Best Castles in Loire Valley (Itinerary + Map 2021)

A full guide to the best Loire Valley chateaux to visit (+ map, 3-day castle itinerary and how to get there by train, car or on a day trip from Paris).
best chateaux loire valley

Spanning over 280 kilometres, Loire Valley is home to charming medieval towns, centuries-old vineyards and more than 300 castles (or chateaux in French). It is the most popular destination in France after its capital, Paris. Thus, don’t miss to add a day or two to your France itinerary and explore this fairy tale region.

Most of the fabulous chateaux in Loire Valley were built in the 15th and 16th centuries, during the Renaissance period. They served as pleasure palaces of the French royals and the rich nobles, an extension of court life outside Paris. Many of them are open to visitors and you can get a glimpse of how the royals lived and planned their political intrigues and love affairs. 

Continue reading to find out what are the best chateaux to see in the Loire Valley and how to get there by car or train.

Best Loire Valley chateaux to visit

With more than 300 castles, it’s tricky to decide which chateaux to visit and which to skip. Especially when you are limited in time or in transportation (if you’re travelling by train).

To help you with your decision, I made this list of the best castles to visit in Loire Valley. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan your journey, including a 3-day castle itinerary that covers the best chateaux to see.


Best Loire Valley Chateaux to visit (complete list)

  • Château de Chambord
  • Château de Chenonceau
  • Château de Blois
  • Château de Chaumont
  • Château de Villandry
  • Château d’Amboise
  • Château du Clos Lucé
  • Château de Cheverny
  • Chateau d’Angers
  • Château de Valençay
  • Château de Sully-sur-Loire
  • Château de Langeais
  • Château de Beauregard
  • Château d’Ussé
  • Château de Saumur
  • Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
  • Château de Brézé
  • Château de Loches
  • Château de Chinon
  • Château de Meung-sur-Loire

Always book tours or skip the lines tickets with Tiqets, Civitatis or GetYourGuide (you get a mobile ticket voucher + free cancellation). Tickets from the attractions’ official websites, in most cases, are non-refundable.

The Châteaux of Chambord and Chenonceau are the most famous ones in the Loire Valley. You’ll find them included in almost any guided day trip from Paris you can book. However, there are plenty of other smaller castles that are worth a visit. Some of them even host unique events like gardening festivals, sound and light shows and archery tournaments.

Visiting Paris as well? Take a look at my Paris itinerary for first-timers (it covers the most popular sights + how to skip all the lines and save money).

Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord is the most famous Loire Valley castle (and the most visited one). If you have time for one chateau only, choose this! It is the most impressive castle in French Renaissance style in the Val de Loire.

François I built the estate in 1519 with the intention of using it as a hunting lodge. However, the opulent building with its 440 rooms and 282 chimneys is far beyond the idea of an ordinary lodge. In fact, Château de Chambord ranks among the largest chateaux in France.

The castle wasn’t finished till the death of François I, who spent only 8 weeks in total here. King Louis XIV completed the chateau as we see it today in 1685.

This is the most popular chateau in Loire Valley, so book tickets in advance here. Lines are always long, even off the season.

Not to miss

  • the double-helix staircase (attributed to Da Vinci) – it was designed in such way that two people can go down at the same time without ever seeing each other
  • the salamander (Françoise I’s emblem) is represented hundreds of times on ceilings and walls
  • the panoramic view from the rooftop terrace towards the vast gardens
  • the rooftop with its impressive spires and chimneys, that was designed to look like the skyline of Constantinople
Do you know it’s possible to stay overnight at the premises of Château de Chambord? Hotel Relais de Chambord has an unbeatable location, just a 4-minute walk from the estate.

Fancy staying in a castle during your holiday? Find all the best-rated chateaux hotels here.

How to get there
The easiest way to get to Chambord is to catch the shuttle (Rémi) from the Blois-Chambord train station (see the schedule here).

