Chateau de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau is one of the most romantic and favorite estates in the Loire Valley by tourists. The ancient château is so popular that many consider it the most beautiful landmark of France. The grounds of Chenonceau are privately owned, but it is open to visitors year-round, and anyone can take photos of the old buildings and the park as a memento.
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Video: Chenonceau Castle
The history of the estate on the Cher River goes back more than seven centuries. Although the beautiful castle is adorned with a massive donjon tower, it was never intended for military operations. Its previous owners used it for feasts, hunting, and other amusements.
The Chenonceau estate is often called the “Ladies’ Castle” for the fact that the main transformations here were led by women. The erection of the first buildings was under the leadership of the owner’s wife Catherine Bonet. The orchard was managed by the king’s favorite, Diana de Poitier. When Catherine de Medici took power, the park was completely reconstructed, and new buildings appeared near the castle. The widow of Henri III, Louise de Vaudemont, lived for many years on the ChÃ©nonceau estate and wore white until her death in honour of her husband’s mourning.
Today the architectural monument has been completely restored. The light walls of the Château de Chenonceau are a real decoration of the river valley and look very picturesque, while the wing of the building, thrown over the Cher, creates the impression of the castle floating on water. Excursion to the historical estate allows to see the interior of private chambers of French queens and mistresses, to admire ancient furniture, rare Flemish tapestries and paintings.
The castle of Chenonceau attracts guests not only with its magnificent architecture. People come here to see the wonders of landscape design. There are two gardens laid out by Diana de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, a yew labyrinth and a vegetable garden, which modern gardeners recreated in the traditions of the XVII-XVIII centuries. Moreover, in one of the rooms there is a museum of wax figures, where volumetric portraits of the most famous owners of the luxurious estate are exhibited.
History of the Château de Chenonceau
Since the middle of XIII century the land where the Château de Chenonceau stands now was owned by natives of Auvergne with the surname de Marck. In those days, an old fortress and a small mill surrounded by ditches stood here. At the turn of the XIV and XV centuries, when Charles VI ruled the country, Jean de Marck settled in his estate of the English military garrison. Upon learning of this, the French king ordered all the ramparts and moats around the fortress to be dug up and recognized the rights of the owner of Chenonceau as a proprietor.
In 1512, Thomas Boyer purchased the estate. The new owner served in Normandy as intendant for financial affairs. He was a great admirer of Renaissance architecture and ordered the dilapidated castle to be pulled down, leaving only the distinctive donjon tower. The owner’s initials and his motto were engraved on the preserved building: “Who ever comes here, let him remember me”.
On the site where the mill had stood, a stone base with side towers was erected by order of Boyer. The Château de Chenonceau was completed by Boyer’s wife and when they passed away, their son Antoine inherited the estate. However, he was the master of Chenonceau for a very short time.
In 1533 the estate was taken over by the French King Francis I. The formal reason for this expropriation was financial irregularities allegedly committed during the service of Thomas Boyer. In truth, it was said at court that the King simply could not resist the beauty of the Château de Chenonceau and decided to use the estate for holidays, hunting, entertaining outings and literary evenings.
Thanks to Catherine de Medici, the estate was lavishly decorated. Fountains, park obelisks, sculptures, columns and triumphal arches appeared near the buildings. New gardens and outbuildings were created, and in 1580, a new wing with arches was built over the river.
For a long time the picturesque estate was used by kings, their relatives and favorites, but in 1733 this tradition was broken. The castle of Chenonceau was purchased by the wealthy banker Claude Dupin. His wife remodelled the new property to her taste by arranging a physics room in the building. Under her, the chateau housed a small theater and a fashionable salon, which was visited by many famous people of the time.
In 1864, the manor was taken over by Madame Pelose. The new owner undertook an extensive restoration, trying to restore the Château de Chenonceau to its pre-VII-XVIII appearance. On her orders, the decorative windows and ornate caryatids were removed from the facade, but the wing spanning the waters of the Cher was left untouched.
