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Loire Valley Castles: a Walk through the History of France

Updated: Jul 8

An extraordinary architectural and cultural heritage and stage for much of France's history, the Loire Valley brings together, in addition to the majestic castles along the river, a diversity of monuments and museums and simply stunning fauna & flora.

Crossed by the Loire, the last wild river in Europe, the area is a Unesco World Heritage Site for its landscapes and rich monuments.

The Loire Valley in central France is known for its castles, one of France's most popular tourist attractions. These castles were built over 500 years, from the 12th century to the 18th century, and represent the history and culture of France.

Loire Valley castles were built by kings, nobles, and bourgeoisie. They were used as residences, fortresses, and administrative centers. Castles were also used for ceremonial and cultural purposes such as banquets, balls, and tournaments.

Loire castles are built in different architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. They are adorned with towers, turrets, flèches, and other decorative elements.

In addition to castles, the Loire Valley is home to other monuments and museums.

The city of Amboise, for example, is home to Amboise Castle, where King François I died, and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, which houses a collection of works by the famous Italian artist.

The region is also rich in fauna and flora. The Loire Valley is one of the top birdwatching destinations in Europe and home to other animal species, including deer, wild boar, and foxes.

The Main Castles of the Loire

There are around 224 castles in the Loire Valley. However, only around 30 are open to the public.

The most important are:

  • Chambord Castle: the largest castle in the Loire Valley, it was built by King François I in the 16th century. It is known for its Renaissance architecture and extravagant towers. It has 440 rooms and a 5500-hectare park, which served as a hunting lodge for Francois 1. It is also the most visited castle with over one million visitors a year.

  • Chenonceau Castle: built in the 16th century on the banks of river Cher, with Renaissance architecture. It was a gift from Queen Catherine de Medici to her friend Diane de Poitiers. It is known for its bridge over the River Cher and lush gardens. Also known as Chateau de Dames for having hosted primarily women throughout its 400 years.

  • Chaumont-sur-Loire: The castle is known for its gardens, considered one of the most beautiful in France. The gardens are designed by renowned landscape architects and are changed annually to a new theme.

  • Amboise Castle: built in the 11th century, it was the residence of several kings of France, including François I and Louis XIV. It is known for its location on the banks of the Loire River and for its Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

  • Cheverny Castle: built in the 16th century, it is one of the best-preserved castles in the Loire. It is known for its Renaissance architecture and geometric gardens.

  • Blois Castle: built in the 11th century, is one of the oldest castles in the Loire. It is known for its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture.

Vineyards and Wine Tasting

The Loire Valley is also France's third-largest wine region! It offers a variety of wines, from crisp whites to fruity reds.

Charming family-run vineyards sprawl across rolling hills, producing a wider range of styles. Explore crisp Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre, indulge in the floral notes of Chenin Blanc in Vouvray, or discover the lighter reds of Cabernet Franc in Chinon.

Unlike the powerful Bordeaux blends, Loire Valley wines tend to be more expressive and food-friendly, offering a refreshing summer sip.

How to Get to the Loire Valley Castles

Renting a car is the best option to visit multiple castles. The Loire Valley is one of the top day trips from Paris!

The distance is around 200 km, depending on the castle, via the excellent A10 road towards Blois and Tours.

Choose your stops before leaving. And reserve your car in advance.

Imagine yourself as a Renaissance king or queen, surrounded by the grandeur and luxury of a castle hotel. Trust me, there's nothing quite like the experience of staying in a place steeped in history and charm. If you get the chance to do so, I highly recommend it!


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