My tips

  • present your shuttle bus ticket to get a discount on the entrance fee
  • get the HistoPad to discover in virtual reality how the castle looked in the times of François I (+ there is a treasure hunt for children)
More tours of Château de Chambord

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau is known as the Château des Dames (or Ladies’ Castle). Its nickname comes from the fact that all of its owners were women. Château de Chenonceau is an elegant Renaissance castle, spanning the river Cher. It’s one of the must-see chateaux in Loire Valley!

It all started with Catherine Briçonnet, the wife of King Charles VIII’s Chamberlain, in 1517. This is the woman, responsible for the construction of the castle.

In 1535, Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II, got the castle as a gift from the king. She built the bridge across the river and designed its fabulous gardens.

Upon Henri’s death, Queen Catherine de Medici, took back the property from Diane. Queen Catherine added the gallery over the river and extended the gardens.

Château de Chenonceau is one of the most famous castles in Loire Valley. Lines are usually long even out of the season, so book tickets in advance here.

Not to miss

  • take a hot air balloon ride above the Loire Valley at sunrise or sunset and admire this stunning estate from above
  • the well preserved kitchens of the castle – they are amongst the finest examples of Renaissance kitchens in the world
  • the garden of Diane de Poitiers (a French formal garden with grass triangles) and the garden of Catherine de Medici (featuring an avenue of orange trees and climbing roses)

How to get there
Take a train from Tours train station (Gare de Tours) to Chenonceau train station (30min journey). From there it is a few minutes walk to the palace.

My tips

  • don’t miss the Nocturnal Promenades, that allows you to discover the gardens illuminated by lanterns and candles to the music of Arcangelo Corelli
More tours of Château de Chenonceau

Château de Blois

Château de Blois

Château de Blois is located right in the historic centre of the medieval town of Blois. Looking at its facade, you’ll see four different architectural styles – from Medieval through Gothic and Renaissance to Classical. With more than 560 rooms and 75 staircases, it’s one of the largest chateaux in Loire Valley!

Originally a medieval fortress belonging to the Counts of Blois, the estate later was home to 7 kings and 10 queens of France. They all left their marks on the architecture of the palace.

The history of the manor, spanning from the 13th to the 17th century, is a witness of a few political intrigues. Duke of Guise was assassinated here by King Henry III, and it was the place where Marie de’ Medici was exiled by her son, King Louis XIII. Also, here Joan of Arc was blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before the siege of Orléans in 1429.

Not to miss

  • the iconic spiral staircase commissioned by King François I
  • the incredible view of the Loire and the old town from the castle’s grounds
  • the portrait of Antonietta Gonsalvus, the werewolf child, who lived there in the 16th century
  • the Sound and Light show that recreates the vivid history of the estate (it takes place every evening after sunset between April and September)
Château de Blois sound and light show

How to get there
Located right in the city centre, the castle is just a short walk from Blois – Chambord train station (1h40min by train from Paris).

My tips

  • it’s a popular attraction, so book tickets in advance here (note that you need an additional ticket for the Sound and Light show)
  • get the HistoPad to discover in virtual reality the complicated history of the castle and participate in a treasure hunt
  • make sure to set some time aside to enjoy the charming town of Blois
More tours of Château de Blois

Château de Chaumont

Château de Chaumont

Château de Chaumont with its towers and turrets looks like it came straight from the page of a fairy tale. It’s a must-see, especially if you want to add a little magic to your vacation.

Built in the 10th century by the Count of Blois, Eudes I, it’s one of the oldest chateaux of the Loire Valley. A century later, the castle became a property of the Amboise family for 500 years through marriage. However, this brought nothing good to the domain.

In 1465, Louis XI ordered the destruction of the building to punish Pierre d’Amboise for having rebelled against him. A few years later, when the king pardoned Pierre, the manor was rebuilt again.

Catherine de Medici acquired the building in 1550. After the death of her husband, she forced Diane de Poitiers to take this castle in exchange for Château de Chenonceau. Diane transformed the domain into the stunning chateau we can see today.

Not to miss

  • the International Garden Festival, annually between April and October
  • the late 19th-century stables, where you’ll find carriages and Hermès harnesses

How to get here
Take a train from Tours or Blois – Chambord train station to Onzain – Chaumont-sur-Loire station (about 1 hour journey). From there it’s about a 2km walk to the castle (or you can also take the shuttle bus).

