Best Loire Valley castles to visit, France

Loire Valley ©

The Châteaux of the Loire Valley were mostly built or renovated in the 15th and 16th centuries, during the Renaissance period when many kings of France used to live in the Loire Valley. Popular tourist sites and among the most visited in France, these must see French castles stand out for their rich history and unique architecture with white stone (called « tuffeau »). They’ve largely contributed to the classification of the Loire Valley as a Unesco World Heritage site.

If you’re planning a trip to Loire Valley and to visit its castles, you will find here a selection of the most beautiful & famous ones to visit during a day trip, a week-end or for a longer stay. You can go there either by car of by train. From Paris it takes around 1 hour by train to reach the city of Tours, 2 hours by train to reach the city of Blois (Cheverny and Chambord), Chenonceau, Amboise or Saumur, and around 3 hours to reach the city of Chinon.
With family or friends, this Loire Valley castles tour we suggest, will also allow you to discover another rich heritage of the Loire Valley: its vineyard.

Loire Valley chateaux map

Château de Chambord

Located in the city of Chambord, the Château of Chambord is the most imposing castle of the Loire Valley. Its origins date back to the 16th century: in 1519, the King of France, Francis 1st, requested its construction with the intention of using it as a hunting lodge. With a total of 426 rooms, the Château also has a very large park with a vast garden and a game reserve. Already listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Château de Chambord is the only royal estate that has remained intact since its creation. You will be seduced by its Renaissance architecture and history.

Château de Chambord ©

Château de Cheverny

The Château de Cheverny is located in Sologne, in the city of Cheverny. It was built between 1624 and 1634 by Jacques Bougier, one of the architects of the Château de Blois. The estate has always belonged to the Hurault, a backer’s family, and is today inhabited by their descendants: The Marquis and the Marquise of Vibraye. Surrounded by 100 hectares gardens, the Château de Cheverny was built in a classical style and has beautiful interiors with sumptuous furniture. Hergé, the famous comics author, was inspired by this property to create the Château de Moulinsart in Tintin.

Château de Cheverny ©

Château de Blois

If you want to have a good overview of the French architectural variety, the Château de Blois is the ideal place. Built from the 13th century, it offers a mix of architectural styles: from classical to medieval, from Gothic to Renaissance.
Located in the city of Blois, this property was the residence of the French Kings during the Renaissance. Today it houses the Fine Arts Museum of Blois and the Castle’s Museum.

View on the Château de Blois ©

Château d’Amboise

Located in the heart of the city of Amboise, the Château d’Amboise offers a magnificent view on the Loire Valley. From its many gardens and terraces, you will discover different points of view on its surroundings.
Before it became the royal residence of several French Kings during the Renaissance, this castle used to belong to the Amboise family. It was the first to introduce the Italian style in the Loire Valley thanks to Francis 1st, who brought from Italy Leonardo da Vinci. You will therefore visit the Clos-Lucé, his last residence, located right next to the castle and the Saint-Hubert chapel, place of his burial, adjoining the castle. The Château d’Amboise is classified as a historical monument.

Château d’Amboise ©

Château de Chenonceau  

Built from the 15th century, the Château de Chenonceau is the emblem of the Loire castles, a must-see that you should not miss. Located in the town of Chenonceau, this castle is also called “Castle ladies” because of the different women who have built, inhabited and restructured it, such as Katherine Briçonnet, Diane of Poitiers or Catherine of Medici. The Château de Chenonceau is a masterpiece of the Renaissance and it strikes by the whiteness of its facades and its arch entirely surrounded by the Cher river. Classified as a historical monument, the castle has also several gardens and a park. Today, the Château de Chenonceau belongs to the Menier family, and is the most visited historical monument in France.

Château de Chenonceau ©

Château de Villandry

Last castle of the Loire Valley built during the Renaissance, the château de Villandry is renowned for its six French gardens. Located at fifteen kilometers from Tours, the castle was built from the 16th century by Jean le Breton and is now a private property.

Château de Villandry ©

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Built on an island, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau reflects all its beauty in the waters of the Indre river. It was built by Gilles Berthelot during the first years of the reign of Francis 1st. The architectural style reveals the beginning of the influence of Italian art. Indeed, this castle combines the charm of French castles and the magnificence of Italian palaces. The castle of Azay-le-Rideau is classified as historical monuments since 1914.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau ©

Château d’Ussé

Located in the city of Rigny-Ussé, the Château d’Ussé is known to have inspired Charles Perrault for the famous tale of the Sleeping Beauty. Inside, along the walkway, you can admire the staging of the tale via a set of wax statues. Built from the 15th century with a mixture of styles from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Château d’Ussé is today a private property belonging to the 7th Duke of Blacas.

