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The Loire Castles
The Loire Valley in Central France is the perfect combination of stunning French castles, enchanting countryside, and good wines. Known as the ‘Garden of France,’ the entire area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is a must-see of any first trip to France.
Because of its beauty, the Loire Valley was frequently visited by the French kings and noblemen who built magnificent castles and country retreats, creating an ensemble of fairy-tale castles unlike any other on the planet.
The list of top Loire Valley castles is long, and it takes some time to visit them all. With more than 100 Loire Valley châteaux open to the public, it’s still a work in progress for us!
For this post, we asked some fellow travel bloggers to help us narrow down our quest for the best castles in Loire Valley.
Loire Valley Map
Take a look below at some of the best Loire Valley castles to explore on your next trip to France. Have the best time visiting fairy-tale castles and learning their stories of power-plays, intrigue, adultery, murder, and epic horticulture.
READ MORE: What is a château and the main difference between palaces and châteaux.
Best Way to Visit the Loire Valley Castles
Loire Castles on a Day Trip from Paris
If you only have one day available and no car, book a full-day guided tour to visit the best Châteaux in the Loire Valley. These guided tours are nicely broken up into several stops, and sometimes they include wine tastings (the Loire Valley is also about Loire Valley wines!) and lunch.
For the guided tours, we recommend booking with Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide tours cover a wide range of subjects and destinations, plus they always have the best reviews. On top of this, it is possible to cancel up to 24 hours in advance and receive a full refund.
Best Loire Castles Tours by Get Your Guide:
Multi-Day Trip to See the Loire Valley Castles
If you have more time to explore the Loire Valley, take the car and visit the best châteaux on a road trip. If you need some inspiration, this Loire Valley road trip can help. If you are looking for a more personalized itinerary, check out our Loire Valley trip planner to combine the best Loire Valley castles with picturesque medieval towns and other activities.
If you don’t have a car, we recommend booking one with RentalCars.com. This site is great because it takes all of the major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc, and more and does the comparison of prices for you. Check out our best tips for renting a car in France.
Package tours can be a fantastic way to avoid the stress of planning your own trip. They are also great if you would like some company along the way. TourRadar – the world’s most trusted online marketplace for multi-day tours – has various proposals for the Loire Valley. Browse its different Loire Valley package tours by different operators, and by date.
Loire Valley Châteaux Map
This Loire Valley Châteaux map shows the location of the best Loire castles described below.
Best Loire Valley Châteaux
1.Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord is one of the best castles of the Loire Valley and also the most magnificent. Commissioned by King François I, the building majestically erects in the forest as far as the eye can see. Considered the most famous of the Loire châteaux map, its impressive 156-meter façade with countless towers and chimneys is the witness of 500 years of French history.
The King commissioned this impressive château to demonstrate his power to his rivals. Despite dying before seeing the work completed, today we can say that he succeeded in his purpose: Chambord is undoubtedly the emblem of the French Renaissance!
Who says Chambord thinks King François I and Leonardo da Vinci. The king associated the Italian engineer to this architectural project, and the central plan and the double staircase are supposedly his work. Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last years of his life working for King François I, and he was living in Amboise, where he was buried.
The easiest way to get to Chambord is to catch a bus from Blois. Then from the bus station, it’s a 10-minute walk. Click here to buy your skip-the-line tickets to Château de Chambord.
2. Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
The Château of Azay-le-Rideau, considered one of the Loire Valley’s most beautiful, is on the Indre River and not on the Loire, as often thought. In fact, much of its exterior beauty lies its construction on an island: it is surrounded by water, which gives it the appearance of floating.
One of Azay-le-Rideau’s most notable features is the ‘stairway of honor,’ a majestic straight staircase that was impossibly modern for its time, leading as it did straight up from the main entrance. In the past, most stairways had been spiral and usually tucked away in a tower.
Azay-le-Rideau came to be under the reign of King François I, also known as the king who brought the Renaissance to France. A succession of owners, usually wealthy financiers, enlarged and embellished it until the 19th century, when it took on the shape it has today.
The château was amply restored a few years ago and now reflects the various eras of its expansion.
The easiest way to get there is to catch a bus from Tours. There is a train, but the station is a half-hour walk from the chateau – the bus station is closer. Click here to buy your tickets to Azay-le-Rideau.
Suggested by Leyla | Offbeat France
Château de Cheverny
Château de Cheverny is one of the highlights of the Loire Valley with its extensive estate, an original castle with authentic period rooms, and unique dog kennels.
Cheverny is one of the few castles on the Loire Valley map that is still owned by its ancient noble family. The family opened the doors of their castle for the public back in 1922 as one of the first Châteaux of the Loire Valley. The family still lives at Cheverny, which is also the reason you can’t visit all floors.
The castle dates back to the 17th century, and its exteriors have remained unchanged ever since. It’s different from the other castles you may visit in the area, as it was never used or designed for defensive reasons. This means you won’t see any moats, towers, or armories.
Another unique feature of the castle is the size of its estate. It’s more like a park than a typical castle garden. The park is even big enough to offer boat trips to visitors. A highlight of the castle grounds is the kennels, home to more than a hundred hunting dogs, a tradition dating back to 1850.
