The castle of Azay-le-Rideau is one of our favorite castles in the Loire Valley, as it gives off a poetic and romantic atmosphere. Modest in its dimensions, grandiose in its decoration, surrounded by moats still in water and a beautiful English-style park, it is one of the jewels of the Loire.
In this post all our advices to succeed your visit and, you too, fall under the charm of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau!
BEFORE ALL OUR TIPS, OUR favorites
Our favorite car rental platform: DiscoverCars
Our unforgettable outdoor activity: Hot-air ballooning in the Loire Valley
Why visit the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau?
Is the Azay-le-Rideau castle worth it? Our opinion:
Located between Saumur and Tours, not far from the Loire River, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau is well worth a visit:
- Not the largest, nor the highest, but surely one of the most harmonious and architecturally interesting castles. It is considered one of the masterpieces of the early renaissance and we fully agree!
- For thepoetic atmosphere that emanates from the castle and its park. It has inspired many artists (the writer Honoré de Blazac, the sculptor Auguste Rodin...) and we spontaneously thought of Lamartine's verse when discovering the castle.
- For the quality of the furnishings: if the second floor is dedicated to the Renaissance, the first floor was entirely refurnished in 2017 by the French State and offers a rich collection ofobjects from the 19th century.
- For the English park, which offers 2 water mirrors and beautiful exotic trees (sequoia, cedar, ginkgo, bald cypress...), whose planting began in 1850.
In our opinion, it's one of the most beautiful châteaux in the Loire Valley.
Why is the castle of Azay-le-Rideau famous?
Located between two arms of the Indre river, the Azay-le-Rideau castle owes its fame to its remarkable architecture. A subtle blend of the Gothic tradition and the Italian Renaissance, it embodies for many the best of the early French Renaissance.
In his novel Le Lys dans la vallée, Honoré de Balzac wrote:"Climbing a ridge, I admired for the first time the Château d'Azay, a faceted diamond set by the Indre, mounted on flower-masked pilings.
History in brief
- Middle Ages: a first castle for defensive purposes was built by the Lords of Azay around 1119, burned by Charles VII and finally acquired by Martin Berthelot around 1497.
- Renaissance: his son, Gilles Berthelot, Mayor of Tours and treasurer of King François I, built the castle from 1518 to 1523. Caught up in a scandal of embezzlement, the unfinished castle was confiscated by the King of France. Several owners will succeed one another in the following centuries.
- Revolution: In 1791, the castle "abandoned and very degraded" is sold to Charles de Biencourt, deputy of the Nobility to the States General. In addition to the park, he replaces the old keep with a second round tower of corbelling in the Renaissance style, thus giving it a beautiful and rare stylistic unity.
Tips and map - Azay-le-Rideau Castle
Where is Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
- Driving time from Nantes: 2h05
- Driving time from Tours: 29 min
- Driving time from Angers: 1h12
- Driving time from Blois: 1h06
- Driving time from Orleans: 1h39
Here is a map to help you find your way:
How to get there
The closest airport is Nantes (2h05), then Orly (2h30). Traffic and disembarkation will be easier in Nantes, as the airport is smaller.
You will then need to rent a car to get to Azay-le-Rideau (read our tips for renting a car at Nantes airport).
If you want to come by train, we recommend :
- To connect to the Tours train station by one of the TGV from Paris (1h10 of journey)
- Take a regional train to the small station ofAzay-le-Rideau (on average 12 trips per day for a duration of 35 minutes).
- The train station is a bit out of the way and it will take you 25 minutes to get to the castle entrance.
- Organized tour from Paris : discover the program of the day and book
OUR TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN Loire
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars - one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a fairly compact car (many villages have narrowed the road).
- Think aboutfull insurance (parking in big cities is really tight).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
The P1 castle parking lot (P2 is reserved for subscribers) is available in the immediate vicinity of the castle. For a 4-hour parking period, it will cost you 6.40€.
Best time to visit the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
As with all castles with interesting grounds, we recommend that you visit Azay-le-Rideau in spring. Autumn can also be an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful colors with the many remarkable and exotic trees.
If you choose to visit in the summer, we recommend that you arrive early in the morning before the peak of traffic between 12 and 4 pm.
It is necessary to count:
- Approximately 1 hour for the exterior facades and the park.
- Between 1h30 and 2h minimum for the interior (first floor XIXth,1st floor renaissance and attic).
