Amboise, called Chateau d'Amboise in French, calls the central Loire Valley home like many of the best castles in France. This valley once served as the main base for French kings, and it is certainly deserving of its World Heritage Site associations. At places such as Amboise Castle, royal French history is on display, as is glorious French architecture, and if nothing else, the overall setting is enough to warrant a visit. The castle overlooks both the town of Amboise and the Loire River.
Chateau d'Amboise history starts way back in the eleventh century. The Count of Anjou was responsible for its construction, and he no doubt fancied the strategic point along the Loire River. Like many castles in Europe, Amboise was originally designed to be a fortress and later converted into a stately residence. The major changes in relation to its role began in the 1400s, which is when Charles VII seized the grand structure. Modifications were made, though it was Charles VIII who took on the most complete reconstruction process. During his reign in the 1500s and 1600s, the castle got a Renaissance makeover. It is especially interesting to consider the fact that Amboise was among the first buildings in France to display decorative motifs of the Renaissance style.
Another thing that helps to distinguish Amboise Castle is its gardens. This lovely fortress turned residence was the first castle in France to feature gardens of the true French Style, which is a very formal style. This isn't where the interest ends in terms of Chateau d'Amboise history, however. In the 1500s, Leonardo da Vinci was often a guest at the chateau. He lived and worked in a nearby mansion that was connected to the castle via a tunnel. It is believed that da Vinci was actually buried in the Amboise chapel, though there are some who doubt this claim. Other famous personalities who played a role in the history of France and Europe on the whole also set foot inside Amboise Castle at some point. In fact, past residents include Catherine de Medici and Mary Queen of Scots.
In the mid-1500s, Chateau d'Amboise begins a rather bleak period. More than 1,000 Protestants were actually disemboweled and hung from its walls in 1560, an act that was related to the religious wars of the day, and the 1600s saw the castle serving primarily as a prison. After the French Revolution came to an end, Amboise Castle stood in a demolished state, though King Louis-Philippe came to the rescue in the 1800s, initiating a restoration project that brought the structure back to its former glory. Only part of the original castle remains, though it is a very impressive part, and no visit would be complete without spending some time in the well-manicured gardens.
On a visit to Amboise Castle, you can admire stunning royal apartments, take a look at tapestries from bygone centuries, and examine glorious furnishings. You can also step inside the compound's beautiful Saint-Hubert chapel, which features a tomb with da Vinci's name on it and spectacular stained-glass windows. Only adding to the allure of a visit are the views of the river and town that can be enjoyed from many vantage points, and you won't want to miss the curious armored tank that da Vinci designed. It is set on the grounds and is a very interesting exhibit, to say the least.
Amboise Castle is open daily throughout the year. Should you wish to take a guide tour, you can arrange one in advance. Self-guided tours can also be enjoyed, and there are explanatory booklets in a variety of languages that can help you make sense of what you are looking at. The castle offers venues for private parties and events, such as weddings, so you might keep that in mind as well when considering a visit. As for some of the other castles that you might look to add to your travel agenda while in the Loire Valley, they include Chinon Castle and Chenonceau Castle.