My tips
If you’re visiting in the summer, consider buying your ticket in advance here to avoid waiting in lines

Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry was one of the last major castles built in the Loire Valley during the Renaissance. Initially owned by Jean Le Briton, the finance minister of Francoise I, the castle became the property of Napoleon’s brother, Jerome, in the 19th century.

Château de Villandry is renowned for its French Gardens, which include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, vegetable gardens, labyrinths and fruit-bearing trees.

To skip the waiting lines, book your ticket in advance here.

Not to miss
During the Nights of a Thousand Lights (Nuits des Mille Feux), the gardens are illuminated with 2000 candles. The event takes place on certain dates in July and August.

How to get there
The easiest way to get there is by car (no trains available). Another option is the Fil Bleu shuttle bus, which runs daily between Tours and Villandry (only in July and August).

Château d’Amboise

Château de Amboise

Positioned high on a hill, Château d’Amboise dominates the medieval town of Amboise. The property once belonged to the Amboise family, before Charles VII seized it in 1434 and turned it into a royal residence. The castle reached the height of its glory during the reign of King François I.

Château d’Amboise hosted numerous royals, historical figures and artists, including Leonardo Da Vinci. He was brought to France by King François I in 1515. Leonardo resided in the nearby Château du Clos Lucé and after his death was buried here in Amboise as per his wish.

Not to miss

  • Leonardo Da Vinci’s tomb at Chapel of Saint-Hubert
  • the spectacular views of the Loire Valley from the castle grounds
  • Château du Clos Lucé – located just a short walk from Château d’Amboise, it’s the place where Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life (1516 -1519). Today, the castle hosts a museum dedicated to the great artist.

How to get there
Take a train from Tours or Blois – Chambord train station to Amboise train station (about 40-50 min journey). From there it’s about a 1km walk to the castle.

My tips

  • if you’re visiting in the summer, consider buying your ticket in advance here to avoid waiting in lines
  • get the HistoPad to discover in virtual reality the development of the royal lodge through time
  • the best view of the castle is from the bridge Pont du Maréchal Leclerc (it’s on your way to the castle if you’re arriving by train)

Château de Cheverny

Château de Cheverny is a magnificent manor, surrounded by woodlands. Built in 1634, the estate has been privately owned for over six centuries by the Hurault family.

The chateau features a unique collection of house antiques, tapestries and paintings. It is considered to be one of the most furnished castles in the Loire Valley.

Not to miss
The 19th century kennels, which are home to more than 100 hunting dogs (a cross of English Fox hound and French Poitevins).

How to get there
The easiest way to get to Cheverny is to catch the shuttle (Rémi) from the Blois-Chambord train stations (see the schedule here).

More castles to visit in Loire Valley

Staying longer in the Val de Loire region and looking for not so touristy castles to explore? Then take a look at the list of the chateaux below.

Château d’Angers

Chateau d’Angers

Built in the 13th century, Château d’Angers was the home of the Dukes of Anjou for almost three centuries. With its stout defensive walls and 17 round towers, the castle is more of a fortress than a chateau.

To avoid waiting in lines, book your ticket in advance here.

Not to miss
The fortress houses the famous Apocalypse tapestry. Commissioned in 1375 by Louis I, Duke of Anjou, it is the largest medieval tapestry in the world.

Château de Anger tapestry

How to get there
The castle is about a 10m walk from the train station Gare d’Angers-Saint-Laud. Yet, if you’re visiting Angers on a day trip, dedicate some time to explore the medieval city as well.

Château de Valençay

Château de Valençay is one of the most elegant chateaux in the Loire Valley. Its history started during the Renaissance with the Estampes family, before becoming the home of Prince de Talleyrand, a leading diplomat and minister to Napoleon.

The interior of the palace is decorated with sumptuous historical furnishings in Empire-style. It was also the place where the artworks from the Louvre were stored during WWII.

