Chateaux of Touraine

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 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 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 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 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

Château de Luynes

An early castle was built in the 10th century, or at the very beginning of the 11th. It was destroyed at the end of that same century during the Anjou-Touraine conflicts; rebuilt in the early 12th century, then refitted in the 13th when the lords of Maillé became barons. There it consisted of an upper yard and lower yard: in the latter, below the former one, there were barns and stables. If big keep stood in the m ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luynes, France

Château de Montrésor

The Château de Montrésor is a medieval castle with a Renaissance mansion built in the grounds. In about 1005, Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, chose a rocky spur dominating the valley of the Indrois as the site for his captain Roger le Petit Diable ("Little Devil"), to build him a powerful fortress. Montrésor had one of the first keeps built in stone, similar to that at Loches, and two circular walls, but today only the wes ...
Founded: 1493 | Location: Montrésor, France

Château de Plessis-lez-Tours

The Château de Plessis-lez-Tours is a Renaissance château located in the town of La Riche. It was the favorite residence of King Louis XI of France, who died there on 30 August 1483. It was also the scene of the first meeting between King Henry III of France and the future King Henry IV of France. The present building is only a small part of the château originally built by Louis XI in the 15th century. ...
Founded: 1463 | Location: La Riche, France

Château de Candé

The first known Lord and owner of Château de Candé was Macé de Larçay, in 1313. François Briçonnet, the mayor of Tours and state treasurer, purchased the fief in 1499 and built a Renaissance house on the site of the old fortress. He died before the building was finished, and it was completed by his daughter, Jeanne, in 1508. Several owners succeeded to the estate, but none brought ...
Founded: 1499-1508 | Location: Monts, France

Château de Gizeux

The Château de Gizeux is originally dating from the Middle Ages, but much altered over the centuries. Archives indicate the existence of a wooden fortress built in the 11th century in the actual place of the castle. The most remote constructions that we can find nowadays are the entry tower, the right wing and the enclosure. The château belonged to the family of the poet Joachim du Bellay from 1315 to 1660. La ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Gizeux, France

Château de La Celle-Guenand

Château de La Celle-Guenand was originally founded as a monastery in the 10th century. Later in the 15th century it was reconstructed as a castle. The first known lord of this medieval château was Antoine de Guenand. From the 16th century until 1780 the estate was held by the Coutance family. Religious conflict in 1779 had led to the removal of the pastor of La Celle-Guenand and the two parishes were merged, ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: La Celle-Guenand, France

Château d'Usse

The Château d'Ussé stronghold at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre Valley was first fortified in the 11th century by the Norman seigneur of Ussé, Gueldin de Saumur, who surrounded the fort with a palisade on a high terrace. The site passed to the Comte de Blois, who rebuilt in stone. In the 15th century, the ruined castle of Ussé was purchased by Jean V de Bueil, a captain-gen ...
Founded: 1440s | Location: Rigny-Ussé, France

Château de la Bourdaisière

Château de la Bourdaisière origins date back to the 14th century when it was a fortress belonging to Jean Meingre. Over the next few generations, the property changed hands several time, until 1520 when King Francis I arranged for construction of a new castle on the site. Built for his mistress, Marie Gaudin, the wife of Philibert Babou, Superintendent of Finances for France, after her death, the property wou ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Montlouis-sur-Loire, France

Château du Rivau

The Château du Rivau is a castle-palace in Lémeré. It is intimately linked to the illustrious Beauvau family, related to the Counts of Anjou. During the 13th century, the Beauvau family served the Kings of France and were allied to the royal family through the marriage of Isabeau de Beauvau to Jean II de Bourbon in 1454. During the 17th century, Le Rivau was protected by Richelieu as his sister Fran&cc ...
Founded: 1445 | Location: Lémeré, France

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau (Chenonceau Castle) is a manor house near the small village of Chenonceaux. It was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century. The current manor was designed by the French Renaissance architect Philibert Delorme. The original manor was torched in 1412 to punish owner Jean Marques for an act of sedition. He rebuilt a ...
Founded: 1515-1521 | Location: Francueil, France

Château de Lavardin Ruins

The remains of the Château de Lavardin stand on a rocky promontory, above the village and the Loir. Built starting from the beginning of the 11th century by the first lords of Lavardin, the castle was sold to the count of Vendôme around 1130, becoming his principal fortress from the end of the 12th century. Completely altered in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was taken by the members of the Catholic League in ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lavardin, France

Château de Rochecotte

Château de Rochecotte, a late 18th century château, is known for its various owners and their many successive rebuilds. Originally, the château belonged to the comte de Rochecotte, who became one of the leaders of the second Chouannerie in Maine and was executed under the French Directory. On 30 April 1828, one of the later owners, the chevalier René de La Selle de Ligné, sold it to Doroth ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Saint-Patrice, 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.