The main difficulties
The castle of Azay-le-Rideau is visited from the roof to the kitchens, so you will have to climb up and down 72 steps, some of them quite steep. The park does not present any particular difficulty.
Advice on how to visit and map of the castle
There are 2 possible options for us, you choose!
- Start with the wine press and its interpretation space, which will give you the history of the place but also the keys to interpret the architecture and even the landscaping of the garden.
- After this first theoretical step, move on to the practical side by taking the time to admire the facades, which will speak for themselves now.
- Visit the interiors, starting with the attic (original 16th century framework), then the second floor and its rooms furnished in Renaissance style, and finally the first floor, which will plunge you into the world of the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Finally, finish with the park.
The "romantic" approach: if, like us, you fall under the spell of the castle at first sight, let yourself be carried away by the place:
- Start with the facades and admire the detail of the sculptures and the harmony of the volumes.
- Extend this moment in the park, enjoying both the lush nature, but also beautiful poetic views of the castle.
- You can now immerse yourself in theatmosphere of the castle, starting with the first floor recently refurnished by the State and which will allow you to imagine the castle life that the Biencourt family, owner of the castle throughout the 19th century, knew.
- Then go up to the second floor, to go back in time and imagine the sumptuous life in the Renaissance.
- To come back to earth, finish your visit by the attic to contemplate the carpenters' skills and finally, the wine press, if you wish to add some theoretical knowledge about the emotions you felt.
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Schedules and prices
- Open every day of the year except January1, May1, and December 25.
- From 10am to 5:15pm minimum (9:30am to 7pm in July and August)
- full adult: 11,50 €.
- free for children under 18 years old
Check the latest prices/times on the official website
- To avoid wasting time during your visit and waiting in line unnecessarily, we strongly advise you tobuy your tickets in advance.
The castle of Azay-le-Rideau with your children
No specific animation for children, but a booklet with games to facilitate a playful visit of the castle. By following Sally the Salamander from the castle, they will learn about Renaissance architecture and life during the Renaissance.
Guided tours: Tours are offered in French and last about 1 hour. Registration is done upon arrival at the reception desk (no advance reservations). Free
Audioguides: Audioguides are available in 5 languages (French, English, German, Italian, Spanish). A junior version is available in French. Price 3€.
Inside the castle:
- Le lavoir: tea room offering naturally a very beautiful view on the castle and a dozen flavors of ice cream (who is the most greedy of the brother and sister...). 2 dishes of the day, quiches and salads are also offered at lunch time. See the news of the restaurant
Near the castle:
- If you want to take your time, we highly recommend lunch or dinner at the Aigle d'or. A very nice gastronomic restaurant (bib) in the heart of the village of Azay-le-Rideau. The chef, Simon Désiles, works with the noblest products of French gastronomy, combining them with local vegetables and condiments. And his companion, Eleanor Thomas, pastry chef, sommelier and hostess, spreads her benevolence throughout the room. Discover the menus
- The city of Azay is rather well provided with restaurants for all tastes. A starred restaurant with theAuberge Pom'Poire, which cultivates the love of nature and its good farm and local products. Troglodytic and family atmosphere, at the restaurant Les grottes. And of course the traditional crêperie, the Boudoir, ideal for a quick lunch with hungry children!
Where to stay in the area
We offer you 3 very different choices for accommodation in Azay-le-Rideau:
- A beautiful guest house, A l'ombre d'Azay. 2 steps away from the castle, in front of the town hall, an old wine house completely redesigned to spend a good time and a good night! I also want to sleep in the shadow of Azay
- Troglododo, as its name indicates, is a troglodytic hotel, dug in the white stone of the Loire, the tuffeau. 1km from the château, the unusual and the quiet, just the way Claire likes it. I want to live the troglodytic experience
- From the most classic, with theGrand Monarque Hotel. A beautiful 4-star hotel set in a lovely 17th century coaching inn, right next to the castle. I want to stop at the Grand Monarque
- See all hotels near the castle of Azay-le-Rideau with photos and reviews.
Architecture: a jewel of the 1st French Renaissance style
The initial construction of the castle began in 1518 and was completed in 1523. The architecture mixes French-inspired Gothic elements with Italian Renaissance influences, but we'll come back to that later.
The castle has an atypical L-shaped plan, surely the consequence of the flight to Metz of its builder, Gilles Berthelot, who left an unfinished site. The whole leaves a dissymmetry which certainly constitutes today one of the reasons of the charm of this castle.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the new owners, the De Biencourt family, had a Gothic Troubadour-style turret and a small Chinese pavilion built, architectural elements that were very much in vogue at the time.