From 1888 to the present day, the architectural landmark has belonged to the wealthy Meunier family. During World War I, the building housed a hospital for soldiers. And during World War II, Château de Chenonceau lay on the border of lands occupied by German troops and the territory of France, which belonged to the Vichy regime. At that time, inside the building was a liaison office for the French guerrillas.
What can be seen in and around the castle
Upon entering the manor, all tourists cross the long plane-tree avenue that leads out into the open space of the front courtyard. Here is the Chancery building, which was built in the 16th century. To the right of the esplanade stretches a garden, laid out during the time of Diana de Poitiers. In the courtyard, the oldest part of the chateau’s buildings, the heavily reconstructed donjon tower, attracts attention.
The highlight of the Château de Chenonceau is a section of buildings over the Cher River, erected in 1580 under the direction of the talented French architect Androuet Ducerceau. The reflections of the succession of arches in the waters of the river make the already beautiful château even more airy and graceful.
A lift bridge leads tourists to the first floor, inside of which there are many attractions. The magnificent hall of the Guards keeps perfectly preserved tapestries, made in the XVI century, and ancient chests. Tourists are sure to be led through the Green Room, the room that belonged to Diana de Poitiers, and the Chapel Room, which houses elegant sculptures made of Carrara marble. Also on this floor is a gallery with paintings by famous Renaissance artists.
The straight flights of stairs lead up to the second floor of the Château de Chenonceau, where the state room and the chambers, which at various times belonged to French queens and their daughters-in-law, are located. The château kitchen, with its many old copper dishes and roasting spit, leaves a great impression.
Today the wax museum is situated outside the main building. Here you can see images of the main hostesses of the Château de Chenonceau, an elaborate collection called the “Gallery of the Ladies”. The museum also reproduces scenes from the life of the estate, featuring famous characters from French history.
Next to the old buildings there is a reconstructed 16th-century farm, vegetable garden and flower garden, where flowers are grown to decorate the castle grounds and rooms. Many tourists love to wander through the labyrinth with caryatids. Exactly the same yew labyrinths were popular in the rich estates of France in the time of Catherine de Medici and served to entertain the owners and guests.
In the park nearby you can see donkeys, wild ducks and pigeons. The luxurious nature of the estate attracts many animals. Squirrels live in the trees in the park, and nutria often come out to the banks of the water-filled moats.
There is so much to see in Château de Chenonceau that it is worth planning at least half a day to see it. From March to May you can enter the territory from 9.00 to 19.00, in June – until 19.30, in July and August – until 20.00, and in September – until 19.30. At other times of the year the entrance closes at 5 pm. Tickets cost 13 euros for adults, 10 euros for children 7-18 years and free for children under 7 years.
In addition to day tours, the park offers night tours. Travelling to the old music organizes every Saturday and Sunday in July and August from 21.30 to 23.30.
Dogs are allowed in the Chenonceau Parks, but pets must be on a leash at all times. Owners of small dogs are asked to hold their pets in their arms.
Tourists can tour the castle using information from a booklet published in 15 languages. In addition, iPod-based audio guides with videos in 11 languages are available for sightseers. For those who are tired and want to take a break, there is a restaurant and a cheap eatery on the grounds of Château de Chenonceau. And there’s a store outside the main building that sells souvenirs, books, and booklets on the history of the castle.
How to get there
The Château de Chenonceau is located near the village of Chenonceau in the Department of Endre and Loire. The place is 214 km from Paris and 34 km from Tours.
For those who travel by car the easiest way to the Château de Chenonceau is via the A10 toll highway. Road from Paris by car takes about two hours.
There is no direct train from the French capital to Chenonceau, and therefore have to get with change. At first, from the Paris station “Gare Montparnasse” go to the station “Saint-Pierre-des-Corps”, located 4 km from Tours. This trip takes about an hour, and the interval between trains is 1.5-2 hours. Then transfer to the local electric train and within 25 minutes to the station “Chenonceaux”, which is located near the entrance to the castle grounds.
