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 most efficiently?? Well, that’s where I come in: I 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 time & money, as well as help you understand what are the “must-sees” in this very large & sprawling part of France.
Map of Best Chateaux
The map below shows several 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 Loire Valley Trip-Planning Tips!
- Rent a Car: The best way to see the Loire Valley is by renting a car: there’s simply too much to see, & lots of distance between sights. The only way I would not 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 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’s quite tiring, & you may get sick of seeing fancy castles.
- Decide Which Castles are MUSTS ~ Then Book Accommodations Nearest Those: If Chenonceau & Amboise are your top two musts, then book somewhere close to them, such as the delightful Chateau de Pray. If Blois & Cheverny are at the top of your list, then try the beautifully restored Chateau de la Rozelle.
Overview of Loire Valley Chateaux
To help you decide which chateaux top your “must-see” list, I’ve included a photo & short description of the major Loire Valley chateaux below.
1) Chateau de Chambord: Entrance Fee = 11 Euro, Parking Fee = 6 Euro. Chambord is the LARGEST chateau in the entire Loire Valley, & one of the most heavily visited. Its most notable feature 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 ~ many rooms are unfurnished, giving it an imposing & empty feel. Due to its lack of charm, Chambord is NOT my favorite chateau in the Loire Valley, but due to its illustrious history ~ it’s still worth a visit. Rating = 7 out of 10.
2) Chateau de Cheverny: Entrance Fee = 11.50 Euro. Cheverny is known for…..DOGS!!! As soon as you enter the grounds, turn left & you’ll see the “Kennels,” & hear literally hundreds of dogs! This was my favorite part of the castle, by far! But the interior is worth a look here ~ it’s much smaller than Chambord, & all rooms are furnished, making it much more interesting to tour. Cheverny is also known for its LEGO & 3D Tintin exhibits (i.e. good for kids). The back gardens are lovely, & if you walk back behind the castle, you’ll find a cute restaurant just past a beautiful, arched walkway, covered in greenery. Rating = 8.
3) Chateau de Blois: Entrance Fee = 12 Euro. Chateau de Blois is located right smack in the middle of downtown Blois, on top of a hill overlooking the Loire River. An imposing & very large building, the 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: Entrance Fee = 18 Euro. This is the steepest entrance fee in the bunch ~ but if you ask me, it’s WORTH it. Chateau de Chaumont is often called the “Cinderella” castle, & its location on a bluff overlooking the river is perhaps the most spectacular of all the chateaux. Its exaggerated, round turrets make it a highly picturesque, evocative castle. All rooms are furnished, & the grounds are sprawling & 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: Entrance Fee = 11 Euro. This is my FAVORITE castle of ALL!! Chenonceau is a photographer’s dream, & you have endless opportunities (& angles) to capture glorious images here. Its location directly over the river makes it entirely unique, & I found its gardens (on both sides of castle) the most colorful & charming of the bunch. Inside, all rooms are furnished, with the most unique being the long, galley room with its black & white checkered floor, that stretches over the length of the river. In my opinion, you can’t visit the Loire Valley without visiting Chenonceau. Rating = 10 out of 10.
6) Chateau de Villandry: Entrance Fee, Garden Only = 7 Euro. The main thing you need to know about Chateau de Villandry, located in the southern Loire Valley, is…..GARDENS!!! The inside of the chateau isn’t the main event here: but the sumptuous & incredibly-manicured gardens ARE the main event. It takes at least an hour to walk through all the gardens (there’s an upper & lower level), & it’s a great spot to bring a picnic lunch to, as the gardens make for a perfect setting. There are also picnic tables in the parking lot here, & a small cafe by the chateau 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, enjoyable days. 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 Chateau de 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 center 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. Amboise isn’t mentioned here ~ but a major reason to visit is to view Leonardo DaVinci’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 on “How to Plan a Trip to the Loire Valley” helps you get a handle on the region, & helps you plan some absolutely amazing Loire Valley adventures! Ask me any of your burning Loire Valley questions below & I’ll do my best to answer them!