Masterpiece of the French Renaissance commissioned by Gilles Berthelot, treasurer of François I, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is an emblematic 16th-century monument in the heart of the Loire valley. With unequaled refinement, confirmed and consolidated over the centuries, Berthelot and his wife, Philippe Lesbahy, supervised construction of a modern building on the foundation of an ancient medieval edifice. In brief, Azay-le-Rideau is a château whose history mirrors the lives and times of its successive owners, and it remains a not-to-be-missed attraction in the Loire valley.

The monument’s elegant main building represents a subtle alliance of French traditions and decors reminiscent of Italian antiquity, endowing the architecture with undeniable singularity. The elegant grand staircase, embedded in the castle yet open to the outside, is a genuine masterpiece whose sophistication and finesse remain a source of fascination. Elevated ornamental facades and coffered ceilings distinguish one of the most beautiful staircases in France. When it was being built, in the 16th century, the straight, “ramp-on-ramp” stairway was a unique model of which the treasurer of François I could be justifiably proud. However, and notwithstanding his seemingly irresistible rise to fame and fortune, following exposure of numerous instances of financial wrongdoing Gilles Berthelot was compelled to leave his estate.  He nonetheless bequeathed to posterity a superb château of which the interiors were decorated in the early 17th century by Antoinette Raffin, lady-in-waiting of Queen Margot.

The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau also owes a debt of gratitude to the Biencourt family, who acquired the property in 1791. Marquis Charles de Biencourt made painstaking efforts to showcase the château by surrounding it with marvelous landscaping; the park with its pool reflecting the building’s façade was restored in  2014. The interior layout dates from the same epoch, and the salon furnishings are worthy of the most prestigious 19th-century aristocratic residences. The visitor follows in the footsteps of the Biencourt family by as he strolls across the superbly furnished rooms: salon, billiard hall, pantry, kitchen, dining room and lounge-library.

The Biencourt family retained ownership until 1905, at which time the château was sold to the French state. From 2014 to 2017, restoration work succeeding in bringing back its bygone splendor.  Today, in addition to its superb interior settings and adornments, this crown jewel of the Loire valley offers a sensory festival on a dreamlike journey to another world:  “The enchantments of Azay”. In six different rooms, visitors will discover the amazing works of the visual artists Piet.sO and Peter Keene. What better way of finding peace and quiet before strolling through the alleys of the park and savoring a view of a “multifaceted diamond furrowed by the Indre”, as described by Honoré de Balzac?



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