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See the famous castles of France's Loire Valley as never before

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Paris may be the epicenter of modern France, but 500 years ago, the majestic Loire Valley was the country's heartland. Now, anyone around the world can explore the beauty of this stunning region like never before, thanks to a new online exhibition.

The Castles of Loire

The Google Cultural Institute collaborated with 18 organizations that work to preserve and share the Loire valley's heritage in order to bring the stories of the castles to life for everyone around the world. To capture the unique beauty of the valley's architecture, the Google Maps team helped out. They worked with airplanes equipped with special cameras that captured 3D aerial imagery from Sully sur Loire to Chenonceaux and beyond, offering a bird’s-eye view.

Over 500 years ago, as the Renaissance was making waves across Europe, with artists like Leonardo and Michelangelo at work, at a time when much of Europe was ruled by royal families, these castles scattered along the scenic valley of the Loire River were undergoing a transformation.

The buildings that had been originally built for war, found themselves entangled in a different kind of power play. While their owners - kings, queens and noble families - competed for power, influence and love, their rivalry made its mark on the buildings. They invited artists and architects, who turned the buildings and their surroundings into works of art. The nobility have left an indelible mark on the landscape – from vast chateaux to exquisite gardens and stunning landscaped surrounds.

You can explore these breathtaking sites like never before. If you're on a desktop computer, you can for example hover around Château de Chambord - just select the satellite layer in the menu bar, switch on 3D in the bottom right corner, hold down Ctrl and with a long left click of your mouse you can start exploring the castle. If you're on mobile, you can download the Google Earth app to see this imagery.

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Aerial view of Château de Villandry gardens

Once you've explored from above, step on the grass at the Château du Rivau and stroll through the garden inspired by fairy tales. Walk through the Little Thumbling garden and get lost in the Alice Maze's labyrinth

With the help of Street View you can enjoy the view from the towers of the Fortress of Chinon, where in 1429, the 16 year old Joan of Arc met Charles VII to convince him to be crowned King of France and fight the English army out of France, ending the Hundred Years' War. Indoor Street View imagery will allow you to look around inside Leonardo da Vinci’s bedroom in Château du Clos Lucé. And if you have an eye for detail, zoom in the 3,600 pieces of wood that make up the oriental ceiling of the Château de Villandry - it took a whole year’s work to put this giant puzzle together.

Come with us on a journey across the stunning Loire valley and back in time - take in the beauty of the castles from above, walk through it's hidden spaces and explore its secret stories. The exhibition is open for all at and through the Google Arts & Culture mobile app for iOS and Android.

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