Last Updated on 16th October 2017 by Sophie Nadeau
Located on the Loir River (note the lack of ‘e’ on ‘Loir’), Châteaudun was once home to a close comrade of Joan of Arc, Jean de Dunois, and started out in life as a 12th-century fortress. Since then, a thriving market town has sprung up around the original Château and a renaissance wing has been added to the castle itself. The rest of the town is filled with medieval architecture, museums, and plenty of things to see and do. Here’s a quick guide to Châteaudun:
Château de Châteaudun
Like many French towns in the region (especially those in the very heart of the Loire Valley), the main attraction of Châteaudun is its imposing and fortified castle. In fact, this is the very first Château you’ll encounter on the road to the Loire valley if you’re approaching the area from Paris (which is around an hour and a half from Châteaudun by car).
Construction of the Castle began in the 12th Century and carried on intermittently for the following four. Inside the walls of the Château, you’ll find one of the few remaining Saint Chapelle chapels in France (two of the most iconic chapels that first spring to mind are those of Île de la Cité and that of Bois de Vincennes.) In total, only seven Sainte Chapelle churches remain.
You’ll also find a huge tapestry collection within the walls of the castle, as well as a beautiful medicinal garden (though due to the seasonality of the plants, this is best visited in the Spring or Summer months). The Keep of the castle belongs to the original fortress and dates back to the 12th-Century and various Renaissance additions make the castle well worth a peek inside as well! After all, heavy restorations in the 1930s, as well as a historic monument status since 1918, have ensured that the Château de Châteaudun is back to its former glory.
Eglise de la Madeleine
The church of Eglise de la Madeleine is situated in the very heart of the old part of Châteaudun (and across a car park from the public toilets, making it hard to miss!) Since 1922, the pretty and historic church has been classified as a historic monument of national importance, in part owing to the fact that parts of it date all the way back to the 12th-Century!
The abbey church is filled with beautiful stained glass windows (and is often open to the public right up until the early evening). Nearby buildings which once belonged to the church are now used to house the Institute for Nursing Education- though they appeared quite abandoned while we were wandering around the town.
Musée de France
The main museum of Châteaudun is home to all manner of exhibitions ranging from history to the local wildlife. Here, you’ll be able to see paintings, archaeological finds from the area (there’s evidence of Palaeolithic Men in the area dating back 300,000 years) and a huge ornithology collection comprising of more than 2500 birds.
La Cave du Fouleries (Cave du Vin)
Literally hewn from the lime cliff face, you’ll find a particularly enticing wine cellar. After hours of wandering the town, snapping photos, and exploring the dungeons below the castle, we stumbled upon this little gem of a store. My friend’s exact reaction? “Now this is the kind of thing I could do with visiting!”
Cool inside, the entire cellar is filled with vintage bottles and fine French wines from all over l’Hexagon. Founded in 1890, the natural caves provide the perfect spot for storing and selling wine (the temperature rarely fluctuates from its 11 degree Celsius norm.)
Just next to La Cave du Folueries, a little way along the road, you’ll find Les Grottes du Foulon. Though they were (sadly) closed when we visited the medieval town, these limestone caves were inhabited by prehistoric man around 300,000 years ago!
Wandering around the town
One of the best ways to get a sense of the town is to wander around, simply spending your time getting lost. You’ll soon find that the town is divided into two parts in the form of a steep limestone cliff face (on which the castle is actually built). While the upper town encompasses many of the historic medieval buildings, the newer part of the town is still worth a stroll around- if only to admire the beauty of the Loir River.
Each year during the first weekend of July, an annual festival called the Foire aux Laines is held. The festivities celebrate the town’s important medieval past when it was an important stop on the trade route between Paris, Tours, Le Mans, and Orléans.