Best Loire Valley Castles to visit: List, itineraries & must-sees

Chateau Amboise framed by trees of beautiful renaissance garden. Loire Valley, France.

For centuries, aristocratic families and royalty have succeeded one another to safeguard the French legacy. A journey along The Route des Châteaux de la Loire is a must-see event in France; additionally, it boasts some of the country’s most opulent wineries that will be delighted to offer you an exquisite respite from your travels.

For centuries, aristocratic families and royalty have succeeded one another to safeguard the French legacy. A journey along The Route des Châteaux de la Loire is a must-see event in France; additionally, it boasts some of the country’s most opulent wineries that will be delighted to offer you an exquisite respite from your travels. It’s conveniently located near Paris so why not consider making a wine-themed pilgrimage directly from the city? Let this legendary destination introduce you to its bountiful treasures!

Today, Winalist offers you its selection of must-sees to visit in a weekend, a 5-day cycling itinerary, as well as a complete list of castles in the region for the most passionate ones.

Have fun exploring France’s gorgeous Loire Valley wineries and wine tours with Winalist. Let’s get started!

Visit Loire Valley Castles in 2-3 days

Before we start, we should mention your trip to the Loire Valley doesn’t need to be long to be unforgettable. For a spectacular weekend getaway, take your family or friends to explore the incredible Loire Valley. There are plenty of tourist offices available that can guide you in finding all the must-see places and activities nearby.

If you have access to a car, it is quite possible to visit some of these majestic châteaux within 2 days; however if cycling or hiking sounds more appealing, then plan for at least 1 week’s worth of vacation time! And don’t forget – here we’ve compiled a list of 5 stunningly beautiful and famous Châteaux for those who may only be able to stay just few days in this enchanting region.

loire valley casltes to visit

5 Most beautiful Loire Valley Castles to visit

With so many magnificent castles in the Loire Valley, it can be hard to know which ones to visit. To make your choice easier, we’ve hand-picked the five most stunning for you!

As well as being rich with incredible architecture and monuments, this region is even listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list – how impressive!

When traveling around these routes of wonderment, why not do something more unique? Try exploring by bike, car or motorhome – or why not take a hot air balloon ride? There really are no limits when discovering the magic of France’s Loire Valley.

1. Chenonceau Castle

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Laden with remarkable architecture, the Château de Chenonceau has been nicknamed “the Château des Dames” due to its formation in part by highly influential women like Katherine Briçonnet, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis. Constructed in 1513, it is currently the most popular castle throughout France.

What to see at the Château de Chenonceau:

  • Its gallery passing over the Cher river
  • The chamber of five queens
  • Its magnificent gardens and its park

2. Royal Castle of Amboise

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Home and eternal resting place to the late great Master Leonardo Da Vinci and a former residence of the King of France, Château d’Amboise is a stunning marvel located in the majestic Loire that has been recognized by UNESCO as an exquisite World Heritage Site. Its idyllic medieval cityscape at the heart of Amboise will take your breath away!

What to see at Château d’Amboise?

  • The historical show “La prophétie d’Amboise”, every summer
  • Its Italian-style gardens, designed by master gardener Dom Pacello da Mercogliano
  • The tomb of Leonardo da Vinci, in the Chapel of the Castle

3. The Royal Fortress of Chinon

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Chateau de Chinon, a castle located on the Vienne River in the town of Chinon in the Loire Valley, France. Unesco World Heritage.

Chinon is a medieval village located in the heart of the Loire Châteaux region. Between the vineyards and the Vienne, this city is home to one of the monuments of French history: The Royal Fortress, where eminent figures in our history have written some important pages of French grandeur (Jeanne d’Arc of course, but also Henri II, or Eleanor of Aquitaine).

The activities offered at the Royal Fortress:

  • Temporary or permanent exhibitions;
  • Wine Thursdays, from July 8 to August 28
  • an escape game, for young and old!

4. Chambord Castle

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Chateau de Chambord with the Cosson river in the foreground in the Loire Valley in France. The 440-room chateau dates from 1519 and is the largest in the Loire.

Chambord Castle stands as a testament to the power of France’s Kings and is one of the most grandiose castles from Renaissance times. Built by François 1er in 1519, this castle has incomparable architecture that blends with its stunning French gardens for an unforgettable experience.

