Love Castles? You Need to Visit This Valley in France
The Loire Valley is known for its magnificent châteaux. Find out which ones are must-sees on your next trip.
Nestled in the very heart of France, largely between Nantes and Orléans, the Loire Valley offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Dotted with old churches and cobblestone streets, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is well known for its incredible array of beautiful châteaux. Planning a trip to the Loire? Here are four grand estates you won’t want to miss.
Château de Villandry
Completed in 1536, Château de Villandry is one of the finest examples of Renaissance castles situated along the Loire. The castle boasts world-famous gardens teeming with fountains, ponds, vegetables and flowers of every colour.
Highlight: Visit the First Salon in the Ornamental Gardens, where you’ll find the romantic “love gardens” symbolizing four types of love: tender, passionate, flighty and tragic.
Château de Chenonceau
Erected on the foundation of an old mill on the River Cher early in the 16th century, Château de Chenonceau is one of the most dramatic châteaux in the Loire. Henry II gave it to his mistress, but following the king’s death in 1559, she was forced to give it to Henry’s widow, the infamous Catherine de’ Medici. The castle hosted the first-ever fireworks display in France in celebration of the crowning of Catherine’s son, King Francis II.
Highlight: Dine like royalty on the elegant terrace at L’Orangerie.
Château de Chambord
Postcard perfect, the Château de Chambord is a striking blend of Renaissance and medieval architecture. With impeccably kept gardens, a staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and too many towers to count, this castle is the ultimate example of French decadence and beauty.
Highlight: A 3-D audiovisual tour of the castle’s interior. Keep an eye out for the salamanders on the ceiling and walls, an emblem of King Francis I of France.
Château de Blois
Named after the magical city in which it sits, Château de Blois has been home to a multitude of monarchs over the course of its fascinating history. Built between the 13th and 17th centuries, the castle will delight tourists interested in the evolution of French aristocracy and design.
Highlight: Check out the sound and light show that takes place in the courtyard at nightfall from April to September.
Thanks to an 800-kilometre-long bike route connecting the major castles and cities along the valley, visitors now have the option of enjoying the Loire à vélo! Trails are well marked; just don’t forget to say “bonjour” to fellow cyclists as you pass by.
Interested in discovering other picturesque destinations in France?
See why tourists are venturing off the beaten path to explore Strasbourg. Plus, check out Monet’s Garden—just one of five public gardens we recommend visiting.
And before planning any trip, make sure you have CAA Travel Insurance to give you peace of mind.
Image credit: Courtesy of Château de Villandry, Château de Chenonceau, Château de Chambord and Château de Blois.