Centre-Val-de-Loire Planning

How to Plan the Perfect Loire Valley Itinerary

05/25/2022

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Loire Valley Trip Planner

The Loire Valley is the region around the Loire River’s middle stretch in Central France. Comprising about 800 km2, this is the biggest area in France ever to be included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in France, a delicate blend of nature, history, and French elegant art-de-vivre. Here, you can enjoy vibrant medieval towns, fairytale castles, stunning gardens, delicious food, and some of France’s best wines.

There is such a variety of stunning places to see in the Loire Valley that it is difficult to choose only a few of them!

This Loire Valley Trip Planner is here to help you plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary. Read about the best time to go, Loire Valley itinerary suggestions, things to do, and our best tips.

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
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Best Time to Visit the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley sits right in the center of France, dividing north and south, so it gets relatively hot in summer (around 25°C in July) and cold in winter (around 7°C in January).

The best time to visit the Loire Valley to have good weather is from April to October. Spring is a great time to visit the chateaux’s gardens, all in full bloom.

The best seasons for outdoor activities are spring and autumn. The shoulder seasons in the Loire Valley are perfect for walking and cycling.

The months of July and August see the crowds in the Loire Valley, especially around the main sites. For the best accommodation and prices, it will be key to book well in advance. Also, we recommend buying skip-the-line tickets online in advance for the main châteaux in the Loire Valley.

The season to avoid for your Loire Valley trip is winter. The winter months see rain and cooler temperatures, and some châteaux may be closed.

Loire Valley Day Trip from Paris

Château de Chambord - Loire Valley

Thanks to its proximity to the French capital, the Loire Valley is one of the most popular day trips from Paris. Have a look at this article on how to plan a day trip to Loire Valley from Paris (self-guided or with a guided tour) and get the most out of your day in the Loire Valley.

Take a Loire Valley Road Trip

France by Car

For extended trips to the Loire Valley, we recommend taking a road trip. Taking a road trip in France is just about one of the coolest things you can ever do, and with a car, some good tunes, and the best company, you are set for one of the most memorable adventures in your life.

A French self-drive holiday also allows you to visit all the stunning châteaux and medieval towns, which are more difficult to reach by public transportation.

If you don’t have a car in France, we recommend booking one with Discover Cars. This site is great because it takes all major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, and more, and compares prices for you. If this is your first time driving in France, check out our best tips for renting a car in France.

If you are looking for Loire Valley itinerary suggestions by car, have a look at this 5-day Loire Valley road trip. You will also find this Loire Valley road trip in our France by Car e-book, complete with the best places to dine for each day and our recommendations on customizing this driving holiday for shorter or longer trips.

How to Get to the Loire Valley

If you land at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), you can pick up your rental car at the airport and start your Loire Valley trip from there. The drive from CDG Airport to Orléans takes less than 2 hours (200 km) – Click here to rent a car at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

If you plan to explore Paris before visiting the Loire Valley, you can take a train from Paris to Tours, Blois, or Orléans and then pick up your rental car in one of these cities. The train journey from Paris to Orléans, for example, takes 1hr 7 min.

Rent a car in Orléans | Rent your Car in Tours | Rent your Car in Blois

Defining the Perfect Loire Valley Itinerary

Loire Valley map from francetourism.com.au

The Loire Valley is more than fairytale castles. The region s also known for its vibrant cities, medieval towns, and natural wonders, so the perfect itinerary Loire Valley combines a little bit of all these things.

If you visit the Loire Valley for the first time, you may want to stick to the main sites. However, the most memorable Loire Valley trips usually begin when you leave the beaten path.

TIP: To get the most out of the Loire Valley, we recommend a minimum of 3 full days, but ideally 5-6 days.

So what should include the perfect Loire Valley itinerary?

