Chateau d'Anet

As the cradle of the French Renaissance, the Val de Loire boasts a wealth of places to explore

Related articles: Cradle of the Renaissance: A Celebration in the Loire Valley
Things to See and Do in the Loire Valley

CHÂTEAU D’ANET

This mid-16th century property is packed with Diane de Poitiers’ personal memorabilia, including a lock of her hair and portraits of Henri II, her lover. See Diane herself in the chapel, where her marble effigy prays above her tomb. www.chateaudanet.com

Don’t miss the nightly light shows poised to set Chartres Cathedral aglow.

CHARTRES CATHEDRAL

It is, of course, Gothic rather than Renaissance, but without its presence the French Renaissance might never have happened here. Behold the extraordinary Gothic stained glass and late-Renaissance stone carvings of scenes from the lives of Mary and Jesus. www.chartres-tourisme.com

Chateau de Chambord. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU DE CHAMBORD

The interior of this instantly recognisable early 16th-century pleasure palace is largely empty, but it’s the sheer scale of the place that really packs the punch. Walk among the rooftop turrets and survey the estate, larger than the City of London. www.chambord.org

Chateau Royal de Blois

CHÂTEAU ROYAL DE BLOIS

See the evolution of French architecture over the centuries. Don’t miss the spiral staircase outside the François 1 wing. Inside, the new ‘histopad’ tablet recreates key Renaissance rooms in period style in a 360-degree immersive experience. www.chateaudeblois.fr

Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire. Photo: Gillian Thornton

DOMAINE DE CHAUMONT-SUR-LOIRE

Rebuilt in the late 15th century by Charles I, Chaumont became the property of Catherine de’ Medici in 1550. It is now a centre for arts and nature exhibits. Visit between April and November for the Garden Festival. www.domaine-chaumont.fr

Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU D’AZAY-LE-RIDEAU

Built on an island in the Indre River, on the site of an earlier medieval castle, this is a fine example of the development of French architecture in the early 16th century. A subtle blend of traditional French and innovative Italian styles. www.azay-le-rideau.fr

Chateau de Chenonceau. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU DE CHENONCEAU

Built between 1514 and 1522, with the addition of its famous bridge made later that century, Chenonceau is perhaps the best known of all the châteaux in the Loire Valley. Don’t miss the fabulous seasonal displays of flowers in the kitchen garden. www.chenonceau.com

Château du Clos Lucé. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU DU CLOS LUCÉ

Famous for being the home of Leonardo daVinci for the last three years of his life, its shady park includes large-scale representations of some of his engineering projects. Inside, enjoy 40 scale models, and a copy of the Mona Lisa by Ambroise Dubois. www.vinci-closluce.com

Chateau Royal d’Amboise. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU ROYAL D’AMBOISE

François I actually spent most of his reign on the road, either on provincial tours or on military campaigns, but when he did come home he usually came here, and it was here that he had his son baptised in 1518, amidst much celebration. www.chateau-amboise.com

Chateau du Rivau. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU DU RIVAU

This 15th-century castle south of Chinon was extensively redeveloped during the Renaissance period. You’ll find stunning roses and imaginative plantings in the gardens, plus an equestrian art projection in the stables recreating the age of François 1. www.chateaudurivau.com

Chateau de Cheverny

CHÂTEAU DE CHEVERNY

Reminiscent in parts of the Palais du Luxembourg (it was designed by the same school), it is famous these days for being the model for Marlinspike Hall in Belgian cartoonist Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin. Lavishly furnished with glorious gardens to boot! www.chateau-cheverny.com

Chateau de Villandry. Photo: Gillian Thornton

CHÂTEAU DE VILLANDRY

Originally a Medieval fortress, it was developed through the Renaissance period. The interior is now firmly 18th century, but the spectacular formal gardens have been recreated in Renaissance style, complete with intermingled fruit and veg. www.chateauvillandry.com

From France Today magazine

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