It’s no secret that France boasts some of the most stunning castles in the world and for some reason they all congregate in  the Loire Valley. Just a few hours below Paris, the Loire Valley is rich with history and culture. Spending a few days here in the countryside is magical and unforgettable. There are many different kinds of castles to visit, from privately owned where you can spend the week, to larger more public châteaux. Each of the castles have stories to be discovered and are worth a few day trips.

Loire Valley, France Castle Guide

The valley is quite large so it is smart to have a central point to stay and to take trips from. Most of the top castles are within earshot of the cities of Tours and Blois. Staying in Tours is a great way to see most of the castles in just a few days or if you are feeling adventurous stay out in one of the small b&b’s in the countryside.  Renting a car allows more freedom to take your time, but a tour could suit you well for a little stress free day.

Since there are so many castles to see, these 5 are in my opinion the ones not to miss:

1) Château de Chambord

Why: This is the most visited castle in the entire Loire Valley with over 700,000 visitors a year. The largest and most iconic château, it is known for it’s French Renaissance architecture from the 16th century. One could spend a full day here and not see it all. P.s the gardens are to die for.

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2) Château d’Amboise

Why: It is mostly known because it is the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci. This stunning castle sits in the hill with many layers to its structure. This 15th century castle lies along the Loire River and stands as a center piece for the surrounding village. The stain glass windows in the on sight chapel are beautiful.

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3) Château de Chenonceau

Why: This is my personal favorite. This castle goes over a river and has channels of water going through its walls. The gardens are so immaculate and serve as the food to sustain the restaurant on property. The castle is rich with history and important for understanding the role of women during the Renaissance. It is the only castle to be built, decorated and saved by women. This castle is worth almost an entire day because you can wander the gardens, tour the castle, and have a great picnic.

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4) Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Why: Almost completely surrounded by water, the tulip lined entrance to this castle is breathtaking. The rooms are equally stunning with very dramatic furnishing and paintings. This is a great little town to stop in for lunch and walk the streets after as well. Set on the Indre River, the 12th century castle is one of the oldest to date.

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5) Château de Villandry

Why: It is hard to decide which is better, the gardens or the castle itself? I almost would go just for the gardens, but then again why pass up an opportunity to wander more amazing halls. The 14th century castle demands a photo from almost every angle and has perfectly groomed gardens. The castle is rich with history and one of the most visited castles in the valley as well.

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All of the castles are different in personality, make sure to time your trip as each castle has different opening times throughout the year (linked). It is great to go back in time and relive the rich history that lies in the Loire Valley. Put on some good walking shoes, grab a camera and Bon Voyage!

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Castles pictured are Château d’Azay-le-Rideau and Château de Chenonceau.

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