Châteaux of the Loire
With over 300 châteaux in the Loire Valley, you’d be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed at choosing which ones to see. Why not pick a few and really spend time exploring and enjoying them. To help, we’ve put together our favourite châteaux to visit in the Loire.
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord is the largest and most extravagant of all Loire château. Commissioned by Francois I as a hunting lodge, it has an impressive 440 rooms and 85 staircases – including an innovative double spiral staircase said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Ascend to the roof terrace to enjoy stunning views over the surrounding forest. The château grounds are extensive and well-marked with walking, cycling and riding trails – plus it’s the perfect spot for a picnic. Chambord hosts many events and festivals during the summer months and each night there is a sound and light show, projected upon the château’s famous north façade.
Château de Chambord is a 20 minute cycle through a beautiful National Park from Château des Marais.
Built on an island, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau’s foundations rise straight out of the river. Azay ranks among the most famous and most graceful Châteaux in the Loire. Built between 1518 and 1527, it is one of the earliest Renaissance châteaux. It has charming ornamental features and a richly decorated façade.
Located in Rigny-Usse, nine miles west of Azay is Château d’Usse. Built in 1462 as a battlemented fortress, it has been transformed into a flamboyant aristocratic château. With gleaming white turrets, terraced gardens and the Chinon forest as a backdrop, it is said to have inspired the author of Sleeping Beauty. This is the ultimate fairytale castle and children will love exploring – some rooms are occupied by waxwork figures illustrating the classic Sleeping Beauty story.
Château de Chenonceau
Near Amboise, romantic Château de Chenonceau is the most popular in the region attracting 600,000 visitors every year. The gorgeous Château stretches across the river Cher and is surrounded by elegant formal gardens. The Renaissance building has been transformed over centuries from a modest manor into a palace designed purely for pleasure. The Château owes a large part of its charm to the women that lived there. It was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet and then made even more attractive by Henri II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers. Later his widow Catherine de Medicis added her feminine touch, and finally Louise Dupin saved it from the rigours of the French Revolution. There are many beautifully furnished rooms to explore including Catherine de Medicis study and the 60 metre long Grand Galerie.
Château des Marais is around 50 miles away from Château de Chenonceau.
We hope that you have a fantastic time discovering the majestic châteaux of the Loire Valley and if you have any recommendations we would love to hear them.