How to get there
The property is located 1km away from the Valençay train station. Yet, if you’re based in Tours or Blois, it’s easiest to reach it by car.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire

Featuring turreted towers and encircled by moats, filled with water, Château de Sully-sur-Loire is one of those fairy tale castles. The chateau started its life in 1395 as a military keep. Since then it went through many modifications and reconstructions but retained much of its medieval character.

To skip the lines, book your ticket in advance here.

How to get there
The most convenient way is by car (no trains available).

Château de Langeais

This small medieval castle was built by Foulques Nerra, the Count of Anjou, in the 10th century. Turbulent times followed for the fortress, including almost complete destruction in the 15th century. In 1465, Louis XI rebuilt the property and it served as his residence.

Château de Langeais features over 15 furnished rooms, which represents the daily life of a lord from the Middle Ages. In addition to this, you’ll find the wedding of Charles VIII of France and Anne of Brittany (that took place right here) recreated with wax figures.

How to get there
You can reach the castle in about 20min by train from Tours. From Langeais train station it’s about a 5min walk to the property.

Château de Blois

Château de Beauregard

Château de Beauregard is an elegant manor built in the late 15th century by the Doulcet family. Confiscated by the Crown after a few years, the house became the favourite hunting lodge of François I.

The chateau as it stands today was built by Jean du Thier in 1545. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the castle served as a residence of the king’s ministers, starting with Paul Ardier.

Not to miss

  • the impressive Portraits Gallery where you’ll find 327 portraits of kings and political figures
  • Les Beaux Regards Nocturnes – every Friday evening during the month of August, you can enjoy a night lighting of the castle and the orangery

How to get there
The easiest way to get to Beauregard is to catch the shuttle (Rémi) from the Blois-Chambord train stations (see the schedule here).

Château d’Ussé

Château d’Ussé is a must-see for every Disney fan. This is the castle that inspired Charles Perrault, the famous author of many French fairy tales, to write the story of Sleeping Beauty. Walking through the estate you can admire different displays about the story.

Originally built of stone and wood by Gueldin I de Saumur, the castle changed its owners many times throughout the centuries. Each of them carried out alterations, turning it into this fairy tale chateau that you can see today.

How to get there
The easiest way to get here is by car (no trains available).

Château de Saumur

Located in the small town of Saumur, Château de Saumur was originally constructed as a fortified stronghold by Theobald I in the 10th century. The castle has undergone many transformations – from a military fortress to a luxury home to the Dukes of Anjou and centuries later even used as a prison under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Note that the castle doesn’t have any rooms furnished in period style, but it is rather a museum featuring a large collection of furniture, porcelain and tapestries.

How to get there
The property is easily reachable by train from Tours (about 40min journey). And from Saumur train station, it’s about a 2km walk to the castle.

Château de Blois

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Built on an island of the Indre River, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most romantic castles in Loire Valley. The building is surrounded by water that reflects its unique facade and gives the illusion of a floating castle.

The manor was commissioned by Gilles Berthelot, François I’s finance minister, in 1518. The architectural style combines the finest of the French tradition and Italian Renaissance.

How to get there
Take a train from Tours and get off at Azay-le-Rideau train station (30min journey). From there it’s about a 2km walk to the property.

Château de Brézé

Château de Brézé is one of the most intriguing chateaux in the Loire Valley. Built between the 11th and 19th centuries, it features a mixture of medieval and Renaissance architecture. The castle was property to the powerful family of the Dreux-Brézé for centuries.

Not to miss

  • the underground fortress with a web of tunnels
  • the dry moat, considered among the deepest in Europe
  • the 16th-century wine presses (the largest in the west of France) are still in use today
  • the largest underground medieval bakery in France

How to get there
The easiest way to reach the property is by car (no trains available).

Château de Loches

Château de Loches (or the Royal City of Loches) with its 37-metre high keep is not the typical chateau you might expect. The keep was built between 1013 and 1035 by Foulques III Nerra, Count of Anjou. It’s a masterpiece of French military architecture.

In the 14th century Louis I, Duke of Anjou, enlarged the property, turning it into a comfortable residence. In the following centuries, the chateau became a royal prison for political prisoners, such as Ludovico Sforza and Jean de Poitiers.