The easiest way to get to Cheverny is to catch a bus from Blois. Then from the bus station, it’s a 3-minute walk.
Suggested by Maartje | The Orange Backpack
TIP: Explore the best castles of the Loire Valley during the day, and choose your particular château to rest your head at night. Here’s the list of best château-hotels in the Loire Valley.
Château de Chenonceau
If you plan a trip to France to see its most magical castles, only the Palace of Versailles gets more visitors each year than the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley.
A visit to the Château de Chenonceau is an easy drive from Tours or Amboise, past the village of Chenonceau, to the forest in which the castle is located. The setting is a fairytale – a long tree-lined driveway leads you to some of the most famous castle gardens in the world. Beyond the gardens is the Château de Chenonceau spanning the River Cher.
Once you arrive at the castle, you will learn about the six Queens and the mighty women who fought over this castle, who owned it, and who each made their own parts and extensions to the gardens.
Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of King Henry II and created much of the castle and a wonderful ‘Garden of Diane.’ Upon the King’s death, his widow, Cathérine de Médicis, took the castle as her own and built the Gallery over the River. The gallery now contains an exhibition that shows the roles that the Queens and mistresses of Kings had upon this beautiful castle. Click here to buy your skip-the-line ticket to Château de Chenonceau.
Suggested by Monique | Trip Anthropologist
The Château D’Amboise dominates the town of Amboise with its position high on a hill overlooking the Loire river and the village of Amboise. The views from the château are amazing, and you must see the small, charming chapel where Leonardo Da Vinci was buried.
Château D’Amboise was all but abandoned in the 17th century after the death of King Louis XIII. Later on, the abandoned building was turned into a state prison for a time and then suffered at the hands of the Revolutionaries. After that, it was simply neglected. In 1974 the works to restore the château begun, and the château and grounds are beautiful now.
Due to the years of neglect, this château is more sparsely furnished than many others in the region. Although it doesn’t contain great masterpieces, the minimalism of the rooms enables you to appreciate the architecture. Be sure to pay particular attention to the fascinating spiral passageway which leads up the tower into the castle. This was a grand entrance that allowed carriages to be able to drive right up inside.
It is worth the entrance fee just to enjoy the views of the Loire river and the lovely city of Amboise from the beautiful terraced gardens. Click here to buy your ticket to Château d’Amboise.
Suggested by Karen | Postcards from Nana
Château de Villandry
Château de Villandry is one of the most beautiful of this Loire Valley châteaux map. Known as the last castle to be built during the Renaissance period in Loire Valley, Napoleon Bonaparte acquired this château for his brother, Jerome Bonaparte, during the early 19th century.
This family-owned château is famous for its grand interior with the Renaissance fair, and one will feel what it’s like to live during this period. The rooms are the highlights of this beautiful château.
Aside from the opulent interior, Château de Villandry is also quite famous for its beautiful gardens. Its lush gardens feature green space features labyrinths, fruit-bearing trees, vegetable patches, grapevines, and grass courts. There’s also a number of flower gardens to get lost in.
For a better view of the garden, go straight to the second floor and stand by the viewing point. From here, you’ll get the best view of the entire complex. The garden is beautiful to visit all year round as the administrator made a good call of planting different varieties of plants and flowers that bloom in different seasons.
The easiest way to get to Villandry is to catch a bus from Tours. Then from the bus station, it’s a 2-minute walk. Click here to buy your tickets to Château de Villandry.
Suggested by Christine | Journey to France
Château de Blois
Château de Blois is the Loire’s finest in-town château, the residence of Kings and Queens. They all left their marks in the château’s architecture, and visitors just need to do a 360º tour in the courtyard to see the evolution of its architecture.
The château features the Gothic wing of King Louis XII, whose equestrian statue dominates the entrance. The Renaissance wing, with its iconic see-and-be-seen outside staircase, was commissioned by King François I. The classic wing of Gaston d’Orléans was built in the 17th century. Last but not least, you will want to see what remains of the 13th-century royal fortress.
Inside the château, visitors can see the royal apartments restored in the 19th century and the city’s Fine Arts Museum.
Château de Blois is located in the historic center of Blois and can be reached from anywhere in the city by foot. Click here to buy your tickets to Château de Blois.
Château de Chaumont
Built around the year 1000, the Château of Chaumont-sur-Loire, had the time to receive beautiful people!
Château de Chaumont was acquired in the 15th century by Queen Catherine de Médicis, where she settled and entertained numerous astrologers. When her husband King Henry II died, she forced his mistress Diane de Poitiers to take this castle in exchange for the Château de Chenonceau.
In 1875, the joyous Princess Marie-Charlotte Constance Say bought the castle, and she used the château to welcome maharajahs, actresses, and the princes of all Europe during unreasonable, crazy fêtes. She also moved the nearby village houses and the church because they interfered with her garden plans.
Things calmed down with the château’s cession to the State in 1938. Today, Chaumont boasts the grand-scale, summer-long garden festival. Click here to buy your tickets to Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire.
The easiest way to get to Chaumont is to catch a bus from Blois. Then from the bus station, it’s a 1-minute walk.