The Ultimate Guide to Visiting The Loire Valley in France
Garden of France | Loire Valley
Popularly known as the 'Garden of France', Loire Valley is one of the top attractions to visit in France. The valley is not only famous for its wines and food but also for the castles, architecture, and the historic towns that one can visit here. From Amboise to Angers, there are many brilliant towns their castles to explore here. In 2000, Loire Valley became a part of the UNESCO Heritage site list to preserve the history and culture of the region.
Where Is The Loire Valley?
Located in central France, the Loire Valley spans an area of 280km and is right in the middle of the River Loire stretch. Due to the plenty of vineyards, gardens, fruit and vegetable patches, the area is often known as the Cradle of the French. This valley has a rich history and culture and is particularly well-known for its wines, historic towns, and architecture. This valley has been one of the sites on the list of the UNESCO Heritage Site since 2000. Amboise, Blois, Angers, Chinon, etc., are a few historical towns with their own grand chateaux that the visitors can explore.Visiting Loire Valley from Paris
Why Visit The Loire Valley?
- Home to hundreds of beautiful Renaissance-style castles, Loire Valley has been a part of the UNESCO Heritage Site list since December 2000.
- The cobbled historic towns, cities, and chateaus are some of the best things about Loire Valley attracting tourists and history buffs worldwide.
- Many Loire Valley Castles have beautiful gardens decorated with vibrant flower gardens, fruit and vegetable patches, and fountains.
- Another important reason to visit Loire Valley, France, is that it is home to vineyards that make world-class wines. From dry white wine to sparkling wine, you will find a wide variety of wines here to suit every palate.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Loire Valley?
Loire Valley is in central France so, it experiences a hot climate in the summer season and a cold climate in the winter season. Summer season is the peak season so, Loire Valley Castles tend to be a little crowded. Most of the gardens and the castles would not be open in the winter season due to renovations. If you wish to experience the Loire Valley at its best, then plan a visit in the spring, autumn, or late summer season. There are fewer tourists in the summer and autumn seasons, allowing you to explore the castles in peace.
Loire Valley Castles
Château de Chaumont
Château de Chaumont, located around 18 km from Blois, is nothing less than a fairytale castle. It was a multi-tiered and fortress-like castle founded in 1000 and acquired by Catherine de Medicis in 1550. All the apartments in this chateau are decorated with artworks and historic tapestries. Several rooms have been recently renovated so that the visitors can experience the chateau in all its glory. Founded in the 10th century, it was later destroyed due to historical events and was rebuilt later in the 15th century.Visit Château de Chaumont
Château de Chambord
Located on the left side of the River Loire, Château de Chambord is a breathtaking castle to look at. Built on a huge scale, this estate was created for Francois I in the 16th century. With 440 rooms, turreted towers, and a double-helix staircase, this castle was perfect for a king. Surrounded by a 32km long wall, there are six gates that grant access to the castle grounds. King Louis XIV stayed a lot in this castle and held hunting parties and gala balls during that time.Visit Château de Chambord
Another castle that looks straight out of a fairytale book is the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, located on an island. Its facade reflects in the waters of the Indre River and gives it a dreamy look. Influenced by Italian Renaissance architecture, the castle was built in the 16th century and funded by a wealthy patron. The rib-vaulted kitchen, the richly decorated chimney, and the numerous tapestries in the dining room highlight this chateau.Visit Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
Château de Clos Lucé
Château de Clos Lucé is a top attraction in Amboise and is also the home of the talented Leonardo da Vinci for the last three years of his life. Visitors can explore this chateau to learn more about Leonardo da Vinci’s life and his achievements in the permanent exhibitions. There is also a Leonardo’s Garden which has been converted into an open-air museum to showcase his scientific research on botany and geology.Visit Château de Clos Lucé
Standing on the top of a cliff, Château d'Amboise is the most popular attraction in Amboise. This castle has been home to the French kings for five centuries and was built in the 15th century during the reign of Charles VIII. The castle was designed using late Gothic architecture and offers a stunning view of the Loire Valley. You will find intricately made gargoyles and sculptures on its facade and stained-glass windows lighting up the interiors of the chapel.Visit Château d'Amboise
Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau is one of the most popular Loire Valley Castles and is an architectural wonder. The castle spans the River Cher and has been designed using a mix of late Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. There are endless rooms and halls in the castle, all of which have been decorated fabulously by the influential women who lived here. These days, the castle attracts tourists worldwide to see its preserved interiors and floral decorations.Visit Château de Chenonceau
Perched on top of a crag, Château d'Angers overlooks the Maine River and is one of the top attractions in the historic town of Angers. Built in the 13th century, the fortress has thick defensive walls and 17 round towers surrounding it. From the 14th century, the castle became a work of art, offering panoramic views of the landscape from the ramparts and housing the famous tapestry collection, including the Tapestry of the Apocalypse.Visit Château d'Angers
Château Royal de Blois
Located in the town of Blois, Château Royal de Blois was originally a fortified citadel and has been a residence for several kings throughout the years. The chateau is famous for its grand structure and reflects four different architectural styles in the four wings. One fine example of this is the Francis I wing that showcases Renaissance architecture with an octagonal staircase.Visit Château Royal de Blois
History Of The Loire Valley
Loire Valley is rich in history and culture, and due to its material riches, it was fought over by a large number of adversaries. From Romans to Atila the Hun, everyone tried to take control over the land and enjoy the riches with it.