Château d’Ussé ©

Château de Chinon

The royal fortress of Chinon is located on a rocky spur at the crossroads of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine, in Indre et Loire region. Built from the 10th century, the Chinon castle has a rich history. Indeed, it is where Joan of Arc met King Charles VII in 1429. At that time, the castle of Chinon was the main residence of King Charles VII and it is in his apartments that Joan of Arc asked him for the weapons to deliver the siege of Orleans. This castle was also the place where the last Knight Templars, Jacques de Molay, was imprisoned before being executed in Paris.

Château de Chinon ©

Château de Saumur

The Château de Saumur has undergone many transformations and had various functions over the years: first a fortress in the 13th century, then a castle-palace of the Dukes of Anjou, later, a residence of the governors of the city, after, a prison under Louis XIV and Napoleon, then weapons deposit. It houses nowadays the city museum and is owned by the city of Saumur.

Château de Saumur ©

Loire Valley vineyard

During your discovery tour of the Loire Valley castles, you will undoubtedly be close to different wine appellations of Loire region (Cheverny, Touraine, Vouvray, Chinon, Saumur …). This is a great opportunity to discover another rich heritage of the Loire Valley. The wines of Loire are indeed famous for their good value for money and their aromatic diversity (white, red, rosé, sparkling white).

Discover here a selection of vineyards close to the famous Loire valley castles.

Map of the wineries close to the Loire Valley Châteaux

Halfway between the Château de Chambord and the Château de Cheverny, the Domaine du Vardet is a family-owned winery that produces a wide range of wines in the Cheverny and Cour Cheverny appellations: dry and sweet white, red, rosé or sparkling. Guillaume Morin, a passionate young winemaker, will be happy to show you his winery, from the vines to the cellar.

Domaine du Vardet, Cheverny

Located less than 3 kilometers from Cheverny, Domaine Benoit Daridan is an other winery in the Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny wine appellations. Beyond the visit of the vines and the cellar of the winery, you can enjoy there a wine tasting paired with local food specialties (goat and cow cheese, fish terrine of the Loire Valley, game terrine of Sologne …).

Domaine Benoit Daridan, Cour-Cheverny

The Domaine Pierres d’Aurèle is a charming winery located at 10 kilometers from the Château de Chenonceau. Convinced by the importance to respect the environment, this winery works in sustainable viticulture, with a Terra Vitis certification which guarantees a limited treatment of the soils and of the vineyard. This winery works numerous grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Grolleau, Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, Côt, Chardonnay, Chenin… You can either enjoy a simple commented wine tasting or go further by visiting the vineyard and learn more about the working philosophy of this winery.

Pierres d’Aurèle winery, Touraine

About fifteen minutes from Tours and the Château d’Amboise, you can meet Sylvain Gaudron, a welcoming winemaker producing white wines in the Vouvray appellation. This winery offers a free tasting tour that will allow you to discover their troglodyte cellars, typical of the region, and the diversity of Vouvray white wines (dry, sweet and sparkling white).

Sylvain Gaudron winery, Vouvray

Between the castles of Azay-le-Rideau and of Ussé lies the famous Chinon wine appellation, renowned for its red wines. The Domaine Pierre Sourdais is a family-owned winery striving to work is wines qualitatively. It results in organic certification and manual harvest. You can enjoy their wines range during a commented tasting (white, red and rosé), and also visit their atypical cellar they dug in the tufa more than 30 years ago.

Pierre Sourdais winery, Chinon

The Domaine Fabien Duveau is located at 10 kilometers from the Château de Saumur. This is a family-owned winery now managed by the eighth generation of winemaker on the appellations of Saumur and Saumur Champigny. You will be welcomed there for a free tasting tour alongside Fabien, a passionate winemaker who will introduce you to the history of his family and of the region in their 14th century troglodyte cellar. He will also explain the characteristics of his wines during a friendly commented tasting.

Fabien Duveau winery, Saumur

The Château de Chaintres is an other winery in Saumur that is worth a visit. Located at 10 minutes by car from the Château de Saumur, this winery has a long history since it was the property of the Oratorian Fathers of Notre Dame des Ardilliers in the 17th century. Nowadays, it has become a family owned winery that produces organic wines over 20 hectares. You will discover there the vineyard and the organic approach through a visit of the cellars, and a tasting of several wines (Saumur, Saumur Champigny and Crémant de Loire).

Château de Chaintres, Saumur

We wish you a pleasant discovery of the Loire Valley, its castles and its vineyard!

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