Everyone has heard of the castles in the Loire Valley France. But standing in their presence, immersing oneself in their history and elegance is an enchanting experience more magical than anticipated. Over the last couple of years, I have brought plenty of family to the Loire Valley and, they have all been blown away by the beauty and charm that this region, and the famous castles in particular, have to offer.
The Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located along the Loire River, the longest river in the country. Not only is this region of France renowned for its stunning châteaux but also for its small towns, exceptional wine and delicious fresh cuisine. The 559 miles (900 km) of bike trails through the Loire Valley is another big draw for visitors and locals alike.
Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates beauty, the castles in the Loire Valley are sure to captivate you.
FAQ’s Castles In The Loire Valley France
What is the most visited castle in the Loire Valley?
The Château de Chambord is the most visited castle in the Loire Valley. This French Renaissance castle, built in 1519, is the largest and most impressive of all the castles in the Loire Valley France.
How many days are needed to visit the castles in the Loire Valley?
The ideal time to spend visiting the castles in the Loire Valley is three days. But you can get a taste of the Loire Valley and the magnificent castles on a day trip from Paris. There are close to 300 Loire Valley castles to visit so choose in advance the castles you would most like to see. Do not plan to see more than 2 or 3 per day. Enjoy the villages and the French countryside, and most importantly take your time.
When is the best time of year to visit the castles in the Loire Valley France?
The best time of year to visit the castles in the Loire Valley France is in the spring or the fall. High season sees tons of visitors so for a more enjoyable visit, plan for the shoulder season. During the winter there are fewer visitors but the gardens are not as beautiful as the rest of the year.
Where Is The Loire Valley Located In France?
The beautiful Loire Valley is nestled amidst the picturesque countryside of central France. Located just a stone’s throw away from Paris, the Loire Valley spans approximately 174 miles (280 kilometres) along the serene banks of the Loire River.
Driving Distances From Paris: Paris to the Château de Chambord: 2 hours; Paris to the Château de Chenonceau: 3 hours
10 Stunning Castles In The Loire Valley France
1. Château de Chambord
Of all the castles in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord is not to be missed. The largest château in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord’s sheer grandeur is immediately impressive. It’s hard to believe it started its days as a hunting lodge for King François I. Towers, long hallways, soaring turrets and a collection of chimney stacks all contribute to the charm and grace of this Renaissance castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is a lot to take in at the Château de Chambord from its magnificent terrace with 282 chimney stacks, the French gardens, the 60 rooms open to the public, the decorative salamander symbol of King Francois I, and the exhibition recounting the story of how the Mona Lisa, along with other masterpieces, was hidden there during the Second World War.
The Château de Chambord is a place to wander. To get lost a little. To discover the forest of chimneys, the terraces and one after another covered loggia. It’s a castle where one’s imagination can be sparked from the double-helix staircase to the immense castle grounds.
Take your time at this magnificent castle in France’s Loire Valley.
Practical Information For The Chateau de Chambord
Open in 2024: Every day of the year except January 1st, November 25th, and December 25th.
Entry Rates 2024: 16¢/adult
2. Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau is one of the most magical castles in the Loire Valley France. Spanning the Cher River, its elegant arches are reflected in the water below. Known as the “Ladies Castle,” Chenonceau has always been owned by women. Even today, one can sense an elegant and female energy in the castle.
Two famous women who at one point owned this castle in the Loire Valley France were Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Diane de Poitiers, King Henry II’s mistress, was gifted the château by the King and added the five-arched bridge over the River Cher.
After the death of her husband King Henri II, Catherine de Médici claimed the castle from Diane de Poitiers. Catherine de Medici added the stunning gallery over the arches. It’s easy to imagine lavish balls in the long hall and dancers on the black and white tiled floor.
Give yourself at least two hours at this castle in the Loire Valley France. Enjoy the magnificent gardens, the maze, and views of the castle over the River Cher. Afterwards, why not partake in a wine tasting at the chateau’s Dome Wine Cellar?
Practical Information For The Chateau de Chenonceau
Open in 2024: Every day of the year
Entry Rates 2024: 17¢/adult; 14€/over 60.
3. Château Royal d’Amboise
Nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley, the town of Amboise has an idyllic setting along the Loire River. Its castle, the Château Royal d’Amboise, is in a strategic location perched above the Loire River.