North facade (courtyard side): the most elaborate
One of the most representative facades in the Loire Valley of the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance. Symbol of the Italian influence, the presence of a large straight staircase with loggia, one of the very first built in the Loire.
All along the ascent of the staircase, you will discover the richness of the sculptures. You will of course find the Salamander, emblem of King François I and many symbols ofancient inspiration that will mark the entry of France in the Renaissance.
Look up regularly to admire the ceilings. The higher you go, the more richly decorated the caissons are, mixing portraits of all the kings and queens of France, from Louis XII to Henri IV, with plant motifs. The hanging keys on the bearings are truly remarkable for their precision.
South facade (garden side): the most harmonious
While the machicolations and parapets, inherited from medieval fortresses, are still clearly visible, the central dormer window mixes Gothic structure and Italian ornaments with its pilasters directly inspired by antiquity.
It should be noted, but we will come back to this, that the water mirror in front of this facade, which seems to have always been there, so much it fits well in the landscape and enhances the facade of the castle, has only existed since 1950.
West façade: the most discreet
The western facade is often overlooked, as it is difficult to compete with the magnificent southern and northern facades. It still presents at the level of the2nd bay, what was formerly the opening of a vaulted gallery which allowed to pass directly from the courtyard to the garden.
The frame and the roof of the castle
The framework, although less visible from the outside, is another remarkable element of the architecture of the castle, whose roofs are particularly rich (dormers, chimneys, slate slopes).
The oaks were felled in the winter of 1518 - 1519 and the construction lasted until 1522. This is called an "overhanging" roof because the walls that support the frame rise above the floor. Today, we would say "convertible attic"...
Note that the attic is already inhabited by... bats and to be more precise a rare and protected species, the great murins. Be careful if you cross them, they can reach a wingspan of 43 cm for 8 cm long!
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Interior furniture: 19th century castle life
An exceptional re-furnishing work
Ceded to the state in 1905, after the ruin of the Biencourt family at the end of the 19th century, the château d'Azay-le-Rideau benefits from an exceptional commitment from the Centre des monuments nationaux.
In addition to a colossal restoration project from 2015 to 2017 on the frames and sculptures, the castle was completely refurnished, with the help of the national furniture. It remains as faithful as possible to the decoration imagined by the 4 generations of Biencourt, owner of Azay-le-Rideau for over a century.
A wonderful job of heritage conservation!
Renaissance atmosphere on the1st floor
The second floor of the castle has kept the original distribution, as conceived by its builder Gilles Berthelot and was refurnished in neo-renaissance style by the Biencourts in the 19th century:
- The room called renaissance, with its bed of style neo-renaissance of the XIXe and its embroideries reconstituted since paintings. Note the presence of a sea rush on the walls, used in the Renaissance to insulate from the cold, but also to "chase away the moods and purify the air".
- The closet serving the 2 adjoining bedrooms.
- Psyche's room: former room, now dedicated to the exceptional tapestries dedicated to a mythology very appreciated in the Renaissance telling the love of Psyche.
- Great Hall: the most sumptuous room of the castle, which hosted balls and feasts: 150m2alone and 6 meters under the ceiling!
- The antechamber where people who want to talk to the lord can wait. This room has been decorated since the 19th century with 16th and 17th century paintings representing the kings of France.
- The King's room: room intended to receive the King, during his visits to the castle. We know from the King's doctor that Louis XIII spent 3 days and 2 nights there in 1619.
XIXth century atmosphere on the first floor
Reputed to be one of the most beautiful aristocratic residences of the 19th century, the castle is full of treasures:
- The Biencourt Salon : great collectors of paintings and art objects, the Biencourts lived through the turbulent 19th century with an interest in culture and politics.
- The billiard room: this room was once open to the living room, creating a unique space dedicated to the art of entertaining and pleasure.
- The expense which was used for the storage of the foodstuffs and the linen of life.
- The kitchen with its monumental chimney and its well integrated into the room.
- The dining room is set up according to 19th century customs. The art of the table was not an empty word at the time.
- The vaulted passage we already mentioned when describing the west facade. It provided a direct link between the main courtyard and the gardens.
- The living room-library reconstituted to the identical of 1854 and dedicated to the reading and the distractions.
