“Ah, the Loire Valley…” This is how you’ll start any story about your travels here… I know this from experience. There is an endless number of impressive fairy-tale like chateaux of the Loire Valley. In fact, this fertile region is home to some of the best castles in Europe! You won’t believe that such places actually exist outside the world of Disney, but they are real and so are the magnificent gardens that surround them.
It’s easy to enter such historic places and romanticise them. However, they weren’t just places of love, partying and wealth. The Renaissance stone walls also housed adultery, murder, treason and questionable hygiene. It’s important to remember this as otherwise, it’s easy to just see these sights as the real-life locations of our fairy tales and daydreams. So wear those outfits you thought were ‘too much’ for city life, pack a large sun hat, and get ready to explore the 13 best châteaux of the Loire Valley!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Mitoshka Alkova.
1. Château de Chambord
Address: Château, 41250 Chambord
Phone number: +33 2 54 50 40 00
This is where you can live your fairytale dream, wearing that vintage dress. Château of Chambord is easily the most spectacular chateaux of the Loire Valley. Built by Francois I when he was only 25, it exhibits the wealth of the French monarchy and its unprecedented power. The façade itself is 156 metres high with 282 chimneys that can’t be seen anywhere else. This symmetrical castle of French Renaissance style was built in 1519 and is now protected by UNESCO.
There’s a good reason it’s crowned one of the most stunning chateaux of the Loire Valley. And if the photo above doesn’t make that obvious, your first glimpse of it will. There’s an expansive tapestry collection here that you can use as a reason to take a tour of the interiors.
If the rooms look empty to you it’s because they were always this way. The court would move often and needed very little when in a paradise like this one. Look out for the window in Francois’ room where you’ll find engraved ‘Women are fickle; very stupid is he who trusts them.’. His adulterous endeavours must have not been as successful as he would have liked, hey?
The park surrounding the grounds is filled with wild boars, deer, bats, and other wildlife that you can meet on the walking trails. At 13,000 acres, it’s bigger than central Paris! Oh, this isn’t enough for you? How about a carriage that can take you around the park then? Do not miss this château – if you can only visit one this is it.
2. Château de Sully-sur-Loire
Address: Chemin de la Salle Verte, 45600 Sully-sur-Loire
Phone number: +33 2 38 36 36 86
This medieval fortress was built in 1395 and offers an earlier take on Renaissance architecture. With two floors to explore and multiple towers, a short visit here will give you a taste of what the chateaux of the Loire Valley have to offer. Set right on the Loire, the château is the perfect setting for a relaxing walk. Have your camera at the ready so you can make the most of the photo opportunity of the high towers in the water reflection!
You’ll find art, sculpture and tapestries inside in rooms that have gone through constant renovation since the château’s construction. Don’t miss the tour here as it will make you appreciate even the smallest details of a room that would otherwise be missed.
I recommend taking a tour of each of the Loire châteaux as each houses its own little piece of history. There’s a wonderful music festival that takes place here so check the website before you plan your visit to see if you’re in luck.
3. Château de Cheverny
Address: 41700 Cheverny
Phone number: +33 2 54 79 96 29
This classical style château is symmetrical and simple but is considered one of the best-furnished chateaux of the Loire Valley. This makes it the perfect place to learn about the history of French furniture. Look out for the chairs, bookcases and exquisite walls! From the golden decoration on the ceiling to the matching wallpaper and curtains, this slightly smaller château really knows how to present itself.
As it has remained in the hands of the same family for six centuries, no work has been done to restore or modify it. Everything you see is the original design, from the ceilings to the façade. You’ll notice an exhibit of The Adventures of Tintin here, so don’t be confused! Herge, the cartoonist of Tintin, was inspired heavily by this château, so if you’re also a budding artist bring a notepad and paper!
4. Château de Chaumont
Address: 41150 Chaumont-sur-Loire
Phone number: +33 2 54 20 99 22
Not to be confused with the one we discussed above, Château de Chaumont is one of the oldest chateaux of the Loire Valley. It was built in 933 but it may look more contemporary to you, especially if you’ve visited a few châteaux before this one. This is because it was burned to the ground by Louis Xl and rebuilt in the 15th century.
For years it belonged to the Princesse de Broglie who was orphaned at fourteen and inherited the fortune to allow for her lavished parties and high standards. Her vision was so clear, that she even relocated nearby houses and churches as they didn’t fit her garden plan. Female power at its height!
