Recognisable from a million Tripadvisor photos, this must be the most famous of the Loire chateaux, known for its almost uninterrupted succession of women who built, embellished, protected, restored and showcased it as the jewel in the Loire’s crown. In summer it gets very busy, but in winter you can enjoy a quiet stroll through its extraordinarily photogenic long galleries spanning the river like a bridge, flickering light bouncing in from the water below the tall windows on either side. It was in these galleries that Catherine di Medici hosted her infamous parties, overrun with musicians, fireworks, transvestites, naked nymphs and rampant satyrs.
This was after she ejected its former occupant, her husband Henri II’S mistress Diane de Poitiers and took Chenonceau to be her own base from which to rule as Regent when Henri was dead, becoming the third in a line of famous female chatelaines. This Christmas, a festive floral workshop that has been run at the chateau for more than 20 Christmases will be inspired by Catherine. More creative and innovative each year, rooms, galleries and kitchens are transformed into enchanted sylvan scenes with lavish bouquets, glittering gold, fir trees and white and black birches.