How to get there
Take a train from Tours and get off at Loches train station (about 1h journey). From there it’s about a 10min walk to the property.

Château de Blois stained glass

Château de Chinon

Château de Chinon is a medieval fortress that dates back to 954. Constructed by King Thibaud I, the fortress served as a royal residence for centuries. Indeed, this is the place where Joan of Arc met King Charles VII in 1429 to ask him for an army before the siege of Orleans. The last Knight Templars, Jacques de Molay, was also imprisoned here before his execution in Paris.

How to get there
The fortress is about a 1km walk from the train station in Chinon (1h journey from Tours by train).

Château de Meung-sur-Loire

Château de Meung-sur-Loire is one of the hidden secrets in Val de Loire region. Built in the 12th century, it served as the private residence of the Bishops of Orléans. Touring the castle, you’ll get a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who lived and worked there.

Not to miss
The property features many events throughout the year, such as archery, fencing, Christmas and Halloween events (see the full list here).

How to get there
The residence is just a short walk from the train station in Meung-sur-Loire (1h10min journey from Tours by train).

Must buy tickets in advance

There are 2 chateaux for which I absolutely recommend buying tickets in advance, no matter if you’re travelling in the high or low season.

Château de Chambord – with more than 1.5 million visitors per year, this is one of the most famous castles in Loire Valley, so book your entry ticket online here.

Château de Chenonceau – this is the most visited chateau in France after Versailles. Book your ticket in advance here and then don’t forget to book a time slot for your visit.

Keep in mind that during the high season there are long lines at all popular castles. This includes the chateaux of: Chambord, Chenonceau, Blois, Chaumont, Villandry, Amboise, Clos Lucé and Cheverny. If possible, book your tickets ahead of time for all of them.

Best Loire Valley Castles day trips from Paris

Can you see the Loire Valley castles from Paris on a day trip?
Although it’s possible to visit 1or 2 castles in the Val de Loire on a day trip from Paris, it’s not something I’d recommend (unless you’re short on time and take an organized day trip).

To see the most famous Loire Valley chateaux on a day trip from Paris, take the Fairytale Castles with Wine Tasting Tour (the most popular one). You’ll visit Château de Chambord, Château Royal de Blois and finish the tour with a wine tasting at Château de Chenonceau.

If you’re travelling by train, it’s 1h (to Tours) or 1h30min (to Blois) and from there depending on the castle you want to visit you have to take an additional shuttle or to change trains. Both are not regular, often run at long intervals such as 2 hours. Note that you’ll need additional time commuting in Paris. As a result, you’ll spend 5-7 hours travelling in total for one day and barely have time to explore the castles.

A better option is travelling by car, but still, it’s a 2-3h drive from Paris to two of the most popular castles – Châteaux de Chambord and Chenonceau.

Thus I’d recommend you to stay at least a night or two in Tours or Blois. Find more info about this option further in the article in my suggested Loire Valley castle itinerary.

Most popular Loire Valley chateaux tours

How to get around in Loire Valley

The fastest way to get to Loire Valley from Paris is by train. You can reach Tours (Gare de St-Pierre-des-Corps) in 1h10min by train from Gare de Paris-Montparnasse. Blois (Blois – Chambord) is 1h30min away from Austerlitz train station in Paris.

If you’re visiting in the high season of July and August, the better option is to take a train from Paris to Loire Valley instead of driving. In this way, you’ll avoid heavy road traffic. Once you get to your base destination in Val de Loire, you can hire a car there and explore the region.

By car

Needless to say, driving is the most convenient way to see the castles in Loire Valley. You can explore at your own pace, without being rushed and schedule everything in advance. Not to mention the fact that some of the chateaux are reachable only by car. I missed the chance to see the famous gardens of Château de Villandry because the shuttle didn’t run during the time of my visit.

To get the best car rental rate, take a look at Rentalcars (they compare deals from all major companies, giving you the best price).
By train

It’s possible to see the most popular chateaux in Loire Valley by train, but it’s more time consuming and requires some planning ahead of time. Note that for some of the castles you’ll have to use a combination of train and shuttle. However, if you base yourself in Tours or Blois and have enough time, you’ll manage to see the most famous castles.

