The 7 Most Beautiful French Chateaux
Renowned worldwide for its culture and history, itâ€™s no wonder France features some of the most beautiful castles in the world. The word â€œchateauâ€ includes castles, palaces, vineyards and mansions and there are literally thousands of them, all over France. Letâ€™s have a look at the seven most beautiful French chateaux:
7. Chateau dâ€™UssÃ©
Located at the edge of the beautiful Chinon Forest, overlooking the Indre Valley, Chateau dâ€™UssÃ© is one of Franceâ€™s picture-postcard castles. It was built in the 15th century, as a defensive castle, and then expanded in the 17th century.
Chateau dâ€™UssÃ© is said to have been the inspiration of Charles Perrault, for the castle he describes in â€œSleeping Beautyâ€. It also inspired Walt Disneyâ€™s many castles. Chateau dâ€™UssÃ© is still inhabited, so only part of it is open for tourists.
6. Chateau Plessis BourrÃ©
One of the most popular castles of the Loire Valley, Chateau Plessis BourrÃ© was built between 1468-1462, by a close advisor of King Louis XI. Although many centuries have past over it, time has been kind to Chateau Plessis BourrÃ©, and it remains almost unchanged.
Surrounded by a broad moat and featuring a double draw bridge and impressive corner-towers, Chateau Plessis BourrÃ© gives the impression of a defensive castle. But, in reality, it was luxurious residence, with finely decorated rooms and grand bedchambers.
5. Chateau Chaumont
Built during the 10th century, as a defensive fortress, to protect Blois from any attacks, Chateau Chaumont is currently a museum that also hosts one of the most popular garden festivals in the world.
Over the centuries, the architecture of Chateau Chaumont changed drastically from a fortress to a renaissance chateau. It was owned by the famous Catherine de Medici, who used it to entertain astrologers, including Nostradamus, but later traded it for Chateau Chenonceau. Unlike many other chateaux of the Loire Valley, Chateau Chaumont escaped the damage caused by the French Revolution.
Restored many times throughout its history, Pierrefonds looks like a 14th century castle, with an 18th century interior design. Originally built in the 12th century, it had already been rebuilt three centuries later.
During the reign of Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieuâ€™s troops captured the castle and it was to be demolished. Due to the amount of effort and time this required, Pierrefonds was only partially ravaged. Napoleon III visited the castle in 1850 and decided to have it rebuilt. Although his chief architect recreated the outside look of a 14th century castle, he paid little attention to history when it came to the interior. In the end he simply imagined what the castle must have looked like on the inside.
3. Chateau Chenonceau
One of the most interesting-looking chateaux in France, Chenonceau also has a very rich history. It was constructed between 1515 and 1521, by Thomas Bohier, but it was soon seized by King Francois I, because Bohier couldnâ€™t pay his debts. From there on Chateau Chenonceau changed many owners, from Catherine de Medici, to the Duke of Bourgogne and it current owners, the Meniers.
Some of them tried to sell its treasures, while others try to restore it to its former glory. It survived the French Revolution, under the pretext that it was the only river bridge in the region, and both World Wars. During WW2, one part of the castle was in the Occupied Zone while the other was in the French Free Zone.
2. Chateau Chantilly
Located just 40 km north of Paris, Chateau Chantilly is a popular attraction among tourists looking for a break from the city. The building process began in 1484, when the Montmorency family moved to Chantilly. Unfortunately, the Grand Chateaux was destroyed during the French Revolution and had to be completely rebuilt.
The Petit Chateau dates back to 1560, while the new Grand Chateau was built in 1870. There are those who say the reconstruction is an architectural disaster, but that doesnâ€™t make Chantilly a less popular attraction. Chateau Chantilly was featured in the James Bond film, â€œA View to Killâ€ and hosts the fireworks show, â€œNuits de Feuâ€, every year.
1. Chateau Chambord
Featuring French Renaissance architecture, which blends elements of French medieval and Italian styles, Chateau Chambord is the biggest castle of the Loire Valley and one of the most famous in the world.
With over 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 84 staircases, itâ€™s hard to believe Chateau Chambord was built only as a hunting lodge for King Francois I and his entourage. Despite its incredible beauty, Chambord was mostly ignored throughout the centuries. Francois I barely visited it on a few occasions and, after its death it was abandoned for long periods of time. Restorations began after WW2 and today Chateau Chambord is one of the most recognized structures on Earth.