Chateaux of the Loire Valley

Château de Saché

The Château de Saché is a stately home built from the converted remains of a feudal castle. It was here, between 1830 and 1837, that the French writer Honoré de Balzac wrote some of his finest works in the series La Comédie Humaine, comprising nearly 90 novels, in which he attempted to reflect every aspect of French society at that time. The château was owned by Balzac's friend, Jean de M ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Saché, France

Château d'Ancenis

Château d'Ancenis was originally built in 984 AD to the banks of Loire river. It was a motte-and-bailey castle made of wood. In the 15th century it was rebuilt as a stone castle and has also Renaissance features.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ancenis, France

Château de Chambord

The royal Château de Chambord is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King François I in part to be near to his mistress the Comtesse de Thoury, Claude Rohan, wife of Julien de Clermon ...
Founded: 1519-1547 | Location: Chambord, France

Château de Loches

The Château de Loches was constructed in the 9th century. Built some 500 metres above the Indre River, the huge castle, famous mostly for its massive square keep, dominates the town of Loches. Designed and occupied by Henry II of England and his son, Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century, the castle withstood the assaults by the French king Philip II in their wars for control of France until it was finally c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Loches, France

Château de Châteaudun

Château de Châteaudun was built between the 12th and 16th centuries. The Count of Blois Thibaut V had the keep built around 1170. The Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1451 and 1493. The choir and the high chapel were built between 1451 and 1454, with the nave and the oratory between 1460 and 1464. Jehan de Dunois, the bâtard d'Orléans (Bastard of Orléans), built the west wing (the "aile Du ...
Founded: 1170 | Location: Châteaudun, France

Château de Saumur

The Château de Saumur, originally built as a castle and later developed as a château was originally constructed in the 10th century by Theobald I, Count of Blois, as a fortified stronghold against Norman predations. It overlooks the confluence of the Loire and the Thouet. In 1026 it came into the hands of Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, who bequeathed it to his Plantagenet heirs. Following its destruction in 1067, ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Saumur, France

Cháteau de Angers

The Cháteau d'Angers is a castle founded in the 9th century by the Counts of Anjou. It was expanded to its current size in the 13th century. Originally, the castle was built as a fortress at one of the sites inhabited by the Romans because of its strategic defensive location. In the 9th century, the Bishop of Angers gave the Counts of Anjou permission to build a castle in Angers. It became part of the Angevin empire of t ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Angers, France

Château de Blois

The Royal Château de Blois in the center of the city of Blois. The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans. Built in the middle of the town that it effectively controlled, the château of Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to th ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Blois, France

Château de Châteaubriant

Château de Châteaubriant is first mentioned between 1030 and 1042. It was first built by Brient, an envoy of the count of Rennes, to create an outpost in the Pays de la Mée. The first castle was a motte-and-bailey structure made of wood. It dominated the river Chère and the Rollard and had two concentric moats. One was dry, the other filled with water. It also had a big square keep, rebuilt in st ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Châteaubriant, France

Château de Bellegarde

Château de Bellegarde was built between 1355-1388 by Nicolas Braque to the foundations of earlier fortification. It was renovated in 1692 by Duc d’Antin and it was a residence for famous visitors like Louis XIV, Louis XV, King Stanislas and Voltaire.
Founded: 1355-1388 | Location: Bellegarde, France

Château d'Amboise

The Château Royal of Amboise, standing firmly on its riverside rock facing the Loire river, was home to every king or queen of France for 160 years, up to the end of the 16th century. Built to control a strategic ford that was replaced in the Middle Ages by a bridge and the château began its life in the 11th century, when the notorious Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, rebuilt the stronghold in stone. Expanded and ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Amboise, France

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Château de Azay-le-Rideau was built from 1515 to 1527 and it is one of the earliest French Renaissance châteaux. Built on an island in the Indre River, its foundations rise straight out of the water. Gilles Berthelot, Treasurer-General of the Finances of France under King Francis I and mayor of Tours, began reconstructing Azay-le-Rideau's earlier medieval castle, that was part of his wife's inheritance. Howev ...
Founded: 1515-1527 | Location: Azay-le-Rideau, France

Château de Chinon

Château de Chinon was founded by Theobald I, Count of Blois. In the 11th century the castle became the property of the counts of Anjou. In 1156 Henry II of England, a member of the House of Anjou, took the castle from his brother Geoffrey after he had rebelled for a second time. Henry favoured the Château de Chinon as a residence: most of the standing structure can be attributed to his reign and he died there ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Chinon, France

Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries. Pierre d'Amboise unsucc ...
Founded: 1465-1510 | Location: Chaumont-sur-Loire, France

Château de Cheverny

Philippe Hurault built the château between 1624 and 1630, to designs by the sculptor-architect of Blois, Jacques Bougier, who was trained in the atelier of Salomon de Brosse, and whose design at Cheverny recalls features of the Palais du Luxembourg. The interiors were completed by the daughter of Henri Hurault and Marguerite, marquise de Montglas, by 1650, employing craftsmen from Blois. Burdette Henri Martin IV has ...
Founded: 1624-1630 | Location: Cheverny, France

Château de Blain

The Château de Blain was originally constructed by order of Alan IV, Duke of Brittany, around 1108. The fortress passed by marriage to the Clisson family in 1225. Following Olivier I de Clisson"s revolt against the Duke, the castle was razed in 1260. Olivier I"s son, Olivier II obtained permission from the Duke to rebuild the castle. The Clissons progressively enlarged the castle during the 14th century. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Blain, France

Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry is a castle-palace located in Villandry, in the département of Indre-et-Loire. The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century. Acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France's Controller-General for War under King Francis I, a new château was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Philip II of F ...
Founded: 1532 | Location: Villandry, France

Château de Sully-sur-Loire

The Château de Sully-sur-Loire is a castle converted to a palatial seigneurial residence. The château is the seat of the duc de Sully, Henri IV's minister Maximilien de Béthune (1560–1641), and the ducs de Sully. It is a château-fort, a true castle, built to control one of the few sites where the Loire can be forded; the site has perhaps been fortified since Gallo-Roman times, certainly since the beginning of the el ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sully-sur-Loire, France

Château de Beaugency

The lords of Beaugency attained considerable importance in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries; at the end of the 13th century they sold the fiefdom to the Crown. Afterward it passed to the house of Orléans, then to those of Dunois and Longueville, and ultimately again to that of Orléans. The city of Beaugency has been the site of numerous military conflicts. It was occupied on four separate occasions by the E ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Beaugency, France

Château de Langeais

The Château de Langeais is a medieval castle, rebuilt as a château. Founded in 992 by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, the castle was soon attacked by Odo I, Count of Blois. After the unsuccessful attack, the now-ruined stone keep was built; it is one of the earliest datable stone examples of a keep. Between 994 and 996 the castle was besieged unsuccessfully twice more. During the conflict between the counts of Anj ...
Founded: 1465 | Location: Langeais, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy's most lavish country retreat: during Spain's Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer's house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King's Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince's Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King's Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince's Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI's old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette's gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.