The château was decorated in the Renaissance style with heavy influence taken from the sculpture. Take a tour here and learn more about the medallions crafted by none other than Jean-Baptise Nini! The grounds are also gorgeous to explore in the summer with chestnut trees and flower displays. There’s even a notable International Garden Festival that takes place here each year.
5. Château de Chenonceau
Address: 37150 Chenonceaux
Phone number: +33 820 20 90 90
Château de Chenonceau is my favourite of all the châteaux of the Loire Valley, mostly thanks to its surreal floating garden and Cindarella feel. The tasteful mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture towers over the Cher River which is worth seeing from a distance as well as from closer-up.
The Diane de Poitiers garden is a floating parterre which is a significant design feature of the Renaissance, and best seen here. Expect geometric design and unbelievable symmetry that take you through interconnected paths. Perfect for a daydream stroll! The other garden, that of Catherine de Medicis, is also on a platform that integrates lavender, roses and the magnificent west facade of the chateau.
Romance and class also inhabit this château, even if lavished balls are no longer held here. The flower garden covers more than a hectare. Here you’ll find hundreds of different examples of gorgeous flowers which are all used in the flower arrangements of the château. These include a collection of more than 400 roses!
If this wasn’t enough to persuade you to visit this magical place, how about the fact it’s a symbol of female power? The succession of women who built, protected, and restored the château make it truly unique and dreamlike. You’ll feel the feminine touch of this place from the start of your visit and see the signs of women’s power in its masterpieces.
6. Château d’Amboise
Address: Montée de l’Emir Abd el Kader, 37400 Amboise
Phone number: +33 2 47 57 00 98
A UNESCO site and French historic monument, Château d’Amboise has been visited by many royal and important historical figures including Leonardo Da Vinci whose tomb is preserved there. Must be worth it then, right? It certainly is, trust me. Aside from the abundance of Gothic carvings decorating the interior, it’s the balconies that are worth a long viewing here. Stand on the balcony and breathe. It’s an experience that will stay with you forever.
The Loire views are some of the most spectacular here, so if you have the chance, cross the river to see Amboise reflecting in the water. Bring a picnic and enjoy it here while soaking up the view! There’s a guided tour I can recommend and also a behind the scenes tour available that takes you to some of the otherwise restricted areas. However, this is a little pricier so consider well.
7. Château de Villandry
Address: 3 Rue Principale, 37510 Villandry
Phone number: +33 2 47 50 02 09
Situated on the banks of the Loire, this country house might seem humbler than some of the other royal gems. But don’t be mistaken because the gardens here really are unmatched. Wander here for hours in the French summer sun to enjoy the ornamental garden, moat garden, kitchen garden, pavilion harden… I could go on, but I’ll leave some for you to discover too.
Their geometric arrangement is typical of the French style and looks like a puzzle when seen from the château window. The difference to typical English gardens is that ours are wild and left to nature as a design choice. Not here though! The French believe something as beautiful as a garden has to be ruled over, ordered and designed down to the last detail.
An exciting part of the estate is the organic garden where you can learn about natural growing methods that don’t use pesticides and try to keep the soil healthy. Although you visit this chateau for its gardens, make sure you also check out the interior with its multiple salons and walls decorated in art.
8. Château de Chinon
Address: 2 Rue du Château, 37500 Chinon
Phone number: +33 2 47 93 13 45
This medieval fortress is striking at first glance and unlike anything along the River Vienne. Under UNESCO’s protection, it has been well preserved to also include an array of artefacts like knights’ armour and shields. Perfect to get you into the medieval mood! The newly restored Royal Quarters also house multiple exhibits throughout the year. One transports you back in time with a 3D model reconstruction, scale models and archaeological collections from the grounds. The other is dedicated to Joan of Arc who visited the fortress. Here you’ll find original artefacts like bronze statues and pottery from the 18th-20th century.
If all the above sounds like too much history for you to digest, don’t fret! They also offer an interactive, 360-degree iPad tour. You can see through walls, watch archers prepare for battle, and interact with the space in a fun and educational way. For a more tangible experience visit the myths and legends room for a live performance of Chinon’s history. (However, this is an extra fee to consider.)
Bottom line is that this narrow towering medieval fortress (400m high!) is steeped in history, but also makes for an exciting immersive experience. To prove this further I’ll leave you with these two words: Escape Room.
9. Château de Blois
Address: 6 Place du Château, 41000 Blois
After exploring multiple locations amid expansive fields of green, this château is a welcome break as it’s right in the middle of the city of Blois. Many additions to the 1608 original make it a very curious place for any budding historians or architects. The interesting part about the exterior is that it displays four different architectural styles from the 14th to the 17th century. Each marks the rule of each new king and queen who resided here.
