One of the most famous and majestic châteaux of France’s Loire Valley, the grand, UNESCO-designated Renaissance Château de Chambord has visitors from all over the world who come to see and walk the grounds of its imposing 13,443-acre estate. Now, thanks to this month’s opening of Le Relais de Chambord, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, that visit has gotten much easier and much more exclusive, as guests will only have a short walk to the entrance next door and—when the gates are closed—have the grounds all to themselves.
The 55-room hotel is housed within a 19th-century farmhouse (which was also the site of a previous, much more modest hotel), the renovation and expansion of which was overseen by renowned French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, whose work includes the elegant La Réserve Ramatuelle in Saint-Tropez and the Mandarin Oriental Paris. The result was not meant to emulate the opulent château but to complement it. The contemporary slate façade echoes the slate roofs of the château, the woods used throughout the interiors and depicted on the wall coverings reflect the natural surroundings, and the black dots and diamonds on the marigold carpets and the architectural tableaux behind the beds all sync to details on the chateau’s towers . The style is pared down—contemporary but soft and comfortable—and in line with the warm, country-house feeling intended throughout the hotel. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outdoors into the rooms’ decor, filling them with natural light and offering up views of the château.
Within the hotel, there’s a library for catching up on reading or relaxing, a bar with a fireplace, and a small spa area complete with two treatment rooms, a hammam, and a sauna. The Le Grand Saint Michel restaurant, an homage to the name of the previous hotel, continues the relaxed tone, featuring high-level French cooking—but in a regional country style instead of the more typical urban haute cuisine. After dinner, guests can head outside to the terrace (decked out in heat lamps until the temperatures start to rise), where they can enjoy unobstructed views of the château with a glass of local wine in hand.
Outside, guests can enjoy the vast estate, which is enclosed by a 20-mile wall and estimated to be the size of central Paris—making it the largest enclosed nature reserve in Europe. The newly created 12.5 miles of paths are prime for country walks or brisk jogs, and the path bordering the canal is ideal for casual bike rides. Guests can also take out boats to traverse the waterways around the château, which becomes especially romantic after all of the day visitors have left.