What to see in France

Royal holidays in the Loire Valley Castles

Ville de Blois
Ville de Blois


The Châteaux de la Loire site is located in the Loiret department as far as the Loire-Atlantique department, via the Loir-et-Cher, Touraine and Anjou, over a distance of more than 380 kilometres. Apart from their location, what these 22 castles have in common is that most of them were built during the Renaissance, when kings were installed in the region, making them the largest concentration of this type of monument in the world. Here, a royal holiday awaits you, with discoveries of grandiose architecture, underground treasures and strolls in magnificent gardens, all in a landscape listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that of the Val de Loire.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire, the medieval nugget

The Château de Sully-sur-Loire is located in the Loiret and Centre-Val de Loire region in the centre of the town of Sully-sur-Loire. It is considered to be the "medieval nugget" of the Val-de-Loire with its imposing stature, its moat overlooking the Loire and its high towers. Classified as a Historic Monument since 1928, it has suffered much damage since the first traces of its creation in 1102 when it was used as a defence post. Its architecture has been modified many times and a park has been created. Sully's flats and his tomb, the parapet walk, the Psyche Tapestry and above all its 14th century cradle frame in an exceptional state of preservation are the treasures preserved in the castle despite its history.


Château de Sully-sur-Loire
Château de Sully-sur-Loire© Thinkstock


Domaine National de Chambord, majestic architecture

If we continue our tour of the castles from East to West, we arrive at the Domaine National de Chambord, in the Loir-et-Cher region, 77 kilometres west of Sully Castle. Without doubt the most characteristic of the Loire Valley castles. François I was entrusted with the task of designing its architecture, and he wanted it to be majestic, commensurate with his power. The interior, very daring, was influenced by the Italian Renaissance, as shown by its famous double-revolution staircase. A digital tablet is proposed to you to discover the interior of the castle at the time of François the First, thanks to augmented reality. An excellent idea to make the visit more fun, especially for children. Around the Château de Chambord you can visit the largest enclosed nature reserve in Europe. Indeed, the park is home to a large number of wild animals which you can try to observe on board a 4x4. (12 to 18 €, reservation recommended). Also worth noting is the extraordinary work carried out to bring the French gardens back to life.


Domaine National de Chambord dans le Loir-et-Cher
Domaine National de Chambord dans le Loir-et-Cher© Thinkstock


Château de Cheverny, Hergé's inspiration

Cheverny castle is only 18 kilometres away from Chambord castle, it is also situated in the Loir-et-Cher region. This 17th century classical style monument is classified as a historical monument. The preservation of the sumptuous interiors and the flats with exceptional furnishings certainly sets it apart from its neighbour, the Château de Chambord. The visit will plunge you 400 years back in time. It is this construction that inspired the comic book author Hergé for his castle of Moulinsart in Les aventures de Tintin, but without its two extreme parts. Thus, a permanent exhibition of the most famous work of comics is proposed to you, surprising and interactive, it will also appeal to children. Cheverny is also a grandiose botanical park all around the castle to enjoy pleasant family walks, as well as carts and electric boats that allow you to go for a walk on the water. An activity which, once again, attracts children.


Royal Castle of Blois, Renaissance style

Nearby, to the north-west and 17 kilometres from Cheverny Castle, is the Royal Castle of Blois, a singular building with facades in different styles from the medieval period to the 16th century, making it a real lesson in art and architecture. The diversity of its construction bears witness to the numerous enlargement works carried out on the residence over the centuries. Its history is also rich since the castle served as a fortress for the tales of Blois during the medieval period and François I had the spiral staircase and the facade of the Lodges built there, inspired by Italian architecture. The first Renaissance-style building in France! Recognised as a Historic Monument in the 19th century. Today, the immense collection of art, furniture and period objects has been meticulously restored and tells the story of daily life during the Renaissance.... Fascinating! The Sound and Light show is one of the main attractions of the place and its fairytale side makes young and old dream.


The spiral staircase and facade of the Lodges in the royal castle of Blois© Thinkstock
The spiral staircase and facade of the Lodges in the royal castle of Blois© Thinkstock© Thinkstock


Domaine National de Chaumont-sur-Loire, its luxurious stables

Continuing your royal walk, head south-west, 18 kilometres from the Royal Château de Blois, in the Loire Valley, to discover the Domaine National de Chaumont-sur-Loire. Better known for its gardens, it also offers some great surprises both outside, as it seems to float above the Loire with its slate-covered towers, and inside with its sumptuous flats. It was first built as a fortress around the year 1000 to watch over the border between Blois and Anjou. Then rebuilt after it was completely burnt down in 1465. It was in the 19th century that the stables, considered to be the most luxurious in Europe, were built. You can admire there, in the saddlery, magnificent harnesses made among others by the house Hermès. The International Garden Festival takes place every year in the heart of the castle's botanical park. In the summer, the gardens are visited at night by diode light, which gives them an astonishing appearance...


