The Loire valley is home to many famous castles: Chenonceau, Chambord, Blois are some of the most well-known. Thousands of tourists visit these priceless architectural structures every year. We would like to tell you what's worth seeing as well as share some practical advice. You'll find a map of Loire's castles in this article as well. The article's author has been to all these castles, so you're getting firsthand knowledge of the area.
Loire's magnificent castles were built, and some were restored, during the Renaissance era. During that time, the French nobles decided to make this region their home. In 2000, most of them were entered into UNESCO's list of world monuments and are under its protection. There are over 300 castles scattered throughout the region. You can book an amazing tour from Paris to make your search for the castles easier, or you can drive yourself around the Loire Valley.
» READ MORE - Tour the Loire Valley castles in your car
Where do I begin?
The best place to start is with the castle Sully-sur-Loire. First, it's the gateway to this history-rich region. Second, its medieval architecture is notably different, and so it will help transport you to that era.
Don't miss your chance to visit the royal castle, chateau royal de Blois, which was a French royal family residence. It has a peculiar fusion of Renaissance era architecture and was first built as a palace. It served as a model for other Loire castles.
A map of Loire's main castles
When should I go?
If you want to avoid long lines and rushing, we recommend visiting Loire's castles during the slow tourist season, which is from November to April. However, keep in mind that most of the castles have gardens and parks, so cold, rainy weather might make it harder for you to fully enjoy their wonder. Several castles, including Saumur are also closed in the winter. On the other hand, if you're comfortable with the weather, winter is a great time to visit Loire. There are almost no tourists in the winter, so there are no lines or crowds and you can enjoy yourself.
During the summer, the castles are overstuffed with tourists. On the plus side, you'll have interesting entertainment options like light and music shows or evening strolls through the lit gardens and parks. Moreover, the flowerbeds and gardens make this season more attractive than a wintertime visit.
Depending on the season, prices can differ by 1-2 euros. It's also worth keeping in mind if you want to visit a castle and its garden at the same time, the price will increase.
Some castles might have an additional 7-euro price per person for this. It's possible you'll have to pay for an audio guide.
In this article, we'll give you the prices for visiting just the castles during the winter season.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at our list of Loire's 10 best castles.
A tour of Loire's castles
Loire's castles are appealing destinations, but it's can be difficult to get to each castle on your own. There are usually two options: drive a car or travel with a tour group. You can't get to many of the castles by train. You could ride a bike if you're an avid cyclist.
For your introduction to Loire, we recommend taking a 1-2-day tour and seeing the main palaces. You'll learn a ton of interesting things when you travel with a tour group. It's especially convenient if you'll primarily be in Paris and the Loire castles are an additional trip. There are tours right from Paris.
You can see the most interesting tour options for the Loire castles by following this link.
Chateau de Chambord
Chambord is the largest and most famous castle. It was added to the UNESCO list of historical and cultural world heritage sites, and for good reason. It has more than 400 rooms, 280 fireplaces and 77 stairs. It sits in the middle of a more than 5000-hectare park.
Horse shows and light and music shows are held here. Recently Chambord's rooms have been filled with works of art and old furniture which can make your trip even more interesting.
Tickets are 14.50 euros per person.
Chateau de Chenonceau
Chenonceau is special because it's built right on the Cher river. If you look at it from the right angle it looks exactly like a bridge. It's known as "The Ladies Castle" Because it was built, restored, and lived in mostly by women. Among its famous residents are Catherine de' Medici, Louise de Lorraine, and Gabrielle d'Estrees.
There's a maze here, and you have the option to visit the illuminated park at night.
Tickets start at 15 euros for adults and 12 for children and students.
Chateau royal d'Amboise
During the Renaissance, Amboise castle was the residence of several French kings, so it is called the Royal castle. It wasn't spared from the French Revolution, so today we can only see it at 1/10 of its original size. It's still quite impressive, and don't miss out on the landscape gardens that have excellent views.
During your visit you can also take a stroll in the Royal park and see the Saint Hubert chapel where Leonardo da Vinci is buried.
Tickets cost 13.10 euros for adults, 11.30 for students, 9 for children from 7 to 14 years old and are free for children under 7.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Amboise by following this link.
