Ultimate 3-Day Loire Valley Castles Itinerary
The Loire River has many treasures in store, one of the most majestic of which is the series of castles that line the river! The Loire castles are historic buildings recognized throughout the world, and witnesses to significant events in the history of France.
It is especially in the Loire Valley that the main castles that you can visit are located. Full of history, these different places are truly a must-see of French architectural and historical heritage 🙂
It would be a shame to miss this must-see. Visiting the castles of the Loire goes well beyond simply discovering superb architectural buildings, it is about immersing yourself in the history of France. But the density of castles to discover is such that it is often very difficult to know which Loire castles to visit !
In this guide, you will follow an itinerary to visit the castles of the Loire in 2 days or 3 days to discover the beauties of the region and make the most of your trip 😉
Which Loire Castles Should You Visit?
There are more than twenty castles, each one more magnificent than the last, in the Loire Valley region.
To keep this visit pleasant and interesting for everyone, I recommend that you focus on the most famous Loire castles, which have particularities that you will not find in any other castle.
In my opinion, the essential castles of the Loire not to be missed are the following:
- Chambord Castle
- Chenonceau castle
- Amboise Castle
- Cheverny Castle
Secondly, you could also visit the castles of Clos Lucé (Blois), Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon and Saumur 🙂 During a tour to discover the castles of the Loire, you can also stop to visit the most important cities or simply to spend the night in Blois for example, or in Amboise or Tours.
Visit the Castles of Loire from Paris
If you are in Paris and want to visit the castles of the Loire, it is possible to take a day trip to Chambord, Chenonceau and Cheverny. This type of excursion generally lasts 13 hours, including 2 hours of free time and travel time (with the round trip from Paris).
During the entire duration of this excursion, your professional guide will explain to you all the most important stories about the Loire castles and their former owners.
Plan on around €120 per person, excluding lunch which you will have to buy yourself in one of the places. But don’t worry, there are restaurants and cafeterias in these 3 castles 😉
2 Days Itinerary to Visit the Loire Castles
The route that I am going to present to you in this guide is of course only a suggestion for your trip. These different sites are presented from east to west, but you can also follow this route in the opposite direction, or include other castles according to your wishes 🙂 Here is an overview of the circuit:
- Morning of the 1st day: Chambord
- Afternoon of day 1: Cheverny
- Evening and night of the 1st day: Blois
- Morning of the 2nd day: Amboise and Chenonceau
- Afternoon of day 2: Villandry
- Evening and night of the 2nd day: Tours
Visiting 2 castles per day can be more than enough if you visit each castle in every detail. Also note that if you cannot make this trip by car, you can definitely take the bus or train which serves the region very well 😉
Day 1: Visit the Château de Chambord in the Morning
Let’s start directly with what is probably the most emblematic castle of the Loire. The Château de Chambord is known throughout the world, it is certainly the most famous of French castles alongside the Château de Versailles.
According to some sources, the architect of the Château de Chambord was Leonardo da Vinci, although in fact he died before construction of the château began in 1519. He was commissioned by King François I to following his victory at Marignano in the 16th century.
Inspired by Italian architecture, Francis I wanted a castle worthy of his victory, so it was a completely improbable building for the time, especially its “ magic staircase ” which crossed without ever meeting! In the end, King Francis I would have only lived 42 days (out of 32 years) in this beautiful residence.
In addition to being the best known of the Loire castles, Chambord is also the largest! It houses no less than 420 rooms, as well as terraces and gardens.
Moreover, in these gardens you will find a lake, a permaculture vegetable garden, a nature reserve and a stable. It is even possible to participate in an interactive treasure hunt game in the castle gardens!
Practical information for visiting Chambord
- Since it is the most popular Loire castle, I recommend booking a skip-the-line ticket to Chambord Castle in advance to avoid the endless queues especially in summer.This type of ticket costs €16 per person and will save you a lot of time! Also note that entry is free for minors and for students under 26 who are nationals of the European Union.
