Located in the center of France, the Loire Valley is a treasure trove of stunning castles, picturesque landscapes, and delectable wines.
It is a grand and picturesque area that is one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, covering 800 square km.
It’s easy to get to from Paris and is packed with captivating experiences from canoeing below castles to bike rides along the Loire River, France’s longest river.
Loire Valley France was the final stop on our 4-week European trip. We will get out of an incredible situation on 8 Day Danube River Cruise with Avalon Waterways And everyone wanted us to go straight home from there.
The Loire Valley will have to work hard to boost our morale. We didn’t get off to the best start, thanks to Paris traffic (more on that below) but as soon as I jumped in that canoe to paddle beneath a fairy-tale castle, I was glad we’d taken that extra mile to see it. Went to try.
Memorable moments are waiting for you in the Loire Valley, and to help you, we have prepared a complete guide to travel to the Loire Valley so you can experience memorable moments while exploring the best châteaus of the region!
How to go to Loire Valley
Before we know what to see and so on, let’s learn about the best way to get to the Loire Valley. We make mistakes so you can avoid them!
Pick up a rental car Driving from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the Loire Valley was one of the biggest mistakes of our European trip.
When we booked it it made complete sense. Instead of flying from Hungary to Munich, Berlin, or Amsterdam after our river trip, we decided to reduce our flight costs and time spent in multiple airports and simply fly back to Paris (where Our return flight was to Raleigh).
We thought we could easily drive from Paris Charles de Gaulle to the Loire Valley, as the distance is only 213.3 km and it was expected to take 2 hours (according to Google Maps). We planned to stay three nights and then head back to the airport when it was time to fly home.
It would probably have been faster and cheaper to drive from Munich because Traffic in Paris is an absolute nightmare! It took us two hours to get through the ring road in Paris and there is no alternative route.
This also meant that we had to return to Paris This was before we had even planned on stopping the traffic chaos (it ended up being straightforward but we didn’t want to risk missing our flight home).
Driving options from Paris
You need a car to get around the Loire Valley, and a Loire Valley road trip from A to B is one of the most beautiful ways to see the tapestry of vineyards and farms, so you might want to consider renting a car. And would like to drive, but you just want to avoid driving in Paris.
So we advise you to go by Charles de Galle, Catch a train to Montparnasse, And Rent a car from there.
You’ll skip the heavy traffic of Paris as it lies beneath the ring road and you should be able to easily get out of the city.
You can also take the train to Tours and then rent a car from there. Use Trainline to book train tickets And Search for cars to rent a car.
How long should you visit the Loire Valley?
It is worth spending at least 2-3 days in the Loire Valley region. I like to do some bike riding And wine tasting experiences (but we drank a lot European river cruises And all were destroyed!) and possibly saw a few more castles.
We enjoyed seeing three of the best castles in the Loire Valley, so we weren’t overwhelmed.
We focused our trip on one area of the Loire Valley – Tours, which is quite central, and close to many castles.
Some people travel to the Loire Valley just because Day on tour departing from Paris, If you just want to visit a few palaces this is an option, although it would be a big day and I would be worried that there would be a lot of traffic. But, if you only have that much time, here are some tours to choose from.
Best time to visit Loire Valley
The best time to visit would be springtime.
The weather is also great in September and October, but make sure you visit in September after schools are back so you can avoid the crowds of tourists coming from Europe.
A Loire Valley itinerary you shouldn’t miss
Now you know how to get there and how much time to spend, it’s time to plan your Loire Valley itinerary. The following must-see attractions and highlights!
1. Visit three of the best castles in the Loire Valley
I know you want to make the most of your time and trip to every palace In the Loire Valley. Well, there are over 300 of them so it’s an exercise in burnout.
If you focus on some of the most beautiful things and explore them at a slower pace, doing interesting things like wine tasting, horseback riding, and kayaking, you’ll have a much better time!
