From the bald hill with the same name, Château de Chaumont keeps watch over the river below. Located in the center of the Loire Valley, the castle was originally a fortress that protected the town of Blois.
Château de Chaumont is one of France’s largest and most impressive historical sites. Like most castles in the Loire Valley, it was entangled in intrigue, revenge, and rivalries.
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A Brief History of Château de Chaumont
Château de Chaumont was erected in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois, as a defense fortress. In contrast with with the grand Chambord, or Chenonceaux, which are inland and on flat terrain, Chaumont has a great strategic position.
In 1455, King Louis XI burned down the castle to punish its owner at the time – Pierre of Amboise – for his involvement in the anti-royal revolt known as the ‘League of the Public Weal‘.
Château de Chaumont remained in the Amboise family for almost 500 years. It was however Charles I of Amboise –Pierre’s son– who rebuilt it and turned it into the beautifully ornate château that you see today.
Château de Chaumont
In 1560 the estate became the property of the notorious Catherine de Medici, shortly after the death of her husband, King Henry II. There she entertained many astrologers, like the famous Nostradamus and the sorcerer Ruggieri, her adviser on occultism.
Remember the feud between Catherine de Medici and her rival, Diane de Poitier? Catherine just couldn’t bear the thought that Henry gave the beautiful Château de Chenonceau –which she had wanted for herself– to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitier. So after the King’s death, Catherine forced Diane to relinquish her favorite Château de Chenonceau and move at Chaumont.
Diane refused to live at Château de Chaumont. She only moved there for a short while after which she retired to the Château d’Anet, where she remained for the rest of her life.
However, during the short time she lived tat Chaumont, Diane undertook a long series of alterations on the castle, like the walkway and the battlements on the gatehouse.
In 1750 Chaumont became the property of the French aristocrat Jaques-Donation Le Ray, who bought it as a vacation home. Le Ray lost it 40 years later to the newly formed Revolutionary Government in Paris.
The Castle in Modern Times
In the second half of the nineteenth century Château de Chaumont was inherited by the wealthy heiress of a sugar tycoon – Marie Charlotte Say – who owned it till 1930. She enlarged and restored the castle, building the stables and the beautiful park around it.
Today, the château has three sides built around a central courtyard. However, the original construction had four sides. One was demolished in the 18th century by one of the castle owners, Monsieur Bertin, who wanted to have a better view of the Loire River.
Château de Chaumont is currently the property of the French government and was turned it into a museum.
Visiting the Château de Chaumont
The visit of Chaumont’s interiors starts in the Guard Room, which is basically the passageway to the Royal Chamber. It was also used as a training area for the guards and provided a place from which to watch the exterior of the castle.
The interior of the château is very spacious, with elegantly furnished rooms, beautiful tapestries and finely crafted floors. Among the rooms are those of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers.
Many rooms, stairways and interior features of the Castle were remodeled in the Renaissance style in the 19th century.
The most impressive furnished room in the château is the Council Chamber, with its series of tapestries and a beautiful majolica-tiled floor from a palace in Palermo.
The Château Stables
The château stables are set around two communicating courtyards – a larger one for the use of the owners and a smaller one for their guests. These are the best preserved stables in France and in their days of glory they were quite luxurious.
Inside the stable there is a fine collection of 19th-century equestrian gear, saddles and horse-drawn carriages.
The most enjoyable part of the castle was the beautiful garden that surrounds it. For the past 24 years, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire has been hosting the International Garden Festival every year. The festival promotes not only landscape designs, but also contemporary art exhibits on the theme of nature.
The garden was a joyful celebration of seasons, having flowers from early spring till late fall. The castle grounds also host the Chaumont-sur-Loire Art Festival which began in 2008. The festival features a number of art installations both outside and inside.
Practical Information for Visiting the Château de Chaumont
Château de Chaumont is on the banks of the Loire river, about 17 kilometers south-west of Blois.
| By Car: the easiest way to get from Blois to Château de Chaumont is to drive which takes 20 min. |
By Bus: there is a shuttle bus (Navette Azalys) that takes you from Blois to Chaumont. Busses depart once daily, and operate only from Monday to Friday. The journey takes approximately 52 min.
By Train: there is a direct train departing from Blois and arriving at Onzain. Services depart hourly, and operate every day. The journey takes approximately 8 min. From Onzain, you can take a cab to the castle (another 8 min – 4 km).
The parking for the castle and the entrance are several hundred meters from the centre of the village at the top of a long hill.
Entrance fee is 11 euros for the castle, 12 euros for the Garden Festival, or 16 euros for a combined ticket to enter both attractions.
You can visit Château de Chaumont in less time, but you should allow yourself at least 3 hours if you visit the castle during the International Garden Festival. You can explore the castle and grounds at your own speed, or if you prefer guided tours are also available at no extra cost.