Why You’ll Love Christmas In France’s Festive Loire Valley

The most spectacular Christmas shows, shows and events in France are just 2 hours by train from central Paris. The majestic and magnificent Loire Castle, once the medieval capital of France, where kings, queens and royal families lived, turns into a holiday delight during December.

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Château de Chenonceau Christmas tree

Château de Chenonceau Christmas tree

Photo credit: Richard Nahem

Chateau De Chenonceau

One of the most extravagant holiday shows is at the Château de Chenonceau. Dating back to the 12th century, the current chateau was built in the early 1500s and was owned by King François I. In 1535, he left it to his daughter Diane of Poitiers. In 1559, King of France II. Henri’s widow, Queen Catherine de Medici, overthrew the palace and replaced Diane of Poitiers.

For the holiday season, award-winning floral and tabletop designer Jean Francois Boucher uses the nearby forest for inspiration by adorning long banquet tables and centerpieces with dried mushrooms, moss and leaves. Boucher is best known for winning the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, one of the highest honors for artisans in the country, conferred by the president. In the downstairs kitchen, Boucher caters to chocolate addicts and sets an all-chocolate table, including the classic Christmas dish, Panettone. Each room of the castle has the most magnificent table setting with glazed, dried and fresh fruits. There are fresh and dried flowers, feathers, gold and silver-painted branches, satin ribbons and colorful ornaments in the display cases, and golden candlesticks on the tables. In hallways and larger rooms, trees nearly touching the ceilings are adorned with lights, ornaments, and festive decorations.

Château de Chenonceau organizes workshops, lectures, tours and wine tastings throughout December. You can learn how to set a king’s table with the workshop “The Art of Entertainment in the Renaissance” given by an expert in historical table design. Master Boucher even teaches a class on how to create your own custom flower arrangements for Christmas.

Chateau Clos Luce

Originally owned by the royal family of Amboise, Château Clos Lucé was built by King XI. It was bequeathed by Louis to the kitchen maid Etienne le Loup. Later it became the summer residence of the kings of France. In 1516, King Francis I and Louise de Savoie invited the Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci to become the king’s leading painter, engineer and architect. Da Vinci remained at Clos Lucé, where he spent the next 3 years until his death in 1519.

Château Clos Lucé celebrates the spirit of the master creator and Christmas with performances, workshops and food events in December.

For the first time in its history, Château Clos Lucé produces an interactive, mini-musical comedy specifically for children where they are invited and encouraged to participate in singing, creating art or improvising.

You can explore the castle’s 15-acre parkland by horse-drawn carriage, where you’ll learn about the fascinating history and visit the various buildings where da Vinci created his masterpieces and inventions. A soothing hot chocolate or spiced mulled wine is an added treat at the end.

Children are once again invited to Clos Lucé to attend classes where they can develop their art at Christmas. There are opportunities to paint on glass and with watercolors, learn medieval calligraphy, paint, make holiday cards and design Christmas tree decorations.

Unique Culinary Experiences

Sieur Sausin, a chef specializing in historical cuisine, is conducting a workshop on Renaissance cuisine. Participants learn about the dishes, spices, customs, and table setting of the period. At the end, cinnamon hot milk and mulled wine are served.

Mathurine was the French cook who lived close to Leonardo da Vinci in his last years. An official guide and historian representing Mathurine, she shares her stories and special anecdotes about da Vinci and the French Christmas legends and traditions from past centuries.

Château de Chambord Christmas tree

Château de Chambord Christmas tree

Photo credit: Richard Nahem

Chateau De Chambord

The largest of the Loire Château, the Château de Chambord is a prime example of the mix of French medieval and French Renaissance architecture. Beginning in 1519 and completed in 1547, it was a hunting lodge built for King Francis I and also with hunting grounds and large gardens. The huge, wooded park and game farm surrounding the castle is 13,000 acres or 52.5 square miles.

Château de Chambord does it all for Christmas, with gorgeous decorations, dozens of trees inside and out, and special light displays.

Nearly 100 outdoor trees leading up to the castle were illuminated and the exterior of the castle was lit in dramatic, frequently changing colors.

Traditional board games dating from the 1600s to the 1800s are available for both adults and children. There’s plenty of holiday entertainment in the castle, with artists in period costumes, fencing shows, music concerts, and a Christmas Renaissance-style show featuring comedians, actors, a female singer, and four musicians.

Château de Blois Christmas tree

Château de Blois Christmas tree

Photo credit: Richard Nahem

Chateau De Blois

Built between the 14th and 17th centuries, the Château de Blois was home to various Counts of Blois and French kings for nearly 400 years. It contains 564 rooms, including 100 bedrooms and 75 staircases.

Château de Blois has many family events for Christmas. Beauty and the Beastclosely connected with the castle; a curiosity cabinet workshop for children; a workshop for making historical, paper silhouettes; and a mysterious evening tour where you can explore rooms that are not usually open to the public.

Anooki is a 10-minute magic light and sound lighting show on display outside the castle.

Hotels

Le Choiseul

Located in the city of Amboise, Le Choiseul is a charming four-star hotel housed in a former 18th-century house just 15 minutes’ walk from Château Clos Lucé. 36 Restaurant serves classic French specialties in an elegant dining room. Château de Chenonceau is about 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel.

Fleur De Loire

Fleur de Loire is a newly opened five-star hotel and spa in the town of Blois. The hotel has a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Christophe Hay, run by renowned chef Christophe Hay. It offers three, six and nine-course dinners using only locally sourced and produced ingredients. There is also a more casual restaurant, bakery and patisserie where everything is cooked fresh on site. The hotel is about 20 minutes’ walk from Château de Blois and about 25 minutes’ drive from Château de Chambord.

Pro Tip: Amboise is about 2 hours by train from Paris’ Montparnasse station and Blois is about 2 hours by train from Gare Austerlitz in Paris. We highly recommend renting a car to travel between the various castles, as there is very little public transport.

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