We don’t think you’ll find anything better than these French castles in the Valley of the Kings.
Chambord Castle: UNESCO grandeur
I was worried that since we spent the whole day there Palace of Versailles – What some would argue is the best castle in France – I was worried, I would get excited about these little castles in the Loire Valley.
But, no, I was quite impressed by the grandeur of the Château de Chambord, which is famous for its stunning blend of French medieval and Italian Renaissance styles.
There are many reasons Chambord is considered one of the best castles in the Loire Valley.
It is the largest of the castles, has UNESCO World Heritage Site status, its park is as vast as inner Paris, and is the largest closed park in Europe, you can visit 60 of its 426 rooms!
With its fairytale-like turrets, grand facades, and stunning landscapes it is a photographer’s dream, so leave plenty of time to capture it from all angles!
Much of the Renaissance-style design of the palace has been attributed to the innovation and imagination of Leonardo da Vinci. The most striking of these is the iconic double helix staircase at the center of the palace, which was inspired by the spiral forms of nature.
The interior of the palace is quite sparse in terms of furnishings and decorations, accurately reflecting how it was during the time of its occupation by the French kings. It served as a royal lodge and hunting lodge, notably for King François I.
I also loved visiting the fairy-tale-like turrets, the sky-high windows and tall chimneys, and the rooftop terrace with its panoramic view of the park and gardens.
There are many activities to enjoy on the castle grounds including renting a boat on the lake, biking around the property, or walking the many trails.
We grabbed a quick lunch at a bakery (boulangerie) in the small town near the Chateau before arriving. Little did I know, there was a small village below the palace, Place Saint-Louis, which had a few eateries and an ice cream shop. I would have dined here to soak up more of the royal energy. Their price was not very high.
If you’re looking to do some wine tasting in the Loire Valley, make space in your itinerary to do it at the Maison des Vins on Place Saint-Louis in Chambord.
As soon as we lost, we abandoned it, which I regret. Chambord wines are natural, produced using organic eco-certified methods, with no sulfites or artificial yeasts added. Their harvesting is done by hand. I picked up a bottle of white to take home as a gift for our pet sitter!
You can also stay at the Relais de Chambord, A small luxury hotel right near this palace.
Well, this is the stuff fairy tale castle dreams are made of. If there’s one thing you must do in the Loire Valley, it’s a scenic canoe ride under the arches of the Château de Chenonceau, a fairytale castle along the banks of the Cher River.
It is a captivating and unforgettable experience that allows you to appreciate the beauty of the palace from a unique vantage point. This is one of the best châteaus in the Loire Valley for couples looking for romance!
The palace’s beautiful façade and lush gardens make for a picture-perfect view, and the reflection in the water adds to its charm.
Various canoe trips are available, from half-day paddles down the river to shorter paddles departing from a rental location.
We recommend doing this before exploring the castle. You’ll beat the crowds and the heat and you couldn’t ask for a better first impression.
We rented a 4 person Canadian canoe and opted for the short paddle, which usually takes about 1-2 hours to return (4 km).
It’s an easy paddle and starts with views of just the river banks. Soon you will turn the corner and see the beautiful facade of the “floating” palace stretching out to the Cher River.
You can then paddle under the bridge and around the castle moat and enjoy the views from every possible angle.
The only operator I found was Canoe Company. Located 2 km down the river from the palace. Their website was confusing and I didn’t know which tour or experience to book.
So we arrived after breakfast and hoped for the best. They had plenty of canoes available for rent and a group guided tour going out. I still don’t know what time they run and how long they run. You can also rent bikes and kayaks from here.
They have a terrine bar called the Bistrot Quai overlooking Cher, with tables in the garden under our willows. This could be a good place to eat after your canoe trip.
We stopped at a creperie in the small village of Chenonceux just outside the castle entrance, which we were looking forward to!
While Chambord was grand and imposing, Chenonceau was warm, charming, and elegant. You can tell this Loire Valley castle had a feminine touch.
