The secrets of the Loire châteaux

Château de Montsoreau – An encounter with contemporary art

This infinitely graceful building, erected in the 1450s, astounded Flaubert, Rodin, Turner and even Alexandre Dumas, who celebrated it in his novel La Dame de Monsoreau. The only Loire château to have been built in the riverbed, since 2016 the jewel of Montsoreau has housed the world's largest collection of works by the group of contemporary artists Art & Language behind Art Conceptuel. These can be viewed along the 2,000-m2 circuit through the sumptuous rooms that make up the monument.

Château de Saumur – The monument that houses a secret museum

Perched opposite the Loire on a rocky promontory, the elegant Château de Saumur is evocative of castles in fairytales. It's impossible to guess from the outside that it houses a museum on the first floor, displaying a remarkable collection of decorative arts such as furniture, tapestries from the 15th to 18th century and, above all, ceramics, with one of the country's finest collections of pottery. The on-site abbey showcases objects relating to the horse (saddles, stirrups, spurs, etc.) dating from Antiquity to the early 20th century.

Château de Brézé - Built on an incredible underground fortress

This is without a doubt one of the most amazing châteaux in the Loire. Not content with just featuring the deepest moats in Europe (up to 20 metres!), the Château de Brézé is built on a real underground fortress. This incredible network of galleries dug into the tuffeau stone in the 15th and 16th century was once used as a defence system, with a buried drawbridge, a rampart walk and stables for the horsemen. Added to these are kitchens, a bakery and press rooms. Visitors can explore this fantastic place along a circuit over a kilometre long that leads to the amazing Cathédrales d'Images...

Château de Brissac - A very discreet little theatre room…

Tucked away in the highest château in France, with its 7 floors, is an authentic little Belle Époque theatre! It was Jeanne-Marie Say, the daughter of the famous sugar refiner, who had it built in the 19th century in order to satisfy her passion for classical singing. The Marquise de Brissac, a fervent fan and the friend of renowned composers, would bring across an orchestra from Paris to perform major works of opera before a handful of keen guests.

Château d’Angers - In the dungeons of an old prison

Built in the 13th century by Louis IX, the Château d'Angers was the residence of Yolande of Aragon and King René before it became... a prison! Some of the towers still house dungeons, such as number 13, whose stone features the graffiti of English sailors imprisoned here in the 18th century. The famous Fouquet, Louis XIV's Superintendent of Finances, also spent his sentence in the thick walls of the monument after being captured in Nantes by d'Artagnan.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne – On the search for the tower that disappeared

A key monument in Nantes' urban heritage, in the 15th century the Château des Ducs de Bretagne symbolised the power of independent Brittany, which fought against French royalty. Then, it was surrounded by schist and granite towers to reinforce its defences. One of them, called the Tour des Espagnols, disappeared in a sensational way in 1800: a floor supporting gunpowder stocks collapses, causing a dreadful explosion that blew up surrounding buildings, houses and churches, killing some sixty people. The foundations of the vanished tower are still visible in the moats.
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Be amazed by the magnificent châteaux to be found in the Loire Valley. Once the land of the Kings of France, these tuffeau stone settings also have some amazingly unique characteristics behind their majestic silhouettes.

It was in the centre of the country, along the Loire Valley, where the Kings of France decided to set up court during the Renaissance. This land now has the highest concentration of châteaux in the country, most of which were either built or remodelled between the 15th and 16th centuries. Every year, thousands of tourists flock from around the world to discover these exceptional structures.

The châteaux de la Loire route begins in the Loiret and extends as far as Nantes, passing through the Saumurois and Anjou. Visitors who take the time to explore each site will discover that the monuments have some astonishing secrets, whether the unsettling dungeons at the Château d'Angers, the theatre tucked away in the Château de Brissac or the incredible subterranean fortress of Brézé... Here's a little overview of these amazing discoveries with a getaway in pictures.

 

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