From Angers to Orléans stretches one of the richest regions in France in terms of heritage. Almost everywhere following the course of the Loire, splendid castles dot the countryside, which in itself would be worth the trip: villages, beautiful churches, famous vineyards, and verdant landscapes give an additional dimension to visiting the Loire Valley castles.
What are the main chateaux of Loire?
Only a few hours’ drive from the capital, a visit to the Loire Valley castles promises to be rich in history and culture. Vestiges of the Renaissance, each castle has features that make it unique and unmissable:
• Amboise Castle – the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb
• Villandry Castle – famous for its gorgeous gardens and Renaissance architecture
• Tours Castle – once the seat of French lords, the Chateau de Tours now houses contemporary art exhibitions
• Chenonceau Castle – Chenonceau is known as the Ladies’ Castle as its upkeep and construction were overseen by six women. The bridge and formal gardens set Chenonceau apart from other castles in France.
• Chambord Castle, with its 426 rooms and a forest park the size of Paris
• Angers Castle – as well as being a massive medieval citadel, the city of Angers is well worth visiting medieval half-timbered houses and the Apocalypse tapestry – the world’s oldest and largest medieval tapestry.
• Blois Castle – Blois is one of the most important castles in terms of historical significance. The castle was home to several French kings and was also the location where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before she drove the English from Orléans during the Hundred Years War. The castle’s rich history is effectively showcased in sound and light shows.
If you don’t want to drive, you can choose to discover the castles of the Loire by booking a one-day guided bus tour departing from Paris or buying a ticket to visit one of the castles.
Heritage and gastronomy in the Loire Valley
The entire Loire Valley is classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
The Loire Valley attracts several million visitors every year. Birthplace of the Renaissance, the history of historical figures can be read in the castles of this tourist region.
Best time to visit
In high season, the crowds are higher at the Loire castles. Weekdays are the best time to visit to avoid crowds. By organizing your excursion in the shoulder seasons and outside school holidays, you can avoid queues while enjoying a mild climate in spring and autumn.
Count at least 2h30 a visit per castle. Then, if you have more time, choose the sites that are most important to you and allow yourself more time on the gardens and the exhibitions available on site. These architectural gems deserve a whole day, especially if you want to enjoy a walk in the gardens or along the Cher.
The entire Loire region is filled with interesting excusrions but the medieval village of Beaugency on your way to the heart of the Val-de-Loire is definitely worth a stop. It deserves its tourist label of “the most beautiful detours in France” with an admirably preserved historic centre of quaint old houses, century-old cobblestones and its 12th-century bridge with 23 arches. Do not hesitate to discover the cellars of the Loire Valley and the restaurants, which will make you discover the gastronomic riches of the region. Castles, restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, your trip to the Loire promises to be memorable for all the right reasons.