For the festive season, the chateaux of the Loire Valley don their most resplendent finery. Christmas trees in all their guises, wonderful wreaths, fantastic beasts, and plenty of delicious treats all fill the chateaux with the magic of a Christmas fit for a king!
In the chateau where Kings Charles VIII and François I of France grew up while they were still just little princes, this year’s festive season is a celebration of childhood. Teddy bears, led by their king, have taken up residence in different rooms in the chateau. It’s a great chance to admire the work of Petites Maries, one of the last teddy bear manufacturers in France, or even the Wambrechies Doll and Antique Toy Museum’s collection of bears, which has moved into the Chateau for Christmas. Carol concerts, demonstrations of teddy bear-making, shortbread decoration classes, and a competition for the best epiphany cake are also on the agenda.
At Chenonceau Chateau, a veritable bestiary of weird and wonderful creatures will be coming to life over the festive period. Winged horses, griffins, perytons (half stag, half bird), bewildering birds, and unicorns will be there for the closing event of the 500 Years of RenaissanceS anniversary year which is taking place at the chateau. It’s also a great chance to admire the colourfully festive displays of Chenonceau’s floral studio, known for its amazing creations.
What’s Christmas without its traditional sweet treats? At Azay-le-Rideau, your sweet tooth is the guest of honour! In addition to the treats laid out in every room, you can also discover the chateau’s collections from a gourmet perspective, with guided tours on the themes of chocolate’s introduction to France and Renaissance feasts. Don’t forget your goodie bag of spices and treats!
The Royal Fortress of Chinon
© ADT Touraine/JC Coutand - Christmas at the Royal Fortress of Chinon, in the Loire Valley.
All aboard for a time travelling adventure! The Royal Fortress of Chinon is inviting visitors along on a journey to trace the evolution of Christmas decorations, from the late 19th century to the present day. From department store Christmas windows of the 90s, with a stop in the 30s, visitors are whisked away to a fairytale world of Christmas trees in period decorations... and then there’s the gifts at the foot of the tree. The Royal Fortress of Chinon also has Christmas posters on show, 1900-style!
The Royal City of Loches
© Shutterstock/Phil Kieran - The Nutcracker comes to life at the Royal City of Loches, in the Loire Valley.
Here, we are plunged into the world of the Nutcracker, a fairytale by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffman written in 1816. Wooden toy soldiers will come to life in the fortress’ corridors through a series of fairytale readings, activities, and other workshops to get you ready for Christmas. In the dungeon, you can even learn how to make a wreath to decorate your home. Guided “Winter Fortress” tours are also on offer, where you can learn how people spent the winter in a castle in the Middle Ages, what its inhabitants did for a living, and now they stayed warm.
In Langeais, you can discover the treasures of a Medieval Christmas. Extraordinary dishes like pheasant and peacock – feathers and all! – will adorn the banquet table, while luxurious garments await their wearers in the chateau’s bedrooms. You can also admire the floral displays made especially for Christmas, including the opulently decorated Christmas tree in the feasting hall. A number of activities are on the Christmas agenda: learn calligraphy in the scribe class as you make your own Christmas card, or enjoy a storytelling walk with a guide in character.
Villandry Chateau and Gardens
© Château et jardins de Villandry - A floral Christmas at Villandry Chateau in the Loire Valley.
Get ready for a family Christmas with the Carvallos, owners of Villandry Chateau since the early 20th century. In a warm and inviting atmosphere, you can enjoy a festive ambience with nature at its core: the gardens are a must. After a storytelling tour of the chateau on the trail of Célestine, you can head out into the gardens and admire the mosaics of ornamental cabbages and leeks, or the decorative hedges and sculpted yews. Magical!
Find out more:
- Christmas magic in the land of châteaux from 7 December to 5 January 2019.
- Plan your stay in Loire Valley
- See also: Loire Valley chateaux off the beaten track and “500 ans de RenaissanceS”: a feast fit for you (and a king)!