About Château Royal de Blois
Château Royal de Blois is a former royal château in the Loire Valley, with a dramatic and fascinating history.
History of the Château Royal de Blois
There has been a castle at Blois since the 9th century – the oldest part of the existing château, the Salle des États Généraux, dates to the 13th century. In 1381, Louis I, Duke of Orleans bought the castle, and his son Charles oversaw its rebuilding into a more comfortable, luxurious château as opposed to a medieval castle. His son, King Louis XII, favoured it as his royal residence, adding terraced gardens and remodelling the entrance.
Blois was also popular with the French royal family throughout the 16th century, and much of the architecture is a hybrid of Renaissance and Gothic. Francis I and his wife, Queen Claude, undertook a major refurbishment at Blois, including the creation of a huge library: Claude died in 1524, and Francis avoided Blois for much of the rest of his reign, moving their massive library to the Château de Fontainebleau instead. It was here that Anne Boleyn, the future Queen of England, spent time at a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude.
Later in the 16th century, Blois became entangled in the bloodthirsty politics of the time: Henri III had his rival, Henri, Duke of Guise, murdered here in 1588, and Catherine de Medici died here in 1589. Many of the gruesome events of the Wars of Religion are illustrated by oil paintings in the Council Room.
In 1626, Blois was given to Gaston, Duke of Orleans and heir to the French throne. He began to develop and extend the castle, but the project was halted following the birth of a new dauphin, the soon to be Louis XIV. His birth meant Gaston had his finances from the French crown cut considerably. The château at Blois began to fall into disrepair, and was scheduled to be demolished by the late 18th century.
It was saved in 1840 through its addition to the list of French historical monuments, and restored by Felix Duban into a public museum.
Château Royal de Blois today
The château is open to the public daily, with hours varying slightly between winter and summer. Don’t miss the ‘chamber of secrets’ – supposedly where Catherine de Medici kept her poisons, but more likely a kind of cabinet of curiosities, used for displaying precious objects, or objects of interest.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum) displays a host of paintings, sculptures and tapestries from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It’s housed in the Flamboyant Gothic style Louis XII wing and is well worth a visit.
In July and August, there are thrice daily tours in English.
Getting to the Château Royal de Blois
The château is located in the centre of Blois, close the river. There’s parking around town, and Blois-Chambord station is about a 10 minute walk away. Get here via the D952 from Tours, or the A10 from Orleans. Blois-Chambord has regular services between Tours and Orleans, and less regular services to and from Paris Austerlitz.
Discover 10 fascinating historic sites associated with Anne Boleyn, one of the most intriguing figures of the Tudor era. From her time at the French châteaus of the Loire Valley to her untimely end at the Tower of London, each site provides a piece of the story that has captivated audiences for over 500 years.