If the interval between the train from Paris and the local train was too long, it is more convenient to come to the Château de Chenonceaux by cab. In addition, from Paris to the castle you can get by buses with a change in Tours.
French Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley and its
Château de Chenonceau is one of the three most popular Chateaux of the Loire Valley and one of the most beautiful chateaux in France, nicknamed “the ladies’ chateau” because it belonged to two of the most powerful women in France at the time, Diane de Poitiers, mistress of the King, and Catherine de Medici. This 16th-century castle is one of the most beloved and visited castles in France, the second most visited after Versailles.
Weather in Chenonceau:
Visit Chenonceau Castle:
Information brochures are available in 16 languages, including Russian. Audio guides in 11 languages, including Russian.
Château de Chenonceau opening hours:
Chenonceau Castle is open daily, seven days a week:
- January 1 – February 21: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- February 22 – March 25: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
- March 26 – May 31: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- June 1 – June 30: 9:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
- July 1 – August 31: 9:00 – 20:00
- 1 – 30 September: 9:00 – 19:30
- October 1 – November 1: 9:00 – 18:30
- 2 – 13 November: 9:00 – 18:00
- November 14 – December 31: 9:30 – 17:00
Tickets to the Château de Chenonceau:
- Adults – with information brochure – 15.00 € , with audio guide 19.00 €
- Children 7 – 18 years old – 12,00 €, with audioguide 15,50 €
- Students – 12,00 €, with audio guide 15,50 €
- Free of charge for children under 7 years.
App for iPhone and iPod touch.
Château de Chenonceau offers a free “Meet Chenonceau” app that will give you all the information you need to visit. Available on the App Store.
A complete tour of the castle is available in eleven languages on the App Store.
Getting to the Château de Chenonceau:
Château de Chenonceau is located in the Touraine region, on the Cher River, 214 km from Paris and 34 km from Tours.
Near the château is the TER Chenonceaux regional train station, where trains run from Tours (26 minutes, 9 €).
From Paris to Chenonceaux:
The schedule is for a weekday, current in 2016. To see the timetable for the day you want, visit the official website.
- By car: 2 hours on the A10 toll road (exit Blois or Amboise);
- Paris to Tours : 1 hour by T.G.V. train from Paris-Montparnasse station to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours);
- Travel time: 1:14 by TGV (*), 2:10 by Intercite from Paris-Austerlitz station,
- ticket 15€ – 65€
- Departure from Paris: 7:16*, 7:37, 12:16*b 12:59, 16:16*, 17:32*, 17:37, 18:19*, 18:37*, 18:37.
- Departure from Tours: 6:11*, 6:20, 6:49*, 8:00*, 11:18, 12:01*, 15:14, 17:10, 17:31, 18:31*.
- departure from PARIS BERCY,
- 3:00 – 3:15 en route,
- 15€ ticket,
- Departure from Paris to Tours: 9:30 and 12:00.
- Departure from Tours to Paris: 16:15 and 19:55.
- 25 min by train TER Tours-Chenonceaux
- Ticket: 9 €
- Travel time: 24 to 32 min.
- Departure from Tours: St-Aignan-Noyers / Dijon Ville / Nevers
- Departure from Tours to Chenonceaux: 5:58, 6:58, 11:57, 13:58, 14:59, 16:15, 17:00, 17:15, 17:58, 18:15, 18:58, 20:45.
- Departure from Chenonceaux to Tours: 6:34, 7:11, 7:34, 8:34, 17:10, 18:11, 18:34, 20:12, 20:34.
- approx. 2.5 hours by train in ST PIERRE DES CORPS
- Ticket 24€ – 27€
Ticket for the train Paris – Chenonceau:
- 24,10 € (if in advance) – 44,40 € – 73,40 € 1 way second class.
