I’m pretty sure that when I first visited Chambord many many years ago it was virtually empty and we pretty much had the place to ourselves – not so nowadays when it gets around 700,000 visitors a year and was indeed full to the brim of people when we were there, which is quite an achievement when you consider how huge it is!
Originally conceived as a cute little hunting lodge for François I and his court, construction on Chambord began in 1519 and ended in 1547 and by the time it was completed, it was the biggest château in the Loire Valley. It’s thought that Leonardo da Vinci, who ended his days in France, had a hand in its design and it seems likely that he was responsible for the design of the spectacular double spiral staircase that rises through the centre of the main building. After François’ death, Chambord was barely used until Louis XV gave it to his father-in-law, Stanislas I of Poland in 1725 and after that it was mostly abandoned, although there were plans for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to visit – until they were cancelled by the outbreak of the revolution and the rooms prepared for them were left unused.
Although Chambord is undoubtedly impressive, it is not especially lovely but there are wonderful paintings and furnishings on display in the state rooms, including a beautiful statue of Madame Elisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, in the chapel, and various royal portraits spanning the 16th to early 19th centuries. The real highlight though is that famous roof, with its decorative chimneys and wonderful views across the park.