The castle was designated a historic monument in France and from the moment you enter the chateau you’ll understand why. An extravagant collection of art has accumulated over the years, thanks to the seven kings and ten queens who lived here. You’ll find more than 35,000 artworks here including heavy tapestries and a hall dedicated to Gothic sculpture.
Even if in the middle of a city, you’ll still find a rose garden just outside the grounds. You can also visit Saint Nicolas’ Church in Blois which is an emblem of the medieval time when Romanesque art slowly gave way to the Gothic style. If you’re chasing a view (considering you’ve feasted your eyes on the château itself) climb the highest tower to enjoy views of the Loire River. Even just this climb will feel like you’re in a Disney film. I highly recommend visiting between April and September to attend the Sound & Light show which lights up and explores the history of the grounds.
10. Château de Valençay
Address: 2 Rue de Blois, 36600 Valençay
Phone number: +33 2 54 00 10 66
This chateaux exhibits architecture from over three centuries and combines those styles in a beautifully harmonious way. From the stonework to the chandelles, a visit to Valencay is a visit to one of the most elegant chateaux of the Loire Valley. The d’Estampes family is responsible for the lavished inside and expansive gardens here. As a way to show their wealth, you’ll find every piece of furniture and carpet hold significant cultural and financial weight.
You’ll also find pieces from all over the world that they collected during their travels. The cellar here is worth a visit as it has tried to introduce more modern styles that you’ll be able to recognise if you’ve visited a few chateaux of the Loire Valley already.
The gardens and courtyard have been beautifully designed and are lovely in the summer months. But there are other more impressive garden displays along the Loire you can enjoy. Still, the park covers 53 hectares and is designed in the First French Empire style which is why it feels different. This is a great one to visit if you want to experience the elegance and tasteful architecture non-royal money can buy!
11. Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Address: Rue de Pineau, 37190 Azay-le-Rideau
Phone number: +33 2 47 45 42 04
There are two châteaux at Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, the one in the Indre river and the one above it. The whole structure magically ascends from the water and seems like something from a storybook. Surely, such a place doesn’t actually exist?
Blending French architectural style with the Italian art of the time, the facade is really unique. In fact, it actually exhibits the Renaissance style in one of the most majestic ways along the Loire. The inside is just as fascinating to explore, especially as it has just undergone a mass restoration of which you can find out more on the tour. Take a stroll along the eight-hectare park and glimpse d’Azay-le-Rideau from afar to really appreciate its structure. It really is dreamlike and a very romantic place to visit in the French summer.
12. Château de Brézé
Address: Bellevigne-les-Chateaux, 20 Rue de l’Amiral Maillé Brézé, 49260
Phone number: +33 2 41 51 60 15
It took from the 11th century to the 19th to build this castle. However, this won’t come as a surprise once you’ve seen the mixture of medieval and Renaissance style architecture on display. The most intriguing part of this castle is the underground fortress and web of tunnels that take you through the turbulent history of this and many other châteaux of the Loire Valley. It wasn’t all parties and extravagance during this time!
The dry moats here are also among the deepest in Europe. Not only that, but the 16th-century wine presses here are still functional and the largest in the west of France. To finish up the facts about Brézé, it also houses the largest underground bakery! Now, how’s that for a list of reasons to visit?
You have the opportunity to see the draw bridge and underground tunnels on the great tours they run here. You’ll also get to spend some time above ground exploring the long halls and creaking floorboards.
13. Château de Loches
Address: 5 Place Charles VII, 37600 Loches
Phone number: +33 2 47 19 18 08
Château de Loches, or the Royal City of Loches, is one of the most impressive examples of French military architecture you can see. The moment you see the sheer magnitude of the structure you can’t help but feel its history and be transported back in time. The building of this monument began in 1000AD when the 36-meter high keep was built. And it’s only expanded since then! Its history covers periods of imprisonment, battles, marriages, and the residency of kings that you can find out more about when you visit.
Left behind from its time as a prison, there’s a whole section where you can see prison art left behind from those locked behind its stones. It’s quite haunting to experience but the frescos on the walls left by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, are fascinating to experience. There are also gardens, wine-tasting and other seasonal activities to explore here so make sure you dedicate a whole day.
So there you have it: the 13 best chateaux of the Loire Valley that you need to visit. Which of these chateaux of the Loire Valley do you most want to visit? Please let me know in the comments below!
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