You can check the train timetables and plan your itinerary online at SNCF official site. There is no need to book tickets in advance.

However, book as early as you can your ticket for the TGV train from Paris to your base in Val de Loire to get the cheapest price. You can book it online at the SNCF official site.

By bicycle

Cycling is very popular in the Loire Valley and you’ll find bike trails to many of the famous chateaux. Loire à Vélo is a 900-kilometre cycle route that connects Cuffy to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (more info about the cycling routes here).

Château de Chambord

Loire Valley Chateaux itinerary

How many days in Loire Valley

It’s a hard question to answer and it all depends on how many chateaux you want to see and how you’re travelling (by car or train). If you want to see the 5 most popular castles in the region, you’ll need 2-3 full days. Yet, the towns of Tours, Blois and Amboise themselves are worth a visit, so plan some additional time for them as well.

In general, I’d recommend at least 3 full days up to a week. My best advice is – don’t plan on seeing more than 2 chateaux a day even if you’re travelling by car. Also, try to group the castles you want to see and decide where it will be most convenient to stay.

Loire Valley Chateaux map (+ 3-Day castle itinerary)

This suggested castle itinerary covers the 5 most famous chateaux in Loire Valley. It’s an itinerary for 3 full days that includes staying in two different towns – Tours and Blois. The estates are grouped in such a way that you’ll be able to see most of the region, no matter if you’re travelling by car or train.

If you’re travelling by train, you’ll have to stay at least in 2 places, so you can reach the properties easier. However, if you’re travelling by car it all depends on your preferences.

You can find a map of all the chateaux here. After you identify the ones you want to visit you can easily modify the itinerary below according to your preferences.

Day 1: Blois

  • start the day by visiting the most famous chateau, Chambord (you can easily reach it by shuttle Rémi from the Blois-Chambord train station)
  • visit Château de Blois in the afternoon and attend the Sound and Light show in the evening (the estate is right in the city centre of Blois)
  • if you have arrived the previous day in Blois and managed to visit the chateau on the day of your arrival, you can switch Château de Blois with Cheverny (served by the same shuttle as Chambord – Rémi)

Day 2: Blois

  • visit Château d’Amboise in the morning (there are plenty of options for breakfast and lunch in Amboise)
  • afternoon – Château de Chaumont

Day 3: Tours

  • travel to Tours by train and explore the city in the morning (if you’re travelling by car you can visit Château de Cheverny or Villandry instead)
  • take a train from Tour to Château de Chenonceau (note that trains are not regular, be sure not to miss the ones at noon, because the next train is after 5 PM)

Best time to visit Loire Valley

The best time to visit the castles in Loire Valley is the end of May or the months of June and September. At that time of the year, the castle’s gardens are blooming, the weather is warm and the lines are bearable.

Still, consider booking tickets in advance for the most popular chateaux (for some it’s even mandatory to reserve a time slot in order to visit). Also, keep in mind that some of the castles’ shuttles run only between May and October. This may be a bummer if you’re not travelling by car. So check in advance the shuttle schedule before planning your itinerary (some of the shuttles don’t run every day).

July and August are considered a high season, you’ll encounter crowds and high temperatures (not the best weather to explore the vast gardens of the estates).

Avoid the winter if possible, the weather is gloomy and you won’t be able to see much of the beautiful gardens. In addition, some of the lesser-known manors may be closed to the public at that time of the year or the opening times are shorter.


Which is the best chateau to visit in Loire Valley for you?
Pin for later
loire valley chateaux
loire valley castles

About the author
AvatarMilena Yordanova
I’m a full-time travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I love to travel and to discover new places, cultures and food. I’m an expert in travel planning and I am here to help you plan your dream vacation.

Leave a Reply


Disclaimer: Some links in this article contain affiliate referrals. If you click on the link and purchase any service, I may receive a small commission (no extra cost to you).
My Vacation Itineraries is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.