If you are looking for the best châteaux to visit in France, Loire Valley is the perfect place to find them. Many of our favorite French castles are in the beautiful Loire Valley!
So do yourself a favor and add on a few extra days to your France itinerary, so that you can visit at least a handful of splendid castles in Loire Valley, or if you are feeling a little French, ‘Les châteaux de la Loire’!
Spanning over 280 kilometers of the longest river in central France, the Loire Valley, or Vallée de la Loire, is home to an astonishing 80 recorded châteaux.
Most of us don't have the time, or luxury, to visit all 80 of these castles. So, it can be tricky to choose from such a wide selection and to come up with your own list of the best castles in Loire Valley to visit, especially with limited time and knowledge of the area.
So we thought we would help you out. Here is our list of the top 10 best Loire Valley châteaux – hand-picked just for you.
Our Guide to the Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley
For a personal selection of the best châteaux to visit in Loire Valley, take a look at our list of the top 10.
1. Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord may just hold the crown as the best château in Loire Valley! As the biggest château in France, and the most magnificent, it was constructed by King Francois I in 1519 as a purpose-built hunting lodge (and to impress foreign dignitaries).
A place of rich history and culture, each structural sector is included on a HistoPad, which will automatically use immersive Virtual Reality to give a visual suggestion of how the room would have looked when someone lived there.
Don’t miss out on the chance to discover the unbelievable architecture of the castle, which is distinctive of the French Renaissance style. One of the castle’s most memorable features is the intricate double-helix staircase, where you can ascend on the one side and never meet the eyes of someone on the other side until you reach the next floor.
From the 800 crowned salamander sigils carved into the stone ceiling, to intricately woven tapestries that document kings hunting expeditions, enjoy a glimpse into history at one of the most famous castles in France. Discover the history of how the salamander became a symbol of King Francois I, along with the motto, “I eat the good fire, I put out the bad”.
While the interior is spectacular, the rooftop holds its own! It was designed to look like the skyline of Constantinople with a collection of impressive spires and chimneys. Take in a panoramic view of this incredible castle from the château’s immaculate gardens where you can take a carriage ride across the lawns just like a royal!
The Château de Chambord is our favorite castle, and possibly the best château in the Loire Valley. We’re sure it will impress every single one of you!
Grab more information about this castle in our Chambord Castle Travel Guide.
2. Château de Chenonceau
If you plan to awaken your inner history buff, why not make your way to one of the most fascinating mixes of Renaissance and Gothic architecture?
Built in the early 1500s by Thomas Bohier, the château is now a historical site, which greets its visitors every day with floral arrangements from the castles onsite floral workshop. The château spans the River Cher on an iconic bridge, which makes for an unbelievable photo.
What will attract you the most is the guards' room, with its 16th-century fireplace, decorated by 16th-century tapestries, and a showing of exposed ceiling joists bearing the mark of ‘C’ for Catherine de Medici. Subtle touches like this give a glimpse into the castle’s history as the ‘ladies château’ where prominent women have shaped, restored and protected the historic building for years.
With a vast history, exquisite artwork and tapestries, as well as gardens that will take your breath away, the château is truly spectacular!
Make sure to enjoy the audio tour inside the castle if you want to learn more about its fascinating history. If you plan on visiting this beautiful castle, you may find our Château de Chenonceau travel guide useful.
3. Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire
The stunning Château de Chaumont truly looks like a castle on the hill, where it’s surrounded by a lush park.
Rebuilt a few years after Louis XI had the château burned and razed to the ground in 1465, the restored chateau is now famous for its yearly garden festival. The renowned festival is a colorful showcase of garden art and contemporary landscape design.
With a breathtaking view of the Loire from the once ‘north wing’, the Château de Chaumont also hosts works of incredible architecture. The art gallery in the loft shows what the non-accessible areas look like, and the pepperpot riding school is a stunning piece of engineering for its time.
You can also pay a visit to the castle's fascinating model farm, which completes the truly dreamy atmosphere. The château is also home to France’s finest collection of Jean-Baptiste Nini’s ‘one-off’ medallions. This grand home, which once served up banquets for the crowned heads of Europe, is now a museum where you can explore every inch of the incredible estate.
We absolutely LOVE the fairytale feel of this castle with its glinting turrets, but if you are strapped for time, it’s still a beautiful spot if you don't get around to seeing the inside of the château.
4. Château de Cheverny
A visit to this palatial château is definitely a must on your trip to France. The exquisite building just outside of Blois looks like it comes straight out of a painting, and you can explore storied rooms that have been virtually unchanged for generations.
Built by the architect Jacques Bougier between 1620 and 1640, it was a pioneer of the French style that had developed during the reign of Louis XIV (or the Sun King). As one of the first châteaux to become open to the public, the castle is renowned for its unmissable collection of furniture, tapestries, and objects d’art.
Also known as French classicism, the style of Louis XIV developed over three distinct periods coinciding with stages of his life, which were marked by mythology and influenced by flora and fauna. The château’s interior is also a 3D depiction of famous stories including the Chambre du Roi, which is adorned with 5 tapestries portraying the story of Ulysses. The immaculate dining room also features 34 wooden panels which tell the tale of Don Quixote.
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 is still practice to hunt with the hounds.
5. Château of Amboise
This stunning château looks out over the River Loire, reflecting its enchanting silhouette onto the water.