It is often known as the “Lady’s Château” due to its association with prominent women throughout history, including Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, who added their touches to the château’s design and gardens.
The picturesque setting of the palace, with its reflection in the river and attractive gardens, creates a romantic atmosphere that is mesmerizing.
There are mazes and forests and gardens filled with flowers and secret walled gardens lined with willow trees on either side of the path.
Your timed entry ticket to visit the palace This will determine whether you explore them first or later.
Tour lavishly decorated rooms including the Green Study, the Chapel, the Catherine de Medici Gallery, the Underground Kitchen, and the Royal Chamber. Each room is a testament to the rich history and opulence of the palace.
Most rooms have spectacular views of the river and gardens and all the boaters, kayakers, and canoeists sailing the river.
I particularly liked wandering through the gallery which is within the arched bridge river under which we canoed.
You can go to the edge of the forest on the other side for even more spectacular views of the palace. It’s amazing how different this castle looks from all different viewpoints.
Spend as much time as you want to wander the beautifully landscaped gardens, enjoying the flowers, fountains, and quiet paths. I liked the gardens here much more than in Chambord (like) I found them weak)
We attempted to do some wine tasting at the Domes Wine Cellar, but one was already in progress, and there was no one at the desk to give us information on how we could join the next one or when it would be. Since the girls were tired we left from there.
House of Innovation at Château du Clos Luce
It has a more soft-spoken beauty than other Loire Valley castles. While I loved the grandeur and grandeur of other palaces, the modest pink brick-stone palace was one I could imagine myself living in, especially with its tranquil wooded gardens.
However, don’t just take my word for it. Follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest minds of all time – Leonardo da Vinci.
What makes this Loire Valley castle unique and unforgettable is that Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life here. He arrived at the invitation of Francis I, where he could live freely to work, think, and dream.
He bought with him the Mona Lisa, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, St. John the Baptist, and all his manuscripts. This is how these masterpieces came to be displayed in the Louvre.
Leonardo was raised in the hills of Tuscany and had a deep connection with nature, which inspired many of his paintings and inventions. The gardens of the estate were an important place for him to spend time. Giant-sized recreations of his paintings and drawings hang from trees and are immersed in the wetlands of forests and gardens.
There is also a fun and educational walk on a landscaped path that showcases his major inventions. It’s quite clever how they have created these life-size interactive machines based on his imagination and sketches.
Even better, little ones will love collecting a scavenger hunt booklet as they enter the castle grounds, which will help them connect with and learn more about his various inventions.
Château du Clos Luce is particularly valuable to visit with children, especially if you are homeschooled. It’s an intense learning experience that all parents seek.
When we visited, there was also a special exhibit that walked you through his anatomical investigations, including a room equipped with 3D models to mirror the dissection of cadavers he often did about the human body. Used to perform to learn and make detailed sketches of it.
Much smaller than other French castles, there are only a few rooms to see in the 15th-century Clos Luce, which has been restored to reflect da Vinci’s time in the castle.
You can visit the bedroom where he lived and took his last breath and also visit the workshop where he conceived and created.
There is also an entrance to an underground passage, which legend has it leading to the Royal Castle of Amboise, where Francis I used to meet da Vinci every day.
Château du Clos Lucé is the best castle in the Loire Valley for those who love science, invention, nature, and imagination.
Other Loire Valley Châteaux to Visit
Remember to choose your castles carefully to avoid pressure from the AFC. Choose something unique and interesting to do in each one, so that it’s not just another grand palace wandering the halls wondering how they managed to live such a rich life when so many people were dying of hunger.
Oh yes, it’s called the French Revolution – I’ll show you the cake!
If you have more time, or insist on packing more into Château de la Loire, here are some other notable castles on our potential list.
