France’s Loire River Valley (Valley of Kings)
France’s Loire River valley is home to stunning scenery and historic chateaux. Since the 11th century, French Kings and Nobles came to the scenic Loire Valley to hunt and relax
Flanking the longest river in France, the Loire Valley is often called the “Valley of Kings”. Since the 11th century, French kings and nobles came to the Loire Valley to hunt and relax. They built magnificent chateaux, more than 100 of which remain today.
Touring chateaux that date back to the Renaissance is like going back in time. Photo by amyvermillioninteriors
Strolling along the Loire River and gazing at chateaux dating back to the Renaissance is like going back in time. Despite the ups and downs of history, the Loire still boasts a variety of chateaux in diverse styles. The Loire Valley is also one of France’s most famous wine regions, the river lined by lush vineyards. Every wine brand that originates in the Loire is associated with a chateau.
Most of these chateaux were built during the Middle Ages and Renaissance from white stone or marble. One of the most enticing is the Chateau de Blois, constructed at the behest of the Duke of Chatillon. It comprises four separate wings encircling a public yard and resembles a medieval castle mirrored in the Loire River. In 1498, Blois was made into a royal residence. It accommodated seven kings and nine queens of France. Each symbol in this chateau is linked with a specific figure; Francois I with a fire-breathing dragon; Louis II with a porcupine,… Pillars in the chateau feature carved fleurs de lis, a symbol of the French royal family.
Equally impressive is the Chateau de Chambord, built under the reign of King Francois I (1515 – 1547) and influenced by Renaissance architecture. Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage, Chambord measures 156m in length, 56m in height and boasts 440 rooms set in lush forests spanning 4,440 hectares. Home to various kings, Chambord houses a collection of invaluable artefacts that draw visitors from all over the world. Visitors flock here to admire the breathtaking gardens. In 1992 the first International Bonsai Festival took place at this chateau.
Not far from Chambord lies the chateau of Chenonceau, built between 1513 and 1521. Known as “the Chateau of Ladies”, it is associated with strong Renaissance women. Viewed from afar, Chenonceau seems to float on the water because its outer vaults are built across the Cher River, a small branch of the Loire. The lavish beauty of Chenonceau is further accentuated by two royal gardens.
The chateau of Cheverny to the south of the Loire River has a collection of rare household items. Walls are draped in leather or decorated with old tapestries. Furnishings and ornaments are virtually intact, transporting visitors to the past.
The architectural diversity, historical value and cultural significance of these chateaux make the Loire Valley a marvelous destination.