It's been (nearly) 500 years since the construction of this Renaissance jewel. Dreamed up by François I to cement his power in stone, the Château de Chambord is an unparalleled architectural exploit, marking the passage of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. Come discover the details of what remains even today one of the most mysterious châteaux in the Loire Valley.

A unique Greek cross layout

Even if the identity of Chambord’s architect remains unknown, the genius of Leonardo de Vinci is written all over the château (though the construction began 6 months after his death). The edifice contains a multitude of novel innovations for the era—to begin with, the Greek cross plan of the keep, over which the castle is built. This unusual setup in France was undeniably inspired by Italy.

A "magic" staircase

Among the numerous innovations in Chambord, the double helix staircase is without a doubt one of the most remarkable. The central piece of the keep, and of the château as a whole, it symbolizes perpetual renewal. This staircase, which allows for two people to walk without crossing paths, has always fascinated visitors to Chambord.

A sculpted vault ceiling

On the last stage of the keep, the eye is immediately drawn to the the immense vaulted ceiling, a sea of caissons containing the emblems of François I. These include the letter F and the salamander, a little amphibian that you can happen upon hundreds of times on the walls and ceilings of Chambord. The multitude of the symbols underscores the monarch’s will to stamp Chambord with the mark of his legacy.

Medieval ornaments

Chambord is a beautiful example of the Renaissance, however, it’s also studded with Medieval vestiges in its structure and elements. Such is the case regarding the ornamentation in the high keep and in the château, in which the chimneys and turrets evoke the style of fortresses. It’s an abundant embellishment that contrasts with the sobriety of the façades.

Lofts hewn from wood

Just under its roof, Chambord hides the treasure of its architecture—the lofts of the West Tower of the keep, built from 16th century wood. They’re a secret that only savvy visitors who have chosen the “unusual” and “thorough” guided tours.

Chambord, the residence of kings

Conceived by François I, who blessed Chambord with the symbol of his power, construction continued after his death. Visitors can thank Gaston d’Orléans, the brother of King Louis XIII, for Chambord Park. It wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV that the building was completed, and converted into a proper châteaux.

Chambord continued to seduce crowned heads, welcoming the King of Poland (father-in-law to Louis XV) during his exile, as well the Marshal of Saxony, to whom we owe the French-style garden.

In 2019, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the château’s ground-breaking, Chambord welcomes visitors with a site tour, orchestrated by designer Jacques Garcia.

Visit Chambord, in the Loire Valley