The region is said to have been formed in 52BC after the conquer by Julius Caesar, but Emperor Augustus is responsible for bringing stability and peace to the valley. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, medieval fortresses were built in the Loire Valley as a defense against the invaders. In 1516, the art-loving Francois I brought Leonardo da Vinci whose Italian influence can be observed in the Loire valley chateaux and gardens.
During the time of the French Renaissance, the royal court was established in the Loire Valley. It was a strategic location for trade, and the beautiful, lush landscape attracted the French aristocrat to build magnificent castles here for pleasure.
Loire Valley Towns & Villages
Journey back in time as you visit the charming cities and the historical towns of Loire Valley, France, that have preserved their authenticity over the years. Loire Valley is located in the administrative region, Centre-Val de Loire, and the official capital of the region is Orleans.
This city is home to architectural wonders such as Chateau de Chenonceau and Chateau de Chambord and also has historic towns of Amboise, Loches, and Chinon. The best cathedrals in this region can be found in the cities of Orleans, Bourges, and Chartres. Centre-Val de Loire has a diverse landscape with many charming villages and historic towns, a few of which have their own chateau and garden. Visit the small villages for an authentic French experience or stroll around the medieval towns of Loire Valley.
Loire Valley Regions
Centre-Val de Loire, also known as the Centre Region happens to be one of the administrative regions of France. This region includes most of the Loire including the center half of the region. Centre-Val de Loire can be divided into six departments Cher, Eure-et-Loir, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher and Loiret.
- Cher: Named after the river Cher, it includes major castles like Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil, Château de Culan,Château du Grand-Besse, Château de Pesselières, along with other castles that are currently in ruins or remains in fragments.
- Eure-et-Loir: Named after the rivers of Eure and Loir rivers, this region mostly includes Château d'Anet, Château de Châteaudun, Château de Levesville, and Château de Maintenon, all of which were rebuilt and repurposed in different periods of history.
- Indre-et-Loire This west-central region of France is named after the river Indre Loire. It houses some of the most interesting castles in Loire Valley history that have been restored for use like, Château d'Amboise, Château de La Celle-Guenand, Château de Chinon, Château de la Guerche, Château de Langeais, Château de Montpoupon, Château du Rivau and several others. Interestingly most of the castles of this region are still intact or have been rebuilt.
- Indre: This central region of France is named after the river Indre. It houses some of the most interesting castles in Loire Valley history that have been restored for use like, Château d'Ingrandes and Château du Mont, while several other castles remain in ruins.
- Loir-et-Cher: With two rivers crossing the region, the Loir in its northern part and the Cher in its southern part, it has few famous castles like Château de Chaumont, Château de Fougères-sur-Bièvre, Château de Matval and Château du Moulin, while other castles remain in ruins.
- Loiret: Named after the river Loiret, Château de Bellegarde, Château de Chamerolles, Château de Meung-sur-Loire and Château de Sully-sur-Loire are some of the castles that remains intact, or have been rebuilt or repurposed for use.
