The Loire Valley Castles – Where To Go & What You Should Know

Did anyone say “idyllic holiday to France’s most picturesque castles”? Because this is pretty much what you’re getting when you go to the Loire Valley castles. Located just two south-east of Paris, this ensemble has the world’s highest concentration of castles (a few hundreds, just that), some rather small, and some downright Disney-worthy. I visited the region a few times back when I was living in France – here is a list of my favourite castles, including things you should know about them and where they can be found. Bon voyage!

Loire Valley Castles – My Favourites

Azay-le-Rideau

loire valley castlesLoire Valley Castles

Loire Valley Castles

Loire Valley Castles
 

loire valley castles

Azay-le-Rideau is not the biggest nor the most romanticised castle but it certainly is charming. Often called the “Enchanted mirror” because of the way its western wing is reflected on the river that surrounds it, Azay-le-Rideau is the perfect depiction of what a French Renaissance castle looks like to us 21st-century creatures, with its pointy towers and perfectly symmetric facades. The guided visit is very well organised and full of fun trivia – did you know that Azay-le-Rideau was one of the first castles to boast dog-legged staircases as opposed to spiral ones?

Amboise

loire valley castlesThe chapel in which Leonardo da Vinci is said to be buried

loire valley castlesLoire Valley CastlesLoire Valley Castles Loire Valley CastlesThe village of Amboise

Amboise is probably the most fun one to visit, not only because of the pretty castle itself but also because of the super cute and lively village around it. The biggest point of interest in Amboise is Da Vinci’s heritage – he used to live in nearby Clos-Lucé, and he is supposedly buried in the castle’s chapel (his remains were never formally found nor identified but there are strong suspicions that he is indeed in Amboise). The castle grounds, which are located atop a small hill, offer a pretty good vantage point on Amboise village and the surrounding valley.

Villandry

Loire Valley Castles

loire valley castleThe stunning gardens at Villandry, the castle’s biggest draw

loire valley castle

If there was one castle where you could skip the actual indoor visit and just stick to the outdoors, it’s this one. Villandry indeed has the most beautiful, colorful and exhaustive gardens of the area. It has a flower garden, an herbs garden, a vegetable garden and a beautiful pond. Fun fact, this very pond is said to be the shaped after one of Louis XIV’s bedroom mirror! It’s such a nice feeling to simply walk around, smelling the different aromas throughout the garden.

Chenonceau

loire valley castle

loire valley castle

loire valley castle
loire valley castle
 

Loire Valley Castles

Chenonceau is probably one of the most iconic castles of the Loire Valley. Built across the Cher River (yes, parts of the castle actually form a bridge!), it’s quite small but very cute. Often nicknamed “The Ladies Castle” because of two notable residents, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis, and their obvious influence on the decor. It’s actually the most visited castle in France after Versailles, and I can definitely understand why. Between the highly ornate rooms to the super fun maze outside, everyone is guaranteed a good time at Chenonceau.

Chambord

Loire Valley Castles Loire Valley Castles

My absolute favorite – I mean, have you looked at it? The picture says it all. Chambord Castle is the largest one in the region, and the most ornate too. Its features Da Vinci’s double-helix staircase, 128 meters of lavishly-decorated facade, 800 columns and a 13,000 acre park. In fact, Chambord Castle was first used as the hunting lodge of King Francois I back in the 16th century – which, in retrospect, may explain why the French were so adamant on getting a revolution. I don’t know about you guys but hunting grounds in Canada don’t look like that!

The castle is not furnished but is nonetheless very interesting to visit – especially the sunset and sunrise rooms, as well as Louis XIV’s quarters. The castle, despite its square and logical shape, is an absolute maze, but so much fun to explore.

Loire Valley Castles: Other Worthy Options

Loire Valley Castles

Loire Valley Castles: Know Before You Go

  • Some castles are furnished and some aren’t; don’t expect to see a full 16th century decor every time. A lot of castles updated their furniture in the 19th century (or later on if the castle was used for different purposes), meaning that most of what remains today doesn’t actually date back to the Renaissance.
  • There are a lot of wineries and vineyards in the Loire Valley, which are well worth a visit if you are a white wine aficionado (whites are a local specialty). Always remember that the blood alcohol concentration limit in France is 0,5 mg/ml ;-)
  • If you plan on visiting several châteaux you might want to purchase the Châteaux Pass, which you can purchase in any local tourist office. It not only gives you a small discount for each castle, but you also get to skip the queues and go straight inside the castles. Prices vary according to which castle you choose to include in the pass.
  • Castle grounds make for lovely picnic spots – save on restaurants by visiting the local market and get some delicious baguette and charcuteries for lunch.
  • The Loire Valley is a very popular cycling destination, and many tour operators offer organised tours of the region. Well worth looking into if you are an avid cyclist!

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36 Comments on The Loire Valley Castles – Where To Go & What You Should Know

  1. Andrea
    April 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm (7 years ago)

    They’re all so beautiful! Cycling around to see them all sounds like a great idea.

    Reply
    • Marie
      April 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm (7 years ago)

      Especially with the big forests in the region, cycling must be so much fun!

      Reply
  2. Abby
    April 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm (7 years ago)

    Those are absolutely stunning. Your photos are gorgeous. What a romantic trip!

