Chateau de Chambord is undoubtedly one of the most grandiose buildings in France. As you travel the tree-shaded road that leads to Chambord, you’ll first spot the castle’s incredible towers rising above the vast forest that surrounds it. When the entire castle breaks into view, you’ll realize how gigantic and beautiful it really is. Although it has the layout of a fortress –with a central keep and four towers – the château was actually intended as a hunting lodge.
A Brief History of Chateau de Chambord
King François I began the construction of Chambord in 1518. He intended the castle to be his hunting lodge. The genius behind this exceptional architectural creation still remains a mystery. Some art historians attribute the construction to an Italian architect. Others sustain that it’s a purely French project. It is certain that many of the plans were drawn by Leonardo da Vinci, who lived for a while at Château de Clos Luce. However, given his death in 1519, Da Vinci could not have directed the entire construction.
The construction of the Château de Chambord lasted for years and costed a fortune. François I didn’t spare any expense to build his dream castle. In his original plan, he even considered diverting the Loire River to form a moat around the castle. However, the project proved too challenging and expensive, so it had to be abandoned.
A Hunting Lodge Almost Never Used
Although King François I built Château de Chambord as a hunting lodge, he only used it for short stays. As it was customary at the time, the château was only furnished during the King’s visits. As a result, 12,000 horses were required to transport his luggage, servants and entourage when he came.
During his 32 year reign, François I spent only 72 days at Chambord. At the time of his death, only the keep and the royal wing had been completed. His son, Henry II, and later Louis XIV continued the construction of the castle.
What to Expect at Chateau de Chambord
The extravagant Chambord has over 440 rooms, 365 chimneys, and 84 staircases. There is also a 32 km long wall that encloses a 13,000-acre forest. The interior of the château is not particularly impressive, as most of the rooms are unfurnished.
The main attraction of Chateau de Chambord is its stunning architecture. The roof line of the castle is quite unique because it lacks symmetry. When you look at it from a distance, the castle would appear more like a town than a castle.
Walking around the rooftop terraces and seeing the panoramic views over the surrounding land is quite spectacular.
The Famous Double-Helix Staircase
The center piece of the château is the remarkable double helix staircase, one of the architectural masterpieces designed by Da Vinci. The 8-feet wide steps on each staircase have been designed so that both the King and Queen could descend or ascend their own staircase. The two staircases ascend the three floors without ever meeting. However, while on the staircase, the King and the Queen would be able to see each other through the openings.
Chateau de Chambord Today
Chambord is today a presidential hunting estate and the property of the French Nation. Presidents Pompidou and Giscard d’Estaing hunted here; other French presidents didn’t, but opened it to their official guests.