The Loire Valley is one of the most visited place in France, right behind Paris, and for a good reason : it’s magnificent.
You might think I’m a little biased about the place since I grew up there, but on the contrary. The Castles in the Loire Valley used to be the place where my parents would drag me on the weekends when I was a child. I would protest, then spend the day focusing on where I could sit and pout in peace. Children, right ?
Anyway, now that I’m (so much more) older and (a little bit) wiser, I can appreciate those places. It’s a real pleasure for me to share with you this list, and I’m hoping it can help you enjoy the best of that region without having a castle-overdose. Indeed, no need to see them all, for here are the best :
LE CHATEAU DE CHAMBORD
Let’s start with the classics. The Castle of Amboise is kind of overrated and always packed, so if you’re looking for the “classic renaissance castle experience”, the Castle of Chambord is a much better choice.
The rooms have been refurnished to make it look as if François Ier is still living there, so expect a lot of four-poster beds, tapestries and hunting paintings.
It’s not my favorite because it’s a little bit too classical for me, but it’s great for an introduction to Renaissance architecture and culture !
LE CHATEAU DE CHAUMONT, AND IT’S GARDENS
This is my all time favorite, I insist for visiting it every summer. The Castle in itself is already interesting, often hosting temporary art shows, but what I love the most are the gardens.
If there’s any landscape architect reading this, don’t take this lightly, this is your dream come true. The gardens change every year, and are actually constituted of a multitude of little gardens which are all responding to a theme or story. It’s crazy good, and kids would love that visit too (they would not sit and pout on this one).
LE CLOS LUCE
The Clos Lucé was the home of the great Leonardo Da Vinci, and the visit revolves around his work. In each room, you’ll see some of his machines, sketches and inventions. The park and gardens are also worth the visit, with some more machines from the inventor.
Once again, this would also be a very fun and interesting visit for kids ! (Yes I like the same things kids do, sue me !)
LE CHATEAU DE CHENONCEAU
Like the Chambord’s Castle, the Chenonceau’s Castle has been refurnished like old-time. But the reason this castle is on the list is not for the inside, it’s for the outside. I mean, look at this …
This castle has the particularity of having been made and protected exclusively by women (which I think explains really well why it’s the prettiest of all), which gave it the surname of “Château des Dames” (Castle of the Ladies), amazing right ? All of these ladies are represented in the beautiful gardens, which includes a labyrinth.
LE CHATEAU DE LOCHES
This one is smaller and less famous than the others, but what I really like about it is that some parts have been left in ruins. I like to see the passage of time. The remains of the donjon and of some rooms that used to contain prisoners are a little creepy, but it’s also a side of the Loire Valley Castles to remember !
In the summer months (generally from april to september), some of those castles hosts “nocturnes”, which are big sound and light shows in the night. They light up the water and the castle itself while people in costume recreate renaissance’s life. It’s magical, so if you have the opportunity to see one, don’t hesitate !
Tell me, which one of these castles sounds the most exciting ?
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