Amboise France - history, maps & hotels - French Holidays
On the south bank of the Loire, 23km upstream from Tours, the pretty town of Amboise has built up around the fortified chateau, an impressive structure but empty compared to some of the Loire's other masterpieces. Amboise also boasts the Clos-Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life.
Amboise's main road is the rue Nationale, and the gare SNCF is on the other side of the river, across the Pont Général Leclerc.
The hill on which the chateau sits has been fortified since the Romans came here. Charles VIII added to it in 1492 after seeing the Italian way of life and style during his campaigns in Lombardy. Six years later, however, he cracked his head on a low lintel whilst on his way to a tennis match and died. Francois Ier grew up in the Chateau d'Amboise, as did his sister the reformist writer Margaret d'Angouleme. The chateau was five times larger during the 15th and 16th centuries than it is now, after several centuries of conflict and a scarcity of cash have left it in ruins. Still, the Flamboyant Gothic chapelle de St-Hubert built by Charles VIII remains, and there is a lot of history to learn about the place, although the interior often disappoints visitors. The ground floor is distinctly Gothic, whilst the first floor apartments were decorated in the 1830s style when Louis-Philippe stayed here.
Map of Amboise
The Clos-Lucé is 500m southeast along the rue Victor Hugo from the chateau and was where da Vinci lived and worked from 1516, when he came to France at Francois Ier's behest bringing with him the Mona Lisa, to his death in 1519. The house is now a museum (€6.50) dedicated to the Renaissance genius, with several fascinating models of his inventions made according to da Vinci's plans for turbines, parachutes and bridges.
South of Amboise is the Chinese-influenced pagoda that was part of the Chateau de Chanteloup (demolished in 1823). Entry to the pagoda, which was built between 1775 and 1778, costs €4.50 and allows you to wander round the park and climb the pagoda to see the magnificent views of the valley. And if that isn't enough chateaux for one day, head to the Parc Mini-Chateaux (€10) on the D751, where you will find over 40 convincing models of the most important chateaux.
Creperies and snack bars are everywhere in Amboise, particularly the place Michel Debré and the rue Nationale. For something more special but still central, try L'Épicerie, 46 place M.Debré (02 47 57 08 94), which serves local cuisine with menus from €10.50-35. There is also a market on Friday and Sunday mornings on the quai du Général-de-Gaulle.