France is full of magnificent castles. After Fontainebleau, we went to Blois to visit the famous Chambord castle.
Find out the essential information you need to know before scheduling your visit, as well as a story about our day at Chambord Castle.
Chambord castle: information and figures to know
The castle of Chambord is located, as its name suggests, in Chambord. This small town in the Loir-et-Cher is 17 km from Blois. From Paris, it takes 2 hours by car to get to the castle.
This castle is in a large forest park. For a long time, the domain was used for royal hunting, then for presidential hunting.
Even today, the forest is very well maintained, offering visitors a great place to hike in spring and summer, while hunting parties are regularly organized during the fall and winter.
The place had its first castle built in the 10th century. At that time, it was a fortified castle belonging to the counts of Blois.
But the one you will see when you go there dates from the beginning of the 16th century. Indeed, King François I supervised the construction of this magnificent building from 1519. The objective was to create a hunting castle as an annex to the castle of Blois.
The direct consequence is that this castle was very little used by Francis I. In more than 30 years of reign, the king slept in the castle less than a month and a half! Nevertheless, and quite logically, Francis I is the historical figure most highlighted during the visit.
After his death, the work continued under the following reigns (Henri II, Charles IX), before the castle was abandoned from the reign of Henri III. Its location too far from the places of power was a major disadvantage. Finally, it is Louis XIV who finishes the works in 1686.
Sometimes used, the castle was looted during the French Revolution. Offered in 1821 to Henri d’Artois, Duke of Bordeaux, it regained its superb appearance thanks to its numerous renovations.
Since 1930, the castle and the park of Chambord belong to the French State and since 1981, it is classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Where is the Chambord castle located?
The castle of Chambord is located in Chambord, in the department of Loir-et-Cher, in the region Centre-Val de Loire.
Chambord is a very small town with only about 100 inhabitants. The best way to get there is to take your car.
From Paris, the A10 freeway takes you there in 2 hours. The A85 freeway is also close to the castle.
How much does it cost to enter the Chambord castle?
The price for a visit to the Chambord castle is:
- 16€ for a full price
- 50€ for a reduced rate.
- Free for children under 18 years old.
For French and European citizens, free admission is even possible up to the age of 25 upon presentation of an identity card or passport.
Only access to the castle and the French gardens is not free. The entrance to the domain and walks in the forest are free. Moreover, in spring and summer, many local visitors come to these places and do not enter the castle.
Extra charges are possible, such as a guided tour or virtual reality tour.
When is the Chambord castle open?
Chambord Castle is open all year round, except on January 1st, November 27th and December 25th.
The opening hours are:
- From January 2 to March 24: 9a.m. to 5p.m.
- From March 25 to October 29: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
- October 30 to December 22: 9a.m. to 5p.m.
- From December 23rd to December 30th: 9a.m. to 6p.m.
I advise you to check a few days in advance that the castle will be open without restriction. Indeed, during the off-peak period, there are sometimes works or film shoots which lead to partial openings or some changes (for example closure of a parking lot).
Is it easy to park near the Chambord castle?
It is very easy to park near the Chambord castle, because you have several parking lots.
These parking lots are not free. For the closest one, the P0, the price is 6€ per day.
If you don’t want to pay, you can look for a place upstream from the castle. On the main road, there are a few places to park at the entrances to the forest paths. However, you will have to walk a longer distance to reach the castle entrance.
Can we eat and sleep near the Chambord castle?
Within the domain itself, you have several restaurants: Les Armes du Château, Relais de Chambord, La Table du Bistro, La Cave des Rois, Autour du Puits.
Depending on the day of your visit, several restaurants may be closed. When we visited during the week in winter, we saw only two restaurants open.
For our part, we preferred to take sandwiches and eat at the wooden tables just before the castle store.
As for hotels, the Relais de Chambord is the closest and even offers rooms with a direct view of the castle. In the small towns near the castle, in Blois or Romorantin, you will find many hotels.
Report and Opinion of our visit to the castle of Chambord
We arrived at the castle in the late morning. In the middle of winter, the attendance was very low. With a few dozen visitors, whether in the gardens or in the castle, you have time and space to admire the building.