Don’t miss out on your chance to visit Chambord Castle while taking part in the Route des Châteaux de la Loire!

Some numbers :

  • The estate extends over an area equivalent to intramural Paris;
  • it is home to 160 hectares of game meadows;
  • its enclosed forest park (50km²) is the largest in Europe.

5. Cheverny Castle

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Tintin fans recognize it at a glance. The Château de Cheverny, owned by the De Vibraye family for 6 generations, indeed inspired the designer Hergé who created the fictitious Château de Moulinsart. Classical in style, it is classified on the list of historical monuments of France, as well as its park.

Original activities at the Château de Cheverny:

  • The permanent exhibition “Les secrets de Moulinsart”;
  • its gardens and labyrinth;
  • soup given to dogs

Cycling route: 30km of Loire Valley Châteaux

The châteaux of the loire valley are breathtaking. Why not see them in the fresh air, by bike, instead of by car?

Take the Loire Valley Châteaux Route by bicycle. We invite you to discover a route rich in landscapes, with about 4 hours of cycling per day, while taking the time to visit the various monuments that stand in your way.

Route of the Loire Castles by bike on Google Maps

Step 1: Chambord and Blois

Your adventure begins at the Chambord Castle. If departing from Tours, we suggest traveling by train to Blois first and arranging a day trip between Chambord and Blois for optimal efficiency.

You’ll be able to explore two royal castles – one in Chambord, another situated near the center of Blois – with free entry available for youngsters under 26 and €15 admission fee charged per adult visitor; this also permits access across all gardens.

The city of Blois is really pleasant to visit. A typical city center, a cathedral, the castle with its imposing staircase, and some viewpoints not to be missed.

Stage 2: On the way to Chenonceau

For those who are willing to wake up at dawn, we strongly propose leaving Blois before sunrise and taking in the breathtaking view of Chaumont-sur-Loire from a hot air balloon! An unforgettable experience awaits you with an amazing 360° panorama of all the stunning castles along the Loire. At only 130€ per person for 1h30 flight, it’s worth every penny!

Returning to the mainland, be sure make a stop at Château de Chenonceau–it’s an absolute must-see on your itinerary. If you’re in need of some change from all that pedaling, try out canoe-kayaking along the Cher river right in front of this stunning castle!

Another option: go through Amboise before going to Chenonceau. To do this, simply follow the Loire from Blois to Amboise, before descending towards Chenonceau. Allow a few extra hours for this visit.

Step 3: Valencay

From Chenonceau, continue your route by taking the cycle paths along the Cher river . You will cross many small villages, until a well-deserved break in Saint-Aignan (our favorite little village on this stage).

You can then leave the tracks and follow the departmental roads 17, 52 and 956 to arrive at Château de Valençay. Less known than its companions, its history is just as interesting.

Stage 4: Château de l’Islette, Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau

For the penultimate stage of this journey, you will traverse back east through Montresor and its grand castle as well as Loches—a captivating village that mustn’t be overlooked.

Here we recommend stopping to explore the lush garden looking down upon the regal cityscape along with its picturesque alleyways and a walk around the bastions.

The path continues for an enjoyable biking experience towards Châte de l’Islette (one of our favorites), ultimately arriving at Azay-le-Rideau’s fortress located nearby.

A detour…to Tours? The city of Tours is located a few kilometers from the Château de Villandry. Discover what to do and see in Tours!

Final stage: Chinon and Saumur

On our last day of exploration, let us take a trip to Chinon – an ancient castle town formerly held sway by the French Crown. Splendid views are abound at every turn as you admire the mighty Vienne River’s course through this captivating cityscape. Lastly, settle in Saumur for some rest and relaxation surrounded by lush vineyards! Discover what’s to see in Saumur!

Loire Castles Pass: Where to buy it?

To save time (and money), consider getting a Pass’ Châteaux de la Loire, your key to visiting the most beautiful monuments in the region.

Make sure to plan your journey ahead! By buying the Loire Valley castle pass directly online or at any of Blois, Chambord, Chaumont-sur-Loire and Cheverny’s tourist offices – you can unlock a world filled with majestic castles.

Different packages are available depending on what route you have in mind and remember that tickets will be valid until the end of 2021!

Don’t forget about opening hours and periods for each individual castle too; although they’re usually open all year round, there may be unexpected closures from time to time.