Know Before You Go: Plan Your Visit To Loire Valley
- By Car: Duration: 2hr 52 min via A10
- By Bus: Duration: 3 hours
Cost: Around €10
- By Train: Duration: 1 hour 14min via TGV trains
Cost: €10 - €90
The central region of France, the area of Loire Valley in the Nantes and Anjou regions enjoys a temperate climate because of oceanic influences, while towns like Touraine enjoy a semi-continental climate. With mild rainfall in almost every season throughout the year, Loire Valley has pretty enjoyable and comfortable weather. This weather makes it suitable for vineyards and perfect for exploring the region without any discomfort.
Best Time To Visit: Considering the peak season and chilly winds in winter, the best time to visit Loire Valley would be during spring, that is from April to June, and in autumn, that is from September to October.
There are a bunch of famous restaurants in Loire Valley with bars and wineries offering premium drinks. Some of the best ones you can try are:
Crêperie La Dentelle: You can enjoy the outdoor seating option of this small restaurant located in the heart of Tours
La Balade Gourmande - Epicerie Fine: If you are looking for a local taste made from premium ingredients grown locally, this is your go-to place
Restaurant Les Hauts de Loire: For those looking for fine dining options, this can be an excellent choice as reflected by the two Michelin Stars.
Le Chai at Manoir de Restigné: It has one of the best wine collections in the town.
There’s more to Loire Valley than just chateaus and gardens. Here’s a list of things you can do at Loire Valley:
- Visit Terra Botanica: Botanical Park
- Visit Parc Oriental de Maulévrier: Largest Oriental Garden in Europe
- Enjoy rides at The Grand Elephant of Nantes: Fun ride for children
- Visit Contemporary Creation Centre Olivier Debré: Contemporary Arts Gallery
- Explore Chartres Cathedral: Cathedral
- Visit Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional National Park
Things To Do At Loire Valley
Visit Loire Valley Chateaux
Loire Valley Chateaux are famous all over the world as the valley is a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2000. These chateaux are the architectural heritage of the several historic towns in the Loire Valley, such as Amboise, Chinon, Blois, Angers, and more in France. There are over 300 Loire Valley chateaus ranging from fortified castles to lavish residences built in the later years. If you are fascinated by the history of the French aristocrats, then visit the Loire Valley chateaux to get a glimpse into their life and their cherished gardens.
Explore Loire Valley Gardens
Loire Valley is popularly known as the Garden of France. The region experiences a mild climate has fertile soil, and is naturally watered by the rivers that make it easy to grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers here. When Loire Valley castles were built, most of them included extensive gardens in the castle compounds for French royalty to enjoy. The formal French-style garden of Chateau de Villandry is one of the best french gardens. Château de Chaumont also hosts the International Garden Festival every year where landscape artists create beautiful gardens.
Visit Loire Valley Vineyards
Known for its world-famous vineyards, one of the top things to do is to taste the famous Loire Valley wines. Visitors can find vineyards from Nantes to Sancerre and can visit over 1000 vineyards in this region. Out of these, there are 400 accredited wine cellars here. You can meet the winemakers, tour around the vineyards, and taste the different types of Loire Valley wines. There are several entertaining wine events also held here that the wine connoisseurs can attend.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Soar high above in the sky and enjoy a view of the lush forests, fairytale-castles, and vineyards from a hot air balloon. Start your hot air balloon tour from one of the chateaus such as Amboise, Chenonceau, Chinon Cheverny, or others. Enjoy a clear look at these architectural wonders from the sky and the wonderful landscape surrounding them. This tour is one of the best ways to witness the beauty of Loire Valley and all the castles and gardens here.
Frequently Asked Questions Loire Valley
A. Loire Valley is in a strategic location for trade, and the kings had built fortified castles here to defend against the invaders. During the time of the French Renaissance period, many French aristocrats shifted to the valley and built castles or turned fortified castles to reside in.
A. The best way to reach from Paris to Loire Valley Castles is by taking a car as there are only a few train stations close to the cities here. Visit the Paris to Loire Valley page for more information.
A. Château de Chambord is the largest castle out of the more than 300 Loire Valley Castles that are available in this region. This castle was a hunting lodge for Francis I whose residence was Château de Amboise and Blois.
A. The Loire Valley is famous for its chateaux and a wide range of delicious wines. There are over 300 chateaus and 1000 vineyards to explore here.
A. Loire Valley is located in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France.
A. Cher, Eure-et-Loir, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher and Loiret are the six departments in which Loire Valley is divided.
A. Considering the peak season and chilly winds in winter, the best time to visit Loire Valley would be during spring, that is from April to June, and in autumn, that is from September to October.