Amboise is in the department of Indre-et-Loire, Loire Valley. It’s a town that packs plenty of wow factor with not just one, but two famous castles. Plenty of restaurants, cobbled streets, walks along the river and wine tasting are just some of the things on offer when you visit Amboise.
Nestled on the side of the grand Loire River, the longest in France, Amboise has a mostly sleepy feel though it does get a bit more packed in summer as tourists throng to its castles. It’s easy to walk around but if you want to get your bearings, there’s a petit train in summer months (details at the tourist office).
There are bistros and cafés and a lovely main street over which a 14th century clock hangs. Don’t miss the lovely Bigot chocolate and patisserie, the terrace is just perfect for a spot of people watching!
Most visitors miss the Pagode de Chanteloup. This rather unusual French folly, an 18th century Chinese style pagoda is in the grounds of a former château that was demolished in 1823. Climb the 149 steps to the top for an amazing view of the countryside. It’s set in a park where you can take a boat ride, a great place to relax. It’s a 10 minute drive from the centre of Amboise.
Chateau du Clos Luce – last home of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life living in this bijou chateau, a grace and favour home offered to him by French King Francis 1 who was a great admirer of the Italian genius. He died here in 1519 and his bones are buried just down the road at the Chateau of Amboise.
Visit this exquisite 15th century chateau today and you’ll almost believe that da Vinci has just nipped out to the gorgeous gardens and might be back soon. The chateau has been restored to look just as it did when da Vinci lived here. There is a beautiful study complete with sketches, paintings and artefacts. His cabinet of curiosities was filled with oddities and somewhat macabre. But, you don’t get to draw the insides of bodies of humans and animals by looking at the outside so it’s not a surprise to discover such bits and pieces.
The room in which he died is often enhanced with the castle cat, Minette, asleep on the four poster bed studiously ignoring tourists.
There are magnificent gardens at the chateau, filled with the designs of Leonardo da Vinci such as his tank and paddle boat. There’s a lovely cafe and restaurant where you can take a break and enjoy the scenery.
The Chateau du Clos Lucé is one of the most atmospheric da Vinci sites in the world and makes for a truly fascinating visit.
Chateau of Amboise
This beautiful Renaissance style castle is much smaller today than it was. At one point the chateau was virtually a city, not just a castle. There were wild animals in the moat, it had its own church, law courts and barracks. Today the castle is much smaller but incredibly beautiful. Over the centuries bits were pulled down or destroyed, but it retains an aura of greatness.
You enter via a ramp from the street. The tall walls and turrets dominate the town but give no indication of what you will see once you’re inside the castle gates. From the terrace there are magnificent views over the river and countryside, the restored gardens are truly superb.
Inside the Chateau there are rooms in late Gothic style as well as Renaissance. Some rooms are furnished with tapestries, paintings and furniture. Columns in the state room are encrusted with fleur de lys, a bust of Francis I looks down on all who walk through.
Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the Chapel of St Hubert, wedged against the ramparts. It was built by Charles VIII at the end of the 15th century for his wife Anne of Brittany. The chapel is an absolute jewel, with the sun shining through its beautiful stained glass windows, stunning carved doors and exquisite sculptures, it is sublime.
Why not stay in a chateau yourself in the Loire Valley… we have a great range of gites and chateau stays in the area. Just nip over to browse our fabulous selection of Loire Valley holiday homes – we love to make your holiday dreams come true.