Built at the junction of the Loire and the Thouet rivers, the former Carolingian city is known for its fortifications built by Thibault, the Count of Blois, in the 10th century. In 1026, the town passed into the hands of the Count of Anjou, the famous Foulques Nera and then on to his plantagenet heirs. Philippe Auguste, the King of France and a Capetian brought into the hands of the crown.
Whatever road you take to get to Saumur, it’s the chateau that you will appreciate first. After the fort became French, in 1227, it was rebuilt by Saint Louis.
After 1367, Louis I of Anjou began replacing the round towers with polygonal shaped towers (these two stages in its construction are still visible today).
King René of Anjou, " Bon roi René ", a cultivated man, talented writer and fortress builder (Tarascon) improved the general level of comfort of the entire building.
In the 16th century, the Italian Bartolomeo strengthened the fortifications of the chateau. Ahead of his time, he had fortifications built around the medieval chateau that were low to the ground.
These bastions and "courtines" were built in a star shape that was extremely modern for its time and a whole century before Vauban did almost the same thing. In a less glorious time in its history, the chateau became a prison under Louis XIV and Napoleon.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the city bought the chateau from the State and began to renovate it progressively.
To begin your visit to the chateau, you must start in the center of town- place Saint Pierre with its beautiful 12th century church.
A sloped street, bordered with houses with wooden overhanging roofs, will take you to the entrance to the chateau via the "fort" (a restaurant).
All in all it should take you about fifteen minutes. Or to make things easier, there is a parking lot to the east of the Chateau which will take you directly to the Bartolemo’s bastions; a pretty bridge will take you across the moat.
Be sure and take a look at the remarkable stone-lined ramp that leads to the châtelet, the beautiful flamboyant Gothic staircase in the courtyard, the curious machinery of the goods lift with its gears, the oubliettes (!) and the superb view of the the town and the river.
Inside, there is a Decorative Arts museum as well as an Equestrian museum. There is an entrance fee to the chateau and an additional fee for entrance to the two museums.