- You can visit the castle every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, and until 5 p.m. in winter. The week between Christmas and New Year, the Château de Chambord is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- For parking, choose P2 which costs €5 per day. The others are reserved for minibuses, coaches and large vehicles.
Visit Cheverny in the Afternoon
This castle is quite different from other Loire castles, with its much more classical architecture, quite far from the extravagances of the Renaissance style.
This is one of its particularities! Its other particularity is that this castle is home to a nature reserve where hunting is a leisure activity, so you can go to this Loire castle to attend the meal of the pack of hunting dogs.
It’s not an activity that appeals to me very much, but perhaps some of you enjoy this kind of spectacle!
It is still one of the most visited private castles (after the Château de Chenonceau) and the first to have been opened to the public more than 100 years ago, in 1922.
The Château de Cheverny is a much less prestigious and grandiose castle than that of Chambord, but it is a place that will please young and old, and particularly fans of comic strips.
Indeed, it is this castle which served as inspiration for the Château de Moulinsart, the home of Captain Haddock in the adventures of Tintin. If you have seen episodes of Tintin, you will definitely recognize the place once there 🙂
Practical information for visiting Cheverny
It is not possible and simply not necessary to buy a ticket online for Cheverny Castle, because far fewer tourists go there. A ticket to the castle and gardens costs €14 per adult, €10 for under 25s and entry is free for children under 7.
There are also reduced rates for larger groups. For more information, you can directly consult the official website of the Château de Cheverny.
For your information, parking is free and opening hours are as follows:
- From April 1 to September 30 (high season): 9:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. ( 6:30 p.m. from July 2 to August 31)
- The rest of the year: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit Blois and Spend the Night There
Very close to Chambord and Cheverny, you can reach the town of Blois and its royal castle. This is a very good base during your 2-day tour through the Loire castles.
If you have the time and the desire, visit the castle and attend the 45-minute sound and light show, during which projections on the facade of the castle will allow you to discover fascinating stories about this place.
Summer, take advantage of the banks of the Loire to eat on the terrace before returning to rest in your accommodation for the rest of your 2-day itinerary.
If you want more information about the royal castle of Blois, know for example that it was the home of the Dukes of Orléans.
It was a particularly important place for the Court during the Renaissance era. Since then, this building, classified as a Historic Monument, has also been awarded the Musée de France label. It is one of the finest examples of Loire castle architecture and is well worth a little detour!
Practical information on the Château de Blois
Please note that you will need 2 separate tickets to attend the sound and light show and for entry to the Château de Blois. The show costs €11.50 per person while the entrance ticket is €14 for adults and free for children under 6 years old.
The castle is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from April 1 and even until 7 p.m. during the summer school holidays. In winter, the Château de Blois is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entry is only possible up to 30 minutes before closing.
Day 2: Morning at Amboise Castle
Château d’Amboise, also known as Château du Clos Lucé, is one of the former residences of the kings of France. This large palace which dominates the Loire from its rocky promontory is an old medieval fortress which was notably the home of Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I. The latter, whom I have already mentioned above, spent his entire childhood there.
The central location of the Court during the Renaissance, the Royal Château of Amboise was the favored location of the greatest artists of the time. It is here that Leonardo da Vinci, invited by Francis I, spent the last years of his life.
The castle is to this day a museum exhibiting the artist’s work, inventions and original models . This visit will allow you to understand the genius of the artist a little better.
The Italian artist is also buried in the Saint-Hubert chapel, which is located inside the walls of this castle. Thousands of visitors come each year to pay their respects at his grave.
Inside the castle, you can discover an incredible collection of period furniture, as well as absolutely grandiose rooms. Outside is the Garden of Naples, which was the very first Renaissance garden in the region.
Information for visiting Clos Lucé
The Clos Lucé skip-the-line ticket usually costs €15.50, but is currently discounted to around €13 (August 24, 2023). For students, the price is set at €12.20 and for children aged 7 to 18 the price is €9.30.
