When approaching the moat entrance to Château de Chenonceau, it may seem at first like it is not that big. But the surprise is in what's behind it – a massive gallery that spans the Cher River. In fact, a bird's-eye view would confirm that the entire castle sits squarely in the river! This 16th-century castle was built on the foundation of an existing water mill and has a history of its chatelaines making their own mark on its interior, exterior and grounds – the largest contribution coming from Catherine de' Medici, who was also responsible for showing the first fireworks in France.
After being used as a hospital during World War I and part of Nazi-occupied France in World War II (and thus bombed), today the castle is beautifully restored and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. These visitors enjoy not only a full tour of the interior, including the gallery over the river, but also the extensive gardens and a donkey park. At night during the summer months there is also a Night Walk through the beautifully lit grounds–a must for a romantic night out.
Château de Chenonceau is open all year round–useful if traveling over the holidays. It opens at 9:30 am from November through March and 9 a.m. the rest of the year; closing times vary between 5 and 8 p.m. through the year, so check before planning a late visit. The base price is €11, with discounts for children and students and additional fees for audio tours. Children under 7 enter free. There are three restaurants on the grounds, ranging from high-end to cafeteria style.