Chateau du Clos Luce
Located just 500 meters from Aboise, Clos Luce was the great Leonardo da Vinci's final home. You can see a Renaissance style castle here, along with some of the great inventor's creations: there are 20 functioning machines here on display. You can also take a romantic stroll around the 6-hectare park.
Tickets start at 17 euros for adults, 12 for children and 12.50 for students.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Clos Luce by following this link.
Honore de Balzac called this castle "a faceted diamond, set in the Indre." This French Renaissance-style castle was built on an island in the middle of a river during the reign of Francis I. The carved stone facades invite you to enjoy this architectural masterpiece, and the English gardens invite you to dream. The castle is government property and is open to visitors all year round. In the summer, you can take a nighttime stroll through the illuminated gardens.
Tickets cost 6.50 euros for adults and entrance is free for children under 18.
You can see and book the best lodging options near d'Azay-le-Rideau by following this link.
Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire
Another interesting place to visit in the Loire Valley is the castle Sully. Surrounded by a moat, this tower and small castle is an excellent example of medieval architecture. These castles walls once saw important people like Louis XIV, Anne of Austria, and Voltaire. A classical music festival for children is held here every year.
Tickets cost 8 euros.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Sully-sur-Loire by following this link.
In the 13th century, Saumur castle served as a fortress, but then the count of Anjou rebuilt it as a royal palace. During the reign of Louis XIV, the castle was used as a prison, and then during Napoleon's rule it was repurposed as an arsenal to store, repair and gather weapons and ammunition. Over time, the castle was partially destroyed, but was restored in 2007, and it has a great view of the city. It is currently closed to visitors in the winter but is open in the summer.
The whole family can go to Saumur castle to gather grapes. The area is home to famous vineyards, and if you're travelling by car, you can sign up for a tasting.
Tickets cost 7 euros for adults, 5 for students and those from 6-16 years old and is free for children under 7.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Saumur by following this link.
Forteresse royale de Chinon
The English kings Henry II and Richard the Lionhearted gave this castle its current appearance. The royal fortress Chinon was eventually given to the French government, and its history is closely connected to Joan of Arc and Cardinal Richelieu. In the 19th century it was given to the district board (now the general board) that carried out restorations.
It is the most atypical castle in Loire. It isn't quite a "chateau" (castle). It's more of a fortress. Additionally, a large part of the castle is destroyed. However, walking around the medieval ruins is extremely interesting.
Additional tours include the Joan of Arc museum in the castle and the museum of modern cinematography.
Tickets cost 10.50 euros for adults and 8.50 for children from 7 to 18 years old and are free for children under 7.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Chinon by following this link.
This castle has belonged to the duke of Brissac's family for more than 500 years. The current castle was built by Marshall de Brissac, whom Alexandre Dumas wrote about in his novels, including The Three Musketeers. A lot of historical events have happened in the castle over those 500 years. Today, Brissac is a palace with luxurious rooms, its own vineyards and even its own theater. Guests can even spend the night in King Louis XIII's bedroom.
Tickets cost 12 euros.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Brissac by following this link.
Chateau royal de Blois
The royal castle Blois is an interesting place to start your tour of Loire's castles. An example of the great era of history and architecture in the Loire Valley, this castle was home to a family of tsars and dozens of French kings. In 1845, it was one of the first monuments that was determined to be restored.
Additional tours include a history of the castle's architecture.
Tickets cost 12 euros for adults, 9.50 for students and 6.50 for children between the ages of 6 and 17.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Blois by following this link.
Chateau de Cheverny
This castle has belonged to one family for six centuries, and they still live there today. There's a kennel that breeds hunting dogs here.
The castle is famous for its classical style. The famous architect Herge worked here.
Since it's a family castle, the atmosphere is relaxed and homey. It's a nice castle to visit in the summer.
Additional tours include a Tintin exhibit, a botanical garden, a greenhouse, and a garden.
Tickets cost 12.50 euros for adults, 9 for students under 25 and children over 7 and are free for children under 7.
You can see and book the best lodging options near Cheverny by following this link.
We wish you a pleasant trip and hope our list will help you decide what to see. Maybe you've already been to Loire's castles and would like to suggest something we didn't mention in article. In that case, leave your comments and suggestions. We'd love to read them.