Finding Leonardo Da Vinci, My Visit to the Château d’Amboise

March 2, 2013 — 6 Comments

In the beautiful Loire Valley of central France is a town rich in medieval charm and grandeur. Amboise would be enough of an attraction in most locations around the world, but the main landmarks for many tourists are the town’s two châteaus—Royal Château of Amboise and Clos-Lucé. Both are significant, not only for their importance in French history, but because of their connection to the great Leonardo da Vinci. I’ll focus on Mr. da Vinci and his former residence, Clos-Lucé, on an upcoming post, but now, let’s look at the Château d’Amboise.

On the sunny August day that I visited, the town was bustling, if not crowded, with tourists and locals enjoying themselves at shops and cafés. I had long anticipated visiting châteaus in central France but due to time restrictions, I could only see these two. Needless to say, it was a very memorable day.

From nearby Tours, I had a 20 minute train ride to Amboise. Many tourists staying in Tours prefer to take one of the buses from the train station or Gare de Tours. These excursions may include visits to one or more châteaus of the Loire Valley. Other well-known châteaus in the area include Château de Chenonceau, Château de Chambord, Château de Villandry, and Château d’Azay-le-Rideau.

From the train station in Amboise, I had a pleasant walk through the town on the north side of the Loire, and then crossed the river on two medieval stone bridges (the first may have been recently rebuilt). This is an early view of the Château d’Amboise.

Bridge, River Loire, hill, Château d'Amboise, Amboise, Camino e Santiago


From the second bridge, the vastness of the property on top of the hill becomes clearer. Let’s take a closer look at the main building…

River, blue sky, Château d'Amboise, Amboise Camino de Santiago, buildings, medieval


   This is the Royal Residence. We’ll get there very soon.

Château d'Amboise below, Amboise, France, blue sky, tower


I’ll take you through Amboise on another post, but now, let’s visit the Château d’Amboise. These stairs lead to the main entrance. Inside, the staff were very friendly and helpful. I was there on a very busy afternoon with at least forty people waiting in line. Please click HERE for current rates or tarifs.

Entrance Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France


Looking across the immaculate lawn to the main building, the Royal Residence. Many rooms are open to the public and have been restored and decorated to show the splendor of the Château d’Amboise at its peak.

Exterior Grounds Château d'Amboise, Amboise, blue sky


 A Little History

Due to its strategic location, this site above Amboise and the Loire originally had a fortress and castle. It’s interesting to note that the original château was not owned by royalty, but by Louis d’Amboise, a French Roman Catholic bishop and cardinal. Mr. d’Amboise was allegedly up to no good and had plotted against King Louis XI. Charles VII wasn’t happy and sentenced Mr. d’Amboise to an execution, most likely, a beheading. However, they plea bargained which resulted in Louis d’Amboise transferring ownership of the château to the King for his life.

During the late 15th century, buildings were rebuilt and expanded. The King brought in materials and craftsmen from all over Europe to work on the complex. By the early 16th century, the palace became well-known throughout France and Europe for it’s grandness. Very importantly, Leonardo da Vinci frequented the château and now rests on the grounds in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert.

At its peak, the building complex was five times larger than what there is today. In the early 17th century, the château began a period of decline after it were abandoned by the then owners. Many of the buildings were eventually torn down. It wasn’t until 1840 when the French Ministry of Culture took over the Château d’Amboise and recognized it as a Monument Historique. Restoration of the château began but there were still various ownerships through the years. Conflicts and wars, including World War II, resulted in more damage.

Today, the château is operated by the Fondation Saint-Louis, which has made extensive repairs and restorations since the heirs of Louis-Philippe took control in 1873. In 2000, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site—for its beauty, and the number and importance of the historic landmarks including its many châteaus.

 Blue sky, Château d'Amboise, Amboise


Upper Windows Château d'Amboise, Amboise


Viewpoints from the tower have amazing views of the Loire Valley and Amboise. I took many photos and Views from the Château d’Amboise (or something similar) will be featured on another post.

River Loire, above Gardens Château d'Amboise, Amboise


Exquisite and intricate detail reminiscent of architecture found in cathedrals.

Exterior Town Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France


The view from the gardens. Now, let’s turn around and take a closer look.

Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France, lawn, trees, clouds, hedge


These gardens don’t have an abundance of flowers, but feature various evergreen shrubs and trees.

Gardens Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France, trees, lawns


The gardeners here should be commended for their work. Imagine pruning all of these.

Shrubs Gardens Château d'Amboise, Amboise, trees

Tree Gardens Château d'Amboise, Amboise, lawn, blue sky


A French château is not complete without its own vineyard. On the street level, below the main entrance building, a wine cave and tasting room should not be missed. Of course, I visited and sampled wines from this region of France.

Vineyard Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France, hill


 The rear gate is not open to the public. Here, you can see some resemblance to the early days as a fortress.

Back entrance Château d'Amboise, Amboise, gate, tree


Another look before we say goodbye to the Château d’Amboise.

Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France


Back on the street level, this lovely woman resembling one of the Queens, was nice enough to pose for photos.

Royality Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France, woman, street, Camino de Santiago


Oh yes, I didn’t forget Leonardo da Vinci.

Statue, Leonardo da vinci Château d'Amboise, Amboise, France, hedge

For those of you who have visited the Château d’Amboise, you’ll know that I haven’t shown anything yet from the Chapel of Saint-Hubert where Leonardo da Vinci rests. That will be on my next post from France, Where A Great Man Rests, Leonardo da Vinci at the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, Amboise. Over a series of posts, I’ll take you around and even above Amboise, and pay respects to the great Leonardo. Please join me.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


6 responses to Finding Leonardo Da Vinci, My Visit to the Château d’Amboise

  1. Randall,

    It looks like you had spectacular weather while you were on your Way. I have several friends who have biked or walked El Camino. It’s always enlightening to hear of someone else’s experiences.

    • Thanks Marianna. I had better weather during my last trip for the Camino Del Norte. It was certainly much hotter than when I walked the French Way. Everyone has different experiences while walking the Camino. I’m glad your friends had a chance to go.

  2. My wife and I went there on our honeymoon. In fact we took the bus tour, and visited (if memory serves) three of the four chateaux you mention in paragraph 3.

    • What an excellent way to have your honeymoon. I couldn’t imagine a better way to visit the chateaux than was someone you love. Sadly, I was alone 🙁
      Actually, this part of the trip wasn’t planned and I was lucky I had time to spend a couple of days in Tours and Amboise. Next time, I’ll make sure I have more time to visit the fabulous Loire Valley. Thanks for your comment.

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