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Visiting Chateau Chenonceau: Loire Valley, France

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Chateau Chenonceau over the River Cher

Chateau Chenonceau over the River Cher

When visiting the Loire Valley of central France you will have countless options when it comes to visiting the Grand Chateaux that this region is famous for. One of the more beautiful and picturesque of these would certainly be Chateau Chenonceau.

Built directly over the River Cher about fifteen minutes outside of Amboise, Chateau Chenonceau offers visitors a unique look at over 500 years of French history. Constructed in 1513 at the site of a former mill, the chateau sits in a stunning setting as it spans the River Cher and is surrounded by acres of pristine French countryside. Additionally, the site contains beautiful gardens named for two of the women who played a critical role in preserving and expanding the chateau.

Chateau Chenonceau

Chateau Chenonceau

The Ladies of Chenonceau

Often referred to as “The Ladies Chateau”, the history of Chenonceau was heavily influenced by a number of notable women from French History:

Katherine Briconnet oversaw the construction of Chenonceau in 1513 and was responsible for its late Gothic and early Renaissance style. Purchased by her husband, Thomas Bohier, the former mill and castle on this site was demolished leaving only the original keep, the Marques Tower.

Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henri II and whose name graces one of the gardens added the bridge over the River Cher in 1547. Chenonceau was given to de Poitiers by Henri II and in addition to adding the bridge she was responsible for bringing the gardens to the property.

Catherine de’ Medici, the wife of King Henri II and the namesake of the other garden would add the Gallery and the Grand Ballroom on the bridge in 1559. When her husband, King Henri II died, Catherine forced his mistress Diane de Poitiers from Chenonceau and made it her residence.

Louise Dupin, the widow of Claude Dupin is credited with saving the chateau from destruction during the French Revolution in the 1790s, claiming that as the only bridge over the River Cher in the area it was essential.

The Gallery

The Gallery

Aerial View of Chateau Chenonceau

Aerial View of Chateau Chenonceau

Visiting Chenonceau

Chateau Chenonceau is located in the small hamlet of Chenonceau not far from Amboise. The grounds are extensive as you can see from the aerial view above and the walk from the parking lot to the chateau will take you along a beautiful tree lined path, which hides the striking display that awaits you at the end.

As you approach the chateau you will pass the gardens on both sides and come upon the forecourt with the Marques Tower, which is the oldest structure at the chateau. The garden to your right as you face the chateau is Catherine’s Garden. To your left is Diane’s Garden. And as if drawn straight out of a fairy tale you enter the chateau by having to cross the moat that separates the forecourt from the castle.

Marques Tower, also known as the ”Keep”

Marques Tower, also known as the ”Keep”

Catherine's Garden

Catherine's Garden

Your tour of Chenonceau will follow the brochure, which comes in numerous languages, and each room is numbered so you can easily follow along. An audio guide is also available should you desire one.

The ground level of the chateau contains a number of interesting rooms including the Chapel, the Guard’s Room, Mistress Diane de Poiters’ Bedroom, the study, the Louis XIV Living Room and the Gallery, which is the largest room in the chateau at sixty meters in length. All of the rooms are adorned with exquisite period furniture and a wonderful assortment of artwork and some incredible tapestries. The attention to detail in each room is exceptional and it’s easy for one to imagine how life once was living in such a grand chateau.

Diane de Poitier's Bedroom

Diane de Poitier's Bedroom

King Louis XIV Drawing Room

King Louis XIV Drawing Room

Before heading up to the first floor be sure to head below the ground level to where the Kitchen, Pantry, and the staff Dining Room are located. This is an interesting area with the Pantry containing the chateau’s largest fireplace and the bread oven. Just off the Pantry by the River Cher is a landing platform where boats would deliver food and supplies to the servants. The Kitchen is remarkable with its large medieval stoves and shiny copper pots seemingly hanging from every available spot. And the staff Dining Room, while apparently not fit for a King, would certainly do just fine in my home today.

The Servants Dining Room

The Servants Dining Room

Catherine de' Medici's Bedroom

Catherine de' Medici's Bedroom

As you make your way up the marble staircase to the first floor you will be greeted by the Hall of Katherine Briconnet. If you recall, Katherine Briconnet was largely responsible for overseeing construction of Chenonceau in 1513.

The first floor is mainly bedrooms and contains Catherine de Medici’s (wife of King Henri II) bedroom, the Exhibition Room and the room called the Five Queen’s Bedroom. This room is named for Catherine’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law. A highlight of the first floor is certainly the balcony, which is open to visitors and magnificently looks out over the forecourt, the Marques Tower and the gardens. Spend a few minutes on the balcony and you’ll feel like the king and queen of Chenonceau looking over your kingdom.

The 1st Floor Balcony

The 1st Floor Balcony

View of Diane's Garden from the 1st floor balcony

View of Diane's Garden from the 1st floor balcony

Up to the second floor of Chenonceau we go to be greeted by another magnificent Hallway that was restored in the 19th century. The large Oudenaarde Tapestry dates to the 16th century and dominates the wall.

Here you will also find the bedroom of Louise de Lorraine. Her husband, King Henry III, was assassinated in August of 1589, and Lorraine spent much of her remaining years secluded in mourning at Chenonceau. In medieval France the mourning protocol called for the queen to dress in white, which was in stark contrast to the black walls, ceiling and dark furnishings of her bedroom. It's easy to see why Lorraine suffered bouts of depression living in such somber surroundings in her bedroom.

