(Sponsored article) Castles are an iconic feature of France, with thousands of them dotted all over the country. From sturdy fortresses to fairytale palaces with majestic gardens, they all boast impressive architecture, stunning scenery, and historic tales brimming with intrigue and adventure. Visit them, explore them — why not even stay in one?
Chic Villas is a boutique vacation rental company based in France’s Loire Valley, a region known as the cradle of kings. With some of the nation’s most beautiful castles on our doorstep, we’re well placed to help navigate the vast selection. Here, we bring you a quick peek of just some of the places to add to your itinerary.
But first, good to know before you go — château is French for castle, although it can also be used to describe a big house or grand residence. (Châteaux with an x at the end is the plural.) The French have been building castles since the 9th century, although two periods have particularly marked architectural styles: medieval and Renaissance. Medieval castles were built between the 11th and 14th centuries by kings and lords whose main concern was ruling their land and defending it from invasion. As society became more civilized and less tumultuous, the 15th century saw the arrival of Renaissance architecture. Castles become more ornate and glitzy, built to celebrate wealth, entertain and impress. Another style frequently mentioned is Gothic, which belongs to the transition period between medieval and Renaissance eras.
The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley features stunning castles at every turn, but if you only get a chance to see a couple, then Chambord and Azay-le-Rideau are a good bet. Chambord castle, near Blois, is the very definition of the wow factor. It’s huge, majestic and simply breathtaking. Plan to spend the whole day there to explore the ornate interior, see the famous double-helix staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, and admire the intricate architecture as you wander the immaculately manicured grounds.
Azay-le-Rideau castle, lying southwest of Tours, was built by King Francis I in the 16th century. It is a gem of Renaissance architecture with a dash of Italian influence. This château is pleasingly neat and elegant and its reflection in the surrounding lake gives it an enchanting feel. Visit the castle then stop for a drink at a pavement café in the quaint village and watch the world go by.
Where to stay in the Loire
Spirit of Loire Valley
Live like royalty at this sumptuous castle on the banks of the Loire River. Guests enjoy a careful blend of modern luxury and historic elegance in a quintessentially French country setting. Ideal for relaxing or celebrating with family and friends. (More information here.)
Pure Loire Valley
A luxury country house in the grounds of a castle between Tours and Saumur, in the Loire Valley. Nowhere does rural-chic better than France, and this stylish country retreat pulls it off effortlessly. (More information here.)
If you’re headed to the Dordogne for your vacation, then don’t miss Beynac castle. This fabulous blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture was built in the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart, and sits perched on a sheer cliff. Below, clay pigment-hued stone houses seem to tumble down the hill to the river. Beynac is one of the most beautiful villages in France and lies in the Valley of the Five Castles, making it a château-lover’s dream.
Where to stay in Dordogne
Spirit of Dordogne
After a day exploring the picturesque nearby sites, head back to your very own luxury castle in the Dordogne for a dip in the pool and relax in style at this gorgeous château. Turreted towers, a stylish interior and delightful grounds await, in a tranquil countryside setting above the river. (More information here.)
Dream of Dordogne
A beautiful property basking in the idyllic Dordogne countryside. Immaculate gardens, an inviting, elegant décor and outstanding facilities set the scene for a fabulous holiday. (More information here.)
At Chic Villas, we pride ourselves in our selection of carefully curated properties, and we also have castles for rent in southwest France, Provence, Normandy and Brittany. Every one of them has been handpicked and vetted by Alain Le Calvez, founder of Chic Villas, so that we can tailor your holiday to suit your needs. For more of our vacation rentals and tips on things to do during your trip, check out our properties and our blog or get in touch with our friendly team.
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