If France is the country of châteaux (palaces), then the Loire Valley is the region to visit in order to get the full experience! In fact, the entire region is littered with châteaux to the extent that the central part of the Loire Valley was made a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000.
With vineyards, historical towns and countless fruit orchards, there’s really something for everyone to see and enjoy in the Loire Valley, and you can’t go wrong by dedicating at least a couple of days to visiting the region! If you’re short on time, then you can easily manage a day trip to the Loire Valley from Paris by car, and with that in mind, here are 3 châteaux to consider visiting:
Château de Chambord
It makes sense to start with Château de Chambord because the palace really is the crowning jewel of the entire region. Built in the 16th century, the château was originally intended to be used as a hunting lodge for Francis I (much like the Château at Fontainebleau). As a result, the Château was decorated in a homely, comfy style with tapestries and open wooden fires; or rather, the château was decorated in as cozy a style as can be managed with 440 rooms and over 250 fireplaces!
As you can probably imagine, considering its size, the château is also home to some pretty spectacular staircases. In pride of place at the very centre of the château sits the double helix staircase; a double staircase that winds its way from the basement right up onto the roof. You can also visit the rooftop of the château which offers views over the surrounding countryside.
And if all that hasn’t already convinced you to visit Château de Chambord, then it’s said that Leonardo da Vinci himself had a hand in the creation of the palace. Now, if that’s not a great reason to visit, then I don’t know what is!
Address: Château, 41250 Chambord, France
Château de Cheverny
Built in the 1600s, this small French château (well, small in comparison to the massive Chambord!) has been owned by the same family for generations. The castle was constructed by Henri Hurault who was a treasurer for Louis XII. The castle was really brought into the spotlight by the famous Belgian comic ‘TinTin’. In the comic books, the château is featured as Marlinspike Hall – Captain Haddock’s Country Estate.
If you’d like to visit, then you don’t need to worry about opening dates. The palace is open 365 days a year and has only been closed 3 times since it opened to the public! (Once due to a death, once due to a visit from the Queen and once for a wedding.)
Please note: Cheverny is pronounced a little like ‘sheeverny’ and shouldn’t be confused with the French town of ‘Giverny’ – a small town close to Paris that was famed for Monet’s waterlilies!
Address: Château de Cheverny, 41700 Cheverny, France
If you want to visit a Loire Valley château that is particularly medieval looking, then you need look no further than Château de Châteaudun. The fortified château is quite literally built into the side of a cliff, and it is one for architecture lovers out there!
The town of Châteaudun is also well worth a visit. The old part of the town is filled with timber framed houses and churches, while an even older area is home to a series of grottos. One such grotto has been converted into a wine store, complete with oak barrels (and freezing temperatures!)
Address: Place Jehan de Dunois, 28200 Châteaudun, France
Have you visited the Loire Valley?
What was your favourite châteaux?