Hours vary regularly, but in high summer, Château d’Amboise is generally open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. In winter, the castle is sometimes closed during the lunch break. To find the schedules month by month, you can find out directly on the official website of the royal castle.
Since January 2022, the Saint-Hubert chapel has been under construction and the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci is no longer accessible. You can take a virtual tour on a tablet provided upon your arrival. The reopening is planned for spring 2024 😉
Chenonceau, one of the most beautiful castles of the Loire
If you don’t know which Loire castle to visit, the Chenonceau castle is also one of the best-known sites in the region.
This magnificent building, built directly over the Cher, is an example of the architectural ingenuity of the time.
This large castle is located in a particularly pleasant setting, surrounded by woods and superb gardens such as the Diane de Poitiers garden, perfectly symmetrical, and the Catherine de Médicis garden, particularly flowery.
It was in the 13th century that the first fortress located in these places was built, at the request of the Marques family. It was damaged during the 100 Years’ War, before being captured by the English, then being recovered again by the French.
It was finally completely destroyed and then replaced by a castle in the 15th century. After many adventures, including the bankruptcy of the Marques family, it was finally François I who recovered this castle, before his successor Henri II (husband of Catherine de Medici) made it the magnificent building that we can see today.
Visit Catherine de Medici also had its importance in the construction of the Chenonceau castle, since we clearly notice a resemblance to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence where Catherine de Medici grew up.
All this is just a brief overview of the long and fascinating history of this castle. You will be able to discover rooms, each more beautiful than the last, such as the great gallery of Chenonceau, an impressive 60 meter long room which rests directly on the 5 large arches which cross the Cher river. Other notable sites await you, such as the Tour des Marques, the last remaining vestige of the original castle, or even a magnificent little chapel.
To make the most of your visit, especially during busy periods, I recommend that you book your ticket in advance. Indeed, it is, alongside Chambord, the Loire castle most popular with tourists.
Practical information on visiting the Château de Chenonceau
The skip-the-line ticket for visiting the Chenonceau castle is €15.50. Children under 7 years old can visit the castle and its grounds for free, while students and young people aged 7 to 18 will pay €12.50.
The times for visiting the castle depend greatly on the period. In summer, the Château de Chenonceau is open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Otherwise, hours vary between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. for opening and between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. for closing. To see the opening hours on the date of your visit, go to the official Chenonceau website.
Continue the Afternoon at the Château de Villandry
The Château de Villandry is the very last great château in the Loire which was built during the Renaissance.
It was the residence of important figures such as Jean Le Breton (the minister of François I who sponsored the construction of this castle), the Marquis de Castellane and Jérôme Bonaparte, the brother of the emperor.
Located less than 30 km from the city center of Tours, this place will truly be one of the places to discover during your trip.
The Château de Villandry, with its particularly refined architecture characteristic of the end of the Renaissance, as well as its French-style gardens recognized as being among the most beautiful in France, is one of the most prestigious châteaux in the Loire.
The French gardens have gradually lost their charm due to lack of maintenance, but since 1906, the reconstitution of the 6 hectares of garden has been the heyday of the Château de Villandry.
While visiting this castle, you will be able to appreciate the large Renaissance garden, with its perfectly symmetrical shapes. Inside, you can visit a large number of rooms (kitchens, bedrooms, dining room or even library) all richly furnished and decorated 🙂
Practical information for visiting Villandry Castle
The entrance ticket to visit the Château de Villandry and its gardens costs €13 for adults over 19 years old. Young people aged 18 and under, as well as students under 26 and people with disabilities can benefit from a reduced price to obtain their ticket at €7.50.
It is also possible to take a ticket to visit only the gardens ( €8 for adults and €5.50 at the reduced rate), but these are only available from the official ticket office of the Château de Villandry. The visit is free for children under 8 years old.
