Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
About the Loire Valley, France
The Loire Valley is the region around the Loire River’s middle stretch in Central France. Comprising about 800 km2, this is France’s most extensive area 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!
Do you plan on visiting the Loire Valley, France? This Loire Valley Trip Planner is here to help you plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary. Read what to do in the Loire Valley, the best time to go, itinerary suggestions, and our best tips.
Is Loire Valley worth visiting? The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful regions of France, which perfectly combines nature, history, and French art-de-vivre.
Table of Contents:
- Best Time to Visit the Loire Valley
- How Many Days in the Loire Valley?
- How to Visit Loire Valley
- Defining the Perfect Loire Valley Itinerary
- Best Cities in the Loire Valley
- Stay in One of the Château hotels in the Loire Valley
- Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley to Visit
- Best Medieval Towns in the Loire Valley
- Wine Tasting in the Loire Valley
- Other Fun Things to Do in the Loire Valley
Best Time to Visit 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 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 of the Loire Valley.
The season to avoid for a Loire Valley trip is winter. The winter months see rain and cooler temperatures, and some châteaux may be closed.
How Many Days in Loire Valley
The Loire Valley has so many things to see and do that you could spend all your French holiday in this region.
To get the most out of the Loire Valley, we recommend a minimum of 3 full days, but ideally 5-to 6 days. If you spend 5 to 6 days in the Loire Valley, you will have time to visit a couple of towns and cities, explore some of the best Châteaux of the Loire Valley, wine tasting and shopping, and perhaps a relaxing boat trip.
Loire Valley tours from Paris are also popular amongst people with tight schedules and they are perfectly planned to see a bit of everything.
How to Visit Loire Valley
1. Loire Valley Tour from Paris
Thanks to its proximity to the French capital, the Loire Valley is one of the most popular day trips from Paris.
Most of the Loire Valley tours are focused around the main Châteaux and towns. If you are more interested in vineyards than stones, check out this Loire Valley wine tour from Paris.
Have a look at this article on how to plan a day trip to the Loire Valley from Paris (self-guided or with a guided tour) and get the most out of your day in the Loire Valley!
2. Take a Loire Valley Road Trip
For extended trips to the Loire Valley, we recommend taking a road trip. A French self-drive holiday will allow you to visit the main sites and also other stunning châteaux and medieval towns, which are more difficult to reach by public transportation.
If you need some inspiration to craft your itinerary, have a look at this 5-day Loire Valley road trip. You will also find this road trip in our France by Car e-book, complete with the best places to eat and sleep for each day and our recommendations on customizing this driving holiday for shorter or longer trips.
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 land at Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), you can pick up your rental car at the airport and start your Loire Valley road 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 visit Paris before heading to 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.
3. Loire Valley by Train
Cities and towns like Tours, Beaugency, Orléans, Blois, and Amboise are easy to reach by train. Here’s a list of train distances and times from Paris for reference:
- Train Paris – Tours: 1h 12 min (fast train)
- Train Paris – Orléans: 1h 52 min (fast train)
- Train Paris – Blois: 1,5-2hrs (direct or via Orléans)
- Train Paris – Amboise: 2-2,5hrs (direct or via Orléans)
Thanks to the Train Loire à Vélo (Train Loire by Bike) system, you can board trains on the Interloire line with your bicycle, from mid-June to mid-September. The service is free and has dedicated personnel to take care of your bike from the moment you board to when you get it back when you get off.
This train is great for La Loire à Vélo and the Itinéraire Vélocéan bike routes and allows you to easily skip stages or return to your point of departure.
Defining the Perfect Loire Valley Itinerary
The Loire Valley is more than fairytale castles. The region is 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 trip usually begins when you leave the beaten path.
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 Châteaux of the Loire Valley
- One of the Châteaux off the main tourist track
- A stay in one of the stunning château-hotels in the Loire Valley
- A Loire Valley wine tour with tastings
- 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 holiday. For example, for a Loire Valley 3-day itinerary, stay in one of the cities mentioned below. From there, visit a medieval village, one or two top castles, and take a wine tour. For a Loire Valley 5-day itinerary or longer, add at least one night in one of the stunning château-hotels nearby.
Best Cities in the Loire Valley
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 trips. Here are the cities in the Loire Valle not to miss:
Orléans is the capital of the Centre-Val-de Loire region. Orléans 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.
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 visiting 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.
Tours is a historic city with a rich heritage. Tours was the capital of the French kingdom, even if for a short time. 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.
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 – the 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
For a total Loire Valley experience, stay a couple of nights in one of the wonderful château hotels in the Loire Valley.
Many Châteaux of the Loire Valley 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:
- Château de Noizay, near Amboise
- Domaine des Hauts de Loire, near Chaumont-sur-Loire
- Château d’Artigny near Tours
- Château de Beauvois, near Villandry
- Château de Chissay, near Château de Chenonceau
- Château de la Menaudière, near Château de Chenonceau
- Château de Gizeux, near Tours
- Château de Marçay, near Chinon
- Château de Troussail, in Cheverny
- Château Belmont, in Tours
- Les Sources de Cheverny, in Cheverny
- Château de Perreux, near Amboise
- Château des Arpentis, near Amboise
- Château de Rochecotte, near Villandry, Rigny-Ussé and Chinon
- Château de Pray, near Amboise
Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley to Visit
In the Loire Valley, you will find some of the most beautiful French castles to visit. Most of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley were built during the Renaissance, so they are very different from the Château de Versailles and other castles near Paris.
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!
If you don’t know what castles to visit, this list of the best Châteaux of the Loire Valley 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 skip-the-line 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.
If you want to visit more than two Châteaux during your Loire Valley trip, consider one of the following Châteaux de la Loire Passes with skip-the-line access to save time and money:
- Leonardo da Vinci Loire Valley Pass – Château du Clos Lucé + Royal Château d’Amboise + Château de Chambord
- Loire Valley Châteaux Pass – Château de Chambord + Château de Chenonceau + Château de Blois (or Château d’Amboise, or Château du Clos Lucé)
- Touraine Château Pass – Château de Villandry + Château d’Azay-le-Rideau + Royal Fortress of Chinon
Best Medieval Towns in the Loire Valley
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
Along the banks of the Vienne and Indre Rivers
Along the banks of the Cher River
Other Loire Valley Villages Worth Exploring
- Le Toureil
Taste the Wines of the Loire Valley
If you like French wine, we recommend visiting one or two wineries in the Loire Valley Wine Region, where you’ll learn about the history of the land and get to taste several local wines, sometimes paired with delicious cheeses.
The Loire Valley is one of the largest wine regions in France. 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 (named Crémants de Loire).
The Loire Valley Wine Region has different production zones. The production area closest to the main Châteaux of the Loire Valley is Touraine, located around the city of Tours.
East of Tours, the production is focused on white wines from Chenin grape variety (e.g. AOC Vouvray). West of Tours, is the land of red wines from Cabernet Franc grape variety (e.g. AOC Chinon, AOC Borgueil). The AOC Touraine produces light wines in three colors (white, red, rosé).
All these Loire Valley wineries offer top-rated tours and tastings in French and English. A visit to these wineries is also a great opportunity to buy excellent wines directly from the producers. Book your visit online in advance.
- Domaine Thierry Cosme – AOC Vouvray
- Domaine Les Pièrres d’Aurèle – AOC Touraine
- Domaine Cahterine et Michel Langlois – AOC Pouilly Fumé
- Domaine Jean-Marc et Mathieu Crochet – AOC Sancerre
If you don’t have a car, here are some suggestions for wine day tours in the Loire Valley:
- Loire Valley Wine Tasting Tour with Private Driver (departs from Tours and Amboise)
- Loire Valley Wine Tour in Vouvray and Montlouis (departs from Tours)
- Caves Ambacia, Tour and Wine Tasting (in Amboise, no transportation)
Other Fun Things to Do in the Loire Valley, France
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 for adventure lovers:
1. See the Loire Valley Castles from Other Points of View
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 admire the Châteaux de Chenonceau (and the Loire Valley) from a hot-air balloon with France Montgolfières. Our trip with them over Fontainebleau was an incredible experience that we recommend. You can check our review here.
Another unique way to explore the Châteaux of the Loire Valley is a micro flight with a professional pilot. Flights last from 30 min to 1,5 hrs, depending on the chosen option. The departure point is 40km from Tours, and you will be able to admire the Châteaux de Chenonceau, Loches, Chaumont, and Amboise.
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 a 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 Chavignol
- 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
Most of the Châteaux open to visitors have impressive souvenir shops with interesting history books 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 regional produce, cheese, rillettes, and local sweets.