The last of the large castles chateau built in the Loire Valley during the Renaissance, Château de Villandry was completed in 1536. An ancient fortress known as Colombier formerly occupied the site, with the new chateau constructed around the original keep after the property was acquired by King François I’s Finance Minister, Jean le Breton. It was Le Breton who also oversaw the construction of Château de Chambord for the King.
Ambassador to the King, Marquis de Castellane eventually acquired the chateau after two centuries of ownership in the Le Breton family. De Castellane added to the original property by constructing outbuildings in the front courtyard. He also renovated the chateau’s interior, upgrading it with the decor and creature comforts synonymous with the 18th century. The property was confiscated during the French revolution and eventually came under the ownership of Emperor Napoleon in the early 19th century.
The world famous gardens for which the Château de Villandry is most well known can be attributed to the efforts of Spaniard Joachim Carvallo who purchased the property in 1906, saving it from demolition. The gardens include ornamental flower gardens, a water garden and vegetable gardens, all of which are set in formal patterns surrounded by low box hedges. The Renaissance-style gardens created by Carvallo perfectly complement the architecture of the chateau. Carvallo is also credited as being the first chateau owner to open his historic property up for viewing by the public. He even established an association of historically significant chateau owners to encourage others to do likewise. Today, the Caravllo family remain the owners of the Château de Villandry.
The French Government declared Château de Villandry as a Monument historique in 1934 and like all of the other chateau of the Loire Valley, it is also listed as World Heritage Site.
Visitors to Château de Villandry have a variety of options available to them. Tourists are free to explore the chateau unaccompanied and the entry fee includes a leaflet available in a variety of major languages. Self-paced audio tours of the chateau and gardens are also available for a small additional fee and are also available in a variety of major languages. Guided tours of the chateau are available in French only unless organised by an external tour group.
Refreshments are also available on site from the restaurant and cafe which provide a variety of A la Carte and take away foods and beverages catering for the full range of tastes and budgets.