Royal Residences and Courtly Castles: The Chateaux of Orleans - Al Fresco Holidays
The Loire Valley in France is widely acknowledged across Europe as one of the finest spots for visiting chateaux (castles). Often nestled in the lush, fertile meadows and woods around Orleans, the historic buildings provide the perfect opportunity for Francophiles to discover more about the country, and for imaginative types to lose themselves in the romantic ambiance.
Ranging from the elaborate and ostentatious to the simple and stately, each chateau has its own distinct personality, not to mention its own interesting and occasionally intriguing history.
If you’re staying in the Orleans area on your holiday and want to discover which chateaux are worth visiting, then here is a list of some of the best in the region.
Top Chateaux around Orleans
Chateau de Chinon
This chateau, dominating the landscape in the medieval town of Chinon, is steeped in history. Once the residence of King Henry II, his son, Richard the Lionheart was also born here. Explore the castle, and capture a glimpse of life of an ancient monarchy dating back to the 12th century.
Built in the 16th century, this opulent, sprawling chateau was once the home of a wealthy financier. Its light, decorative façade is a superb example of Renaissance architecture, and it is rightly recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage protected site.
Chateau de Langeais
The sombre, solid walls of the Chateau de Langeais are a classic example of building style of the Middle Ages, with simple turrets and gothic spires. Wax-work models inside the building provide an insight into life at the time, and the surrounding gardens are beautiful to walk around.
Chateau de Villandry
The Chateau de Villandry was one of the latest chateaux to be constructed in the Loire Valley, and was built in the early half of the 16th century. Constructed by Jean de Villandry, who was one of the country’s finance ministers, it stands on the site of a 12th century chateau that was burnt to the ground to make way for the newer building! The elegant, symmetrical façade is typical of Renaissance style and the landscaped gardens surrounding the property are a haven of tranquillity.
Chateau de Chenonceau
With its spectacular galerie de bal spanning the width of the Cher River, the Chateau de Chenonceau is often considered one of the most romantic chateaux in the Orleans region. The building has, at various stages in history, been home to some exceedingly famous females, including Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici and Mary, Queen of Scots. Perhaps as a result, it has a distinctly delicate, feminine ambience.
The royal residence of Chateau d’Amboise was a royal palace throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, and is perhaps most famous for being the place where King Charles VIII met his untimely demise after banging his head on a low doorway! Try to book a tour of the underground passages, which are magnificently mysterious, and enjoy a walk in the exquisite grounds.
Chateau de Chaumont Sur Loire
The Chateau de Chaumont Sur Loire, though smaller than some of the other chateaux in the area, boasts a spectacular location, clinging to the cliff-sides and overlooking the river below. It was owned by Catherine Medici, and legend has it that she practiced sorcery here with the help of her assistant, Ruggieri who, some believe, haunts the building. Whether the building has spectral residents or not, it’s certain that the chateau has considerable atmosphere.
Chateau de Blois
Buy a ticket to enter the Chateau de Blois, and you’ll also be purchasing a guided tour, which is a great way of discovering all the history of the building. Architecturally, the building is a harmonious mix-up of different design styles, ranging from the 13th to 16th century.
Chateau de Cheverny
When thinking of French chateaux, an image that looks something like the Chateau de Cheverny probably comes to mind. This quintessentially French construction epitomises the style, with perfectly symmetrical construction, elegant turrets and steep roofs. It’s also famous for being the house of Captain Haddock in the Tin-Tin comic books.
Chateau Royal de Chambord
The most distinctive features of the Chateau Royal de Chambord are the impressive, ornate turrets and towers that rise from its roofing. It’s one of the largest chateaux in the area, and visitors are permitted to wander as they wish through the vast palace, which are filled with interesting exhibits.
Staying in the Orleans Region
If you want to explore the region and are looking for a place to stay, holiday parks are an excellent option, offering a greater level of freedom and good facilities, such as swimming pools and other activities to enjoy after a day spent visiting a chateau. Les Alicourts Resort is ideally situated to discover several of the Loire Valley’s finest chateaux, whilst also enjoying a peaceful forest setting and excellent amenities.