  • One of the Loire Valley’s main cities
  • One or two of the Loire Valley’s medieval towns
  • Two of the most popular Loire Valley Castles
  • One of the castles off the main tourist track
  • A stay in one of the stunning chateau-hotels in the Loire Valley
  • A Loire Valley wine tour
  • One or two outdoor activities

The list of things to do in the Loire Valley can be longer or shorter depending on the duration of your Loire Valley holiday.

For example, for a Loire Valley 3-day itinerary, stay in one of the cities mentioned above. From there, visit a medieval village, one or two top castles, and take a wine tour. With one or two more days, add at least one night in one of the stunning château-hotels nearby.

Best Cities in the Loire Valley

Blois - Centre-Val-de-Loire

The Loire Valley’s main cities are a good place to put down your suitcases for a couple of days. Enjoy the city’s atmosphere and main sights and explore the rest of the Loire Valley on day tours. Here are the cities in the Loire Valle not to miss:

1. Orléans

Orléans is the capital of the Centre-Val-de Loire region. The city is famous as the city of Jeanne d’ Arc, a French heroine who, on the 8th of May 1429, played a decisive role in the town’s liberation from the occupying English.  

Over recent years, this dynamic city has engaged in major conservation projects to reveal all its former splendor. 

Orléans is a good base to explore the medieval towns of Beaugency, Meung-sur-Loire, and the castles of Chambord and Cheverny.

2. Blois

Blois is a beautiful city with remarkable architectural and cultural heritage. Its Old Town is very compact, and you can easily explore it on foot. In Blois, don’t miss to visit the Château de Blois, the Loire’s finest in-town château, and home to seven French Kings!

Blois is a good base to explore the medieval town of Beaugency, the city of Amboise with its Royal Castle and the Clos de Lucé, and the castles of Chambord, Cheverny, Chaumont sur Loire, and Chenonceau.

3. Tours

Tours is a historic city, the capital of the French kingdom, even if for a short time, and with a rich heritage. It is also a student city, with a lively city center populated by many restaurants and bars that pop up their terraces outside as soon as the beautiful days arrive. 

Tours is an excellent base to explore the medieval towns of Chinon, and Langeais, the city of Amboise with its Royal Castle and the Clos de Lucé, and the castles of Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, and Villandry.

4. Saumur

Sitting on the River Loire banks, in the region of Pays-de-la-Loire, the city of Saumur has a pretty medieval Old Town to explore crowned by a fairytale medieval castle and plenty to see and do.

Saumur is a good base to explore the medieval towns of Chinon and Langeais, the city of Angers with its imposing medieval castle, the magnificent Abbey of Fontevraud – burial place of the Plantagenets in France –  and the castles of Azay-le-Rideau, and Villandry.

Stay in One of the Château-hotels in the Loire Valley

Château des Arpentis - Loire Valley, France
Château des Arpentis

For a total Loire Valley experience, stay a couple of nights in one of the wonderful château-hotels in the Loire Valley. Many Loire Valley Castles have found new lives as château-hotels and now offer accommodation with discerning five-star service that will treat you like a royal, if only just for the night. Explore the best castles of the Loire Valley during the day, and choose your particular château to rest your head at night.

Click here for the best chateau-hotels in the Loire Valley. Other château-hotels in the Loire Valley worth considering are:

Best Castles in the Loire Valley to Visit

Chateau de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

In the Loire Valley, you will find some of the most beautiful French castles to visit. Most of the Loire Valley Castles were built during the Renaissance, so they are very different from castles near Paris.

If you plan to visit Paris and the Palace of Versailles before heading south to the Loire Valley, don’t worry! Versailles and the Loire Valley Castles are two different experiences.

As there are several hundred châteaux in the Loire Valley, with about 100 open to the public, it’s quite difficult to choose only a few for your itinerary Loire Valley!

If you don’t know what Loire Castles to visit, this best Loire Valley Castles list may help. For a perfect Loire Valley itinerary, we recommend visiting only 2-3 castles a day and completing the rest of the days with other activities.

If you plan on visiting the Loire Valley during the high season, we recommend buying tickets to the most popular castles online. Below we list the Loire Castles you will need advance tickets for and have added links to our favorite trusty providers for your convenience.

