Before we talk about the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, let’s go over some simple definitions.
Castles, Châteaux, Palaces, Forts, and Fortresses…
What are the differences?
Château is the French word for castle. The ‘x’ at the end of chateau indicates the plural tense. According to Wikipedia “A castle (from Latin: castellum) is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually, consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble.”
A palace, or palais in French, is defined as “a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop.”
A fort is a fortified enclosure or building, in a position able to be defended against an enemy. A fortress is a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison.
Castles and palaces are historical points of interest. The huge structures are beautiful and have great historical significance around the globe. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably but are very different from each other.
Key Differences: Castles were built for the primary motive of safety and protection. On the other hand, palaces were built for the primary motive of comfort, relaxation and a leisurely lifestyle. Castles are seen in the Middle East and Europe. Palaces are seen throughout the world and are often adorned with gold and marble for beauty and appeal. Castles show their strength with stone and brick.
Today, most castles and palaces are museums and historic monuments open for visitors to enjoy.
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These are the must-see Châteaux of the Loire Valley
Tour the magnificent Château de Chenonceau, built across the River Cher.
Château de Chenonceau in the Indre-et-Loire département is the most visited and most photographed of the Loire Valley Châteaux. It is more modest in size compared to many other castles. It was built in a stunning setting across the Cher River, with impressive gardens on the adjacent terraces and river banks.
Visit the Château de Villandry which is world-famous for its gardens.
Located 30 minutes southwest of Tours, The Château de Villandry was the last chateaux built on the banks of the Loire during the Renaissance. Completed in 1536, the castle eventually changed hands several times and underwent multiple changes. It was bought in 1906 by the Carvallo family who restored the building and recreated its remarkable gardens.
Marvel at the beautiful architecture while visiting the Château Royal de Blois.
Located in the town of Blois, The Château de Blois is at the beginning of the line of Loire Valley Châteaux. In its long history as a hub of monarchic power, it was once home to 7 kings and 10 queens of France. Unlike most of the Loire Valley Châteaux which present a single identifiable style, the Château at Blois displays the evolution of French architecture from the 13th through the 17th century.
Appreciate panoramic views of the Loire River from the Château d’Amboise.
The Royal Château d’Amboise and its landscaped gardens sit on a ledge towering over the town of Amboise. Its position offers lovely views over the town, the Loire river and the countryside. Birthplace of the French Renaissance, this former royal residence now holds a prestigious collection of Gothic and Renaissance furniture.
Gawk at the sheer size of the Château de Chambord and its massive estate.
The Château de Chambord is located about 15km east of Blois, and 4km from the Loire, in the heart of the Boulogne Forest. Chambord is the most famous and most visited monument in France and the most impressive of the Loire Valley Châteaux. At the heart of the largest park in Europe, it has a massive 156 m frontage. With 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms, it is the largest château in the Loire Valley.
Be charmed by elegant grounds at the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau.
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau, to the south-east of Tours, is considered one of the most famous Loire Valley Châteaux. Standing on an island hidden by trees in the middle of the Indre River, it has one of the loveliest settings of any Château in the Loire. The river forms a natural moat which is surrounded by parkland and open woodland.
Witness the world’s largest medieval tapestry, the Tapestry of the Apocalypse, at the 13th-century Château d’Angers.
The Château d’Angers is a castle in the city of Angers, in the Maine-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France. The castle sits on a rocky ridge above the Maine river, in the centre of the town of Angers. In contrast to the majority of the Loire Valley Châteaux, The Château d’Angers is a defensive fortress as opposed to the more common residential chateaux in the area. Its major highlight is the Tapestry of the Apocalypse: one of the most remarkable medieval tapestries in existence.
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