DON'T MISS THE BEST CASTLES IN the Loire Valley
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- itineraries: 3 days
- Castles around Blois, around Amboise, around Saumur, around Tours, around Angers and around Nantes.
- or our list of over 100 Loire castles
Poetic walk in the park
An exceptional natural setting
In order to understand the park, it is important to keep in mind that the castle of Azay-le-Rideau is located on an island surrounded by two arms of the Indre river.
This particular layout gives all its charm to the park which is structured in 2 parts:
- the romantic park with its English garden which forms a semi-circle around the castle. Straight lines and geometrical gardens in the French style are broken to let nature take over, while taking care of the subtle harmony of the whole.
- the Rémonière peninsula which extends over 8 hectares to the south-east of the castle. This completely wild and protected marshy space presents rare species, such as the guinea fern, a flower with white and purple checkerboards, or the bald cypress with its roots so characteristic of its Louisiana origin.
And a little surprise awaits you at the exit of the castle along the central alley with the garden of secrets. It is a bit hidden, but it would be a shame to miss it. Formerly the castle's vegetable garden, it has become a conservatory of ancient vegetables from the Loire Valley. Flowers and herbs are also planted there.
A botanical enthusiast
In addition to this exceptional setting, the château owes much to the passion for botany of Charles de Biencourt who bought the château in 1791, even though it was his son who completed the landscaping of the park.
We are then in the middle of the maritime discovery of the world and its "exotic" species which the good society is so fond of: we go from 10 000 known species to 90 000 in one century, which we map and document abundantly.
Giving in to this fashion, the Biencourts had many exceptional trees and plants planted. Some varieties still present in the park:
- Ginkgo biloba, brought from Japan to Europe in 1730 by a German doctor.
- The redwood, whose oldest specimen is 3500 years old, is in California.
- The Atlas Cedar, now quite common in France but native to North Africa, first planted in 1839.
- Tulip tree of Virginia, bald Cypress, but also shrubs from the 4 continents.
A water mirror so contemporary
The water mirror located in front of the south façade seems to have always been there. The integration seems to be perfect, and the usual iconographic representations of the château of Azay-le-Rideau favor this view as it is so harmonious.
And yet from the Renaissance to the middle of the 20th century, the water mirror was a garden integrated into the romantic park.
In 1950, it was one of the most brilliant chief architects of historical monuments, Bernard Vitry, who had the Indre branch widened so that the water could flow along the foundations of the south and west facades. The logical consequence of this work is to slow down the flow of water, thus promoting a wrinkle-free reflection! A nice way to give a first youth to this beautiful castle.
We also owe him the gallery of the tapestry of the apocalypse in the castle of Angers, or the restoration of the castle of Amboise.
Not to be missed nearby
- Before leaving Azay-le-rideau, you can extend your visit with the Château de l'islette. Probably built by the same workers who built the castle of Azay-le-Rideau, it has a comparable structure. In addition to this glorious kinship, it owes its fame to the fact that it was the love nest of sculptors Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin. Visitthe official website.
- 15 minutes by car from Azay-le-Rideau, discover the town of Langeais, in the heart of historic Touraine and along the Loire River. As well as the delicious hazelnut cookies at the Maison de Rabelais, Claire loved the atmosphere of the park at the Château de Langeais, which was particularly photogenic. See our article.
Virtual visit in video
Frequently asked questions
Films, series and programs shot at Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
- The 3 Musketeers by Henri Diamant-Berger (1921), a masterpiece of silent cinema in 12 episodes of 1 hour, now restored and reedited in 14 episodes of 26 minutes.
- Le Capitan by Robert Vernay (1946), a cloak-and-dagger film based on the novel by the anarchist journalist and writer of popular fiction, Michel Zévaco. This film should not be confused with the remake by André Hunebelle (1960) with Bourvil and Jean Marais.
- La Fayette by Jean Dreville (1962) recounting the marriage of the young marquis and his departure to fight in America.
- Quentin Durward (1971), a 52-minute television series tracing the loves and life of Quentin Durward in France in the second half of the 15th century.
Where does the name Azay-le-Rideau come from
Azay derives from a pre-Celtic homonym, Azé, which would mean"abundant water".
The Curtain expressly refers to the first lords of the place, Ridel, of which there are traces as early as 1143. They settled permanently at the head of the lordship in 1204, with Hugues and his brother Geoffroy, both knights of the King of France, Philippe Auguste.