View from Catherine's Garden

View from Catherine's Garden

Catherine's Garden

Catherine's Garden

When you have completed your tour of the chateau be sure to head outside to the gardens, which in addition to being beautiful in their own right offer some stunning views of Chateau Chenonceau.

As you know by now the two main garden areas are named after Catherine de Medici, the wife of King Henri II, and Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henri II.

In addition to the gardens there is a restaurant on the grounds, the Orangerie Café, which was built in what were once the stables. While we did not stop in it looks like a delightful spot for a quick break from touring Chenonceau. If time permits stop by the 16th century farm complete with the Donkeys of Chenonceau as well as the flower and vegetable garden.

Rick Steves Visits Chenonceau

Fees

Castle and Gardens with brochure:

  • Adults: 15 euros
  • Children 7 to 18 and students: 12 euros
  • Under 7: Free

Castle with audio guide and Gardens:

  • Adults: 19 euros
  • Age 7 to 18 and students: 15.50 euros

Chateau Chenonceau Is Open Every Day

Hours:

  • Jan to March: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
  • April to May: 9 am - 5:30 pm
  • June: 9 am - 6 pm
  • July to August: 9 pm - 7 pm
  • Sept: 9 am - 6:30 pm
  • Oct: 9 am - 4:30 pm
  • Nov to Dec: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm


Chateau Chenonceau

Chateau Chenonceau

This area of the Loire valley is rich with history and fascinating chateaux to visit. Just fifteen minutes away in Amboise is the stunning Chateau Amboise as well as many others in the region, all unique and worthy of a visit. Chenonceau was certainly my favorite and one of the highlights of our trip to France. It’s unique setting over the River Cher and its beautiful gardens are easy to enjoy and a photographers dream. Chateau Chenonceau is the most visited of the grand chateaux of the Loire Valley but we did not find it overly crowded during our visit (early October) and enjoyed a relaxing tour at our own pace. If you are planning a trip to the Lorie Valley of France be sure to include a stop at Chateau Chenonceau.

Au Revoir

The tree lined path that takes visitors to and from Chateau Chenonceau.

The tree lined path that takes visitors to and from Chateau Chenonceau.

© 2015 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 08, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy. I love how this chateau spans the river, it makes for a stunning setting. The sheer size of these chateau’s combined with the gardens and grounds is somewhat hard to comprehend. Beautiful nevertheless. Have a great weekend.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 08, 2020:

What a magnificent chateau! The aerial view shows just how extensive those gardens are and the chateau's relationship to the River Cher. That Rick Steves video was also informative to watch. Thanks for showcasing the Chateau Chenonceau!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 13, 2016:

Thank you Lana. I'm pretty sure you would love France if you have not already been. The Loire Valley is dotted with Grand Chateaux and each one has an interesting story to tell. Thanks for stopping by, have a great week.

Lana Adler from California on January 13, 2016:

Stunning photos and so many interesting details! This is certainly inspiring me to go to France, and then I'll use your hubs as guides :-)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 23, 2015:

Hi Kristen. Thank you. We really enjoyed our trip to France and getting the chance to see a few of the grand chateaux was a great experience. Would love to return someday. Many thanks for the vote, etc.. Have a great week.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 23, 2015:

Bill, it sounds like a wonderful trip. So fascinating and lovely to know the history of the chateau that accompanied with beautiful photos, too. Voted up for beautiful!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 17, 2015:

Hi Kelly. It was all wonderful at Chenonceau. Really a fascinating and beautiful place. Hopefully you get there someday :). Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

Kelly A Burnett from United States on March 17, 2015:

Bdegiulio,

I am confused - don't know which one I love more Diane's blue bedroom or Catherine's garden. Wowza! Wonderful! I do wish to visit!

Lee John from Preston on March 08, 2015:

Wonderful hub once again really enjoyed reading

Thanks

Lee

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 04, 2015:

Hi Wendy. Thank you. So glad you enjoyed the tour of Chenonceau and I hope you get there in person soon. I see you have a number of hubs on France and I look forward to reading up. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on March 04, 2015:

Beautiful, I love visiting castles and this is one I haven't visited yet. I am really looking forwards to seeing it, in the meantime thank you for a comprehensive tour of Chenonceau.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 04, 2015:

Hi Kristen. Merci. We had a wonderful time in France and really enjoyed Paris and the Loire Valley. Would love to return someday.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 04, 2015:

Bill, this was beautiful. I would love to visit France someday, especially Paris. I know a little bit of basic French, too. Lovely French history to go with the photos. Tres bien. Voted up!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 03, 2015:

Hi Nithya. Thank you. So glad you enjoyed the tour of Chenonceau. It really is a beautiful place. Thanks for the vote, have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 03, 2015:

Hi Mary. Thank you. We had a great day at Chenonceau, it really is amazing how French Royalty lived back then.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 03, 2015:

Thank you Linda. We really enjoyed Chenonceau, just a stunning place. This region of France has so many grand chateaux to visit, and wine caves. We look forward to returning someday.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 03, 2015:

Enjoyed reading your hub and the tour around Chateau Chenonceau - Loire Valley. Great photos! Voted up.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 03, 2015:

What a great visit of this Castle and you made it more interesting with stories and pictures.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 02, 2015:

This is another lovely hub, Bill. The photos are beautiful and the information is very interesting and useful. I always enjoy your travel hubs!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 02, 2015:

Thank you.

Matt from San Francisco Bay Area on March 02, 2015:

Testing fix for comment bug reported in forum. https://hubpages.com/forum/topic/129058#post271283