Chambord is an architecturally unique castle built in 1519 at the request of Francois I. The architecture and design of the castle is meant to resemble the skyline of a city rather than a single building. It is thought that Francois I wanted it to look like the skyline of Constantinople. The castle’s construction at the time departed from earlier castle construction in that although the structure is surrounded by a moat, the moat is purely decorative and there are very few elements of defense or war. A highlight of the castle is the double-helix staircase at the center. These two spiral staircases wrap around each other without meeting and are lit from above by a lighthouse atop the castle. It is believed that this staircase is based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci, but this has not been confirmed. Rooms in the castle are arranged in the Renaissance style, with small rooms lining the exterior walls surrounding a courtyard. In total, there are 440 rooms and 282 fireplaces (the chimneys of which offer the most unusual roof line). The unusual 16th-century architecture is the center point of any visit. Visitors may climb to the highest terrace and enjoy the view of the grounds and surrounding French countryside. The castle grounds and gardens offer over 28 kilometers of hiking trails, gardens, and wildlife observation and may be explored via bicycle rental, electric vehicle rental, or horse and buggy ride.

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Inside the castle, visitors can see a permanent collection of over 4,500 art objects in period apartments. For a long time, all furnishings in the castle were built to be disassembled and moved, as the primary residents did not live there all year round. Therefore, the décor reflects mainly the 17th and 18th centuries and what may have been the look of the period, not necessarily the original artifacts. The castle has made several acquisitions from other French museums, most notably its tapestry collection. The castle is currently home to one of the most extensive 17th-century tapestry collections, which it has been acquiring since the 1970s.

History: Chambord was built in 1519 at the request of Francois I. A symbol of the power and wealth of the young king, he used it as a hunting lodge for only a few weeks per year. The structure is the largest of the Loire Valley and its unique design is emblematic of French Renaissance architecture, which combines traditional medieval architecture with classical Renaissance forms. The castle took 28 years to build, and at one time close to 2,000 workers were building it. The castle neared completion in 1547 at the time of the death of Francois I. Upon his death, the castle remained incomplete and practically abandoned. King Louis XIV used the castle as a hunting retreat and made some improvements in the late 1600s, including the improvement of the living quarters and the addition of a 1,200-horse stable. In 1792, after the French Revolution, some artworks and timber were sold under orders from the revolutionary government and the castle was once again abandoned. The castle changed hands many more times, and has belonged to the French state since 1930. During World War II, the castle was used to house and protect artworks from the Louvre and the Château de Compiègne. Attempts at a restoration began again after the end of the Second World War. The castle is now open to the public and hosts close to one million visitors annually. Chambord has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1981.

Ongoing Education & Programs: From its inception, Chambord was dedicated to the arts, as performers of all sorts came to entertain the royalty during their stays there. This tradition continues under the oversight of the National Estate of Chambord, which promotes cultural programming at the castle. The three primary cultural fields of the Renaissance are highlighted and include texts, music, and the fine arts. Theater and dance are included in today’s performances. The Chambord Festival is in its 7th year and offers several performances that take attendees on a journey through the ages. Art exhibitions rotate and have included shows of some of France’s most important present-day fine artists.

Visitors to the castle may enjoy self-guided tours or guided group tours. All tours are in French. There is also a downloadable app that guides visitors through the castle from their own device in several different languages.

41250 Chambord, France, Phone: 33-02-54-50-40-00

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