The Five Loire Valley Castles Not To Miss

With more than 500 castles in the Loire Valley, where does one start exploring this region which has been called the garden of France?  These 5 castles of the Loire Valley give an overview of the different types of Loire Valley chateaux you can find. For example, you get to visit a royal Loire Valley castle (Chateau du Blois) as well as a Loire Valley castle still occupied by its original family (Chateau du Cheverney). Two of these castles in the Loire Valley (Chateau du Chenonceau and Chateau du Chaumont) are part of an infamous Royal love triangle. The final choice of our favourite castles of the Loire Valley is Chateau du Chambord with its amazing cylindrical helix staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

Loire Valley Chateaux

It’s easy to reach the Loire Valley from Paris. Heading south from Paris, the Loire Valley from Paris is about 105 kilometres (62 miles) away on the A10. Paris to Loire Valley by car is approximately a 2 hour drive.

The convenience of reaching the Loire Valley makes the Paris to Loire Valley day trip possible. It is a long day, however, and you are rushing around the Loire Valley castles you visit.

Where is the Loire Valley?

Running for approximately 1000 kilometres (621 miles), the Loire is the longest river in France.  

There is a 280 kilometre (174 miles) stretch of the Loire Valley that has been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site for its historical significance, charming towns and pretty chateaux. This stretch of the Loire Valley runs from Chalonnes to Sully-sur-Loire.

Loire Valley History

During the 100 Years War during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Loire valley was strategically important to the French and fortified against the English.

 After the battle of Agincourt in 1415, the English were in control of Paris.   The French did not regain control of Paris again until 1436 but the King of France decided to remain with his court in the Loire Valley.

The French monarchy felt Paris was an unpredictable capitol.  After all, it was the Parisians who had given Joan of Arc to the English to be executed.  

Considering the subsequent history of the French Revolution, the kings were right to be wary of the Parisians.  In any event, where the king went, the aristocracy followed like lemmings.  They, too, built chateaux around the Loire Valley so that they could be  near the king and the good gossip.

Why Visit These 5 Loire Valley Castles?

If you have limited time to visit the castles of Loire Valley France, you will need to limit the geographical area to visit. We focussed on the area between Blois and the city of Tours.  Within this limited area, you will find plenty of sightseeing, including (in our opinion) the five best Loire Valley castles.

Our Pick of the Five Best Castles of the Loire Valley

You wouldn’t be in the Loire Valley unless you were planning on visiting at least one French castle.  

The ancient Cathedral town of Tours is a convenient place to divide the Loire Valley if you are limited on time.  With a cluster of chateaux on each side of Tours, each chateaux cluster has winners for attractiveness and gardens. Tours is also a good transportation hub with trains and a small airport.

The Loire Valley tourism board has different types of chateaux passes depending on how many castles you want to see.  

The 5 Loire Valley castles mentioned below are on one chateaux pass and the maximum number of Loire Valley castles our children would visit without open revolt.   We stayed near Cheverny and all of these castles are an easy driving distance from each other.

Chateau du Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau is one of the most visited of the castles in the Loire Valley.  Spanning the River Cher, it is beautiful and has extensive gardens.  During its heyday, it was caught in a royal love triangle between Henri II, his mistress, Diane de Poitiers and his wife, Catherine de Medici.

For kids, Chenonceau is fun to visit because it is a small chateau with pretty gardens and a garden maze. There is a handy restaurant as well as a little creperie.  You can take boat rides or hire kayaks to go along the river.

The garden of Chenonceau looking towards the castle
One of the most famous castles in the Loire Valley, Chenonceau is recognised for the gallery that spans the River Cher.

Chateau Royal de Blois

The Chateau Royal de Blois was the home of 7 French kings and the centre of a lot of intrigue.  Built around a courtyard, each wing has a different type of architecture – Gothic, Renaissance and Classical.

 Catherine de Medici (she who loved Chenonceau so much) died in the Queen’s Chamber at this chateau in 1589.  You can see her study with the secret compartments where she supposedly kept her handy supply of poisons.

For children, Blois has plenty of random things to examine.  Francois I liked to put his salamander seal everywhere.  My kids went around the castle playing find the salamander.  

This Loire valley Castle also has a great sound and light show in the evenings and is located across the square from the  highly-recommended family-friendly Museum of Magic.

The courtyard in the Blois Castle in the Loire Valley
Among the Loire Valley Castles, has four distinctive styles representing the changes from the 13th to the 17th century that it was inhabited.

Chateau de Chambord

Chateau de Chambord is the largest of the Loire valley castles with 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 staircases.

The most famous of these staircases is the double helix staircase attributed as a design of Leonardo da Vinci.  Built at the behest of Francois I as a hunting lodge, he used it for approximately 7 weeks during his reign.  For much of its life, this Loire Valley castle has lain empty because such a massive structure was hard to heat and impractical to live in.

For children, the highlight of Chambord will be climbing up and down the double helix staircase and walking around the rooftop of the chateau with its hundreds of chimneys (all those fireplaces had to lead somewhere!).