The Château Royal d’Amboise boasts a rich history intertwined with the French monarchy. The chateau became a royal residence under King Charles VIII and continued to play an important role in French history during the reign of King François I. It was during his reign and by his invitation that Leonardo da Vinci came to live in the nearby Chateau du Clos Lucé. Leonardo da Vinci’s remains are buried in the Saint-Hubert chapel of the Château Royal d’Amboise. (Note in 2024 the Saint-Hubert Chapel is still undergoing renovations so access to the interior is not available)
Give yourself ample time to visit the Château d’Amboise with its grand rooms and tapestries, to amble through the castle grounds, and to stroll the ramparts, and marvel at the spectacular views over the Loire River.
Practical Information For The Château Royal d’Amboise
Open in 2024: Open all year except December 25th and January 1st
Entry Rates 2024: 16.40€
4. Château du Clos Lucé
King Francis I was an admirer of Leonardo da Vinci’s work and eager to have him come to France to serve as the “first painter, engineer, and architect” to the king. In 1516, the Italian artist and inventor was at the height of his fame, having already created masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Amboise in 1516 and was given the Clos Lucé manor house to live in. He lived in the Château du Clos Lucé the final three years of his life until his death on May 2, 1519.
Visitors to the 15th-century Clos Lucé Château will be immersed in the Renaissance period and, in the world of the renowned artist, inventor, and scientist.
Visit Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop and the bedroom where he breathed his last breath. Wander through the park, an open-air museum, with translucent canvasses and giant interactive models built according to Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches.
Practical Information For The Chateau du Clos Luce
Open in 2024: All year except December 25th and January 1st
Entry Rates 2024: 18.00€
5. Château d’Azay le Rideau
One of the most beautiful castles in the Loire Valley France is the timeless beauty, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. Its elegant Renaissance design with its intricate stone carvings and graceful turrets reflected in the Indre River makes the Château d’Azay le Rideau one of the famous castles of the Loire Valley that I return to over and over again.
I first saw this castle in France’s Loire Valley in 1980. Upon my return, several times now, I am struck each time by this fairytale-like castle. The Marquis de Biencourt bought the castle in the late 1700s and this Loire Valley castle stayed in the family for over one hundred years. The Biencourt family had an incredible collection of works of art, mostly historical portraits of famous French people. At the end of the Biencourt family ownership, only 52 paintings remained which can be now seen in the musée Condé at the Château of Chantilly.
Give yourself at least two hours at the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau to admire its reflections in the water, explore the magnificent rooms, and wander through the extensive gardens.
Practical Information for Azay-le-Rideau
Open in 2024: All year except January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
Entry Rate 2024: 13.00€ per adult
Audio guides are available in French, English, Spanish, German and Italian for €3.
6. Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, is magical, like stepping straight into a fairytale. Just walk across the drawbridge and you’ll see what I mean!
The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire is set in a bucolic paradise with beautiful gardens and towering cedar trees. The cedar trees frame the castle, the turrets stretch skyward and the view over the River Loire is breathtaking.
Both Catherine de Medicis and Diane de Poitiers spent time at Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire before it passed into the hands of the de Broglie family. The de Broglie family decorated the rooms elegantly and sumptuously in the French Renaissance style. After all, there would be parties at the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire for decades where entertaining illustrious guests from all over Europe was the norm. The de Broglie family owned the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire for 63 years until this beautiful Loire Valley castle was handed over to the French state in 1938.
Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire is one of my preferred castles in the Loire Valley France. I have made several special trips to Chaumont-sur-Loire to share this gorgeous French castle with family and friends.
Practical Information for Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
Open in 2024: All year except January 1st and December 25th.
Entry Rates 2024: Low Season from January to April 23, 2024: 15.00€ per adult; High Season from April 24 to November 3, 2024: 20.00€ per adult; Audio guides are available in French, English, Spanish, German and Italian for €3.
7. Château de Villandry
Of all the castles in the Loire Valley, my favourite gardens are at the Château de Villandry. They are simply outstanding. The ornamental gardens which have existed at the Château de Villandry since the Renaissance are a pure delight. Look for the gardens symbolizing the four states of love: Tender Love, Passionate Love, Fickle Love, and Tragic Love. Oh, how very French! These gardens are planted with tulips in the spring and begonias in the summer.
The vegetable garden is full of fruit trees and vegetables and the herb garden is bursting with aromatic herbs for both medicinal and gastronomic use. The tranquil water garden by the Linden trees is organised around a pond that is in the shape of Louis VX’s mirror. Is this not also in true French flair? Linger for a while and watch the swans.
