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An extravagant celebration of French Renaissance architecture, the Château de Chambord is the most ambitious of the Loire Valley palaces. It was intended as an almighty symbol of power, wealth and superiority, commissioned by French king François I as a hunting lodge but aimed at surpassing anything that his greatest rival, Emperor Charles V, could come up with.

Chambord is also an outrageous example of the extraordinary fortunes controlled by the French nobility. It very publicly fulfilled the king's desire to assert himself as the supreme leader of his era. In reality, though, he admitted that the chateau was almost uninhabitable and he spent a mere 42 days there during his entire reign.

Ostentatious, overwrought, extravagant — Château de Chambord inspires superlatives. I love the way that its Disney-esque silhouette bristles with turrets, cupolas, chimneys and domes. Inside, the grand double-helix staircase is reputed to have been designed by da Vinci.

France specialist Liz

Things to see and do in Château de Chambord

Grand designs

Château de Chambord, Loire ValleyThe Italian architect Domenico da Cortona was commissioned by François I in 1519 to design a chateau that would reflect the finest Renaissance art forms and surpass all others in the process. His design, with its harmonious style and symmetrical grace, is now regarded as the quintessential Loire Valley chateau and one of the greatest achievements of its time.

With more than 440 rooms, 85 staircases and 365 chimneys, it’s a gargantuan structure. Impossible to heat and too grand to feel homely, consecutive owners made attempts to make the palace more habitable, lowering ceilings in places, adding wooden paneling to dampen sounds and provide insulation, and creating smaller fireplaces within the massive originals.

Inside the chateau

You can see alterations made by Louis XIV and his son, the Comte de Chambord, in their apartments on the first floor. There are numerous other rooms on show, hung with tapestries and enormous oil paintings and still containing their original furniture. Perhaps the most spellbinding of all, though, is the Great Staircase, which sits at the heart of the donjon, the chateau keep.

The donjon is laid out in the form of a Greek cross with four main rooms. This layout was previously unheard of outside religious buildings and was intended as a symbol of the sacred status of the king. Between the rooms is the ornate staircase, possibly designed by Leonardo da Vinci, its double helix spirals winding organically and separately up to the Great Lantern Tower, which provides a bird's-eye view of the roof with its forest of chimneys, cupolas and turrets.

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Suggested Château de Chambord itinerary

This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Château de Chambord, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Château de Chambord

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