So do yourself a favor and add on a few extra days onto your France itinerary, so that you can visit at least a handful of these splendid châteaux!
Spanning 280 kilometers in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, the Loire Valley houses 80 recorded châteaux. Most of us don't have the time or luxury to visit all 80 castles, and it can be tricky to choose from the selection to come up with your own list of the best castles in the Loire Valley. So I thought I would help you out. Here is my list of the top ten best Loire Valley châteaux – hand-picked just for you.
Our Guide to the Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley
1. Château de Chambord
The biggest chateau in the Loire Valley and the most magnificent! The Chateau de Chambord was created by King Francois I in 1519 for the purpose of being a hunting lodge (and to impress foreign dignitaries).
A place of history and culture, each structural sector is provided with a HistoPad which will automatically show how the room would have looked when someone was staying there.
From the 800 crowned salamander sigils carved into the stone ceiling to intricately woven tapestries that document kings hunting.
The Chateau de Chambord is our favorite castle and the best chateau in the Loire Valley. I'm sure it will impress every single one of you!
2. Château de Chenonceau
If you plan to awaken the history buff inside, why not make your way to one of the most fascinating mixes of Renaissance and Gothic architecture?
Created in the early 1500’s by Thomas Bohier, the chateau is now a historical site, which greets its visitors every day with floral arrangements from the castles onsite floral workshop.
What will attract you the most is the guards room with the 16th-century fireplace, decorated by 16th-century tapestry, and showing exposed ceiling joists bearing the mark of “C” for Catherine de Medici.
Make sure to enjoy the audio tour inside the castle to learn more about its fascinating history.
3. Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
Rebuilt a few years after Louis XI had the château burned and razed to the ground, in 1465, the chateau is now famous for its yearly garden festival.
With a breathtaking view of Loire from the once ‘north wing’ the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire also harvests works of incredible architecture. The art gallery in the loft shows how the non-accessible areas look like, and the archived pepperpot riding school is a stunning piece of engineering.
We absolutely LOVE the fairy-tale feel of this castle, but if you are strapped for time, you won't miss much if you don't get around to seeing the inside of the chateau.
4. Château de Cheverny
A visit to this chateau is a must. Built by the architect Jacques Bougier between 1620 and 1640, it was a pioneer of the French style that developed during the reign of Louis XIV.
The mesmerizing parks and gardens enclose one of the Estate’s unique features, the kennels. It raises numerous French Poitevin and English Foxhound crossbreed dogs, as it still believes in hunting with hounds.
5. Château of Amboise
Built as a strategic viewpoint as early as the Neolithic period, the Chateau of Amboise only saw prominence in the 6th century when King Clovis of France took up arms against the Visigoths.
If you ever visit the chateau, you can still see its restoration work continuing to this date since its beginning in the 19th century. But that doesn't mean that your trip here will disappoint.
Every summer they hold a spectacular show of sound and light called “The Prophecy of Amboise” which bring the court of Charles VIII back to life.
Make sure to set some time aside to enjoy the town of Amboise whilst you are there and stop in to visit the famous châteaux of Leonardo de Vinci (more on this castle below).
6. Château de Sully-sur-Loire
It is quite remarkable to comprehend how the Château de Sully-sur-Loire still stands strong today after being demolished and reconstructed innumerably since the 18th century.
Once a defence outpost on the left bank of Loire, in the 12th century, it presently guards some historical treasures. The most noteworthy of them which you will find, includes the chemin de ronde (patrol route), a wall hanging depicting Psyche, its 14th-century barrel-vaulted ceiling, and furnished rooms as well as the grave of the Sully himself.
The visit route is well maintained as it will guide you past paintings and tapestries amidst period furnishings.
7. Château de Villandry
Hailed as the most family orientated chateau within the Loire Valley, the Château de Villandry is world renowned for its exceptional gardens. Built by Jean Le Briton, one of Francoise I’s finance ministers in 1536, the chateau and gardens you see today are a combination of flowers and vegetables.
Apart from the appointed rooms, the more noteworthy features that might appeal to you is the oriental drawing room and the artwork display in the gallery. But what will sweep you off your feet is the climb to the top of the tower.
8. Château de Blois
Special care has been taken in restoring this chateau to its former beauty with a particular emphasis on restoring the floor tiles to its original self. The Château de Blois acts as a beautiful illustration of the French architecture from the middle ages to the 17th century.
As a unique feature, late on summer evenings you can even get a chance to attend the chateau's own featured ‘son et lumière,’ which is a melodramatic historical narrative with a light show and classical music.
9. Château d'Azay le Rideau
A hybrid of classical French tradition and Italian décor, the Château d'Azay le Rideau was built on an island in the Indre River under the patronage of King Francois I.
Enough to capture your heart and please your eyes, under the French Centre for National Monuments, the chateau was restored to have a mesmerizing interior and facades, wrapped in tuffeau stones and ornamented beautifully.
The Château d'Azay le Rideau is an exceptional piece of heritage that has monumental worth in the field of French historical archiving.
10. Château du Clos Lucé
Famous for housing the last years of Leonardo de Vinci (1516 -1519), the site of the manor dates back to the 12th century when it was surrounded by fortifications of which only the watchtower remains.
Massive restorations have been made since the 1960’s to bring it back to its former glory. You can now catch a glimpse of da Vinci’s private life as you get to visit his bedroom, his kitchen and his study as well as the small chapel displaying frescos by his disciples.
Over to You:
- Which castle do you think is the best chateaux to visit in the Loire Valley?