Loire Valley Chateaux













The Best Chateaux of the Loire Valley



Hours- 9:00-6:30*, plan on 1.5 hours for your visit

Cost- $7.00 includes an English pamphlet

The château towers over the town and offers a mix of architectural styles including 16th century gothic and 17th century classical.  Six Kings of France lived here including François the 1st, who had an underground tunnel built to the home of Leonardo da Vinci, located nearby.  Using this passage they could visit each other without mingling with commoners.  In the 15th century this castle was 4 times its current size, but it has been reduced by neglect and war.  Today you can tour restored period rooms, several museums and enjoy views of the Loire River.



Hours- 9:30-6:00*,  plan on 1.5 hours for your visit.

Cost- $6.00 for entrance and $4.00 for an audio guide

This château is less grand in size than many of the others on our list, but is all the more beautiful for it.  The château is located just steps away from the little town nestled between two branches of the slow moving Indre River.  Take a stroll around the grounds and enjoy the natural park like setting.  Built in 1515, this is a fine example of early Renaissance.  There are no English tours available.  In summer there are often evening light shows at the château.



Hours- 9:00-6:00*, plan on 2-3 hours for your visit

Cost- $6.00 includes an English pamphlet 

This château dominates the town of Blois and was the home of royalty for over 400 years, including Charles the VIII and François I.   Parts of the building, composed of 4 wings joined by a large central courtyard, date back to the 10th century.  Interiors include luxurious period design and floors stamped with fleur-de-lis motifs.  Collections on display include ironwork and a locks and keys.  One of the highlights is a Renaissance exterior spiral staircase.  There are wonderful views over the rooftops in town and the Loire River.



Hours- 9:00-5:45*, plan on 2.5+ hours for your visit

Cost- $7.00 for entrance and $4.00 for an audio guide

Chambord was commissioned by the young (then 25) King François in 1519 to help establish his power.  The building we see today was not completed until 1685, and by far it is the largest château in the Loire.  The style is a combination of traditional French and Renaissance Italian with a variety of towers and turrets.  The facade alone is 470 feet wide and over 168 feet high (equal to an 18 story building!), with 440 rooms and 365 chimneys.   The highlight inside the château is the double return staircase which serves as the axis for the entire building, and is thought to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  Originally built as a meeting place for hunting and later used for royal celebrations, today it is surrounded by a 19 mile wall that encloses the largest forest park in Europe.  During its 500 year history, it was only used as a residence for 20 of those years.  If you have time to spare, you can rent bikes or boats to explore the park.  There is a 2 hour evening light and sound show at dusk on weekends from mid-April to June and September, and nightly in July and August.



Hours- 9:30-5:30*, plan on 1 hour for your visit

Cost- $6.00 includes an English pamphlet

Located between Amboise and Blois, this château is set high above the Loire and commands lovely views.  Its placement was for strategic reasons, since it was built as a fortress stronghold in 1465.  Later it became a home for royalty and then the merely rich.  The most famous resident was Diane de Poitiers who lived in exile here (see Chenonceau for more details).  Today the interiors represent the lavishness of the rich people living here until the 1930's when the stock market crash caused the last owner to sell the property to the government.  Of particular interest are the elaborate horse stables.


Chenonceau** (les Château des Dames)

Hours- 9:00-7:00*, plan on 2.5+ hours for your visit

Cost- $8.00 includes an English pamphlet

We believe that this 16th century château is by far the most beautiful in the Loire, and it is our favorite.  You approach on a long tree lined path, and will be in awe when you see the château, which was built for Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II.  In 1559 the King died, and his wife, Catherine de Médici, forced Diane into exile (to the smaller château of Chaumont).  After Catherine moved in she had the beautiful gallery added, which is 180 feet long, 18 feet wide, with 18 windows and set on arches over the Cher River.  It was originally used as a ballroom, and in WWI it became a hospital.  During WWII it was a means of escape as the château sat in occupied territory but the door at the end of the gallery opened to the Free Zone.  Today the gallery holds art exhibits.  Also worth a note are the Marques Tower, the two formal gardens (each named for the two ladies who ruled the house), the 16th century working farm and the flower shop.  You can easily enjoy a half day adventure at this château, if you include the restaurant and wine shop which sells wine from the 40 acre vineyard on the property.  



Hours- 9:15-6:45*, plan on 1.5 hours for your visit

Cost- $6.00, includes English pamphlet

This château was built in 1634 and has been owned and occupied by the same family ever since.  Today family members occupy the third floor.  What is most outstanding about this château is its interior decoration.  The family that owns Cheverny was very popular with the local villagers and as a result the château was not stripped of it's treasures during the French Revolution.  The current interior is considered to be the most lavish and complete in the Loire.  This château was built as a hunting palace and today hunts still take place on the grounds.  You can visit the 70 hounds in their kennel, or watch the daily feed at 5:00 PM.  Don't miss the trophy room with the antlers from more than 2000 animals!



Hours- 9:30-6:00*, plan on 1.5 hours for your visit

Cost- $5.00 includes an English pamphlet

This site is the ruins of three castles from the Middle Ages.  King Charles VII lived here from 1427-1450.  In 1429 a young girl named Joan of Arc came here to persuade the king to drive the English out of France.  He was inspired to do so when she was able to pick him out in a crowd, even while disguised.  Today there is a Joan of Arc Museum where you can learn more about her story.

  1. Château du Milieu offers reconstructed royal apartments with wax figures depicting the story of Joan of Arc.

  2. Château de Coudray still has towers and dungeons that can be visited, including a trip five floors below ground into a Medieval cellar.

  3. Château de St. Georges is best for its views over Chinon's slate roofs and on to the vineyards in the distance.



Hours- 9:00-6:30*, plan on 1.5 hours for your visit

Cost- $8.00 includes English pamphlet 

This fairytale castle with lots of turrets was the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty.  Construction began in 1455 on the foundation of an 11th century castle, and subsequent remodels took place in the16th and 17th centuries.  The château has been owned by the Blacas family since the 18th century and the family still occupies one of the wings.  The grounds include several centurys old trees and a cedar that was given to the family in 1808.  There is a chapel from 1528 with a sparkling white interior made from local stones, and a garage with antique vehicles and a wicker carriage.  The castle interior is filled with 18th century antiques.  Finally you can climb the round tower to see wax figures depicting characters in Sleeping Beauty.  Personally we think the exterior is lovely, but the mannequins in bad costumes are not worth the cost of seeing the interior.  The exception here would be if you are traveling with kids who will probably love the fairy tale scenes!



Hours- 9:00-7:30*, plan on 1 hour for each the château and the gardens

Cost- $7.50 for château and gardens, $5.00 for only gardens 

This privately owned château was built in the 16th century on the former site of a 12th century castle.  Today the tower of the original castle still remains.  The château is most famous for its wonderful gardens, and is considered a must see for gardeners.  There are 3 different gardens in all: a Louis the XIV style vegetable garden, an ornamental mosaic flower garden, and a water garden with pools and waterfalls.  Many people skip the interior of the château and come for the gardens alone.  There is a slide show that features photographs of the gardens during all four seasons.


*Most château have shorter hours in off season and may even be closed for lunch during that time.  In late July and August there are usually extended hours.


Please also visit our page regarding general information about the Loire Valley.


Day Trip from Paris- Join an organized day trip from Paris to visit the Loire Valley.  More

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