Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Relais de Chambord

France

An intimate, yet decadent masterpiece within the grounds of Château de Chambord

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Relais de Chambord
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Relais de Chambord

Location

Chambord, Loire Valley, France

Travel Information

The Château is two hours south-west of Paris by car or train. Arriving by train, Mer is the closest station (two hours from Paris-Austerlitz via Orléans).

Top Tips

When it comes to food, here you can eat like royalty. The area is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants including La Maison d'à Côté and Assa, both less than a 20 minute drive from the hotel.

5-Star X-Factors

Did I mention this hotel has a view?

Relais de Chambord

Château de Chambord is one of the Loire Valley’s most magnificent castles, and for the first time it is possible to wake up overlooking its romantic turrets.

Sitting just 50 metres from the foot of the château, on a tranquil, private bank of the river Cosson, the new 5-star luxury hotel Relais de Chambord has to be one of the most astonishingly situated hotels in Europe. The Château, which was King Francis I’s lavish, multi-turreted masterpiece - and rumoured to have been partially designed by Leonardo Da Vinci - is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations and an exquisite example of French Renaissance architecture. Relais de Chambord is the only hotel on the estate and offers unprecedented access to the Château and its grounds, with extraordinary vistas throughout.

A glimpse of magic

Driving through the glorious UNESCO-protected estate (which is the size of central Paris), passing through what is also the largest nature reserve in Europe, we catch our first glimpse of the Château. It is, quite literally, something made of fairy tales - Disney found it so magical that it served as the inspiration for the castle in the Beauty and the Beast movies.

Despite the popularity of the Château, the Relais feels distinctly peaceful, and a sanctuary tucked away from the tourists. So vast is the estate that despite visiting on a French bank holiday, the grounds never felt crowded.

In the 17th century, the structure of the Relais housed King Francis’ kennels, later evolving into a hunting lodge. Following a recent and much anticipated transformation by Parisian 'starchitect', Jean-Michel Wilmotte (also responsible for the exquisite La Réserve Ramatuelle in Saint-Tropez), a 55-room boutique bolthole has opened in its place.

Contemporary collections

Entering the Relais feels both intimate and welcoming. In winter you’re greeted with a glowing fire, and in summer an abundance of natural light. It's modern and minimalist in feel, with a contemporary art collection created by the former chief curator at Paris’ Centre Pompidou. Old photographs and prints of the Château are carefully interspersed through the art - a theme that runs throughout the hotel, celebrating the architectural feat next door.

A palatial abode

The Chambord Suites here are decadent and deluxe. Floor to ceiling windows offer breath-taking views over the turrets and manicured formal gardens. The decor is so very French: understated, elegant, and sophisticated. Vast plush beds, lux linen, velvet bed heads and scarlet cashmere throws are accented by exceptionally stylish fixtures and fittings. Behind each bed a dramatic black and white wall mural, detailing an element of the Château is showcased. The spacious bathroom with bathtub and rain shower continues the monochrome theme with a geometric tiled floor and white tiled walls, dotted with tiled murals of the castle.

I wander through the delightful billiards room, past the pretty internal courtyard, to the chic bistro-style bar to pick up a sundowner, as the Château is lit a mesmerising shade of sunset pink. The bar, along with the hotel’s restaurant ‘Le Grand St-Michel’, both open onto an extended terrace facing directly onto the castle, with outdoor armchairs, sofas and fur throws if there is a nip in the air.

An air of majesty

By now, the grounds are closed to the public and we have the run of these palatial surroundings to ourselves. As mist begins to rise from the vivid green lawns in front of the castle, and butterflies dance among the rhododendrons, there is, once again, a sense of magic in the air.

Guests can borrow both regular and electric bikes to pedal along the numerous trails around the estate, keeping an eye out for red deer, wild boar and birds of prey. I hop on a dinky electric boat and potter down the river, on one side the forest and on the other the formal gardens, offering a unique and idyllic viewpoint.

Dinner at Le Grand St-Michel is an elegant affair, celebrating local produce and showcasing regional specialties to an exceptional quality. The service is certainly fine dining, but the atmosphere is still relaxed and friendly. Be sure to try the delectable speciality starter - a deconstructed vegetable stew with duck leg confit, and the slow-cooked rack of lamb with carrots three ways. Of course, no night here is complete without a sip of the local Chambord liqueur before bed.

Sweet surprise

The next morning, after the most tranquil night’s sleep, we enjoy breakfast under a parasol on the terrace. A pastry chef must have conceived breakfast here, such is the extent of the irresistible spread of sweet treats. The rest of the Continental spread offers smoked salmon, hams, regional cheeses, fruit, bread and crepes, supplemented by tasty cooked options.

After breakfast with a café au lait, I’m ready to head to the spa, donning my robe for a morning of sheer indulgence. The spa currently offers a menu of signature massages, but will soon extend this to include a full treatment list including body scrubs, wraps, and facials. Treatment rooms are spacious, built in a soothing stone, with sumptuous heated massage beds. Therapists are experienced and attentive. Deeply relaxed, I take some time in the wellness area, sipping on herbal tea, before reclining into the outdoor hot tub. The spa also offers saunas, steam rooms and a hammam.

Of course, one can’t leave the Relais without a tour of the Château, and the hotel organises a knowledgeable private guide to explain its rich history, the story behind its famous double helix staircase, and exclusive access to rooms and towers that are ordinarily out of bounds to everyday visitors. Standing on the castle’s highest turret, taking in the sweeping Loire valley views, I conclude that this romantic getaway really is fit for royalty.

Holly Rubenstein
Holly Rubenstein


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer