Visiting the Loire Valley is one of the best things you can do while traveling in France. It’s an area in the country that is rich in history and lush in landscape. The central part of the valley is classified as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and it is a place that is lovely to visit year round. Well known for its castles, its vineyards and orchards and its wine, there is so much to see and do in the region and this post will help you decide how to spend your time.
What To See in the Loire Valley, France
While you can certainly do a (long) day trip from Paris, I would advise against it. The Loire Valley has so much to offer and the Loire Valley Castles for which the region is famous are rather spread out so you really need a few days to even begin to soak up this magical part of France. I would also recommend you have a rental car so you can easily get to each of the Châteaus you’re most interested in seeing.
If you’re visiting the region and looking for help in planning your time, feel free to be in touch with me to help. As a travel advisor I can help you navigate the planning process.
There are 300 some castles in the French region of the Loire Valley so you’ll have your pick of ones to explore! The tough part is deciding which ones you really want to see. Below I share some of my personal favorites.
Explore the small villages
There are so many charming villages to enjoy getting lost in. Bookmark Chaumont sur Loire, Beaugency, Blois and of course the famed town of Amboise which is home to Château d’Amboise.
The Loire Valley is home to France’s longest wine route which stretches for 600 miles. The mild climate and different terroirs in this region make it ripe for growing grapes and making wines and you’ll find the area dotted with vineyards and wineries you can explore. Eleven different types of grapes are grown in the Loire Valley so you’ll be treated to a variety of wonderful wines when you set up tastings in the area.
Take a hot air balloon ride
As a travel advisor these are the sorts of experiences I can help you arrange when you book with me as a client.
Enjoy gourmet dining
The food in the Loire Valley does not dissappoint and you’ll find many a gourmet restaurant awaiting you. The Amor Blanc at the Fleur de Loire hotel in Blois is a favorite of visitors. And don’t miss dining in the shadow of the Château de Chambord when you book a table at Les Armes du Château.
Take a guided tour
Feel overwhelmed at planning a trip to the Loire Valley? Or don’t want to drive from chateau to chateau? Consider a guided tour. You’ll be able to take some of the planning and logistics off your plate and further enjoy the day time plans.
Go on a boat
See the Loire Valley from the Loire River when you book a boat to glide down the river.
Riding bikes is such a fun way to explore the region! I absolutely loved using the bikes at my hotel to bike around the perimeter of the grounds of the Château de Chambord.
9 Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley
As mentioned, the Loire Valley boasts hundreds of chateaux so it can feel a bit overwhelming to decide which ones to choose. You’ll also want to take into consideration the season in which you’re visiting, who you are visiting with and what’s most important for you to see.
Having been to the Loire Valley on several occasions, below are several of my favorite chateaus to see.
Château de Chenonceau
Arguably the most famous of the chateaux, this stunning castle spans the river Cher and has a gorgeous great hall. Its history involves some of the most well known names in French history including King Henry II, his mistress Diane de Poitiers and Queen Catherine de’ Medici.
In addition to touring the chateau itself, don’t miss the various gardens and there’s even a maze you can explore.
There is now a fine dining restaurant on property as well.
Château de Chambord
Arguably the most recognizable chateau of France thanks to its massive size and classic French Renaissance architecture, this chateau is well worth a visit. Take a tour to really learn all about the history of it or make a day of exploring both inside the castle as well as the grounds. You won’t want to miss the famed Double Spiral Staircase either.
Sitting high atop a cliff overlooking the Loire River and the town of Amboise, the Château d’Amboise has a rich history with the Kings of France. It also happens to be the burial site of Leonardo da Vinci. The views from this chateau are particularly worthwhile.
Speaking of Leonardo da Vinci, get to know many of his famed inventions with a visit to Clos Lucé. Da Vinci’s former residence has preserved his former bedroom, studio and now hosts replicas of many of his greatest accomplishments in engineering and the sciences. It is a fascinating place to explore!
Set in the town of Azay le Rideau, the château of Azay-le-Rideau seems to rise out of the river waters thanks to it being situated on a small island. It is one of the smaller chateaus in the region.
Château de Cheverny
This chateau has, miraculously, been in the same family for over 600 years! The inside is a bit tacky now with stuffed animals and other toys on display but it is still a beautiful castle to see inside of. They also own dozens of hunting dogs you can see on property which makes this a fun spot for kids to visit. As a fun fact – this was one of the first castles in the region to open to the public in the early 20th century.
Château de Blois
Catherine de Medici, the wife of King Henry II, lived and died at this chateau and was inhabited by other queens as well in its rich history.
Château de Villandry
You could easily spend the whole day at Villandry. This massive chateau and its sweeping gardens offer so much to see. If you’re a fan of gardens in particular, don’t miss the famed Ornamental Kitchen Garden. These vegetable gardens are home to thousands of vegetables being grown!
If visiting in the summer, be sure to check the events calendar and see if you can make it to one of their night of a thousand lights.
Château de Chaumont
Don’t miss the beautiful chapel with its stained glass windows at this chateau. If you visit between April and October, be sure to experience the Garden Festival held on property. Contemporary garden designers display their work in the Chateau’s gardens.
Loire Valley France Map
I recommend you make a Loire Valley Map on Google Maps and save each of the castles you’d like to visit to it. This will help you map out your time and determine the best route to maximize your time in the valley.
If you don’t have time for a few days in the area, you may want to consider doing a day trip instead to Versailles, Fontainebleau or Vaux Le Vicomte which is ringed by a moat and home to some beautiful gardens.
Where to Stay in the Loire Valley
Right in the town of Amboise, this boutique hotel allows you to walk to a variety of dining and shopping options and easily visit the Chateau in town by foot.
Interested in staying at the Manoir Les Minimes? Reach out to me to help reserve with the possibility of added amenities like complimentary upgrades and complimentary breakfast!
Located in Chambord, this charming property is just a four minute walk from the castle and many of the rooms offer amazing views of the chateau. It features a well rated restaurant on property and they have bikes you can rent to explore the castle’s grounds. The hotel also has wellness area which boasts a hammam, sauna and outdoor jacuzzi.
Interested in staying at the Relais de Chambord? Reach out to me to help reserve with the possibility of added amenities like complimentary upgrades and complimentary breakfast!
A haven of peace and respite nestled amidst vineyards, this five star hotel boasts a Caudalie spa and fine restaurants on property.
Interested in staying at Les Sources de Cheverny? Reach out to me to help reserve with added amenities like complimentary upgrades and complimentary breakfast!
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Have you been to the Loire Valley?
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