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Best Castles of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley in Central France is the perfect combination of stunning 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 châteaux open to the public, it’s still a work in progress for us! That’s why we asked some fellow travel bloggers to help us narrow down our quest for the best Castles of Loire Valley to visit.
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.
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Best Way to Visit the Castles of Loire Valley
Best Loire Valley Castles in 1 Day
If you only have one day and no car, the best option is to book a full-day guided tour to visit the best Châteaux in Loire Valley. These small group 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. In addition, with the Châteaux of the Loire Valley tours suggested below, it is possible to cancel up to 24 hours in advance and receive a full refund.
Best Loire Castles Tours by Get Your Guide
Best Loire Valley Castles in 2+ Days
If you have more time to spend exploring the Loire Valley, we recommend visiting the Castles of the Loire on a road trip. Set your base camp in Tours, Blois or Amboise and explore 1-2 châteaux a day, perhaps combining it with visits to picturesque towns (find some ideas in this post) and wine tastings.
For your Loire Valley road trip we recommend booking your car 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. This helps to ensure that you get a great price without all the time and work.
Best Loire Valley Castles Map
This map of Loire Valley Castles shows the location of the best Loire Castles described below in regards to Tours, Amboise, and Blois.
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord is one of the best Loire Castles and also the most magnificent. Commissioned by King François I, the building majestically erects in the midst of nature as far as the eye can see. Considered the most famous of the Loire Castles, 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 and despite he died 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 would be due to him. 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.
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 famous features is ‘stairway of honor’, a majestic straight staircase which 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 chateau 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.
Suggested by Leyla | Offbeat France
Château de Cheverny
Château de Cheverny is one of the highlights of the Loire Valley with its extensive estate, original castle with authentic period rooms, and unique dog kennels.
Cheverny is one of the few castles at the Loire Valley that is still owned by its ancient noble family. The family opened the doors of their castle for the public already back in 1922 as one of the first Castles 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 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 are 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
Château de Chenonceau
If you are planning 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 powerful 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.
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 a restoration was begun and the château and grounds are beautiful now.
Due to the years of neglect, this château is more sparsely furnished than many of the 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 which 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.
Suggested by Karen | Postcards from Nana
Château de Villandry
Château de Villandry is one of the most beautiful chateaux in France. 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 into.
For the 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. No need to visit in certain seasons as the administrator made a good call of planting different varieties of plants and flowers that bloom in different seasons. This means you can go at any time of the year and still enjoy their beautiful garden.
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.
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 Gothic wing of King Louis XII whose equestrian statue is located above the entrance, the Renaissance wing with its iconic see-and-be-seen outside staircase commissioned by King François I, the classic wing of Gaston d’Orléans built in the 17th century and of course 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.
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 Chateau de Chenonceau.
In 1875 the castle was bought by the joyous Princess Marie-Charlotte Constance Say who 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.
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.