Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire information
Set on a strategic bluff with sweeping views along the Loire, Chaumont-sur-Loire combines a medieval defensive exterior, with cylindrical corner towers and a sturdy drawbridge, with an interior courtyard that is very much of the Renaissance. Most of the elegant furnishings inside date from the 19th century, a nice contrast with the exhibitions of striking contemporary art, which are as 21st century as can be.
Chaumont's English-style gardens are at their finest during the annual Festival International des Jardins .
A defensive château was first built on this spot in the late 900s, but most of the present castle was constructed between 1468 and 1566. Following the death of Henri II in 1559, Catherine de Médicis (his widow) forced Diane de Poitiers (his mistress and her 2nd cousin) to accept Chaumont in exchange for the grander surroundings of Chenonceau. Savvy Diane earned considerable sums from Chaumont’s vast landholdings but stayed here only occasionally.
In the second half of the 18th century, the château's owner, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray, a supporter of the American Revolution and an intimate of Benjamin Franklin, removed the decrepit north wing. In 1875 Princess de Broglie, heiress to the Say sugar fortune, bought the château and thoroughly renovated and furnished it.
The most impressive room is the Council Chamber, with its series of eight 16th-century tapestries (restored in 2015) and a 17th-century majolica-tiled floor from a palace in Palermo.
Don’t miss the brick Écuries (stables), an outbuilding constructed in 1877 to house the Broglies’ horses in equine luxury. A fine collection of 19th-century equestrian gear and horse-drawn carriages of surprisingly varied design is displayed inside.
It’s a good idea to hire an informative audiovideoguide (a tablet computer; €4), available in a version for kids, or to download the app from iTunes (US$2.99) or Google Play (US$3.59).
The Château de Chaumont is 19km southwest of Blois. Trains link Onzain, a 2.5km walk across the Loire from the château, with Blois (€3.70, nine minutes, eight to 17 daily) and Tours (€8.80, 30 minutes, 10 to 17 daily).