From fortified castles to splendid mansions, the Chateaux of the Loire Valley are one of the most famous French attractions. There are more than 300 of them, and one can spend weeks exploring the region.
But can you get a good idea of the different styles and functions of the Chateaux in a weekend? That’s what we tried to do!
We arrived in Blois Friday night so we could start our visit in the morning.
The fortified Chateau: Amboise
The castle towers above the city, built on the river Loire. It has thick walls, inside of which a horse could easily gallop up to the top. The king Francis I was raised here, and here he hosted Leonardo da Vinci.
Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days in Amboise? He is buried in a chapel inside the castle walls.
We really enjoyed the gardens as well, with a lot of flowers. It was a feast for the eyes as well as for the nose.
When we left the castle, we had a walk in the city center, which has quite a few medieval houses. We felt like we were transported back in time.
The bridge Chateau: Chenonceau
We decided to take a little tour of the nearby village before entering the castle. By chance we found an info point, 2 minutes away from the train station where we could buy the entrance ticket, with a small discount and no queue at all!
Chenonceau was our favorite chateau of the weekend. Before reaching the mansion you can visit a medieval farm (with donkeys!), and an amazing garden, complete with a maze!
The mansion was the residence of queen Catherine de’ Medici, after king Henri II death. She took it back from Diane de Poitiers, the king’s mistress… like in a soap opera!
The interiors are really well curated and we found the free leaflet informative enough for our visit.
Did you know ?
- Chenonceau is also known as the “Chateau of the ladies” as it had a lot of female owners.
- The name of the village, Chenonceaux, and of the chateau, Chenonceau, are spelled differently. It is said that, during the French revolution, the owner of the chateau took out the “x” from the mansion’s name to differentiate this symbol of the monarchy from the republic village.
The Chateau mansion: Cheverny
Cheverny is the only chateau presented here that was never property of the royal family. The same family has indeed owned it for the past 600 years, the Huraults.
If you are a comic fan, while arriving you might experience a déjà-vu. The castle was in fact used by Hergé as inspiration for the Marlinspike Hall in The Adventures of Tintin. There is also a dedicated exposition in the estate.
The interior design is impressive. You can see the different furnitures accumulated by generations of Hurault. Cheverny is also famous for the decorations mostly, but not only, linked to the season. We found a mistery-LEGO exposition!
Around the chateau, you can enjoy the park with a nice garden and a forest, unless it is pouring rain like it did in our case. Nevertheless, we didn’t forget to go and say hi to the many dogs of the kennels!
The 4-in-1 Chateau: Blois
The castle of Blois dominates over this nice city on the Loire. It was continually modified according to the different kings and lords tastes. Four different architectural styles are visible: part of a medieval fortress, a gothic wing, a renaissance wing and a classical wing. It’s like visiting 4 castles with one ticket!
A nice exposition describes the fascinating history of the castle and the city. At night there is also a sound and light show in the castle. Unfortunately we were always too late to see it, but it was highly recommended by our host.
Bonus ½ day
At the beginning we said we spent a weekend, but we kind of cheated. The past summer we had already visited the one which is maybe the most famous chateau. For it, you can count half a day more on the total time schedule.
The most famous Chateau: Chambord
Chambord was created as hunting lodge for Francis I, it is surrounded by a huge park.
It is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley. The many rooms (440!) are massive, with very high ceilings and big windows. One of the highlights of the visit is the main staircase, designed as two spirals that never meet. Taking either of them will allow you to reach all of the three floor and the roof.
How to move around
Having no car, we relied on train, buses and carpooling.
We were based in a nice AirBnb in Blois. The room was lovely and the hosts gave us a warm welcome and many useful tips on what to do and where to eat. If you don’t have an account yet, you can get 25€ discount on your first booking following either this link or this other one. If you prefer a more classic hotel you can search on booking.com. If it’s your first reserve you can follow this link to get a 15€ reimburse.
To arrive to Blois from Paris, and come back, we used Blablacar , a cheap alternative to the train. From Blois to Amboise, and from Amboise to Chenonceau we took the train, changing in Tours for the second step.
From the parking lot in front of the Blois train station, you can take a bus to both Cheverny and Chambord. Here you can find the schedule for the shuttle.
If you have time, you might consider moving by bike. The area is well equipped and, if you get tired, you can always put the bike on a train.
If you have a car it’s of course all much easier!