Domaine National de Chaumont-sur-Loire floating above the Loire© Thinkstock
Domaine National de Chaumont-sur-Loire floating above the Loire© Thinkstock© Thinkstock


Royal Château of Amboise, the Italian influence

Another landmark in French History, the Royal Château of Amboise is located south-west of Chaumont Castle, only 18 kilometres from the latter. Like its neighbour, it floats majestically above the Loire. But the Château d'Amboise has a truly historic place as it was the favourite residence of the kings of France. It is also in St Hubert's chapel, adjacent to the castle, that Leonardo da Vinci's tomb lies. Charles VIII, who was born in the castle, had the desire to transform his residence into a Gothic palace with Renaissance decoration inspired by a trip to Naples. This Italian influence will be pushed to the gardens and continued by Louis XII until today where we discover a modern landscape always with Italian influences. From here, it is pleasant to stroll around and observe a magnificent landscape on the Loire. Finally, if you come here in the summer, don't miss La Prophétie d'Amboise, a superb show in the powerful medieval fortress. A show that appeals to children as much as to their parents.


Château du Clos Lucé, the home of Leonardo da Vinci

600 metres away, you won't visit the royal castle of Amboise without visiting the Clos Lucé castle. Indeed, you can go from one to the other in a few minutes on foot! Known to have been the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci, in which you can feel the creative soul of the artist. There used to be an underground passage that linked the two castles, and so it was that Francis I visited his old friend. The building was saved from destruction at the time of the French Revolution thanks to the d'Amboise family. It was to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the artist's arrival in the Château du Clos Lucé that his workshops were reconstructed identically and in great detail over a period of three years. The rest of the residence also takes us back, thanks to the decorations, into the life of its inhabitant, the large Renaissance room, the intimacy of his bedroom from where he observed the royal castle of Amboise, and the kitchen where he dined on dishes made by his servant Mathurine. Finally, the park of the castle offers a playful and cultural stroll where you can operate the machines imagined by his master.


Chenonceau Castle, the Ladies' Castle

Further south and 12 kilometres from Le Clos Lucé, the graceful silhouette of the Château de Chenonceau can be seen. It is nicknamed the Château des Dames and the feminine grace of its architecture bears witness to the influence of the women who lived there. Catherine de Médicis was the one who created the galleries on the river which did not exist when the building was constructed. A masterpiece of the Renaissance, the castle and its park are classified as a Historic Monument, the most visited in France. The rooms, the Galerie Médicis and the kitchens are decorated with such detail and care that one can easily see oneself in the place of its inhabitants. Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis are also responsible for the superb gardens with their flower beds, circular maze, orange tree paths and climbing roses. The Galerie des Dômes and the Galerie des attelages are also to be discovered at Chenonceau.


Chenonceau Castle© Thinkstock
Chenonceau Castle© Thinkstock© Thinkstock


Villandry Castle, renowned gardens

Situated in Indre-et-Loire and 15 kilometres from Tours, the Château de Villandry is 40 minutes by car west of the Château de Chenonceau. It is an ancient fortress razed to the ground in 1532 to make way for a superb Renaissance-style building where only the medieval keep was preserved. The estate, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over 80 years, is a subtle combination of architecture and gardens. Indeed, it owes its fame to the magnificent formal gardens surrounding the castle. Each of the six has a different theme, such as the decorative vegetable garden with its multicoloured checkerboard or the ornamental garden with its harp-shaped bushes that evoke music. The gardens of Villandry can be visited with the whole family as you are invited to solve riddles, with the help of a game booklet and the ghost of Jean le Breton (builder of the castle) who will transport you to different eras. The labyrinth of Charmille is the children's favourite place, a playful place where getting lost is part of the game. They will also appreciate the many games available to them in the middle of a green area.


The gardens of Villandry Castle© Thinkstock
The gardens of Villandry Castle© Thinkstock© Thinkstock


Château de Langeais, where Brittany became French

Our royal walk continues 10 kilometres west of Villandry castle, straight on to Langeais castle. Erected on a rocky promontory overlooking the Loire on one side, the building was built by Louis XI in 1465 in place of an old fortified castle, whose last wall facing the castle can be admired today, representing one of the oldest stone dungeons in France. It was here that Brittany was attached to the rest of France with the celebration of Charles VIII's marriage to Anne of Brittany. The young public is offered an interactive visit, and thus remains captivated by the scenography of daily life thanks to an authentic medieval setting that transports them 600 years back in time. Major restoration work has been undertaken at the château to enhance this exceptional heritage. It is expected that the drawbridge will soon be restored to its former glory.


Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, the most harmonious castle in the Loire Valley

Situated in the commune of Azay-le-Rideau, 26 kilometres from Tours, the castle of the same name is 10 kilometres south of that of Langeais. It is owned by the state and has been classified as a Historic Monument since 1914. Considered to be the most harmonious in the Loire Valley, it is also the most popular of the Loire Valley châteaux thanks to the fine, jagged facades and, above all, the mirror of water that surrounds the building. Today managed by the Centre des monuments nationaux (National Monuments Centre) which has undertaken restoration work on the château and gardens to enhance them, you can enjoy strolling around, discovering the different varieties of trees and the small pathways to smell the lavender and roses. You can also take the footbridge that will take you to the other side of the Indre, with the Secrets and Butterfly Gardens.

Royal fortress of Chinon, the evolution over time

Separated 22 kilometres to the south-west by the château d'Azay le Rideau, the royal fortress of Chinon was built on a rocky spur, like many castles that served as a fortress, here to watch over the Vienne River. Two centuries later, three parts appeared with the fort St Georges, the château du Milieu and the fort du Coudray. New walls for Fort St Georges and defence towers were added in the 13th century. Classified as a Historic Monument in 1840, the castle of Chinon was abandoned until that date, in favour of more modern castles. Archaeological excavations have been carried out over the last few years as well as a renovation of the ramparts and interiors. The castle has finally evolved with the times and today it is the only one where you can find an Escape Game which makes your visit both enjoyable and fun for you and the children.


Azay-le-Rideau castle from the Loire© Thinkstock
Azay-le-Rideau castle from the Loire© Thinkstock© Thinkstock



Fontevraud Abbey, run by women

The Abbey of Fontevraud is located 20 kilometres west of the royal fortress of Chinon, in the Maine-et-Loire region of France and next to the town of Saumur. It has been listed as a historical monument since 1840 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for almost 20 years. Formerly a Benedictine abbey, it will be run by women (abbesses), 36 in all, which will not fail to provoke a real controversy at the time... we can imagine! Then it successively became a royal necropolis and it was Napoleon Bonaparte who had the abbey transformed into a penitentiary centre and remained so until 1963. Since then, major works have continued and have turned the building into a venue for contemporary artistic creation, where conferences, exhibitions and concerts follow one another. There is also a starred restaurant in the St Lazare Priory as well as a modern hotel which retains all the authenticity of the former cloister.


Fontevraud Abbey in Maine-et-Loire© Thinkstock
Fontevraud Abbey in Maine-et-Loire© Thinkstock© Thinkstock


And the others...

10 kilometres to the west of the Abbey is the largest underground fortress in Europe, the Château de Brézé. A real troglodytic village buried in its dry moat which makes it the most original Loire château to visit.

Saumur Castle is located 10 kilometres north of Brézé Castle and rises above the Loire River. Property of the commune, the current restructuring works are the witnesses of several dramas (wars, collapse etc.) whose only objective is to restore it to its former splendour. Inside, you can discover the treasures of the collections of two museums.

The prestigious Cadre Noir school opens its doors to the general public. Situated 6 kilometres west of Saumur Castle, it offers the opportunity to discover the know-how of French horse riding (recognised as a Unesco heritage site) but also demonstrations, galas and fun activities for children with riddles to solve.

The Château de Brissac is 34 kilometres north-west of the Cadre Noir. From the top of its seven floors, it is the highest castle in France, and is also known as the Giant of the Loire Valley. It has belonged to the Brissac family for five centuries, who still live here. Finally, take a stroll in the perfectly maintained 70-hectare landscaped park and discover the vineyards... this is where Anjou rosé is produced.

18 kilometres north of Brissac is the town of Angers and its castle of the Dukes of Anjou. Beyond its 12 enormous towers which give it an austere air, it is in this place that the Tenture of the Apocalypse is preserved, the largest tapestry in the world, a true masterpiece of antiquity. Emotion is also outside with the hanging gardens, a gift from the good King René, who was passionate about botany.

Finally, in order to make the most of your royal holidays discovering the castles of the Loire Valley, we have selected several campsites for you, which will allow you to visit the Loire Valley castles in peace and at your own pace.












See all my campsites consulted