Second only to Versailles, Château de Chenonceau is the most visited castle in France, and so we made it numero deux on our Loire Valley road trip. That’s a pretty decent bragging right considering the competition, but it’s more than merited.
The Grand Avenue leading to the entrance of the castle alone is half a mile of gorgeous, tree lined landscape. Double perks of visiting in the fall: lower crowds and foliage. Foliage, foliage everywhere.
Château de Chenonceau was built on a former mill, constructed and reconstructed over the course of four centuries. It’s unique architecture, the star of which is l’Ormes bridge and its’ five white stone archways gracefully extending over the River Cher, is the result of a number of remarkable women who lived and loved this famous chateau.
Built in 1513 by Katherine Briconnet, it was remodeled and enhanced by Diane de Poitiers (King Henry II’s mistress) before Catherine de’ Medici (King Henry II’s widow – are you following all of this?) took control and spent a small fortune on additions, not least of which was the gallery housed atop l’Ombres bridge. Then came Louise de Lorraine, Catherine’s daughter in law and Louise Dupin, who saved Chenonceau from destruction during the Revolution.
One look and you can see what all the fuss was about.
Perhaps my favorite space in Chenonceau was the Grand Gallery, with it’s checkerboard flooring and arched windows that flood the hallway with sunlight. The view onto River Cher isn’t too bad either.
Two gardens flank Château de Chenonceau. To the left, an extensive space commissioned by Diane de Poitiers, to the right, a smaller, more intimate setting designed by Catherine de’ Medici.
So to review, we’ve got – beautiful gardens: check, Renaissance style architecture: check, surrounding moat/river: check, elaborate back story of Queens and Princesses: check. Basically everything you’re looking for in a classic French château is here in Chenonceau. Not too shabby.