City Breaks

The Real-Life Beauty and the Beast

Discover the magical legends of France. We take you to the places where fairy-tales come to life.

As someone who often drives across the French landscape, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s alive with fairy-tale magic. From the singing birds in the sky, to the rolling green hills dotted with beautiful castles. On more than one occasion I’ve felt like I was in a real-life Disney film.

This had me thinking. There must be somewhere in France I can go and experience a real-life fairy-tale? I discovered the closest thing at Château de Chambord. This is the real castle from Beauty and the Beast. When I say ‘real’, I don’t mean there is an actual beast lurking in the West Wing; this is what the animators of the original 1991 Oscar-nominated film based the fictional castle on.

Like the song says, Beauty and the Beast is a ‘tale as old as time’. A bookish girl, bored of her life in a French village, must save her father after he is held prisoner by a palace-bound Beast for breaking into his home. She swaps places with her father, and during her time in the castle, realises that the Beast may not be so beastly after all.

The film is based on ‘La Belle et la Bête’, the original French fairy-tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Her version didn’t include singing tea pots and squabbling clocks and candelabras, but it’s still just as magical.

Though the real Beast’s castle may not be on the top of your list to visit, you’ll certainly want to visit Château de Chambord.

Views are equally as beautiful from inside the Château
Views are equally as beautiful from inside the Château

History of Château de Chambord

Would you believe, Château de Chambord wasn’t intended as a permanent residence? King François I (who ordered its construction) only lived there for a few weeks. It wasn’t until King Louis XIV was in power that the castle was finally completed. When the interior was finished, his exiled father-in-law King Stanislas Leszczynski of Poland resided there.

During the French Revolution, the structure of the castle fortunately remained intact, although the furniture and interiors were taken and sold. After the Revolution, the castle was passed through different hands, and it fell into disrepair. In 1930 it became state property, and in 1981, it was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Admire the stunning architecture that has survived even the French Revolution
Admire the stunning architecture that has survived even the French Revolution

What to do at Château de Chambord

The Château

It’s free to visit the château, and you can use the free visitor’s guide so you don’t miss out on its fascinating history. Or, you can opt to take a guided tour. Each tour is unique, and you can learn all about the history and architecture that make this place so beautiful.

Experience the Park

The château is situated right in the middle of a beautiful park. I can assure you it’s not like the grounds of the Beast’s castle; there are no scary wolves in the woods here! You can take a guided all-terrain vehicle tour and explore the park’s natural landscape. Keep an eye out for one of the famous stags that roam the land. It would be such a shame to miss it, so make sure you explore the grounds when you’re there.

As if it couldn’t look any more like a quintessential Disney castle, the château sits alongside a canal. You can walk or cycle around the water, enjoying a family sing-a-long to a couple of verses of ‘Beauty and the Beast’!

Explore the incredible wildlife in the Park surrounding the Château
Explore the incredible wildlife in the Park surrounding the Château

Experience True Disney Magic

You couldn’t come to a fairy-tale castle without experiencing real-life Disney magic. From the 29th April to 1st October, you can experience what King François I’s Court would have been like. From soaring birds of prey to exciting jousting, it’ll certainly get your adrenaline rushing!

If you fancy something a little more subdued, then a magical carriage ride is for you. Take in the scenery and wildlife from quiet parts of the estate - this is a really special way to see the château.

Château de Chambord is a little under five hours’ drive from Calais. It’s the perfect short break for little ones and grown-ups alike!


Discover the magical parts of France with LeShuttle. It only takes 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais. No time at all to make your dreams come true!