- Chaumont Sur Loire Castle It dates back to the 10th century when it was originally built as a fortress strategically located atop a hill overlooking the Loire River and the town of Chaumont. The palace is famous for its stunning gardens and the annual International Garden Festival, which attracts landscape designers from around the world who create innovative and artistic garden displays.
- Cheverny Castle, It is famous for its lavish interiors and its role as an inspiration for Captain Haddock’s Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin comic books. It is the only family-occupied palace accessible to the public.
- Villandry Castle, It is famous for some of the most beautiful and carefully maintained Renaissance gardens in France, including stunning parterres, water features, and botanical gardens.
- Château du Rivau It feels like it came out of a storybook with its turrets, peaked roofs, and romantic gardens, including a stunning rose garden with over 450 varieties, whimsical topiary sculptures, and vibrant flower beds.
- castle of Aze le rideu A small and quaint palace that is famous for being one of the best examples of early French Renaissance architecture.
- her castle is A beautiful castle that is said to be the inspiration for the story of Sleeping Beauty.
2. Visit Vibrant Place Plumereau
“How did we miss this?” Craig and I said as we turned the corner and stumbled upon Place Plumério.
The last evening we found a cute little street full of international restaurants and a fun atmosphere. Well, if you turn right, you’ll come to Place Plumério, which takes it to another level of vibrancy.
Even if you don’t stay in Tours, I recommend spending at least an evening at Place Plumereau.
Place Plumério, also known as “Plumério Square” or simply “Plume”, is a picturesque and historic square surrounded by half-timbered houses, many of which date from the 15th and 16th centuries.
It was once used for executions during the Middle Ages and has witnessed many important events in the history of Tours.
These beautifully preserved buildings give the square a unique and charming atmosphere and attract locals and tourists alike due to the multitude of lively cafes, bars, and restaurants lining the square and the surrounding cobblestone streets.
It is the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely meal, have a glass of local wine, or simply people-watch.
On our last evening, the girls stayed at the hotel with takeout (their choice), and Craig and I went on tours, starting with Aperol spritzes before dinner and ending with wine at Plumereau Place. And in between we enjoyed…
3. Enjoy a delicious prix fixe meal at Chez Tonton
We thought Place Plumério was fun on its own, but as we started walking the streets surrounding the square, the tours opened up to us.
It’s home to restaurant after restaurant along beautiful cobblestone streets, past old stone churches and towers, market squares, and outdoor theaters.
That’s where we arrived, near a small market and church, watching people arrive for a Ukraine fundraising concert in front of our patio table at Chez Tonton.
The owner of this restaurant told us that Tours has more restaurants per capita than any other place in Europe!!
It is an incredible place to dine and the atmosphere is buzzing, so find a spot to your liking. We can’t recommend Chez Tonton enough; This was where we had our best meal in France.
Some are quite expensive, but Chez Tonton was more than reasonable with two courses for only €23. There’s no way you can get the same quality food at that price in the US for just one course!
And the services were huge.
Since it was the last night of our Europe trip, we celebrated with a wonderful bottle of local wine and a two-course meal.
For mains, I had eggplant parmigiana (appetizer) and salmon with soy ginger sauce and the crag and beef and potatoes with creamy herb sauce.
Loire Valley cities to visit
With your less-and-more approach, you won’t have time to see every city, but there are two main cities that you should not miss from your Loire Valley itinerary.
Only a short distance from Château du Clos Luce is Amboise, a picturesque village nestled along the banks of the Loire River.
it’s a fantastic Royal Palace of AmboiseHome to the French kings for five centuries, it sits on a rocky cliff 40 meters above the city and the river.
If you are going to check another castle off your list, this castle is known for its excellent architecture, beautiful gardens, views of the Loire Valley, and historical importance.
We decided to skip the palace and instead stopped for lunch and a short river walk. We visited on a Sunday, so most of the shops were closed, but Amboise had some lovely pedestrian streets, shops, and pastry chains that you might also want to check out.