- The price depends on the train and fare.
Parking in Chenonceau:
Large shaded visitor parking is free .
Map of Chenonceau castle:
History of the construction of Château de Chenonceau:
When building Château de Chenonceau on the Cher River in the 16th century, Thomas Boyer and his wife Catherine Brisonnet demolish the fortified mill and feudal castle of the de Marche family and leave from them only the donjon: the Tower of the de Marche family, which they rebuild in the Renaissance spirit. The front courtyard reproduces the plan of an ancient medieval castle surrounded by water ditches.
Next to the tower, there is a well decorated with a chimera and an eagle, the emblem of the de Marck family.
“The Ladies of Chenonceau:
Diana de Poitiers (1499-1566).
In 1547, King Henry II gave Chenonceau to his favorite, Diane de Poitiers, who was a muse of beauty, intelligence and efficiency… The gardens she laid out there were some of the most beautiful and modern of their day. The famous bridge over the Cher river, built on her orders, defined the unique architectural appearance of Chenonceau.
Catherine de Medici (1519-1589)
Catherine de Medici, widow of Henry II, excommunicates Diana and proceeds to improve the gardens and architectural changes. She erects a two-story gallery to organize lavish festivities. During her regency, Italian luxury reigns in the castle. Catherine rules the kingdom from her green cabinet and asserts the authority of the young king.
Louise of Lorraine (1553-1601).
In 1589, after the death of her husband, King Henry III, Louise of Lorraine retires to her castle and, as a sign of mourning, wears white robes, in accordance with etiquette. Forgotten by all, the Queen Dowager seeks to lead a lifestyle befitting her position. She reads, does charity work and prays. Her death is the end of the royal presence in Chenonceau.
Louise Dupin (1706-1799)
In the 18th century, Louise Dupin, a charming member of the Enlightenment, restored the château to its former splendor. She creates a glittering salon and surrounds herself with the best writers, poets, scientists and philosophers, such as Montesquieu, Voltaire or Rousseau. She shows foresight and saves the Château de Chenonceau during the French Revolution.
Marguerite Pelouze (1836-1902)
In the 19th century, Marguerite Pelouse, who came from the industrial bourgeoisie, decided in 1864 to indulge her love of luxury and spent a fortune to restore the château and park as they existed in the era of Diane de Poitiers. She went bankrupt because of political intrigue. Chenonceau was sold and then resold in 1913.
Simone Meunier (1881-1972).
In World War I, far from the trenches, Chenonceau does not remain indifferent to the suffering of war. Simone Meunier, head nurse, runs a hospital set up in two galleries of the castle, refurbished and equipped at the expense of her family (producers of Meunier chocolates). Until 1918, more than 2,000 wounded were treated here. Simone’s courage is also shown more than once in the resistance to the invaders during World War II (1939-1945).
What to see in the castle of Chenonceau:
The Royal Palace impresses with its opulent decoration of rooms and galleries. You can find complete information in the information brochures issued in the castle. Below are the most interesting rooms of the palace:
Diana de Poitiers’ Bedroom.
This room was the bedroom of King Henry II’s favorite, Diane de Poitiers, to whom he gave Chenonceau. In 1559, after Henry II was killed in a tournament match by the captain of his Scots guards, Gabriel Montgomery, his widow, Queen Catherine de Medici, forced Diana to return the Château de Chenonceau and gave her Chaumont-sur-Loire in exchange.
The mantelpiece by Jean Goujon, a French sculptor of the Fontainebleau school, and the coffered ceiling are decorated with the initials of Henry II and Catherine de Medici: “H” and “C”, which when intertwined could read “D” for Diane de Poitiers. The mantel was restored by Mistress Peluze.
The four-poster bed, Henry II-era armchairs covered in Cordoba leather, and the magnificent inlaid table beside the bed date back to the Renaissance. The beautiful nineteenth-century bronze statuette of Diana d’Anette is a reminder of the royal favorite. On the mantelpiece, note the 19th-century portrait of Catherine de Medici by Sauvage.
