Châteaux of the Loire Valley
The Châteaux of the Loire Valley are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the Loire River in France. They illustrate the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on French thought and design in the Loire Valley.
By the middle of the 16th century, King Francois I had shifted the center of power in France from the Loire back to the ancient capital of Paris. With him went the great architects, but the Loire Valley continued to be the place where most of the French royalty preferred to spend the bulk of their time. The ascension to the throne of King Louis XIV in the middle of the 17th century made Paris the permanent site for great royal châteaux when he built the Palace of Versailles. Nonetheless, those who gained the king's favour and the wealthy bourgeoisie continued to renovate existing châteaux or build lavish new ones as their summer residence in the Loire.
The French Revolution saw a number of the great French châteaux destroyed and many ransacked, their treasures stolen. The overnight impoverishment of many of the deposed nobility, usually after one of its members lost his or her head to the guillotine, saw many châteaux demolished. During World War I and World War II, some chateaux were commandeered as military headquarters. Some of these continued to be used this way after the end of WWII.
Today, these privately owned châteaux serve as homes, a few open their doors to tourist visits, while others are operated as hotels or bed and breakfasts. Many have been taken over by a local government authority or the giant structures like those at Chambord are owned and operated by the national government and are major tourist sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
There is no universally accepted definition for inclusion in "proper society" as a "Château of the Loire". The main criterion for inclusion is generally that the château must be sited on the Loire river or one of its tributaries (such as the Maine, Cher, Indre, Creuse or Loir). Châteaux further upstream than Gien are generally not included, with the possible exception of the Bastie d'Urfé for its historical significance.
- Châteaux on the Loire
Beaufort- Mareuil sur Cher - Lavoûte-Polignac - Bouthéon - Montrond - Bastie d'Urfé - Château féodal des Cornes d'Urfé - La Roche - Château féodal de Saint-Maurice-sur-Loire - Saint-Pierre-la-Noaille - Chevenon - Palais ducal de Nevers - Saint-Brisson - Gien - La Bussière - Pontchevron - La Verrerie (near Aubigny-sur-Nère) - Sully-sur-Loire - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Boisgibault - Meung-sur-Loire - Menars - Talcy - Château de la Ferté - Chambord - Blois - Villesavin - Cheverny - Beauregard - Troussay - Château de Chaumont - Amboise - Clos-Lucé - Langeais - Gizeux - Les Réaux - Montsoreau - Montreuil-Bellay - Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet - Saumur - Boumois - Brissac - Montgeoffroy - Plessis-Bourré - Château des Réaux
- Château on the Maine;
- Châteaux on the Cher
- Châteaux on the Indre
Château de Candé à Monts
- Châteaux on the Vienne
- Château on the Loir
- Château on the Argenton/Thouet