    Reply
    • Marie
      April 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm (7 years ago)

      Indeed it was – nothing like French castles for an anniversary!

      Reply
  3. Angie Away
    April 13, 2012 at 9:47 am (7 years ago)

    I visited these castles when I studied in France in 2003… thanks for the trip down memory lane. Beautiful pictures!

    Reply
    • Marie
      April 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you! These castles are timeless :)

      Reply
  4. Alexa Meisler
    April 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm (7 years ago)

    Wow. These castles are breath-taking. They look so royal and elegant it’s almost magical. Chenonceau Castle is definitely my favorite. Amazing shots!

    Reply
    • Marie
      April 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you! I prefer Chambord, but Chenonceau was very nice too – albeit too crowded!

      Reply
  5. Kurt
    April 13, 2012 at 10:03 pm (7 years ago)

    The castles of France. Some of the most technologically advanced and beautifully decorated of the high castle building period in Europe.

    Great to know the such beautiful ones are so close to each other.

    Reply
    • Marie
      April 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm (7 years ago)

      Yes that’s the whole fun of it – no need to drive long distances to enjoy them! A long weekend is enough to see all of them.

      Reply
  6. Andrew
    May 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm (7 years ago)

    I did the Loire a number of years ago in Feburary. It was not the prettiest time to be there due to lack of flowers, but also not crowded. I can happily say I have seen all of these. Chenanceau was my first and still my favorite.
    I did a number half day van tours from Tours where I based myself. It really was a great way of doing things as I didn’t have a car.

    Reply
  7. Mary @ Green Global Travel
    May 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm (7 years ago)

    Several years ago, I spent a month in a tiny French country town with my aunt and we traveled to all of these castles – great pictures! Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories.

    Reply
  8. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren
    June 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm (4 years ago)

    Bookmarking!! It’s been a dream of mine to visit the Loire Valley. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Happy travels :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 17, 2015 at 4:31 pm (4 years ago)

      Glad I could be of help Laurent! Bon voyage!

      Reply
  9. Marlies
    June 19, 2015 at 10:56 am (4 years ago)

    so pretty! I had no idea there were so many castles close-by! Can’t wait to visit them!
    And thanks for the cycling tips!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 24, 2015 at 8:07 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes they are incredibly close to each other, very easy to visit.

      Reply
  10. John
    July 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm (4 years ago)

    I have never been to that side of France. But adfter seeing this I’d definitely go if I ever get the chance,

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 9, 2015 at 5:35 pm (4 years ago)

      You definitely should!

      Reply
  11. Theresa Lapin
    October 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm (3 years ago)

    If you were going to take a day trip from Paris to one of the castles (by train), which would be the one?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 3, 2015 at 2:07 pm (3 years ago)

      Chenonceau is the most romantic, and Chambord is the most magnificent. It depends on what you’re looking for. But an entire day at just one chateau seems kind of long, you should have enough time to see at least two.

      Reply
  12. Catriona
    April 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm (3 years ago)

    Is it easy to travel around them without a car? Beautiful photos though, I hope to visit some of them!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm (3 years ago)

      You can – but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. It’s just easier with a car. There are guided bike tours and organised bus tours from Paris as well.

      Reply
  13. Ellie Swinton
    June 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi Marie,

    I’m a newcomer to your blog and I’m planning a trip to the Loire – a great post to help me out. Thank you!! Great photos!

    Ellie x

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 10, 2016 at 9:52 am (3 years ago)

      Happy to help Ellie! Enjoy the Loire valley.

      Reply
  14. Heidi
    June 18, 2016 at 9:19 am (3 years ago)

    Hello Marie-Eve,

    Wondering if you drove, and whether the destinations are easy to find? Was parking ever a problem?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm (3 years ago)

      Yes, I drove, and had no parking issues whatsoever :) Most castles have a parking lot off the main grounds, which means you’ll have to walk a little from your car to the castle, but it’s quite easy.

      Reply
  15. Amanda
    November 6, 2016 at 2:35 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi! Great read, thanks for sharing. Do you have any tips on how to get from Paris to the Loire region? They offer day trip tours, but some are so expensive, there’s got to be a better way. Maybe you have some advice? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm (2 years ago)

      I think you have two options at this point: suck it up and pay for a guided day trip (which also means you’ll get extra trivia and facts on the bus, and that you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving) or hire a car and do it yourself. But then you can’t drink as much.

      Reply
  16. Lauren
    December 26, 2016 at 9:42 pm (2 years ago)

    Bonjour Marie,
    Thinking about Tours as a base and then day trips to different chateau, but only if one can rent a car with automatic transmission. Impossible?
    Also, what about boat excursions in the area? Can you float and stop at different chateaux?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Yes it is possible! Just call ahead and make sure they have an automatic car available at the rental place. I am not familiar with boat excursions in the Loire area, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Google is your friend!

      Reply
      • Teresa
        July 2, 2018 at 6:36 pm (9 months ago)

        Love the article on the castles can you say where is best to get a car from should we rent outside paris or take a train to tours then try to rent

  17. Denise
    July 16, 2017 at 7:24 pm (2 years ago)

    Your blog is great. Actually helped me decide which castles I want to see on my trip. Thank you. Very detailed and full of great tips.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks Denise!

      Reply

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