Though Chateau de Chambord is the biggest castle in Loire Valley — drawing the most visitors per year — its small details are what left the greatest impression on me. Sure, guests usually start their visits by enjoying a zoomed-out view of the castle (from across the moat that encircles it). But I loved climbing toward the top to closely inspect its roof line, which looks something like a city skyline with various ornamented bell towers, cupolas, roofs and chimneys that reach different heights.
Chateau de Chambord was commissioned by King Francis I of France to be his hunting lodge, but it’s unlike any boys’ club I’ve ever imagined. Considered an epic example of French Renaissance architecture, the castle was heavily influenced by Gothic and Italian Renaissance aesthetics. Even Leonardo Da Vinci — who lived in nearby Amboise and was close to the king — is said to have contributed to the design.
Many locals, including my guide, believe that Da Vinci was responsible for the castle’s unique double helix staircase. Two guests can ascend the staircase at the same time — never to see each other until they reach the top. We don’t know whether this was done to maintain privacy or just to flex design muscles, but one thing is certain: It sure is magical walking in the footsteps of royalty.