Two large 16th-century Flemish tapestries depict:
– “Triumph of Power” on a chariot drawn by two lions, surrounded by scenes from the Old Testament. The Latin inscription at the top translates as “He who loves the gifts of heaven with all his heart does not shy away from acts dictated by Piety.”
– “The Triumph of Mercy.” Mercy, surrounded by biblical scenes, holds a heart in one hand and points to the sun with the other. The Latin motto here translates, “He who is strong of heart in perils is rewarded in death with Salvation.” To the left of the window is “Christ, stripped of his clothes” by Ribalta, Ribera’s teacher. To the right of the fireplace is “Madonna and Child” by Murillo. Under this painting in a bookcase are the Chenonceau archives; in an open volume in a display case one can see the signatures of Thomas Boyer and Diane de Poitiers.
The Bedroom of the Five Queens:
This room is named in memory of Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law.
Her daughters are: Queen Margot (wife of Henry IV), Elizabeth of Valois (wife of King Philip II of Spain), her daughters-in-law: Mary Stuart (wife of Francis II), Elizabeth of Austria (wife of Charles IX) and Louisa of Lorraine (wife of Henry III). The coffered ceiling of the 16th-century apartment of Louisa of Lorraine bears the coats of arms of the Five Queens. The fireplace is from the Renaissance period.
The walls are upholstered with a set of 16th century Flemish tapestries depicting: the Siege of Troy and the Abduction of Helena, the Circus Games in the Colosseum and the Crowning of King David.
To the left of the fireplace, a fragment of a 16th century tapestry depicts an episode in the life of Samson.
The furniture consists of a large four-poster bed, two Gothic sideboards with two fifteenth-century polychrome wooden female busts, and a wrought iron traveling trunk.
- Rubens: The Adoration of the Magi. The canvas was purchased from the King of Spain and is part of a painting on display in the Museo del Prado.
- Mignard: “Portrait of the Duchess d’Olonne.”
- Seventeenth-Century Italian School: “Apollo at the Argonaut of Admet”.
Catherine de Medici’s Bedroom
Catherine de Medici’s bedroom is decorated with a wooden ceiling of square caissons, painted and gilded. You can see many monograms on it. There is the coat of arms of the house of Medici and in the center are the intertwined initials “S” and “H” of Catherine and Henry II. Other caissons are decorated with carved plant motifs reminiscent of the ceiling of a green study. The richly carved bedroom furniture and the rarest set of Flemish tapestries date from the 16th century. The tapestries depict the biblical theme of Samson’s life.
These tapestries are remarkable for their border with images of animals symbolizing proverbs (“Dexterity trumps Cunning,” etc.) and fables, such as the fable of “The Crab and the Oyster.” In the center of the room there is a four-poster bed, typical of the Renaissance, decorated with friezes, pilasters, and portraits in profile in the spirit of antique medals.
To the right of the bed is Correggio’s work “The Education of Cupid,” painted on wood. The version painted on the canvas is preserved in the National Gallery in London. The fireplace and tiled floor are from the Renaissance period.
César of Vandomsky’s Bedroom.
This room commemorates César, Duke of Vendôme, son of King Henry IV and Gabrielle d’Estrees, uncle of Louis XIV, who became owner of Chenonceau in 1624. Note:
- a very beautiful beamed ceiling, which is supported by a cornice decorated with cannons.
- The Renaissance fireplace was gilded and decorated in the nineteenth century with the coat of arms of Tom Boyer.
- The west-facing window is framed by two seventeenth-century caryatids (wood).
The walls are upholstered in a set of three 17th-century Brussels tapestries, The Demeter Cycle, dedicated to the myth of the changing seasons. The beautiful borders, typical of Brussels, depict garlands of fruit and flowers emerging from horns of plenty. The four-poster bed and furniture in this room date back to the Renaissance.