During the high season, the castle is accessible every day from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and its gardens from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For the rest of the year, you can consult the schedules month by month on the official website of the Château de Villandry, different from that of the ticket office 😉
Pack your bags in Tours for the night
Tours is a very pretty city, which benefits from an almost unrivaled historical heritage! During your visit to the Loire castles, it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to visit the city.
Although its castle is nowhere near as emblematic as others in the region, you can visit many historical sites in Tours, and this city will be a good place to spend the night before hitting the road again 😉
You will be able to discover a large number of historic buildings there such as the Saint-Julien abbey, the Saint-Gatien cathedral, the Saint-Martin basilica and the Town Hall.
Tours Castle is an old fortress located on the banks of the Loire, built in the oldest district of the old town, on the remains of the ancient city.
Today it is a cultural center where artistic and historical exhibitions are held throughout the year. In the evening, don’t hesitate to go to the famous Place Plumereau. You will find a magnificent terrace where you can have a drink or dinner.
3 Days Itinerary to Visit the Loire Castles
For the last day of your trip, I suggest you go and visit castles, certainly a little less known than the others, but just as beautiful, impressive and grandiose as the previous ones! 🙂
Day 3: Castle of Azay-le-Rideau
Unlike most of the castles on this itinerary to visit the Loire castles, Azay-le-Rideau is not a royal castle. However, this does not prevent it from being one of the most impressive buildings in the region.
This castle was built on a small island located between two arms of the Indre. With its relatively classical style, which also has a strong influence on Italian Renaissance architecture, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau was an exception in the 16th century.
The most famous view of this castle is probably that of its southern facade, which is directly reflected in the waters of the Indre. It is the ideal spot to take your most beautiful photos.
The castle park is also well worth the detour. These large English-style gardens of 8 hectares, sheltering a very diverse fauna and flora, further reinforce the charm of the place.
Practical information for visiting the castle of Azay-le-Rideau
The ticket to visit Azay-le-Rideau costs €11.50 per adult and is free for those under 18. You can add a supplement of €3 and benefit from a visit with an audio guide, ideal if you want to know all the little anecdotes about the castle.
In summer, you can also attend night tours of the castle at the same price as the day rate. For this season, the nocturnal events continue until August 26, 2023. You will then have to wait until next year to enjoy this unusual experience 😉
Throughout the year, the Azay-le-Rideau castle is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 11 p.m. during nighttime hours.
Itinerary to visit the castles of the Loire: the castle of Chinon
The Royal Fortress of Chinon is an absolutely unique place. Located on a rocky promontory on the banks of the Vienne and surrounded by vineyards, this superb medieval castle, whose construction began in the 10th century, entirely dominates the town of Chinon.
It is notably in this place steeped in history that Joan of Arc met King Charles VII before leaving to liberate Orléans. Other great historical figures such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II and Richard the Lionheart have also marked the history of this fortress.
During your visit to the castle, you can learn much more about its rich history. You will be able to freely explore the places, with a Histopad tablet which allows you to take a tour in augmented reality, or take a guided tour in the company of a professional guide. A course specially designed for children is also planned, as well as various activities, such as an Escape Game.
Otherwise you can also simply stroll through the medieval streets at the foot of the fortress of the town of Chinon, this was really my favorite part of Chinon Castle.
Practical information on the Château de Chinon
The ticket to visit Chinon Castle costs €10.50 per adult and €8.50 for young people aged 8 to 17. The visit is free for children under 7 years old with a free ticket. Job seekers can also obtain a free ticket upon simple request.
Hours vary depending on the time of year:
- From May 1 to August 31: 9:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- From November to January: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- March/April and September/October: 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Accommodation in a Loire Castle
To get the most out of your itinerary to visit the castles of the Loire, why not stay within a castle itself? 😀
The Château des Arpentis will be the ideal place for an unusual and royal night. The establishment is located approximately 3 km from the town center of Amboise, in the heart of a large 30-hectare wooded park.