Best Medieval Towns in the Loire Valley to Visit

The Loire Valley is dotted with some of the most beautiful medieval towns in France and other picturesque villages accredited with labels like ‘Plus beaux villages de France’ (Most beautiful villages in France) or ‘Petites Cités de Caractère’ (Small towns of character). You will certainly be charmed by their tuffeau stone houses, flower-filled streets, and medieval remains!

Here’s the list of the best small towns and villages in the Loire Valley.

Along the banks of the Loire River

  • Meung-sur-Loire
  • Beaugency

Along the banks of the Vienne and Indre Rivers

  • Chinon
  • Loches

Along the banks of the Cher River

  • Montrichard

Other Loire Valley Villages worth Exploring

  • St-Florent-le-Vieil
  • Le Toureil
  • Montsoreau
  • Yèvre-le-Châte
  • Candes-Saint-Martin
  • Crissay-sur-Manse
  • Oudon
  • Trentemoult
  • Paimboeuf

Taste the Wines of the Loire Valley

Wine of Loire Valley, France

If you like French wine, we recommend adding the visit to one or two wineries in Loire Valley, where you’ll learn about the history of the land, and get to taste several local wines paired with delicious cheeses. 

The Loire Valley is one of the largest wine regions in France, where you can find some of the best French wines. If you are looking for lighter wines, the wines of Loire Valley are right up your alley. There are great selections of lighter red wines, delicate, fruity white wines, sweet roses, and a large production of sparkling wines.

Because wine-tasting and driving are far from perfect partners, here are some suggestions for wine day tours in the Loire Valley:

Other Fun Things to Do in the Loire Valley

Of course, the Loire Valley offers much more than sightseeing. If you are visiting the Loire Valley for more than two or three days, consider one of these fun activities:

1. See the Loire Valley Castles from Other Points of View

Hot-Air Balloon Ride - Châteaux de la Loire
Balloon ride over the Châteaux de la Loire – Photo courtesy: France Montgolfières ©

A visit to the interior of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley is a must, but it’s worth viewing the castles from other perspectives for more magnificent views.

Take a boat trip to see the Château de Chenonceau from the water. The Canoë Company offers different boat tours that are guided or self-guided, with different itineraries.

You can also see the châteaux (and the Loire Valley) at sunset in a hot-air balloon with France Montgolfières (now called The French hot air balloon company). Our trip with them over Fontainebleau was an incredible experience that we recommend. You can check our review here.

2. La Loire à Vélo (The Loire Valley by Bike)

Explore the beautiful landscapes of the Loire Valley by following part of the famous Loire Valley bike route. We have covered different sections already, and it’s always a fun experience!

3. Taste the Regional Food

France is well-known for its great food, and the Loire Valley region is no exception. Here’s the list of some delicious specialties from the Loire Valley:

  • Game Meat – Wild boar (sanglier), deer (cerf), duck (canard), quail (caille), pigeon and rabbit (lapin).
  • Fish – Commonly served fish in this region include pike perch/zander (sandre), bream (brème), and eels (anguilles). They are usually served with a butter sauce (beurre blanc).
  • Goat Cheese (chèvre) such as Saint Maure, Pouligny-St-Pierre, Selles-sur-Cher and Crottin de Chavigno.
  • Rillettes – usually made using pork, it’s a textured pâté and served spread on bread.
  • Touraine Rillons (Rillons de Touraine) – slow-cooked pork belly cubes.
  • Caramelized Apple pie (Tarte Tatin) – this famous dessert comes from this region, and more specifically from Sologne.

4. Shop

Most of the castles open to visitors have impressive souvenir shops with interesting history books and novels and medieval-related merchandise.

If you take a wine tour, don’t miss the opportunity to buy a couple of your favorite bottles. Prices are always cheaper than in the wine shops in the city.

Look for the local markets for cheese, rillettes and local sweets.

Click here to read more France Travel Tips

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