Built as a strategic viewpoint as early as the Neolithic period (the last period of the Stone Age), the Château of Amboise only saw prominence in the 6th century when King Clovis of France took up arms against the Visigoths.
The castle’s own past of rises and falls follows the history of France as the château went from fortress to royal home, to the remarkable figure it is along the French landscape.
If you ever visit the château, you can still see its restoration work continuing to this date, which began 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”, a multi-sensory show, which brings the court of Charles VIII back to life.
The garden itself almost forms part of the castle itself, and you can pay a visit to the remarkable 3D re-creation in the Orangery where you can discover more of the château’s past. The quaint ruins of the Chapel of St Florentine is another memorable feature on the grounds, which has become famous as the resting place of Leonardo da Vinci.
Make sure to set some time aside to enjoy the town of Amboise whilst you are there and stop in to visit the famous château of Leonardo de Vinci (more on this castle below).
6. Château de Sully-sur-Loire
This iconic château rises like an island out of the River Loire, where it sits on a collection of 3 small outcrops.
It is quite remarkable to comprehend how the Château de Sully-sur-Loire is still standing strong today, after being demolished and reconstructed on innumerable occasions since the 18th century. The Keep, or Grand Château, is the oldest preserved feature at the château as it dates back to the 14th century.
The castle has had a long and remarkable history filled with changes of ownership, war, fires, and was even occupied by German soldiers during WWII. It was also the home of a prominent French family, the Sullys, and the first Duke of Sully is represented by a large marble statue in the Outer Courtyard.
Once a defense outpost on the left bank of the Loire in the 12th century, it presently guards some historical treasures.
The most noteworthy of which includes the chemin de ronde (patrol route), the Tenture de Psyché tapestry, the château’s 14th-century barrel-vaulted ceiling, as well as the grave of the Sully himself.
The visitor route is well maintained, and it will guide you past an array of historic paintings and tapestries, amidst period furnishings in opulent rooms that once housed French aristocracy.
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, including the spectacular Renaissance Gardens.
The incredible manicured lawns are like an artwork in themselves with exquisite ornamental flower gardens carved into patterns by neat box hedges, a water garden, and orangeries.
The grounds also include a play area for children, vegetable gardens and terraces for a perfect view of the château. Built by Jean Le Briton, one of Francoise I’s finance ministers in 1536, the château and gardens you see today make for a spectacular sight.
Apart from the well-appointed rooms, the more noteworthy features that might appeal to you are the oriental drawing room and an artwork display in the gallery. There is also an intricate Louis XV staircase, which has the initials of Michel-Ange de Castellane intertwined into the banisters. But what will really sweep you off your feet is the climb to the top of the tower!
The mark of each new owner can be seen in the castle’s interior, each of whom helped make the château one of the most beautiful in Loire Valley. The dining room has become a ‘must-see’ with the special touches that have made it the historic monument it is.
8. Château de Blois
This particularly amazing château takes visitors on a unique tour through the history of French architecture. The Château de Blois acts as a beautiful illustration of French building styles from the middle ages to the 17th century.
Begin your journey as you walk through the entrance to the château, which is watched over by the oh-so-regal statue of a king on horseback. Then, experience the breathtaking Stateroom, a riot of color and intricate designs. You can also enjoy a fascinating walk through the Architecture Rooms which house different examples of original sculptures from across the château grounds.
Special care has been taken in restoring this chateau to its former beauty, with a particular emphasis on returning the floor tiles to their original self. Four architectural styles collide within the castle walls, from a 13th-century medieval fortress to Gaston of Orlean’s Classical Wing.
As a unique feature, late on summer evenings you may even get a chance to attend the château’s own featured ‘son et lumière,’ which is a melodramatic historical narrative with a light show, and accompanied by 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. This truly regal château rises like a sentinel out of the water, leaving a shimmering mirror image below.
Under the patronage of King Francois, the château was built on the site of an ancient fortress, but remained incomplete, leaving it with a remarkable but accidental L-shaped exterior. The castle is a place of war and deep historical significance, which can be seen in the name itself.
Enough to capture your heart and please your eyes, under the care of the French Centre for National Monuments, the château was lovingly restored with a mesmerizing interior and facades, wrapped in tuffeau stone and beautifully ornamented.
The château is also home to the Escalier d’Honneur, the oldest surviving staircase of its kind in France. In a true nod to its history, you can also admire a number of artworks depicting French royals along the castle walls.
The incredibly picturesque 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
This pink-bricked chateau is straight of a storybook, overlooking lush green lawns. It is famous for being the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci, where he spent his final years creating and building. Today, the château is a museum that houses 40 models of machines designed by da Vinci.
Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years here (1516 -1519), and 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 1960s to bring it back to its former glory. You can now catch a glimpse of da Vinci’s private life as you visit his bedroom, kitchen and study, as well as the small chapel displaying frescos by his admirers. You can also explore da Vinci’s artist’s studio where an audiovisual production brings the space to life.
Finish off your visit to this gorgeous château with a stroll around the grounds where a stunning pond lies surrounded by centuries-old pines and, of course, the famous Mona Lisa rose.
A Final Word on the Best Loire Valley Castles
Which do you think are the best châteaux in Loire Valley? These are our favorites, and just a sampling worthy of mention. We would love to hear your comments and suggestions on must-see châteaux in Loire Valley, and which one you’re visiting next!