How to Plan a Trip to the Loire Valley
Sooo, you’re heading to the beautiful, castle-filled Loire Valley, & you want to know how to plan your trip there in the most efficient way possible?? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I recetly spent a week in this gorgeous region, exploring it from top to bottom ~ & I definitely have thoughts on “How to Plan a Trip to the Loire Valley,” one of France’s most popular regions. Reading this quick post could save you much time, & help you understand what are the “must-sees” in this very large & sprawling part of France.
Map of Best Chateaux
The map below shows some of the major chateaux in the Loire Valley. Once you know which ones you’d like to visit, you can better plan your trip from there. Below, I’ll help you “pair” chateaux ~ by identifying which ones are closest to each other, & can be visited in the same day.
Chateau de Blois
Top Trip-Planning Tips for Loire Valley
- Rent a Car: The best way to see the Loire Valley is by renting a car: there’s simply too much to see, & quite a bit of distance between sights. The only way I wouldn’t rent a car, is if you only plan to see 1-2 castles. Otherwise, rent a car in advance: the earlier you book, the better the rate will be…TRUST ME. Check prices with my favorite company Discover Cars here.
- Decide How Many Days to Spend in the Loire Valley: Once you know this, you can decide how many chateaux you’d like to visit. Based on personal experience, I’d visit no more than TWO chateaux per day. Otherwise it can get tiring, & you may get bored of seeing fancy castles…especially if traveling with children.
- Decide Which Castles are MUSTS ~ Then Book Accommodations Nearest Those: If Chenonceau & Amboise are your top two musts, then book a beautiful castle hotel close to them, such as the delightful Chateau de Pray. Or, if Blois & Cheverny are at the top of your list, then try the beautifully-restored & reasonably priced Chateau de la Rozelle ~ which makes a great base for the entire region.
Overview of Top Loire Valley Chateaux
To help you decide which chateaux top your “Must-See” list, I’ve included a photo & short description of the major chateaux below.
1) Chateau de Chambord: This is the LARGEST chateau in the entire Loire Valley, & its most-visited. One of its notable features is Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous “Double Helix” staircase, & the meticulously manicured, HUGE gardens. The inside of the castle leaves a lot to be desired though ~ as many rooms aren’t furnished, giving it an imposing, almost empty feel. Due to a lack of charm, Chambord is NOT my favorite chateau, but its illustrious history, gardens, staircase, & connection to Louis XVI make it well-worth a visit. Rating = 8 out of 10.
2) Chateau de Cheverny: Cheverny is known for…..DOGS!!! As soon as you enter the grounds, turn left & you’ll see the “Kennels,” & hear hundreds of dogs. This was my favorite part of the castle! But the interiors are worth a look too: this chateau is much smaller than Chambord, & all rooms are furnished, making it more interesting to tour. Cheverny is also known for its LEGO & 3D Tintin exhibits (good for kids). The back gardens are lovely, & if you walk behind the castle, you’ll find a cute restaurant just past a beautiful, arched walkway, covered in greenery. Rating = 8.
3) Chateau de Blois: Chateau de Blois is located right in the midst of downtown Blois, on top of a hill overlooking the Loire River. An imposing & large building, this chateau features Gothic, Renaissance, Classical, AND Medieval architecture ~ so if you’re an architecture buff, it’s worth a visit. It has a staggering 564 rooms & 75 staircases, plus 100 bedrooms that each have their own fireplace! If you enjoy history & are interested in seeing a former royal court, then check out this imposing castle. Rating = 7+
4) Chateau de Chaumont: Chaumont has the mos expensive entrance fee ~ but if you ask me, it’s WORTH it. This chateau is often called the “Cinderella” castle, & its location on a bluff overlooking the river is perhaps the most spectacular of all. Its exaggerated, round turrets make it a highly picturesque castle that photographs very well. All rooms are furnished, & the grounds are lovely….they really take you back in time. The cafe here is very good, & the gardens require a 30-minute visit on their own. Rating = 9 out of 10.
5) Chateau de Chenonceau: This is my FAVORITE castle of ALL!! Chenonceau is a photographer’s dream, & you have endless opportunities & angles to capture here. Its location directly over the river makes it unique, & I found its gardens (on both sides of castle) the most charming of the bunch. Inside, all rooms are furnished, with the most memorable being the long, galley ballroom with its black & white checkered floor, that stretches over the river. In my opinion, you can’t visit the Loire Valley without visiting Chenonceau. Rating = 10 out of 10.
6) Chateau de Villandry: The main thing you need to know about Villandry is…..GARDENS!!! The inside of the chateau isn’t the main event here: but the elaborate & incredibly-manicured gardens ARE. It takes at least an hour to walk through all the gardens, as there’s an upper & lower level. This is a great spot to bring a picnic lunch, as the gardens have benches sprinkled all throughout, with beautiful views galore. And there are picnic tables in the parking lot here, as well as a small cafe by the chateau’s entrance. Rating = 8+.
How to Plan a Visit to the Loire Valley
I recommend visiting no more than TWO chateaux per day, so you can fully enjoy your time without feeling rushed. The chateaux I’ve “paired” below are located in close proximity to each other ~ making for easy driving. Our tour starts in the north, & works its way south.
- Chateau Pairing #1 = Chateau de Chambord, & Chateau de Cheverny. Chambord is located north of Blois, & north of Cheverny ~ but both castles can easily be viewed in one day. Allow for more time at Chamord, due to its size. Note: Cheverny is also very close to Chateau de Blois.
- Chateau Pairing #2 = Chateau de Chaumont & Chateau de Blois. Chaumont is on my “MUST-SEE” list for the Loire Valley, & Chateau de Blois is located about 20 minutes away, right in the heart of Blois.
- Chateau Pairing #3 = Chateau de Chenonceau & Chateau Royal d’Amboise. These two are just a few miles from each other, making them a perfect pairing. A major reason to visit Chateau d’Amboise is to view Leonardo Da Vinci’s tomb & final resting place.
- Chateau Pairing #4 = Chateau de Villandry & Chateau d’Usse. Both of these chateaux lie southwest of Tours ~ & Chateau d’Usse is rumored to be the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty!
My Favorite Hotel Near Chateau Villandry = Chateau de Rochecotte ($169+/night).
How to Plan a Trip to the Loire Valley
I hope this guide helps you get a handle on the region, & helps you plan some amazing Loire Valley adventures. For my favorite “castle-like” stays in the Central Loire, read the article below…
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