comprises of 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, 84 staircases and an elaborate roofline that seems to hide many secret spaces. Although the castle was designed with a typical 16th century French château layout in mind (aka with a keep in the middle, corner towers and a moat), these features eventually became purely decorative, as the king used the premises exclusively for leisure pursuits. The castle also marries certain elements of the Italian Renaissance style in its design. For example, its towers resemble those found in 15th century Milan as opposed to France, as they lack the signature turrets and spires; the open windows and loggia have also borrowed from this architectural style.  Although its architecture might be perceived to be complex, the layout is actually rather simple- following straightforward Mathematical rules of the symmetry of grid squares around a Maltese cross (i.e. the rectangular keep stands in the centre with 4 hallways branching out from it, leading to the bastion towers. The great staircase winds up from the centre of the keep, leading to the lantern tower and the rooftop).  Hence, there is much to explore in the castle.
   
W
hile walking around the area, you can check out the Museum of Hunting and Nature on the second floor, which showcases the king’s weapons, hunting trophies and an unsettling array of stuffed animals. Also on display (in other areas of the château) are the cast iron keys of every door in the castle and a collection of ancient, fragmented royal pottery. Guided tours of these areas and the entire castle are available (multilingual ones are offered in summer) for an extra charge of €3-5. The château also plays host to a number of events throughout the year; most notably the Light and Sound Show, held every night, between July and September, telling the story of the castle with an illuminating light display on the its north façade.

 


   

 



Next to the château is a 54km² estate park area, Domaine National de Chambord, that acts as a hunting reserve. This park is protected by a 32km wall and is the largest enclosed forest area in Europe.  It is almost the size of inner Paris. The park was part of the royal hunting premises; today it is split into two portions- one serving government officials exclusively and the other being open to the public. The public area (only 10km²) of the park is a good place to spot wildlife in the region as it is home to the Loire's symbolic animals- the stag and the boar.

Yo
u can sight these species around the reserve while biking (solo or on bike tours), on horse carriages or horseback, on a Land Rover Safari tour (with French guides only) or simply on foot. All equipment rental and tour information is available on the château website. 

 

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châteauS:   1. Château de Chaumont  2.  Château de Beauregard   3. Château de Cheverny  4. Château de Chambord