The Loire Valley has dozens of romantic castles in an area with charming villages and endless vineyards and fruit orchards. The happy few back in the old days of France, have crammed the river valley with the most beautiful monuments. Where you might think of a castle built for defense, the buildings on the Loire are clearly of a new generation. They are absolutely made for luxury and comfort.
I love to marvel at that kind of splendor. I have spent no less than two holidays visiting the castles on the Loire. These are – not in particular order – most beautiful nicest chateaus I visited!
# 1 Chenonceau
Tickets | Okay, the castles are in a random order, but Chenonceau is absolutely my favourite. This beautiful chateau is not on the Loire itself, but a tributary, the Cher. Or on? The castle is across the river! The history of the castle is strongly intertwined with that of the French royal family and all sorts of court intrigues. Want to know more about? Read this blog about this castle. I will tell you everything about the history of the castle and its intriguing residents.
# 2 Cheverny
Not far from the city of Blois, is the seventeenth-century castle of Cheverny. It is one of the few castles that is still in the hands of the old noble family and it is actually stil inhabited by them. That is why, of course, only a part of the castle is open to visitors. But those rooms are perhaps the most richly decorated of all the castles in this list. Definitely worth a visit! In addition to this part of the castle itself, you can also visit the hunting grounds around the castle. Make sure you pay a visit to the trophy hall, Orangery and the kennel with dozens of hunting dogs. Oh, and does the castle look familiar? Then you might have seen in the comic books of Tintin!
# 3 Chaumont-sur-Loire
Tickets | The history of this little castle in Chaumont is strongly intertwined with that of Chenonceau. While the French king gave his mistress the impressive Chenonceau as a present, his wife the queen had to make do with Chaumont. One of the queen’s first moves after her husband’s death was to exchange her gift with that of her rival.
# 4 Amboise
Tickets | The castle of Amboise towers high above the river town with the same name. Many French royals have lived in this beautiful castle. A nice detail: the emblems of King Charles VIII and his wife Anne of Brittany can be spotted everywhere around the castle. Look for the sword of fire (king) and the ermine tail (Anna). Also worth your attention are the unique towers that this French king had built. They have a diameter of no less than 21 meters and there are no steps to allow horsemen to enter the castle by these towers.
# 5 Blois
Blois is not only a pretty town, but it also has a special castle. This castle is often said to be not just one castle, but a collection of them. The reason? The castle has been expanded over and over again in the styles typical for that age. Every king or count of the castle brought his own architect to make his own mark on the chateau. That makes this castle the perfect day trip for history freaks and architecture lovers like me!
# 6 Chambord
Tickets | This chateau is the largest on the Loire. The size is immensely impressive! The castle is 156 meters long and 117 meters wide. It has 440 rooms, many turrets and spires, 85 staircases and so many chimneys that the residents could use a different fireplace about every day of the year. A unique detail is the double spiral staircase in the middle of the castle. The staircase is built around a hollow column and designed in such a way that two people can climb the stairs and only meet each other on the next floor. Which mastermind was behind this? None other than the famous Leonardo da Vinci.
# 7 Villandry
Tickets | The castle of Villandry was completed in 1536. It was thus one of the last Renaissance castles on the Loire. But it is not only the beautiful castle itself which attracts visitors. I fell in love with the romantic palace gardens with its colourful flowers and picturesque corners! The gardens are divided into five sections, including a maze, herb garden, water garden, vegetable garden and ornamental gardens. The ornamental gardens have two themes: love and music. So make sure you visit Chateau de Villandry on a warm and sunny day, so you can wnander through the gardens as long as you wish.
# 8 Azay-le-Rideau
Tickets | Although this castle is located in the Indre river, I also count Azay-le-Rideau as one of the Loire castles. And where I write ‘in the tributary’, I literally mean in the river. Azay-le-Rideau is built on a small island in the Indre! There are many ermines and salamanders in the castle – emblems of King François I and Queen Claude of France. Unfortunately, this tribute to the royal power could not save the owner from the king’s displeasure. The castle was not yet finished or he had to flee it because he was accused of embezzlement. The new owner? The king himself of course.
# 9 Ussé
Château d’Ussé is also located on the Indre and is definitely worth a visit. The castle has a fairytale appearance because of its many turrets. It is no surprise that it is said to have been the inspiration for the French writer Charles Perrault for his fairy tale “La Belle au Bois Dormant” (Sleeping Beauty). Like many other castles, Ussé has a King’s Chamber. That does not mean that a French king lived here, but that the noble owner was so hospitable to always have a room ready for the king. That is not as generous as that sounds though, because he was actually obliged to do so. As so often, no king has ever used the room.
# 10 Saumur
Saumur is one of the largest cities on the Loire. Such a city of course has its own castle! It started with a strategic tower to defend the territory. But under King Louis IX, who was a huge fan of art and architecture, the castle experienced its heyday. You should however not visit Saumur expecting the original interior with all its splender. The castle was purchased by the city of Saumur in an expired state in a dilapidated condition. After a restoration, two museums were created in the castle.