The Loire Valley located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in Central France is known for its vineyards and orchards that line banks of the river. It’s famous for its wines, historic towns, and architecture. The central part of this river valley was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2000. This designation includes the area around the Loire River as well as the areas around its tributaries.
The area is dotted with beautiful Chateaux collectively called Chateaux of Loire Valley. These Chateaux illustrate Renaissance design in France. Many of them played historical roles dating back from the 11th. Century. They were owned or visited by historical figures including Cathrine de’Medici and Leonardo Da Vinci.
You can spend a lifetime visiting all the Chateaux, there are over 300 of them! Today many of them are privately owned and serve as homes, some of which open their doors to the public, others are operated as hotels or B&Bs, and still others are government owned and have become major tourist attractions.
Naturally a visit to the Loire Valley Chateaux was on our bucket list. The only remaining questions were which ones and how to get there. Well the answer would depend on your interests.
If you’re crazy about castles and are on a mission to see as many of them as you can then you’re best bet is to stay in the Loire Valley and hire a car. Driving to each chateau is really the easiest way to go. You can also book organized tours that will take you chateau hopping to several of the most popular ones.
But if you’re only interested in visiting one or two it can easily be a day trip from Paris once you decide on which ones you want to see. The valley is about a 3 hour drive or 2 hour train ride from the capital. Totally doable in a day.
We took a day trip from Paris to visit Chateaux Chenonceau and Clos Luce in nearby Amboise.
Chateau Chenonceau is located in the small town of Chenonceau. It spans the Cher River one of the Loire’s tributaries. It is probably the second most visited chateau in France, its popularity surpassed only by Verasilles.
Its construction was started by Thomas Bohier, revenue collector for King Francis I in 1515 and finished by his wife and son in. In 1535 it was confiscated by the King to pay off debt and was later given to Diane de Poitiers, duchesse de Valentinois by Henry II, son of Francis I.
It was de Poitiers, Henry’s mistress, who built the bridge over the Cher and also built extensive gardens. After Henry’s untimely death his widow, Catherine de’ Medici forced Diane to deed the castle to her.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
It soon became her favorite castle and she constructed the galleries above the bridge as well as the stables and more gardens. It was in this chateau her son Francis II married Mary, Queen of Scots in 1560.
Thru the centuries the castle was owned by several powerful noblewomen thus earning its name “Château de Femmes” or “the castle of six ladies”. Each lady adding her mark to make the castle the beauty we see today. For more history on this chateau click here!
A visit to the chateau is like stepping back in time. It is filled with many works of art, exquisite furniture, and beautiful floral arrangements. You can see Cathrine de’ Medici’s room as well as that of Diane de Poiteier’s. The kitchen and its vast fire pit are interesting as is the gallery with the checkerboard style floors. After a tour of the chateau you can wander thru the gardens and maze, stop in one of the restaurants for lunch or a quick snack, have a picnic in the picnic area, and browse the gift shop.
The castle is open year round and admission is 13 Euro for adults (17.50 Euro with audio guide) and 10 Euro for kids 7-18 (14 Euro with audio guide). Click here for more info!
This chateau isn’t exactly easy to get to from Paris, but it’s definitely worth the trip. To get there we took the TGV from Paris’ Montparnasse train station to St. Pierre des Corps where we transferred to a local train for the 20 minute ride to Chenonceaux. The chateau is a short walk from the train station, you can’t miss it, it’s the largest building around! Click here for timetables and ticket prices!
From here you can take the train, drive, or hire a cab to the town of Amboise which is just 12 Km way. (We hired a cab for under 20 Euro). There you can visit:
Chateau de Amboise another beautiful castle visited by many historical figures over the centuries.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Clos Luce where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life. He died in his bedchamber there on May 2, 1519.
A small museum dedicated to Leonardo’s knowledge of engineering housing 3D animations and 40 models: aeroplane, automobile, helicopter, tank, and more is located in the chateau.
We had planned to visit Clos Luce, but once we got to Amboise it was late afternoon and we were tired. We grabbed a snack in town then made our to the train station and returned to Paris. We were back at our Place de la Republique hotel in time to get ready for dinner.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]