The chateaux of the Loire Valley include over one hundred charming architectural wonders dating as far back as the 10th century. Featuring towns, castles and lavish country residences seeped in French culture and tradition, the lush Loire Valley is an ideal region to tour and explore. Many of the chateaux themselves are breathtaking to behold, consisting of Loire castles perched upon hilltops with stunning panoramic views, pristine grounds and immaculately kept rooms. When planning your trip to this heartland of France, the Loire Valley castles provide picturesque backdrops for romantic getaways and family stays. France’s long and rich heritage is reflected in its Loire Chateaux. But these chateaux are not relics; they feature modern tours, unique experiences, contemporary art exhibitions and more. This guide breaks down the top Chateau de la Loire, Loire Chateaux and historical sites to visit.
The Loire Valley consists of several impressive royal chateaux of aristocratic origin. This area was a favourite for Kings, Queens, Ducs, Princes and other nobles throughout the centuries due to its wealth and landscape. Many chateaux provide stunning architectural backdrops replete with treasures and well-maintained gardens open for tourists to admire. From Nantes to Orleans, the Loire Valley is dappled with these stunning white and pastel Renaissance castles constructed and favoured for the French nobility. Following the river on a Loire Valley castles tour unveils some 22 castles of noble historical repute traceable on a Chateaux de la Loire map.
In Blois, visitors will find the Royal Chateau (Chateau de Blois), the former residence of French royalty dating back as far as the 13th century. This chateau itself is a French history lesson come to life. It is the former playground of Louis XIII and the site of the famed assassination of the Duke of Guise. Joan of Arc was blessed here before travelling to fight in Orleans. Today, visitors to Blois should relish in the city’s summer light and sound shows as well as the chateau’s stunning art and period furniture collection.
Other famed royal chateaux include the Château of Serrant, the richly decorated residence of the Prince of Merode, and the Château de Baugé, an 11th-century residence once favoured by René of Anjou, King of Naples. The Château de Chinon is perhaps the most famous for English tours. Towering over the Vienne river, it was a favourite residence of King Henry II himself. That’s not to mention the most magnificent chateau of all: Château de Chambord. Chambord is entwined with French history, being built (and never completed) by King Francis I as a symbol of French power and wealth.
Art, Museums and Gardens
The Loire Valley chateaux are more than just beautiful architectural wonders. They’re lived museums featuring a wealth of stunning artworks and cultural monuments. The famed Château d’Amboise offers stunning panoramic views over the town of Amboise with a pleasant garden of herbaceous and box ball plants. The resting place of Leonardo da Vinci, the chateau is immaculately maintained with period rooms featuring the finest art and crafts. Visitors to Amboise can also take guided tours through the chateau’s hidden underground passages. The Château of Chenonceau, too, is another popular choice for explorers and art lovers. Not only are the rooms furnished to perfection, but the chateau also features a large collection of painting by the masters, making it one of the foremost museums of art and tapestry.
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a must-visit for its pristine and romantic parkland. Nestled on an island in the River Indre, the chateau’s grounds are rich in protected flora and fauna. Known as the “garden of France”, the Loire Valley is not just about the chateaux themselves, but the Renaissance gardens like those of Chaumont, Chédigny, Bourdaisière, Rivau and Villandry. The less-visited Château de Beauregard is particularly charming, with a 17th-century gallery of portraits and a stunning parkland with romantic ruins.
Charming Villages and Towns
The cities, towns and villages which host these wonderful chateaux are not to be outdone themselves. They feature historical architectural features which are primed for exploration of the senses. Many medieval and Reinassance-era buildings, alleys and squares balance the grandeur of the chateaux themselves. Blois, for instance, features many stunning architectural features and museums, with Blois Cathedral, the Maison de le Magie Robert-Houdin (Museum of Magic) and the modern Fondation du Doute just a stone’s throw from the chateau itself. Nantes, too, is bustling with art, architecture, history and culture. It is the city of artists and poets with many galleries, including the Musée d’Arts de Nantes, being a must-visit.
For quieter historical towns, Chinon, Montrichard, Meung-sur-Loire and Vienne offer charming streets to tour with finer wines and gastronomical delights to indulge in, as well as lesser-known chateaux which are open to the public.
Film and Popular Culture
The Loire Valley chateaux have been featured in countless films, television programmes, novels and paintings. The Château du Plessis-Bourré in Écuillé has been favoured for its charming water mirror and quaint grandeur. Numerous movies, from The Princess of Montpensier (2009) to Le Bossu (1997) have been filmed here, making it an ideal place to relive the splendour of the silver screen.
For Disney fans, the Chateau de Chambord inspired the castle in the 1991 animation Beauty and the Beast and Château d’Ussé inspired 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Château de Chenonceau has been the centre of many French films and productions, including multiple versions of the Three Musketeers, Les Enfants (2005) and Marie Stuart (1971). The 1971 classic television series Quentin Durward was filmed at many of Loire’s chateaux, including Chenonceau, Rivau, Ussé, Azay le Rideau and Montpoupon. The region continues to inspire popular culture both in and outside of France.
Carve out a trail with the Loire Valley France castles map, inspired by history, art, culture and landscape.