 Chambord also does regular pageants on its grounds which are geared toward showing children court life during medieval times.

The complex roof structure of the Chateau du Chambord Loire Valley
Among the castles of the Loire Valley, the hulking presence of chateau de Chambord is recognisable for its distinctive roofline.

Chateau de Cheverny

The chateau de Cheverny is still inhabited by the family that built it in the early 17th century.

When Diane de Poitiers got ejected from Chenonceau by Catherine de Medici, she was housed at Cheverny until she was finally given Chaumont. It’s not bad for temporary housing! You may recognise the middle portion as the model for the chateau that appears in The Adventures of TinTin.

This Loire Valley castle is not very big but it is an excellent example of how the aristocracy would have lived.  It is light, bright and well-furnished.  You get the sense that a real family would have lived in this chateau.  The  royal castles in the Loire Valley leave you with a sense of grandeur but feel cold and barren.  

The Chateau de Cheverny has pretty gardens and a kennel with French hounds.

the chateau de cheverny in the Loire Valley
Among the Loire Valley castles, Chateau de Cheverny has escaped any Renaissance influence.

Chateau de Chaumont

The Chateau de Chaumont is the home Diane de Poitiers eventually received from Catherine de Medici after being turfed out of Chenonceau.  

This Loire Valley Castle has beautiful gardens especially if you are skipping Villandry which is well-known for its gardens.  The Chateau itself is full of dark furniture from the 19th century .  The grounds are well-landscaped with a fabulous view of the Loire valley.

Every summer, Chaumont has a well-known international garden festival which is very family-friendly.  Weird garden design to explore – what’s not to love??  We all loved the garden festival and could easily have spent the entire day exploring it.

Chaumont the home of a royal mistress in the Loire Valley
Castles of Loire Valley France don’t come more picture perfect than Chateau de Chaumont.

Visiting the Loire Valley Castles

Here are some travel tips for visiting the Loire Valley castles including where to stay in the Loire Valley and the Loire Valley chateaux pass.

Relais de 3 Chateaux

We stayed at the Relais de Trois Chateaux which is a 4 star hotel in Cour Cheverny.  The family room has a separate room for the children.  Although the rooms are compact (you would think you were in Paris), they are beautifully decorated.  We shared one bathroom but each room had its own television.  Priorities, right?

There is no lounge/reception area worth mentioning at this hotel so you are either on your bed in your hotel room or not at the hotel.  There is plenty of parking. The WiFi is excellent. The hotel restaurant, Les Trois Merchands, is very popular in the evening and very good. Located in the tiny village of Cheverny, you are  pretty much outside the walls of the Chateau de Cheverny.

Relais des 3 chateaux near the chateau de Cheverny
The Relais des 3 Chateaux is right near the Loire Valley castle, Chateau de Cheverney.

Chateau Hotels in the Loire Valley

If you would like to stay in a chateau itself, there are several chateau hotels in the Loire Valley, such as the Chateau d’Artigny in Montbazon which is about an hour’s drive to the Loire Valley castles mentioned above. The Chateau Hotels in the Loire Valley tend to be near the area of Tours.

Other Places To Stay Near the Loire Valley Castles

These are the other options we would recommend for staying near the Loire Valley castles mentioned above.

Le Relais de Chambord lets you stay on the grounds of the UNESCO world heritage site. The house was built as kennels for the Royal hounds in the 17th century. Don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping on a dog bed! The building was converted into a hotel by a renowned French architect.

Les Sources de Cheverny is the cool sister establishment to the fabulous Les Sources de Caudalie where we have stayed. Similar to Les Sources de Caudalie, Les Sources de Cheverny is luxurious, family-friendly and has a great spa.

Hotel Anne d’Bretagne is a 3 star budget option with a fantastic location in Blois and a stellar reputation for providing value for money.

Loire Valley Chateaux Pass

You can buy the Chateaux-Pass online which should save you some time.  

Otherwise, you can buy it at the local tourist office of Blois, Cheverny, Chambord or Chaumont.  Keeping in mind that French tourist office hours may not align with your expectations, you can avoid disappointment by just buying it ahead of time.

Other Chateaux in the Loire Valley

My  husband and I have visited the chateaux on the other side of Tours on previous trips.  

  • Azay-le-Rideau is considered a masterpiece of the French Renaissance but has been undergoing renovation the last couple of years.  
  • Chateau du Villandry is best known for its French-style gardens (nothing as kooky as you find at the Garden Festival at Chaumont).  
  • According to legend, while staying at pretty Chateau d’Usse, Charles Perrault was inspired to write Sleeping Beauty.  

If you have the time (and willingness) this cluster of castles of the Loire Valley are worth exploring, too.

Loire Valley Castles Map

Here is a map of the Loire Valley chateaux as well as recommended places to stay near the Loire Valley castles.

Map of Loire Valley Castles and where to stay in the Loire Valley
Map of Loire Valley castles and where to stay nearby



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