In this exceptional place, built in the 14th century, you can find large family suites of 60 m², which can accommodate 4 people, between €220 and €350 per night depending on the time of year. The castle also has a swimming pool and a restaurant serving excellent French breakfasts 😉
End of the 3-day Itinerary at Saumur Castle
Also less known than the Loire castles mentioned above, the Château de Saumur is well worth a little detour to admire the artistic and natural science collections.
It also has a belvedere from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Loire river and the town of Saumur.
Finally, finish this itinerary to visit the Loire castles in the gardens of the Château de Saumur, the latter are truly magnificent!
This castle, built in the 10th century, is a representation of medieval architecture and has had different uses during its existence: royal residence, noble residence, royal prison and weapons and ammunition depot.
Information for visiting Saumur Castle
The ticket price for Saumur Castle is €8.50 per adult and €6.50 for children aged 7 to 16. It is of course free for children under 7 years old.
For times, this will once again depend on the period of your visit to the Loire castles. During the summer season, the castle is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., for the rest I invite you to consult the official website of the Château de Saumur.
Itinerary to visit the castles of the Loire: where to stay?
For this itinerary which you can follow in the direction you wish, I have suggested 2 base locations where you can sleep near the Loire castles: Blois and Tours.
I will therefore share with you my favorite addresses in these 2 cities, as well as in Amboise, which is also an excellent place to stay during your road trip in France, in the castles of the Loire.
Accommodation in Blois
- Cote Loire — Auberge Ligerienne is a charming small hotel located in a 17th century building, just 300 m from the Château de Blois. You can find rooms for 3 people, with a double bed and a single bed, at €86 or €134 per night.
- La Maison du Carroir in Blois is located 500 meters from the castle, but it’s really my favorite! This is a house where the rooms are beautiful and comfortable and the courtyard is an ideal place to relax on sunny days, during breakfast for example. Besides, it is included in the price of one night, between €130 and €140.
Accommodation in Tours
- The People Hostel is a modern and pleasant hotel, well located in the center of Tours close to the city center. It offers double rooms with city and garden views from €62 per night.
- The Val de Loire hotel is a very elegant establishment, located in the center of the city, just 50 meters from the train station. You can find rooms for two from around €80 per night.
Click here to find out more about the Val de Loire hotel in Tours
Accommodation in Amboise
- Troglodyte Bed and Breakfast Le Clos de L’Hermitage is unusual accommodation in Amboise since it is located in a cave! You will definitely spend an extraordinary night there, a 10-minute walk from Château d’Amboise. It also has a spa and breakfast is included from €120.
- The Domaine de l’Arbelle is an establishment on a large plot of land, worthy of a castle, between the Château d’Amboise and Chenonceau. It has an outdoor swimming pool, very nice rooms and many other services from €82 per night.
Itinerary to visit the Loire Castles with children
You may have already noticed that tickets to visit the Loire castles during a multi-day tour are free for children under 7 years old and at a reduced rate for teenagers.
This is a way of encouraging parents to come with their families to the different castles of the Loire which are both interesting for adults and children 🙂
Indeed, many special tickets are reserved for children in certain castles, allowing them to participate in a treasure hunt, an escape game or even different manual activities, here are the Loire castles concerned:
- Le Clos Lucé
Can you do a tour in the Loire Valley without a car?
The answer is yes! You can follow this route to visit the Loire castles by train and even by bus. All the castles presented here are accessible and served by trains at stations and regular bus lines 🙂
When to visit the Loire castles?
As you will have understood, the castles of the Loire are very popular with tourists in summer, because it is during this period that the opening hours are the widest and that certain special tickets (nighttime) are made available.
However, if you can and if you prefer calm, as well as a little less heat, go on this tour of the Loire castles in autumn 😉
Here we are at the end of this itinerary to visit the castles of the Loire! I hope it will have made you want to discover these grandiose places, rich in fascinating history.
If you have other suggestions, do not hesitate to leave a comment.
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