There are several restaurants on the small road below the palace. Keep going until you find one that suits your style. We chose completely the wrong dish – our sausage meal turned out not to be what we expected – like a hot dog. Total.
So choose wisely and maybe try some local dishes or some of the famous wines of the region.
You can tour the cellars and sample a variety of wines, including local wines from the Loire Valley. Check rates and availability here.
If you visit on the right day, you can explore Amboise’s lively markets, where you can sample fresh local produce, cheeses, and artisan products.
As mentioned, we stayed in Tours and preferred to make it our base for returning and enjoying the evening hours.
Tours has a long and storied history, dating back to when it was part of the Roman Empire due to its important crossing point on the River Loire.
We didn’t have time to visit any of Tours’ attractions, but you can visit several museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Natural History Museum.
The stunning Gothic Cathedral of St. Getty, with its magnificent stained glass windows and intricate sculptures, is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
The medieval Château de Tours witnessed important historical events, such as the marriage of Marie d’Anjou to the future King Charles VII and the return of Joan of Arc after.
One of the best coffees we had during our trip to Europe was at Le Petit Atelier in Tours
The Loire River is particularly beautiful here, with small islands in the middle, and we saw many people swimming in the river during the afternoon.
Tours is often called the “Garden of France” because of its lush parks and gardens. The Jardin des Prebendes d’Oye is a great place to relax amidst lush greenery.
Where to Stay in the Loire Valley: Tourism
We decided to stay in the student-centric city of Tours. Tours are located in a great central location, with easy access to many of the Loire Valley châteaux.
I heard such mixed reviews about it that I wasn’t sure it was a good decision. We were debating Tours and the much smaller nearby village of Amboise.
We decided on Tours, because we found a château in Tours we could stay in using our mileage points. Because, when in the Loire Valley… stay in a château.
Be warned as soon as we checked Chateau Belmont The Crest Collection realized it was like lipstick on a pig thing.
First of all, it was amazing and our room was very spacious and lovely for a family of four. But, our room was in a modern hotel-style wing that was added to the property, not the palace.
The actual Château Belmont is quite small, so staying in the rooms inside the château would have cost a lot of money. The castle itself is beautiful, the grounds are lovely and there is a restaurant inside which has a lovely castle feel – albeit quite expensive.
The castle is on a small hill behind the gates, so it feels secluded. However, it was further away than we thought – only a ten-minute drive and a thirty-minute walk. We would have loved to have been closer walking distance to Old Town Tours as it was that nice. Check rates and availability for Chateau Belmont here.
We visited Amboise on the last day of this itinerary, and while I loved its small village charm, we’re glad we stayed in Tours.
We found it to be a more vibrant space that better suited our personalities. View Properties Available for Tours, to amboiseAnd to the Loire Valley, You can also use the map below to help you find the best Loire Valley hotels in the ideal location for you.
Final thoughts on a two-day Loire Valley castle tour
With this guide, you can map out the perfect 2-day Loire Valley itinerary that will give you a taste of the Loire Valley’s remarkable castles, rich history, and gastronomic delights. Be sure to enjoy every moment of your visit to this picturesque area.
If you have a little extra time, choose another unique castle to visit, or consider a fun activity wine tasting a bike ride along the Loire Valley.
Although our beginning was tiring and difficult, we made some wonderful memories as a family. The key was to choose a comfortable pace and avoid Chateau fatigue.
Group Tour of Loire Valley, France
If you don’t want to visit the region on your own and want to include other sites in France, we highly recommend Globus Tours. They are our long-term partners! You can check out his Loire Valley tours here, And don’t miss our special discounts below.
Globus discount just for you!
We’ve got a special travel discount: Save $100 per person On select 2023 and 2024 Globus and Avalon Waterways vacations. Use code: Ytravel While booking online GLOBUS And Avalon Waterway websites, by calling Globus and Avalon Waterways directly, or by booking with a preferred travel advisor. terms and conditions,