Photo of Château Chambord by Léonard de Serres
As December sweeps across France, an air of enchantment graces the historic châteaux, transforming these already magnificent estates into ethereal wonderlands.
Among the multitude of stunning lights displays, elaborate ornaments, and wintry greenery, the most awe-inspiring Christmas decorations can be found in the surrounding areas of Paris and the Loire Valley, renowned for their exceptional châteaux.
Find below our top picks for a truly unforgettable Christmas celebration surrounded by the opulence of these iconic French landmarks.
Château de Villandry
From December 2, 2023 to January 7, 2024, nature invites itself to the Château de Villandry. Located in the Loire, this château is celebrated for its meticulously landscaped gardens, which come alive in a whole new fashion during the holiday season with a botanical Christmas spectacle. The gardens have been turned into a magical wonderland, where intricate boxwood designs are adorned with sparkling lights and displays of decorative cabbages and leeks adorned the lawns. Inside the castle, the garden’s magical aura spreads, with foliage heavy decorations and ornamental reindeer, fawns, owls, and squirrels, specially designed for the occasion.
Regular prices apply, and no reservations are necessary.
Château de Chambord
Another castle in the Loire, the Château de Chambord stands tall as a testament to Renaissance architecture and, during December, becomes an even more picturesque destination. To mark its 10th edition, the château’s expansive courtyards and majestic towers have been turned into a fairy-tale setting illuminated by shimmering lights. Lavishly decorated Christmas trees, exquisite garlands, and a blend of classic and contemporary ornaments, complemented by costumed events, offer a perfect chance to revel in opulence and historical charm.
Running until 7 January. Reservation available online.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
An hour’s drive South East of Paris, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, becomes a canvas of light and beauty during the festive season. Constructed in the 17th century, the château is famed for its symmetry and elegance, which influenced the creation of Versailles and continues to enchant visitors worldwide.
During the castle’s “Grand Nöel” (Big Christmas) celebrations, visitors are invited to enjoy the chateau’s magnificent gardens and architectural features — not lit by the usual candle light — but with a mesmeric display of twinkling lights. The interior dazzles with elaborately decorated rooms, roaring wood fires filling the space with fragrance and warmth, and plates of marshmallows sit plumply, waiting to be roasted.
Running until 31st Dec. Online reservation is mandatory.
Château de Versailles
Also a quick trip from the capital, the majestic Château de Versailles reaches its pinnacle during the Christmas season. Its grand halls and regal chambers are adorned with exquisite decorations, including many lush Christmas trees laden with intricately designed ornaments, and eye-catching floral arrangements.The festivities include firework displays and musicians, dancers, singers, fencers, and actors, all guiding you through an extraordinary tour that culminates in the Galerie des Batailles, where an extraordinary baroque Santa Claus awaits!
Running until 7 January. Booking recommended.
Château de Chenonceau
Residing over the River Cher, the Château de Chenonceau, often referred to as the ‘Ladies’ Château’ thanks to its long history of influential female inhabitants, captivates visitors with its serene architecture. The dreamy aura of this castle is only enhanced by its Christmas adornments.
Each year, delicate garlands and inventive flower arrangements – created at Chenonceau’s own floral workshop – combine with strings of lights, tastefully gilding the spacious interior, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the peaceful ambiance of this enchanting estate.
Running until 7 January. Booking reccomended.
Château de Langeais
Lastly, Château de Langeais in the Loire promises Christmas traditions and activities steeped in historical allure. Dating back to the 15th century history, when it was commissioned by King Louis XI, Langeais’ towering walls are softened by its colorful Christmas clothing and cheer, and views from the grounds over the River Loire are simply spectacular, especially amidst a snowfall, when the castle’s pale gray stone seamlessly merges with the winter landscape.
This year’s festive theme is the celebration of light, symbolizing rebirth. Lanterns, candles, and lamps illuminate each room, creating an unforgettable atmosphere within this historical marvel.
Running until January 7. Booking available online.