To the left of the window: Murillo: “Portrait of St. Joseph.”
Louisa of Lorraine’s Bedroom.
After the assassination of her husband, King Henry III, by the monk Jacques Clément on August 1, 1589, Louisa of Lorraine retires to Chenonceau for a period of solitude and prayer.
Surrounded by a few intimates, always dressed in white, in keeping with the etiquette of royal mourning, she receives the nickname “The White Queen”. The view of the bedroom has been restored from the surviving ceiling. It is decorated with the trappings of mourning: feathers (the French word for “feather” is consonant with the word “sorrow”), silver tears, gravediggers’ spades, ropes for widows, thorn wreaths and the Greek letter “lambda” (L), Louisa’s initials entwined with that of Henry III, whose portrait, by François Clouet, is in the corner tower.
A Gothic figure of Christ wearing a wreath of thorns, a religious scene (detail of a 16th-century altarpiece), and a prayer bench underscore the pious and mournful atmosphere of this room. The bed and furniture date from the 16th century. The Capuchin nuns whom Louise of Lorraine wanted to have by her side, on the third floor of the castle, did not return to their convent until the seventeenth century.
The structure of the parterre has remained unchanged since Diane de Poitiers laid it out, and its modern appearance was created by Achille Duchesne (1866-1947). Near the garden is the Chancery, which served as a residence for the steward under Catherine de Medici.
Two perpendicular and two diagonal avenues break up the parterre into eight large triangular lawns decorated with graceful scrolls of santolines (12,000 m2 ). In the center, the original fountain has been restored, as in the days of Diana de Poitiers.
The high terraces protecting the garden from the floods of the Cher, decorated with large vases, offer a clear view of the yew, birch, boxwood and marigold bushes which set the rhythm of the garden. More than a hundred stumpy hibiscuses bloom here in the summer. Flowerbeds placed between the bushes emphasize the strict geometric pattern of the garden. Beginning in autumn, pansies and daisies bloom all winter long. In spring, petunias, decorative tobacco, dwarf dahlias, verbena, or begonias are planted and will be a joy to behold until the following autumn. The walls supporting the terraces around the perimeter of the garden are trimmed with climbing roses of the variety “Iceberg”.
The garden of Queen Catherine de Medici is more intimate (5,500 m2) and is the epitome of refinement. Its alleys overlooking the water and the park offer a magnificent view of the western facade of the castle. The design of the garden is based on five lawns clustered around an elegant circular pond and bordered with boxwood balls.
To the east, the garden is enclosed by a small wall above a moat, decorated with Claire Mathenne climbing roses.
Stem roses and lawns of low-cut, rounded lavender bushes accentuate the garden’s harmonious pattern. The view to the north of the Green Garden and Orangery is a creation of Bernard Palissy.
Located on the lawn of a park of 70 hectares, the Italian Labyrinth, created at the request of Catherine de Medici, consists of 2,000 yew bushes on an area of more than one hectare. In its center, a pergola is built on a hill, allowing a view of the entire labyrinth from above. This small building is braided with live willow. On top is a statue of Venus, and next to it, on top of a cedar trunk, is a statue of a nymph holding Bacchus the Child.
The labyrinth is surrounded by an alley with vases of boxwood and ivy, and from the east there is a view of the monumental Caryatids by Jean Goujon. These caryatids, the Palladas and Cybele, and the Atlanteans, Hercules and Apollo, once adorned the facade of the castle and were later moved behind the labyrinth.
The carriage gallery, located in the large stables of the 16th-century farmhouse, displays a rare collection of noblemen’s and peasant horse-drawn carriages. Typical French bric and tonneau, or English ones such as the tilbury, they are part of the cultural heritage we want to preserve. The lord’s carriage or the peasant’s cart, they were in use mainly in the nineteenth century and are still sometimes used in rural areas…