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  • Joanne Herd

The Best Loire Valley Castles to Visit on Your Next Trip to France

Updated December 6, 2023

If you’re a castle lover (and really, who isn’t?) there’s one place you won’t want to miss on your next trip to France.

The Loire Valley!

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited regions of France, and for good reason. It’s home to some of the most historically significant and architecturally stunning castles, or châteaux as they’re called in French, in the entire country.

With over 300 castles, dozens of which are open for the public to visit, the hardest thing about planning a trip to France will be deciding which Loire Valley castles to visit!

To help you make those decisions, here’s my list of the 7 best Loire Valley castles to visit on your next trip to France.

Château de Chambord - The “must visit” Loire Valley Castle

Bright pink flowers in the foreground stand out against the three story white walls of the Chateau de Chambord, the crowning jewel of Loire Valley castles. A straight path beyond the flowers leads to the castle. There are two wings of rooms extending from the central, turreted section of the chateau. The roofline is a beautiful chaos of small white turrets, dormer windows, and chimneys contrasting with the blue-grey slate roof.

If you only have time to visit one Loire castle, Château de Chambord should be the one you visit. This is the one you’ve seen the most in pictures of the Loire Valley, and the one that probably comes to mind first when you’re picturing a historic French chateau.

Constructed under the rule of King François I, this castle wasn't just a home; it was a statement of power and architectural ingenuity. Chambord Castle the largest château in the Loire Valley, and its fame has crossed borders and centuries.

Located in a vast forest, Chambord sits almost like a mirage on the horizon. Its many spires, windows, and chimneys create a silhouette that you won't forget. The sheer grandeur makes it a must-see when planning a trip to France.

Inside the Château, the most important architectural feature is its double helix staircase. This staircase, rumored but not proven to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, allows people to walk up and down without meeting.

The Château is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, perfectly blending history, artistry, and a touch of architectural whimsy.

There’s much more than just the Château to see on your visit. With acres of formal gardens to admire, stables where you can be entertained with period horse and falconry shows, and forest paths and a nature reserve to explore, it’s easy to spend a day (or more) at Chambord.


Château de Chenonceau

The Chateau de Chenonceau can be seen spanning the river. The bottom is arched like a bridge, with the castle over the top. The turrets and, slate roof, and three-story white castle are reflected in the water below. The sky is blue, with a few small white clouds.

Often referred to as the “Ladies’ Castle,” the Château de Chenonceau has had many strong female stewards throughout its history. The most notable were Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici, who contributed greatly to its beauty and historical significance.

One of the most stunning features of the Chenonceau Castle is where it’s constructed, spanning the Cher River. WWII the river served as the border of Nazi-occupied France, and the gallery that spans the river was used as an escape route for many escaping Nazi persecution.

Outside the castle the views are beautiful, with the Château reflected in the river below. Equally lovely are the immaculately maintained French Renaissance gardens, just waiting to be explored.


Château d'Amboise

A view of Amboise from across the river. Flowers are in the foreground, with the Loire River and town beyond. The Chateau dAmboise sits at the crown of the hill overlooking the town and river.

Overlooking the charming town of Amboise, the Château d'Amboise serves as an enduring symbol of the union between the French crown and the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci himself was invited here by King Francis I and is buried in the castle's chapel.

Perched atop the hill and overlooking the town below, the castle offers panoramic views of the Loire River and the town. This lofty position amplifies the natural beauty of the Château, with its blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

But what truly elevates the significance of the Château dAmboise is the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci, who is buried in the chapel. This has made the Château a place of pilgrimage for art and history lovers for centuries.

In the Château d’Amboise, beauty, history, and the spirit of discovery blend together in a beautiful harmony.


Château de Villandry

A view of the gardens and chateau at Villandry in the Loire Valley. The chateau sits against a hill, with gardens in front. The gardens are extensive, filled with sculpted. hedges, pathways and trees in classic French garden style.

If you want to see how seriously the French take their gardens, Château de Villandry is the place to go. It’s the last of the great Renaissance châteaux to be built on the banks of the Loire River, and its gardens are nothing short of a masterpiece.

While the castle itself is a fine example of Renaissance avant-garde architecture, it's the gardens that steal the show. They're planned with mathematical precision and are a study in geometry, divided into sections like the Kitchen Garden, Ornamental Garden, and the Water Garden.

Each section of the garden has its own unique charm, whether it’s the vibrant blooms of the ornamental garden or the serene ripples in the water garden.


Château de Blois

An arial view of the Chateu de Blois, a royal Loire Valley castle. The chateau sits in the center of town, with a river along the left side of the photo. From the high angel you can see all four sides of the building and the large central courtyard.

The Château de Blois is not just one castle; it's four castles in one, each representing a different architectural style—Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance, and Classical. This royal castle has been the residence of seven kings and ten queens, which means this former royal residence holds countless stories and secrets within its walls.

Situated in the heart of the city, Château de Blois offers a tapestry of architectural styles, each more fascinating than the last. Whether it's the intricate carvings of the Gothic wing or the elegant symmetry of the Classical wing, there's plenty to hold your attention.


Château de Cheverny

The Chateau de Cheverny can be seen across a green lawn, with a blue sky and puffy clouds above. The chateau is white stone, three stories tall, with a grey slate roof. Dormer windows on the 4th floor give it a classic French appearance.

If you're a fan of the Tintin comics, you might recognize Château de Cheverny as the inspiration for Marlinspike Hall. But even if you're not, the castle stands as a stunning example of early 17th-century architecture.

The castle is incredibly well-preserved, allowing visitors to experience what aristocratic life was like in the 17th century. It still has its original furniture, and the owners have gone to great lengths to maintain its authentic feel.

Take time to explore the six beautiful themed gardens. In April the Tulip Garden, with its 50,000 bulbs, puts on a fantastic display of color. Children and adults will enjoy finding their way through the bay tree maze, and the kitchen garden is sure to be a favorite with its variety of edible plants and flowers.

You can also visit the kennels, which are home to more than a hundred adorable dogs. These tri-colored dogs are a cross between English Fox hounds and French Poitevins. Each year names for the year’s puppies are suggested by the public, and must start with a specific letter of the alphabet. This year’s names start with U, can you come up with a good name?


Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

The Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau. The small, turreted castle is situated on a islet extending into the water. The sky is blue, and a flowering cherry tree is in the foreground framing the castle. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, and it's easy to see why it's one of the best Loire Valley castles to visit.

Described as a "diamond set in the Indre River," the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is an absolute gem. Built during the reign of King Francois I, it's a sublime example of early French Renaissance architecture.

The Château is built on an islet in the Indre River, a unique feature that creates “water mirrors” with fantastic reflections of the castle. Take some time to wander the paths through the parkland surrounding the Château to admire it from all angles.

Its compact size and idyllic setting make it one of the most romantic châteaux in the Loire Valley. If you’re looking for photo ops that scream “quintessentially French,” this is where you’ll find them.


The bottom line


From the awe-inspiring Château de Chambord to the romantic Château de Azay-le-Rideau, these Loire Valley Chateaux offer a perfect blend of beauty, architecture and history that will make your trip to France unforgettable.

It’s time to start planning your trip to the Loire Valley, where you can immerse yourself in the magic of these magnificent treasures!

If you enjoyed this post, check out our other France travel blog posts here.

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