It was at the invitation of François I that Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), aged 64, took up residence in this grand manor house, built in 1471. An admirer of the Italian Renaissance, the French monarch named Da Vinci 'first painter, engineer and king's architect', and the Italian spent his time here sketching, tinkering and dreaming up ingenious contraptions.
Fascinating scale models of 40 of his many inventions, some of which kids can climb on or operate, are on display inside the house and around its lovely 7-hectare gardens, where you can picnic and walk along a meandering stream. Visitors also visit furnished ateliers that look as they did when Da Vinci worked and painted here and the bedroom where he drew his last breath, on 2 May 1519. The 500th anniversary of Da Vinci's death will be commemorated in 2019. L’Auberge du Prieuré serves Renaissance-style lunches (closed in winter).
Brochures are available in 14 languages, or you can download a free mobile app from the website. Crowds can get intense on holiday weekends and in summer; mornings tend to be quieter. To avoid standing in line, buy your tickets beforehand online or at the Amboise tourist office.