Château de Chambord is perhaps the most iconic of the Loire Valley castles, with its multi-gabled roof, palatial grounds and opulent interior. The 15th-century castle, which took only 28 years to build and has had no additions in the ensuing centuries, receives well over half a million visitors a year. And unlike many of the castles in the region, it's possible to spend an entire day at Chambord; there are carriage rides, boat and bike rentals, walking trails through the forest and a full calendar of programs and exhibitions throughout the year.
Of course, that's not to take away from the château itself. From its double-helix staircases to the fantastic views from the rooftop and the interiors that represent several centuries worth of decorating, Château de Chambord is what one has in mind when thinking of the castles of the Loire Valley.
Château de Chambord is closed on Christmas, New Year's Day and the first Thursday in February. Otherwise it's open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April through September, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. It is 11 euro to enter the castle, and there is a 4-euro parking fee if arriving by car. There are bathrooms and water fountains outside the castle, and leashed animals are allowed on the grounds but not inside the castle.