Enjoy your bike journey and all the Loire Valley Castles to visit!

Loire Valley Châteaux & Castle FAQs

Tips For Visiting Loire Valley Castles from Paris

– The best Loire Valley castles and Loire Valley châteaux for a day trip from Paris are the Chateau de Blois and the Chambord Castle. They are both 2 hours southwest of Paris.
– If you’d like to experience several Loire Valley castles, don’t plan on seeing more than two in one day. It’s also a good idea to identify the castles you want to see in advance and select centrally located accommodations. To see the castles on this list, consider staying in the town of Tours.
– In addition to its stunning castles, the Loire Valley is known for its locally sourced cuisine and world-class sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines, so be sure to enjoy them as well as the rich history and impressive architecture.

Which Loire Castles not miss?

The essentials in the region of the Loire castles are:
1- Chambord Castle;
2- Cheverny Castle;
3- Amboise Castle;
4-Chinon Castle;
5- Chenonceau Castle.

Which circuit to visit Loire Castles?

The 5-day cycling circuit linking Chambord to Saumur is a timeless classic for discovering the region and its castles

What is the most visited Loire Castle?

Chenonceau is the most visited in France, after nearly 800,000 visitors each year.

When is the best time to visit Loire Castles?

Spring, in the month of May, is surely one of the best times to enjoy a tourist excursion in the region. The sunny days are still quite temperate, and the influx of tourists is moderate compared to the summer school holiday season.

How to visit Loire Castles without a car?

The ideal is to use bicycles. If you are not yet equipped, you can find many agencies in the region that will rent you bikes adapted for the paths as well as for the road.

Complete list of the 100 Loire Castles

For the real enthusiasts, here is a list of 100 Loire castles to visit.

Indre et Loire (37)
List of castles open in Indre-et-Loire:
Amboise
Azay-le-Rideau
Bridore
Domaine Candé in Monts
Champchevrier (Cléré les Pins)
Chanteloup
Chateau Gaillard
Chenonceau
Chinon
Clos Lucé
Fontenay to Lignieres
Gizeux
Jallanges to Vouvray
La Bourdaisière (Montlouis sur Loire)
La Devinière (Seuilly) – Rabelais Museum
La Farinière (Cinq Mars la Pile)
La Guerche
Langais
La Roche Racan
Le Grand Pessigny
L’Islette (Azay-le-Rideau)
loaches
Marcilly-sur-Maulne
Montbazon
Monpoupon (Céré la Ronde)
My Treasure
Nitray (Atheist on Cher)
Le Rivau (Lemere)
Rouvray
Saché
Towers
Chateau d’Usse
Valliere (Reugny, Chancay)
VIllandry
Villaumaire (Huismes)

Loir et Cher (41)
List of castles open in Loir-et-Cher:
Beautiful eyes
Blois
Chambord
Chaumont-sur-Loire
Chemery
Cheverny
Fougeres-sur-Bievre
Gué-Péan (Monthou-sur-Cher)
La Possonnière (Couture-sur-le-Loir)
Les Radrets (Sargé sur Braye)
montrichard
Windmill (Lassay-sur-Croisne)
Rochambeau
Selles-sur-Cher
Talcy
Troussay (Cheverny)
Vendome
Villelouet
Villesavin (Tour-en-Sologne)

Maine et Loire (49)
List of castles open in Maine-et-Loire:
Angers
Bauge
Breze
Brissac-Quince
Challain
Clairefontaine
Durtal
Echarbot (St-Sylvain d’Anjou)
The Lordship of the Wood
Manor of Launay
La Thibaudiere
Le Breil (Foin-à-Chigné)
Le Plessis-Bourre
Le Plessis-Mace
Martigne Briand
Mergot
Montgeoffroy
Montreuil-Bellay
Montriou (Feneu)
Montsabert
Montsoreau
Pignerolles
Pimpean
Raguin
Saumur
Serrain
hugging
Villeneuve

Loiret (45)
List of chateaux open in the Loiret:
Beaugency
Chamerolles
Chateauneuf-sur-Loire
Gien
Groslot (Orleans)
La Bussiere
La Ferte Saint-Aubin
Meung sur Loire
Pont Chevron
Saint Brisson
Sully-sur-Loire