10 Stunning Loire Valley Châteaux to Visit


 

Smack dab in the middle of France, the lush and verdant Loire valley is one region you should visit. Rich in history, cuisine and wine, the Loire is dotted with prize-winning wineries and dozens of stunning châteaux, or ancient castles.

The Loire is just a two hour drive from Paris, and even quicker by train, making it a popular day trip. As there are dozens of castles in the Loire Valley, it’s tough to choose if you haven’t been before. In case you’re feeling indecisive, I’ve narrowed down the 10 most stunning Loire Valley châteaux to visit in this article.

1. Château de Chenonceau

Photo courtesy of Château de Chenonceau – Sourced from their official Instagram

The stunning Château de Chenonceau is one of the more famous Loire Valley Châteaux to visit, and is one of the only ones actually built on the riverbed. Besides Versailles, Chenonceau is the most visited Château in France!

The property at Chenonceau dates back to the 11th century, when it was a popular hunting ground. The current castle was constructed in the 1500s, and features an eclectic mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Two women, Catherine de Medicis and Diane de Poitiers were actually at the helm of this place.  And their different styles can be seen across the castle’s interior and gardens!

2. Château de Chinon

Château de Chinon by Franck Badaire on Wikimedia Commons

Situated in the middle of the Loire, the Château de Chinon overlooks the Vienne river just in front. This castle was built in the 10th century, and was actually a former fortress. The impressive walls have actually housed French and English royals over the years. During the 1100s, King Henry II of England took up residence there.

In the years following, Château de Chinon fell into disrepair. Luckily, in 1840 the French government declared it a historic monument. The castle was restored to the tune of €15 million in the early 2000s and is now one of the most popular Loire Valley châteaux to visit.

3. Château de Clos Lucé

Château de Clos Lucé – Photo courtesy of Cerdwen on Wikimedia Commons

This Château de Clos Lucé is actually one of the lesser known châteaux in the Loire Valley. The large castle was one of the many former summer homes for French royals looking to escape regular palace life.  Set in the center of Amboise, the grounds extend into the lush forest surrounding and there’s actually an underground passageway connecting it to the Chaêtau d’Amboise.

The castle was built in 1471 and was formerly a Manor house, before its famous owners that is. King Henry VIII called the Clos-Lucé home for several years, and eventually Leonardo da Vinci was a Château resident. After being invited to work in France by Francis I, da Vinci moved into the castle actually spent his last years in this place.

4. Château d’Amboise

Château d’Amboise courtesy of Владимир Шеляпин on Wikimedia Commons

While much better known, the Château d’Amboise is located within walking distance of the Clos-Lucé in Amboise. The picturesque castle overlooks the Loire river below, and is known to be one of the most beautiful in the region! French royalty called this place home for decades. Perhaps most notably, King Henry II and Catherine de Medici raised their children here, including Mary Queen of Scots.

And actually, today the Château d’Amboise is one of the most visited of the region, because it coincides with the Loire wine route.

5. Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry courtesy of Jean Christophe Benoist on Wikimedia Commons

Well, this stunning  Loire Valley Château actually draws more visitors to its gardens than the castle itself. The Château de Villandry is known for its immaculate grounds and Renaissance gardens. In the early 1900s, the Cavallo family purchased the castle and grounds, and spent decades and millions restoring it.

Thanks to them, today the Château and grounds are in impeccable condition. You’ll be able to tour vineyards, orchards, vegetable gardens, and rose gardens. There’s even a reflection pool garden. If you’re looking for some outdoor inspiration this is the Château to visit.

6. Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord courtesy of Elementerre on WIkimedia Commons

Besides being one of the more famous and recognizable castles in the Loire, Château de Chambord is also the largest! The architecture features a blend of distinct Medieval touches (like the turrets and walled courtyard) as well as classic Renaissance style. It’s actually here that that famous raspberry liquer, Chambord was said to have been created by Louis XIV.

The building itself dates back to 1519 and was designed as a hunting lodge for Francis I. The castle was worked on for 28 years, but actually never completed. And it’s stayed that way today, although it looks pretty good to me! Nowadays, Château de Chambord receives an impressive 750,000 annual visitors.

7. Château de Blois

Château de Blois by Tango on Wikimedia Commons

Another representation of blended architecture styles, Château de Blois highlights the union of Renaissance and Gothic architecture. The castle is impressive in style and size, with 564 rooms it was certainly fit for a king.

And unlike many others in the region, this Château actually served as a royal residence for decades. Francois I, Henry III, and Henry IV all called Château de Blois home over the years. And this is where Joan of Arc went to be blessed by the Archbishop, before taking off on her deadly mission.

8. Château de Loches

Château de Loches courtesy of Lieven Smits on Wikimedia Commons

This one might just be the hidden gem of the group, Château de Loches is one of the lesser known of the stunning châteaux in the Loire Valley. Situated on a hilltop in the town of Loches, the Château de Loches certainly has a strategic location.

Dating back to the 9th century, Loches was used as a military fortress for centuries, and saw its fair share of battles. The castle was severely ransacked during the French Revolution, leaving much of it in ruin or disrepair.

In the early 20th century, the Château de Loches was recognized as a historical monument, and was transformed into a museum in 1985. Today, the museum is open to the public and actually hosts the largest collection of medieval armor in France!

9. Château de Sully-sur-Loire

Château de Sully-sur-Loire – Photo courtesy of Sully-sur-Loire sourced from their official website

Talk about stunning Loire Valley Châteaux, and it would be a crime not to mention the gorgeous Château Sully-sur-Loire. This is the only other Loire Valley castle actually built on the Loire River. Sully-sur-Loire was originally constructed in the 11th century on one of the naturally-occurring islands in the river. This seemingly odd location provided extra protection in terms of a natural moat.

Over the years, various nobles and royals used the castle, Joan of Arc and the King were actually entertained there on several occasions. Today, much of the castle itself has been restored, though the surrounding 25 hectares of grounds are mostly overgrown. This is a great castle to visit if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path (and not crowded!).

10. Château de Cheverny

Château de Cheverny- photo courtesy of Christophe Finot on Wikimedia Commons

Another of the lesser-known castles in the Loire region, Cheverny is certainly worth a detour. Constructed in the 1200s, the Château was another royal hunting ground for many decades. Charming and stately, this castle has a complicated history and passed through dozens of hands over the years. Despite changing hands so many times the château de Cheverny is well-preserved.

Today it is best known for its gorgeous interiors and collection of antique furniture and artworks which are on display for visitors. And if you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of one of the seventy something hunting dogs still kept on the grounds.

Fun fact: the Château de Cheverny actually inspired the fictional Château de Moulinsart in the hit comic series The Adventures of Tintin.

Well, now you have a guide to the 10 stunning Loire Valley château to visit. The Loire is an easy day trip from Paris, so I hope you’ll get the chance to discover them all.

 

See you soon in France!