The royal Château de Chambord is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures.
Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for François I, who maintained his royal residences at Château de Blois and Château d'Amboise.
The château features 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, 84 staircases, 128 meters of façade, and more than 800 sculpted columns. The château was never intended to provide any form of defence from enemies; consequently the walls, towers and partial moat are purely decorative.
One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular double helix open staircase that is the centerpiece of the château. The two helixes ascend the three floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the château. There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed.
The château is surrounded by a 52.5‑km² wooded park and game reserve maintained with red deer, enclosed by a 31‑kilometer wall.
Official website: http://www.chambord.org/