As often in winter, the bad surprise is the presence of renovation works. A good part of the castle’s facade was hidden by the works. But, being from the region, we were already familiar with the castle and this did not disturb us too much.
However, if you only come once in your life to Chambord, make this visit in the spring or summer. You will be sure to see the castle without any work. Since its exterior and gardens are the highlights, all the better!
After eating our sandwiches next to the parking lot, we bought our tickets and entered the castle.
The interior of the castle of Chambord
Take the map of the Chambord castle. You will need it to make sure you don’t miss anything. Indeed, this is not a castle where everything follows a tour route. You are free to go wherever you want inside and given the layout of the castle, it is easy to forget a room.
At Chambord, the central element of the castle is the grand interior staircase. It is a “double revolution staircase”. You take it to access the different floors.
You have a very wide variety of collections. The ones that interest me are the historical collections. On the ground floor, we didn’t linger over the audiovisual room that continuously broadcasts two films presenting the Chambord castle. We looked at the 18th-century kitchens, the reception rooms and the beautiful carriage room.
I liked the second floor the best. There you will discover:
- The dwelling of François I (dating from the 16th century)
- The Queen’s room (17th)
- The parade apartment (17th and 18th centuries)
- The chapel
- The apartments of the 18th century
- The theater of Louis XIV
- The Museum of the Count of Chambord.
As often, the religious building, the chapel, is the most impressive room. It is far from being the prettiest chapel we have seen (I remind you that we visited the Sistine Chapel!), but it is large, quiet and you feel small inside.
This floor is the one that will teach you the most. Nevertheless, the castle of Chambord is a castle with few exhibits. The one in Fontainebleau owns more furniture. You pass quickly through the rooms and the signs remain rare. The architecture counts more than the richness of the furniture.
If you like museums and castles of the Loire Valley containing thousands of objects, you will probably be a little disappointed. I specify it because it was what I felt.
On the second floor, you will find the vaulted rooms and the theater of the Marshal of Saxe, as well as a large collection dedicated to hunting at Chambord. As I am not at all passionate about hunting, this last room was visited quickly.
There is also a children’s room, as well as a room dedicated to temporary exhibitions. At the time of our visit, this room housed photos taken during a contest for the most beautiful photos of the castle.
Finally, by continuing up the last steps of the central staircase, you can access the terraces of the Chambord castle. Do not miss this part! The view is sublime. You can admire the French gardens. Rather vast, these terraces offer several different points of observation. This is where we took the most beautiful pictures of our visit.
The terraces are home to the latest exhibition at the castle. It recounts the life of Chambord during the Second World War. It recounts the work done to save the works of art, the arrival of the Nazis at the castle, but also how the liberation was experienced by the inhabitants of Chambord.
The gardens of Chambord castle
The interior of the castle of Chambord is interesting, but remains rather poor compared to other French castles.
On the other hand, the gardens of Chambord are among the most beautiful I have seen. Only accessible with an entrance ticket, the French gardens are perfectly maintained. You will love walking inside, contemplating the work of the architects of the time, well highlighted by the current teams, as well as sitting on a bench to relax.
After visiting this part, you will leave the castle. The visit is not over yet. I advise you to go around to face the French gardens. It is here that you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the whole domain. The castle of Chambord appears to you under a unique angle.
If you feel like walking, don’t hesitate to take one of the hiking trails near the castle. With Amélie, we took our time and walked for an hour. In the forest, alone at this time of the year, it was a nice moment.
Then, we took the road again to visit the zoo of Beauval the next day.
Our summary of the Chambord castle
The Chambord estate is a beautiful place in France. Visiting this castle is an excellent idea. I find that, despite the centuries, it still has the characteristics intended by François I.
Its exterior pays tribute to the power of the French sovereigns, while the gardens are a testimony to French finesse and elegance. The landscaped forests, designed for hunting, are an ideal place to stroll.
But the interior of the Chambord castle is cold, as it was designed for short stays rather than as a main residence. The permanent collections contain few objects and the exhibitions do not change the situation.
It would be a shame to visit the domain without going inside the castle. But 1h30 is enough to visit the castle, before enjoying the outside for several other hours!