Chateâux Of The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over 15 years and is often referred to as the ‘Garden of France’ due to its myriad of vineyards, fruit orchards, artichoke and asparagus fields. As well as its impressive natural beauty, Loire Valley has remarkable historic towns and architecture, best known for the large cluster of grand châteaux. With over 300 châteaux spread around the region, Loire Valley is bursting with culture and historical architecture.
Boasting a range of historical monuments, the châteaux in Loire Valley are known for their royal past, cared for by noble families and figures in history. Meander through the grounds where once stood the likes of King Louis XIV, Charles VIII, and many other fascinating personalities of the past. Try experiencing Loire Valley on a walking or cycling holiday for the perfect way to enjoy the French countryside while exploring the grand and picturesque châteaux.
How to use the guide
The guide talks you through seven beautiful châteaux, providing information about their history, their notable inhabitants, the château today, and the perfect holiday for visiting each and every fabulous château. The holiday guide shows you whether it is best as a walking holiday or cycling holiday, the number of days you can go for, and the level of difficulty.
Why the Loire Valley?
Once a region of immense importance, many members of royalty, dukes and nobles chose to reside in the Loire Valley. Its peace and stability was the perfect setting to build hunting lodges, palaces, and castles to use as a retreat in the summer months. The nobles found the rolling hills and perfect countryside the ideal spot; not too far from home, but far enough to escape and enjoy family life.
Many famous battles did however occur in the Loire Valley. The Romans staged several battles here, and for several centuries it became part of the Roman Empire. At one point, Attila the Hun was defeated by a combined army of Romans and Visigoths.
During the ‘Hundred Years War’ battle in the 15th century, most of Loire Valley was captured until Joan of Arc challenged the French army and freed the city. The ‘War of Religion’ lasted 30 years in the mid-16th century, which caused the French kings to retreat back to Paris, leaving their châteaux behind.
Affluent in history and antiquity, Loire Valley’s châteaux and the stories behind them take you on a journey through the major events in France’s past. With its storybook castles and large array of wines to try, Loire Valley always exceeds expectations.
Château de Chambord
Dating back to the 1500s, this château was constructed between 1519-1547. Francis I, King Louis XIV and King Charles X have all inhabited the château since its construction, and it’s one of the most historically significant in France, with influences from Leonardo da Vinci, a friend of the king’s.
Château de Chenonceau
Taking eight years to construct from 1514-1522, The Marquez family, Diane de Poitiers, Duc de Vendome, Louise Dupin and Marguerite Pelouze have all stayed in this grand château which lies on the river. As well as Gothic and Renaissance style architecture, art is exhibited on the bridge with many of the world’s great artists welcomed through the doors of the de Chenonceau gallery.
Château Clos Lucé
Constructed in the late 1400s, Charles VIII and Leonardo da Vinci have both stayed in this culture-filled château. This is one of France’s smaller châteaus, but has large historical value. Leonardo da Vinci arrived with three pieces of work, including the Mona Lisa, and spent his last years at the château until his death bed on 2nd May 1519.
The original castle burnt down during the Hundred Years’ War, and has since been rebuilt from the ruins in 1518. It has housed Berthelots and the Mayor of Tours over the years and there are many different styles throughout the château due to its continuous restorations.
Inspiring the classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’ by Charles Perrault, the mixture of Renaissance and Gothic architecture has made Château d'Usse one of the most unique châteaux in France. Influencing many of Walt Disney’s castles, the fairytale surroundings often attract tourists from far and wide.
Château de Villandry
After lots of time, money and devotion spent on the Château de Villandry, it is now one of the most beautiful châteaux in the world with its exquisite gardens and surroundings.
Château de Chaumont
Close to the historic city of Blois, this Château de Chaumont has had many transformations. Starting as a castle it suffered through invasions, fires, and crusades and now forms the grand château with gorgeous river views and luxury stables.
Towns and Cities of the Loire
As well as the history-rich architecture of the châteaux, Loire Valley is cram packed with things to explore. Take a look at the cathedrals, walk through the delightful parks and gardens, walk or cycle across the Pont Canal de Briare, or visit the Musee du Compagnonnage.
La Forteresse du Faucon Noir in Montbazon teleports you back hundreds of year with its different offerings of activities to try. Try stone carving, candle making, leather work and clay sculpting. Fire a crossbow or launch a catapult at the wall of the ancient keep to transport yourself to the 15th century.
Tours is a city of classical arts, artisan crafts, a mixture of luxurious and locally made food, botanical gardens, and street markets. The old square has many delights and distractions, offering shopping opportunities, restaurants, and cafes. The wines of the region include Vouvray, Chenin Blanc, Chinon, Bourgueil, and St Nicolas de Bourgueil.
The city of Blois is built on steep hills, with steep and winding paths running through the city. It is well known for its numerous châteaux, with royal chambers, paintings and sculptures from the 16th - 19th century. Blois is the original home of Sauvignon Blanc, with grapes being grown here for over 2000 years.
Chambord is most recognisable due to the royal Château de Chambord; it's characterful French Renaissance architecture blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. It was constructed by King Francis I of France, but was never completed.
Images used under license from Shutterstock.com