Château de Chambord: 440 Rooms of Royal Opulence

Though it began as a simple hunting lodge, this chateau grew to six times the size of others in the Loire

Château de Chambord has 440 rooms and a fireplace for every day of the year. (Courtesy of Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door)

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The second floor up has beautiful coffered ceilings (notice the “F” for you-know-who) and holds a series of ballrooms that once hosted post-hunt parties. It’s been closed for restoration, but when it’s re-opened you should find a museum with finely crafted hunting weapons and exhibits on myths, legends, traditions, and techniques from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries--but, unfortunately, little information in English.

To see what happens when you put 365 fireplaces in your house (used to heat the palace in winter even today), climb to the rooftop. A pincushion of spires and chimneys decorates a viewing terrace, where the ladies would enjoy the spectacle of their ego-pumping hunters. On hunt day, a line of beaters would fan out and work inward from the distant walls, flushing wild game to the center, where the king and his buddies waited. The showy lantern tower of the tallest spire glowed with a nighttime torch when the king was in. From the rooftop, view the elegant king’s wing--marked by FRF (François Roi de France) and bristling with fleurs-de-lis.

Finish your visit back on the ground floor, and take a quick spin through the classy carriage rooms and fascinating lapidary rooms (in the far right wing of the château, as you face the château from the courtyard). Here you’ll come face-to-face with original stonework from the roof, including the bulky lantern cupola. Imagine having to move that load. The volcanic tuff stone used to build the spires is soft and not very durable---particularly when so exposed to the elements.

For all the details on the Château de Chambord, please see Rick Steves’ France.

Excerpted from Rick Steves’ France.

Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. E-mail him at, or write to him c/o P.O. Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020.

© 2010 Rick Steves

About Rick Steves
Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a travel writer and television personality. He coordinated with Smithsonian magazine to produce a special travel issue Travels with Rick Steves.

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