The Château de Chambord, which is the largest castle in the Loire Valley, was built in the 16th century over a period of almost three decades (1519–1547). King Francis I originally wanted it to be a hunting lodge.
Chambord has 400 rooms, 80 staircases and 365 fireplaces! It is also located in a park that spans 5,000 hectares.
Some interesting historical tidbits.
Le bourgeois Gentilhomme, one of Molière's most famous plays, was first presented there on October 14th, 1670.
While the name of the architect may never be known, Leonardo da Vinci's influence is potent. According to Castles of the World, the double helix staircase "is related to a project by Leonardo which consisted of four distinct superimposed flights of stairs."
The stables could accommodate up to 1,200 horses and 1,800 men worked on the castle.
In 1574, when King François I passed away, the Château de Chambord remained practically unused for half a century. It came close to being demolished after the French Revolution. During the War of 1870, it served as a hospital. An American military airplane almost crashed on it in 1944.
A few royal celebrities lived in or stayed at the castle: Louis XIII’s brother, King Louis XIV, Stanislaus Leszczynski (exiled King of Poland and Louis XV’s father-in-law), the Marechal de Saxe, and the Duke de Bordeaux.
The Château de Chambord became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.