As the unofficial gateway to the castles of the Loire Valley, Blois includes two striking sights that dominate the picturesque city: the panoramic view overlooking the Loire River and the magnificent Chateau de Blois. Well preserved and now proudly owned by the city of Blois, the royal castle combines a varied and significant history with signature buildings that beautifully reflect the French architectural movement from the Middle ages to the 1800’s. The former home to many French kings, Chateau Blois also was the notable site where Joan of Arc received her blessing by the Archbishop of Reims before setting out to Orleans to defeat the English. An impressive bronze monument in her honor overlooks the gardens and the Loire River at the Blois Hotel de Ville (city hall).
The City of Kings
The castle first served as a royal residence in the 1500’s, when the widow of murdered Duke of Orleans arrived at the Chateau Blois. King Louis XII followed and initiated many improvements as well as creating a terraced Italian garden. During the stay of Francois I, a stunning spiral staircase that opened on to the outer courtyard was added. Successors Henry III and Henry IV called Blois home, when forced to leave Paris after the Wars of Religion. After the death of Henry IV, the castle became home to his widow, Marie de Medici, when she was expelled from court by Louis XIII.
The chateau suffered abandonment and disrepair, until the castle was saved from demolition by becoming one of the first historic monument classifications in 1841. While some losses include missing statuary and the destruction of chateau gardens, the castle has enjoyed tasteful restoration and maintenance and now provides and impressive tribute to the noble life of 16th century France.
Interior castle rooms reflect the color and opulence of the period, and the entire courtyard setting is a pleasure to visit. The many buildings that make up the castle spread across five centuries of Renaissance, Classic and Gothic architecture. The oldest manor room dates to the early 13th century and is a magnificent Gothic structure with vivid colors and soaring arches. Secret chambers, bas-relief sculptures, colorful Italian tiles, tapestries and exquisite stained-glass windows offer an elegant living museum experience.
Open daily except December 25 and January 1, the museum and castle admission is 8 Euros for adults. A Magic House (complete with darting dragons!) and Sound and Light Show in June and July offer entertaining additions and a creative tour of the castle’s history.