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Exploring the Chateaux of the Loire River Valley

Chateau Chambord
The most striking of all French chateaux is
the Chateau Chambord featuring distinct
French Renaissance architecture and
a walled-in forest park.

Appropriately nicknamed the "Garden of France," the Loire River Valley is an enchanting region filled with charming towns, rolling vineyards and magnificent chateaux.

In 2000, the central part of the valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for good reason. The river and its environs have long attracted noble settlers and visitors with its beauty, history and moderate climate.

The Loire River Valley is situated just a few hours from Paris, making it the perfect day trip destination. But with more than 300 chateaux scattered throughout the region, creating an itinerary can be difficult. A number of tour operators, like Paris International, offer packages that can shuttle you around the highlights in a day, or you can choose to explore the chateaux leisurely, on your own time.

Although getting there by train and bus is possible, a self-drive tour of the Loire Valley is usually preferred as a more convenient and scenic way to experience it, including ideal stops at Loire Valley vineyards.

Château de Blois
The small town of Blois is a popular base from which to explore the surrounding chateaux, but it also has its own rich history. The former royal residence of Louis XII and François I, the Château de Blois is set upon a hilltop overlooking the Loire River and is currently home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (featuring a gallery of 16th- to 19th-century portraits) and the Musée Lapidaire (which primarily exhibits sculptures). Convenient bus connections are available from the Blois main train station to many of the surrounding chateaux.

map of loire valley chateaux


Chateau Chambord central tower
Chateau Chambord's central tower.

Château de Chambord
The former hunting lodge of François I, Chambord is distinguished by its grandeur, its magnificence and its distinctive French renaissance architecture. The château was constructed in the mid-16th century and is surrounded by a walled-in park forest, the largest in Europe. Rent bicycles or boats to explore the extensive surrounding woodlands, where you can glimpse deer or wild boar.

Château de Chenonceau
Chenonceau, a 16th-century royal residence on the Cher River, is elegant and romantic, a reflection of the feminine influence exerted on it over the years. The Château was built by Katherine Briçonnet in 1513 and was later acquired by Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Médicis and a Madame Dupin. Visitors can rent boats to glide down the Cher, or take romantic night walks through the gardens.

Château de Villandry
The Château Villandry is the last Renaissance monument in the Loire Valley, completed in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister to François I. Villandry is located on the Cher River and offers beautiful views, but the real draw is the collection of magnificent terraced gardens surrounding the chateau.

Château de Cheverny
Cheverny's façade is more modern than most Loire chateaux, taking from the Louis XXII classical architectural style of the 17th century. The Chateau de Cheverney is most famous for its ornate interior and its collection of furniture, tapestries, and objets d'art.

About the Author... Jessica Arriola Marati

More about Loire Valley chateaux around the Web:

Chateaux of the Loire Valley - Wikipedia - History, photos, map, and related resources.

5 Best Loire Valley castles - CNN Travel - Check out photos, visitor information and why they made the top 5 list.



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