Ten Must-See Beautiful Castles in the Loire Valley
When we were expecting our first child, we decided to move back to my husband's hometown in the Loire Valley. We ended up having both our children born there, and this wonderful region in France will always hold a special place in my heart. It's the "homeland" for our little family, and we still go back regularly to visit the grandparents.
If you’ve visited Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, that’s wonderful. But you haven’t seen “France”. If you want to dig deeper into France’s medieval and Renaissance beginnings and visit the land of the Kings and Queens, then you must pay a visit to the Loire Valley. We nicknamed the region “Chateaux Valley” because it’s so dotted with beautiful castles that you’d almost never run out of castles to visit.
Here are the top ten beautiful castles in the Loire Valley that I’d recommend visiting, but the list really doesn’t stop here. This is really a teaser post. Consider this an “amuse-bouche” (bite-sized appetizer) of your castle tour on a limited visiting time frame. Stay tuned to my blog for in-depth reviews of these castles and for other unique and lesser-known castles in the Loire Valley.
1. Château de Chenonceau
A castle built on a river? How often do you see something like this? For history buffs, this castle was the home of a line-up of extraordinary Queens. There's something quite interesting about the history of the architecture, too.
2. Château de Chambord
If you want to be blown away with a majestic view, this is the one. If you want to see a spiraling staircase that's rumored to be of Leonardo da Vinci's design, this is the one. If you want to learn how the Kings hunt in the royal forests, this is the one.
3. Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
Some say that this is the most romantic castle in the Loire Valley, I'm not quite sure why. The castle and the pond around it are absolutely gorgeous, and the town of Azay-le-Rideau itself is really the cutest little village to visit.
4. Château d'Ussé
Ok, I'll admit it. This is our favorite castle. It's called "Sleeping Beauty's Castle" and it has a wonderful exhibit that walks you through the Sleeping Beauty story, with a very scary witch. Although Disney took the inspiration of Sleeping Beauty's castle from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, this is the actual castle that Charles Perrault, Sleeping Beauty's author, had in mind when he wrote the story. Be sure to visit the chapel next to the castle, it's a gem of an architecture.
5. Château Royal d'Amboise
This is the place to go for a panoramic view over the river Loire. The place is laden with illustrious history, and Leonardo da Vinci walked on the same exact stone pavings a few hundred of years ago. Learn about amazing stories of power, love, and grieve here.
6. Château de Loches
What's great about this castle is that it's a citadel on a hilltop. You walk through a little village built back in the 9th century, you witness the transition between medieval and the beginning of Renaissance architecture in the castle, and you visit the imposing dungeon and the most extensive collection of medieval armors in France.
7. Château de Blois
This castle is for architecture buffs. In one castle you see the evolution of French architecture from the 13th to the 17th century: medieval fortress, gothic palace, Renaissance castle, and neoclassical mansion. Learn about Catherine de' Medicis' important influence on the French royal court.
8. Château de Cheverny
This one is for Tin Tin fans. If you’re familiar with the Belgian reporter’s adventures, this is the real deal of the fictional “Chateau de Moulinsart” that first appeared in “The Secret of the Unicorn”. The hunting dogs of Cheverny are a sight that your kids will love!
9. Château de Villandry
This is the “Garden Castle”. Walk through perfect examples of French gardens in all their glory, enjoy the smell of fresh herbs and roses, and indulge in the lovely colors of thousands of flowers.
10. Château de l'Islette
This is a hidden gem off the beaten path. It’s our favorite weekend spot to picnic on the grass and to row a small boat on a quiet little stream. But I’m giving it away here because it’s too great not to share. Here's my full review of Chateau d'Islette, I consider it the best-kept secret of the Loire Valley castles.
If you're visiting the Loire Valley in winter, check out my Loire Valley Holiday Season Travel Guide.