Chambord, France

"For full-blown chateau splendour, you can’t top Chambord, one of the crowning examples of French Renaissance architecture, and by far the largest, grandest and most visited chateau in the Loire Valley. Begun in 1519 as a weekend hunting lodge by Francois I, it quickly snowballed into one of the most ambitious (and expensive) architectural projects ever attempted by any French monarch. Though construction was repeatedly halted by financial problems, design setbacks and military commitments (not to mention the kidnapping of the king’s two sons in Spain), by the time Chambord was finally finished 30-odd years later, the castle boasted some 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases, not to mention a cityscape of turrets, chimneys and lanterns crowning its rooftop, and a famous double-helix staircase, supposedly designed by the king’s chum, Leonardo da Vinci. Ironically, Francois ultimately found his elaborate palace too draughty, preferring the royal apartments in Amboise and Blois — he only stayed here for 42 days during his entire reign from 1515 to 1547.

"Despite its apparent complexity, Chambord is laid out according to simple mathematical rules. Each section is arranged on a system of symmetrical grid squares around a Maltese cross. At the centre stands the rectangular keep, crossed by four great hallways, and at each corner stands one of the castle’s four circular bastions. Through the centre of the keep winds the great staircase, with two intertwining flights of stairs leading up to the great lantern tower and the castle’s rooftop, from where you can gaze out across the landscaped grounds and marvel at the Tolkienesque jumble of cupolas, domes, chimneys and lightning rods."  [Lonely Planet France, —Aug 2010]

Chateau de Chambord (1, 2, 3)

Closer view

The double-helix staircase

A chateau room

Passageway to the royal wing (more)

Passageway to chapel

Royal loo

Turrets and chimneys

Entrance to rectangular keep

View from rooftop

Carved vaulted ceilings

The chapel

A bastion tower

View of royal wing

View from afar


Walk through wooded park ...

... around the chateau

A game reserve and...

largest forest park in Europe


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