As with all the castles in the Loire Valley France, the Château de Villandry has a rich history. The 12th-century tower, still visible today, announces its beginnings as a medieval fortress. Henri II, the first Plantagenet King of England was here in 1189 and several centuries later, Napoléon Bonaparte’s youngest brother Jérôme was the owner. In the early 20th century, Villandry passed into the hands of the Carvallo family who 118 years later are still the current owners.
Practical Information For The Château de Villandry:
Open in 2024: The Château is open from February 10, 2024, to November 11, 2024; December 7, 2024 to January 5, 2025. The Gardens are open daily all year.
Entry Rates 2024: Château and Gardens 13.00€; Gardens 8.00€
Note: Tickets purchased in advance are not skip-the-line tickets.
8. Château d’ Ussé
Visiting the Château d’Ussé is like a dream. Or a fairytale. It is this beautiful castle in the Loire Valley that inspired Charles Perrault to write the fairytale, “Sleeping Beauty.” Known in French as “La Belle au bois dormant” or “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood,” one can well imagine how the French writer was inspired when he saw this magnificent castle. Follow the path through the castle where the story is visually retold scene by scene.
The castle itself has a female elegance to it, reminiscent of the Château de Chenonceau. Perhaps it is simply the grand floral arrangements that give the Château d’Ussé that lived-in feel. Upon asking the question, I am told that the current owners live in one wing of the castle and are very involved in making the castle welcoming.
Practical Information For The Château d’Ussé
Open in 2024: Open daily from February 11, 2024, to November 11, 2024.
Entry Rates 2024: 14.50€
9. Château de Brissac
With its seven stories, the Château de Brissac is the tallest château in France. Crane your neck to see the windows and turrets soaring skyward. Which room will you choose?!
Another remarkable thing about visiting the Château de Brissac is that this castle in the Loire Valley has been in the same family for more than 520 years. There was an interruption during the French Revolution (1789 to 1799) when the property was plundered and ransacked. The château, in a terrible state and empty, was returned to the Brissac family after the revolution.
In 1844, the restoration of the Château de Brissac began. Still to this day, the Château de Brissac is privately owned by a member of the Cossé-Brissac family, one of the oldest families in France.
Practical Information For The Château de Brissac
Open in 2024:
July and August: Daily 10 am to 6 pm
September: Closed Tuesdays. 10 am to 1 pm; 2 pm to 6 pm
October 1 to November 12: Closed Tuesdays. 10:30 am to 1 pm; 2 pm to 5:30 pm
November 13 to March 17: Closed Tuesdays. Entry by guided tour only at 2 pm and 4 pm
March 18 to June 30: Closed Tuesdays. 10 am to 1 pm; 2 pm to 6 pm
Entry Rates 2024: 11€ and includes a visit to the château, an introduction to local wines, and access to the grounds. It is not necessary to reserve in advance.
10. Château de Saché
Some of the castles in the Loire Valley France are smaller and lesser-known but also of great interest. Ten minutes by car from the Château of Azay-le-Rideau is the Château de Saché, The Balzac Museum. Honoré de Balzac, one of the most influential French writers of the 19th century, spent a significant amount of time at the Château of Saché. This beautiful castle was a peaceful retreat for Balzac, allowing him to escape Paris and focus on his writing. It was at the Château of Saché that Balzac wrote some of his most famous works, including “Le Père Goriot” and “La Comédie Humaine.” The museum has over 2300 items such as manuscripts and prints. Balzac fans will be in heaven!
Practical Information For The Château de Saché
Open in 2024: April 1 to October 31: Open daily; November 1 to March 31: Closed Tuesdays
Entry Rates 2024: 6€
Fun Things To Do: Castles In The Loire Valley France
Light Shows At the Castles in the Loire Valley
Both the Château d’Amboise and the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau have a summer evening light show. Check their websites for up-to-date information for 2024.
Awesome Things To Do
Jazz en Touraine 2024: 13 September to 22 September 2024. Find out more. Montlouis-sur-Loire is a short 20-minute drive from Amboise.
Vignes Vin Randos: At the beginning of September there is a weekend festival celebrating winemaking in the Loire Valley. Take an organised hike through the vineyards of the Loire Valley.
I hope you enjoy visiting the castles in the Loire Valley France as much as I do.
Until next time,