A French chateau has many reasons to visit. You might pretend to be a character for a day in a fairy tale, a section of knights-in-armor and ladies-in-waiting, or reconsider the steps and lay your head where nobility once did.
You could have lunch, learn about medieval French architecture, visit a wine estate, or play a golf round on castle grounds. You can even go hunting for truffles, then dine in the Michelin-starred restaurant at the chateau or take a dip in France's famous indoor pool before heading into your 900-year-old bedroom with a vaulted and timber ceiling for the night.
To discover a French chateau, these are just a few reasons. If your travels are subject to time constraints, the options below offer R&R for several days to choose a day's investment. Booking through City Wonders Tours is the easiest–and by far the most delightful–way to visit these first three chateaux.
They are offering a day package leaving Paris at 7:15 a.m. and comes back at 7:30 p.m. It's all-inclusive, the luxury bus is air-conditioned your tour guide is knowledgeable and witty. Lunch is included in one of the chateaus, plus wine tastings.
Château de Chambord
Easy to think of the French chateau, Chambord is a sprawling monolith, built initially as a hunting lodge that seems to dwarf (almost) even Versailles. In 2019, it is celebrating its 500th anniversary.
Later, the property came under the ownership of the crown when he became King Louis XII. This fabulous building was not built until the successor of King Louis XII, Francis I, son of Louise de Savoy.
That was in 1519. Nine times Louis XIV stayed here, and in 1669 Molière and Lully wrote "Monsieur de Pourceaugnac and played it here for their king.
Château de Chenonceau
This remarkable structure, also built in the style of the Renaissance, extends across the river Cher; it is a chateau constructed to bridge a river. Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II, laid its gardens. It was the site of frequent evenings and festival days that involved hunting on horseback, suppering intellectual pursuits, and royal balls.
Later, when King Henry II married Catherine de Medici, he gave Diane de Poitiers Château de Chenonceau, still his ' favorite, ' although she was his senior for 19 years.
The castle was lived in throughout the year during the French Revolution and was remarkably spared from destruction. His bridge across the Cher River's ' common good ' is credited for that. It was used as an hospital for the war-wounded during the First World War. Fresh flower arrangements grace every space throughout the chateau and are component of this fantastic piece of French heritage's living culture. Don't miss the Apothecary's visit, housed in one of the annexes.
If you can spend a day here, there are small rental rowboats at this most welcoming Loire Valley chateau that you can navigate under the famous arches of the chateau that span the river. You can enjoy a picnic on the edge of the river, or dine in one of several on-site options on the grounds of the chateau, including their excellent restaurant, L'Orangerie.
Château de Nitray
This working vineyard and medieval chateau, located in the core of the Loire Valley region known as Touraine, is readily available from Paris. You can taste the wines of the estate-grown grapes, mostly Chenin blanc, sauvignon and cabernet franc, at this chateau. Since the 18th century, the vineyards have existed.
With its famous white stone (known as tuffeau stone), white mullioned windows and roof chimneys from the façade, Nitray welcomes you. The tour involves a stop in the old stone pigeon house, the pigeonnier.
Château de Vault-de-Lugny
If it's more your style to taste history and live in its holy halls, look no further than this exquisite moat-enclosed and gated paradise corner, the Château de Vault-de-Lugny. It's like discovering a big black truffle buried.
Nestled between the renowned Sancerre and Chablis wine regions, close to Vézelay's UNESCO heritage site, this 900-year-old chateau, full of its moat, dungeon, and stables are prepared to welcome you. Get ready for idyllic days of what the French call "farniente" or "full relaxation."
This chateau hotel, whose front lawn proudly nourishes France's 3rd earliest living tree (plant in 1614), sits up against Morvan's forest. Technically, you're here in Burgundy, but because you're so near to the Loire's boundary, it keeps you feeling like a royalty playground.
No detail was overlooked, the owners Pascal and Elisabeth Bourzeix ignored no creature comfort. Under 20-foot vaulted, timbered ceilings, king-size beds welcome you to a relaxing sleep. The fluttering birds sing-song awakens you to a dewy, calm morning, enhanced only by the fresh-brewed coffee and hot croissants.
The whole chateau is air-conditioned, somewhat rare in France, all 19 rooms. The Louis XIII, the restaurant of the chateau, is characterized by a Michelin star, an honor proudly earned by its chef, Franco Bowanee. Originally from Mauritius, he and his wife, Karina, the chef patissière, and it is a legacy that the chef infuses in his cuisine.
You will discover yourself dining on a touch of exotic for lunch or dinner, with fragrant spices that complement traditional French cooking.
What's better than that? Well, there are three things. The estate is roamed by a group of six wild peacocks including an all-white one whose gentle caws can be heard all day long. The heated indoor pool was voted best (for an excellent reason) in France. And this is truffle terroir, so if you've always dreamed of truffle hunting, the team here will guide you to their favorite secret places where you're used to finding one or two truffles!
France has its share of golf courses and more than its share of chateaux–in the Loire alone a total of 1,000. But attempt to combine these two, and that's where you're going to be challenged.
Enter Alexandra Palace's owner. He is an American businessman who a decade ago fell in love with the lifestyle of the French chateau and set out to purchase and revoke the Loire Valley chateaux.
Alexandra Palace provides eight spacious rooms, each with its own crystal chandelier. But this estate is really distinguished by the neighboring golf course run by Bluegreen Golf, fully incorporated into this chateau experience.
Their 18-hole golf course has you walking between each scenic hole around the chateau grounds. It also provides a variety of workouts, a clubhouse, and a putting green. There is an on-site bar, restaurant and a wine cellar/degustation space in the chateau itself.
Niort, known for its dungeon and dragons, is the nearest town. It's also right next to Echiré village where France's most excellent butter is made.