Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley
France is a country full of road trip-worthy destinations: Bordeaux, Provence, the Cote d’Azur. And just two hours south of Paris lies the beautiful, castle-filled Loire Valley, the focus of this post & absolutely ideal for a romantic, country road trip. Here, we’ll not only discover the best chateaux in the Loire Valley (aka the ones you MUST visit!), but we’ll also discover the best chateau accommodations to STAY at…because I’m guessing, if you’re coming all the way here, you don’t exactly want to stay at a Holiday Inn! ; )
Map of Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley
You’ll find all five major chateaux on the map below ~ AND you’ll find the closest hotel stays near each (listed as “Hotels”). And what about renting a car? I HIGHLY recommend renting a car for your visit to the Loire Valley, particularly if you’re staying in a chateau (as they’re usually located some distance out of town). I rented my car in Paris (at Orly Airport), drove to Mont Sainte-Michel, then made my way down to the Loire. Driving in France was FAR less stressful than driving in Italy, particularly in the Loire: its country roads are pretty quiet, & not heavily trafficked.
The alternative to renting a car is to take bus tours (which usually start in major towns, like Blois). This is a possibility, but one that gives you far less flexibility.
Chateau de La Rozelle (Hotel Near Cheverny)
Chateau de Colliers (Hotel Near Chambord)
Chateau de Rochecotte (Hotel Near Villandry & Tours)
Chateau du Pray (Hotel Near Chenonceau)
Chateau de la Bourdaisiere (Hotel Near Amboise & Chenonceau)
1) Chateau Chambord
Let’s start this tour of the best chateaux in the Loire Valley in the north, working our way south. North of Blois, lies the most popular (& largest) chateau in the Loire Valley: Chateau Chambord. Not only is it MASSIVE ~ but it also features Leonardo DaVinci’s famous “Double Helix” staircase, which winds its way up the center of the castle. The staircase features two spirals; meaning that people walking up won’t encounter people on the “other” spiral ~ you won’t even know they’re on the same staircase!
I found Chambord’s interiors quite cold (many rooms aren’t furnished), & it was the least “charming” chateau I visited ~ but the massive structure, manicured gardens, as well as the staircase make it worth a visit.
Distinguishing Feature: DaVinci’s “Double Helix” staircase, as well as the sheer SIZE of the castle.
Best Chateau Hotel Stay Near Chambord: If you want to stay in a chateau with Loire River views, check out Chateau de Colliers ($145+/night) ~ located just 8 kilometers from Chambord. Dating from the early 20th-century, this chateau features Louis XV furniture & a lounge terrace with sweeping Loire River views.
2) Chateau de Cheverny
The same day you visit Chateau Chambord, it’s also possible to visit: Chateau de Cheverny. The most unique thing about Cheverny is its dog kennels, which hold dozens of blood hounds, eagerly awaiting their next feeding! There’s a bit of a “dog smell” near the kennels, but it’s easy to overlook if you love dogs ; ) I didn’t find the castle exterior as impressive as others, but the interiors are lovely ~ & many rooms still hold much of the original furniture ~ making it worth a quick walk-through.
Make sure to go around the backside of the castle: there’s a cute cafe & beautiful gardens with an arched trellis, offering different (& I would say, better) views of the castle itself.
Distinguishing Feature: The dogs! There’s also a labyrinth (to get lost in) & boat rides available.
Best Chateau Hotel Stay Near Cheverny: A few miles from Cheverny is lovely Chateau de La Rozelle ($63+/night). Set on beautiful grounds, the chateau has been lovingly preserved, & is just a few miles from Blois. I stayed in an attic (single) room, which was a wee bit small (but with a FANtastic bathroom); so if you need space, opt for at least a double room!
3) Chateau de Chaumont
South of Cheverny, along the river in Chaumont-Sur-Loire, lies my second favorite chateau in the Loire Valley: Chateau de Chaumont. I absolutely loved its large, round turrets ~ & found the grounds charming as well (there’s a HUGE garden to the left, after you enter, which deserves a 45-minute walk-through on its own)! Chaumont is small enough to be charming, yet grand enough to make an impression. For my taste, I thought it was just right ~ & many of its interior rooms are still intact, making for an interesting (& fairly quick), 20-minute walk-through.
From Chateau de La Rozelle (my accommodations), Chaumont was an easy, 25-minute drive, on quiet country roads ~ so La Rozelle is still my choice here for a lovely, nearby chateau accommodation.
Distinguishing Feature: Its story-book exterior with numerous turrets, perfectly framed by cypress trees.
4) Chateau Chenonceau
And now, we have my favorite castle in the entire Loire Valley: Chateau Chenonceau. Located directly over the Cher River, with its iconic & easily recognizable arches, Chenonceau is straight out of a fairy-tale. You walk up through a tree-lined avenue, only to be greeted by multiple gardens & a fortress set imposingly at the castle’s entrance. The gardens surrounding the castle are stunning, & are the best I found (aside from Chateau Villandry’s). Chenonceau, both inside the castle & throughout its grounds, radiates charm & elegance. And inside the castle lies its famously long, gallery room ~ with iconic black-and-white checkered floors. It’s the room that was built over the river, so you have splendid views from its many windows.
I also found Chenonceau fascinating due to its connection with so many powerful women from French history, such as Catherine de Medici & Diane de Poitiers (Henry II’s mistress). They both, in particular, had a huge influence on the castle’s construction, using their powerful personalities to create their fantastic (& expensive) visions. This chateau had the most “feminine” influence of all chateaux I visited ~ which I find is a good thing. Chenonceau is a MUST-visit!!
Distinguishing Feature: Its iconic arches, plus its long gallery room that literally forms the “bridge” over the river. Gardens here are GORGEOUS, & extremely colorful!!
Budget at least two hours for visiting Chenonceau.
Great Chateau Accommodations Near Chenonceau: Amboise is the closest major town to Chenonceau, & you have two fabulous options nearby ~ 1) Chateau du Pray ($95+/night), & 2) Chateau de la Bourdaisiere ($135+/night). Both are set on large grounds, with Chateau du Pray being the smaller of the two. Chateau de la Bourdaisiere is set on 55 acres, in a restored Renaissance-era castle.
5) Chateau de Villandry
Chateau de Villandry lies furthest south, on this tour of the “Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley.” And you can skip the inside tour here ~ & simply marvel at its gorgeous gardens. Walking through the gardens alone will take you AT LEAST an hour! They’re massive, with an upper & lower level, a lake, & all kinds of different “areas,” with different color schemes & themes. It’s a bit overwhelming! But if you’re there on a sunny day (like I was), you’ll find plenty of great photo ops. Wear bright clothes to make the most of your shots!
Distinguishing Feature: Its gardens!! They’re HUGE, & wildly varied with many different themes & color schemes. This is a great spot to bring a picnic lunch, grab a bench, & admire the view!
Best Chateau Hotel Stay Near Villandry: Just a few miles from Chateau de Villandry, lies the opulent Chateau de Rochecotte Hotel ($150+/night). Set on 12 wooded acres, southwest of Tours, Chateau de Rochecotte marries old-world elegance with modern amenities (like flat-screen TV’s) ~ & it’s a great place to stay if you’re interested in visiting chateaux in the southern Loire.
Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley
I hope this guide on the “Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley” is thorough enough to be of help as you plan your Loire Valley adventures! I know that, as I was planning my trip, I wished that I’d had an overview of the best chateaux to visit, & which areas to focus on ~ as this region is sprawling. Please ask me any questions you have below about the best chateaux in the Loire Valley ~ & “Bon Voyage!”