Château de Montpoupon is a castle in the Loire Valley east of Tours, in a picturesque valley at the edge of a forest. We were big fans of this stop on our recent trip to France, and in this post, we’ll make the case for visiting Château de Montpoupon, sharing some photos along the way.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Château de Montpoupon a hidden gem, both figuratively and literally as it’s tucked away a fair distance from the popular spots of France’s Loire Valley. In the figurative sense, it has only 189 TripAdvisor reviews as compared to Chambord’s 4,523 reviews at the time we visited (interestingly, both have 4.5-star scores). There were also no other guests (literally) at Château de Montpoupon when we arrived. Heck, it was not even mentioned in my otherwise comprehensive Loire Valley Eyewitness Guide.
To be honest, the only reason we stopped at Montpoupon was to check it off our list of destinations from Impressions de France, which is a circa-1982 film made for Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center theme park. Even Impressions de France doesn’t make much of a sales pitch for Château de Montpoupon, showing only a man in 1980s attire chopping wood with the chateau in the distance…
When we pulled into the parking lot at Château de Montpoupon to our surprise and delight, there was a neatly-stacked pile of wood that had recently been chopped. Given that it’s some 35 years after the film was originally shot, I’m guessing it’s not the same dude hard at work.
It was still neat to see a direct connection to the events of the travelogue we’ve watched so many times. We often wonder what the stories are of the people in Impressions de France; namely, whether they were actors or if the scenes were staged by employees of the sites.
It would seem that the wood chopping bit was authentic to Château de Montpoupon. If the parking lot has security cameras, I’m sure whomever watches the footage was a bit perplexed as to why visitors were so enamored with piles of wood!
After getting our obligatory #epcotinspiredwoodpile photos for social media, we headed to the main entrance, which doubles as the gift shop for Château de Montpoupon, where we purchased our tickets.
As we did, the attendant asked how we heard about Château de Montpoupon…
When I responded, “a film at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World” I was met with a blank stare and a pause, before the attendant said, “…okay, enjoy your visit.”
I guess even at a sparsely-attended chateau like Montpoupon, we EPCOT Center enthusiasts are not a primary demographic. (Okay, I’ll drop the Epcot connections now…)
Given the lack of coverage of Château de Montpoupon and that no one else was there, I was a bit apprehensive. Had we just sacrificed several hours of valuable time in France to check something off a meaningless list?
On the other hand, our Impressions de France list had never steered us wrong in the past, so I was willing to give Château de Montpoupon a chance.
I’m so glad we did. I fell in love with Château de Montpoupon. From the meticulously staged displays in each room to the fascinating hunting museum to the audio tracks throughout the experience to even the scents (I can’t put my finger on what it was, but it was lovely), Montpoupon did not disappoint.
Each room in Château de Montpoupon offered a placard (or placards) with a thorough description of what you were seeing, its historical context or significance, and other relevant information.
While the number of rooms you can visit through the three floors of the chateau itself is fairly low as compared to the Loire Valley’s most popular chateaux, each packed a punch. It was a satisfying experience.
We ended up spending around 45 minutes in the chateau, which was a good amount of time, I felt.
After the chateau, we continued on to the hunting museum. The number of rooms you can visit in the museum is actually higher than the chateau itself. The focus on hunting was especially interesting.
While many of the chateaux in the Loire Valley acknowledge that they were, essentially, fancy hunting lodges, none dwell on this fact. It’s treated as immaterial or ancillary, while attention instead given to other elements of French history.
Château de Montpoupon delves into the significance of hunting in French society, and its treatment of the topic is fascinating. I’ve always wondered why other chateaux shy away from the topic.
It seems that hunting and French high society of the era are intertwined, something borne out by The Rules of the Game, one of the greatest films of all time.
The significance of hunting for French aristocracy is evident in the displays throughout the museum. You learn of customs, traditional outfits, and art all created around the hunt.
There’s even a series of displays focused on Parisian luxury brand Hermès and the hunting scarves they’ve created for over a century. (There’s even a letter, which is clearly old, indicating Hermès designs are so good, they could be successful at something other than hunting scarves. Seems accurate.)
I have no clue what the public perception of hunting is among the French currently, but it appears contemporary hunting in France mirrors that of the United States.
It’s no longer a sport belonging to the wealthy, but is engaged in by a number of demographics, skewing towards an older set in rural areas.
I’m also not entirely sure how well a chateau and museum that strongly emphasize hunting would be perceived by tourists. Perhaps I’m somewhat unique and biased in this sense.
Being from a rural part of the Midwest, virtually everyone in my family hunted. The start of each season was a veritable holiday (most of my relatives took off work for the first weekend of deer season), and we ate venison everything, from breakfast sausage to pot roast.
While I don’t hunt, you could say it’s still a “part” of me, and I found all of this really intriguing. I could see others being put-off by some of the hunting displays, but this is a part of history.
Reading about and seeing remnants of the French Revolution doesn’t seem to bother people, so I’m not why why hunting should. (That’s rhetorical–I know the visceral nature of hunting is disconcerting for a lot of people.)
We spent well over an hour in the hunting museum, and I could have easily spent more time in there. I found myself rushing through the last few rooms, not reading everything because the closing time of Château de Montpoupon was approaching.
Perhaps this is one reason why Château de Montpoupon was not busy during our visit–despite not being as popular as other chateaux in the Loire Valley, it has relatively late closing times (7 p.m. when we visited) as compared to most others in the region. This makes it a good late afternoon option.
Timing also prevented us from heading back into the forest behind Château de Montpoupon, where there’s a half-mile (or so) loop that’s supposedly pretty.
Unfortunately, the closing time at Château de Montpoupon is a “hard” closing, and you cannot linger on the grounds (or in the forest) like you can at some of the other chateaux in the region.
Overall, I absolutely loved Château de Montpoupon. So much so that I ranked it #4 on our list of the Best Chateau in the Loire Valley, which is impressive given the competition. I also recognize that a lot of what made it special for me might’ve been unique–the wood pile on the way in, the total lack of crowds, and my personal history with hunting. I know this has been a fairly gushing review, but I’m hesitant to offer a glowing, must-do endorsement for Château de Montpoupon simply because I don’t know if it will resonate for others the same way as it did for me (for what it’s worth, Sarah also really enjoyed it). I’m inclined to think that, objectively, it has “enough” to be a place worth visiting even factoring out the subjective things that made it resonate with me, and on that basis, I’d recommend it to anyone with a couple of days to spend in the Loire Valley.
Planning your own trip to France? Check out our France posts, which cover a variety of places, from Normandy to the Loire Valley. In addition to these posts, I recommend planning with the Rick Steves France and Loire Valley Eyewitness guidebooks.
Have you visited Château de Montpoupon? What did you think of the experience? Were you as impressed with it as I was, or was it a ‘second-rate’ chateau for you? What did you think of the hunting museum? Any tips or thoughts to add? If you haven’t visited, is this a spot that appeals to you, or does the hunting museum make it off-putting? Any questions? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share any remarks you have in the comments!