3 day Loire Valley Itinerary: the most beautiful castles of France

3 day Loire Valley Itinerary: the most beautiful castles of France

The most beautiful castles of France can definitely be found in the Loire valley. The Loire valley, a region south of Paris, is home to more than 100 castles. Luckily, many of them are open to the public. I have visited the Loire valley many times on several holidays. The first time was in 2008. This holiday sparked my love for castles, history and architecture. Over the years I’ve visited many Loire castles and I still can’t get enough of them! In this Loire Valley itinerary, I will give you inspiration for you trip to the Loire Valley.

Day 1

Château d’Angers

Start your Loire Valley Itinerary in Angers, 300 kilometres from Paris. In Angers, you can visit Château d’Angers. The outside of this castle gives the impression of a strong fortress. The dark stone of the 17 towers contrasts with the lighter stones of most of the Loire castles. Furthermore, the walls of the towers are 2.5 metres thick.

Towers of Château d’Angers

However, the Apocalypse Tapestry is the centrepiece of the castle. It’s a 104 metres-long series of tapestries illustrating the final battle between good and evil as prophesied in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. They date from the 14th century. The room in which the tapestries are displayed is very dark, probably to preserve them better. However, the details and colours of the tapestries are stunning!

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Château de Saumur

Continue your Loire Valley trip to Saumur. Château de Saumur is located on a hill overlooking the river Loire. The building of the castle began in the 10th century, which makes this castle one of France’s oldest castles. However, after its destruction in 1067, Henry II of England rebuilt the castle in the 12th century. In the 13th century, the castle became in hands of Philip II of France.

Château de Saumur
Château de Saumur overlooking the river Loire

The castle has had many uses over the centuries. It has served as protection for the Normans and a Renaissance palace. Furthermore, the castle has been a Protestant stronghold and functioned as an army barracks. Nowadays, you can find Saumur’s municipal museum in the castle. However, the highlight of this castle is its amazing location.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Château d’Ussé

The last castle on day 1 of this Loire Valley Itinerary is Château d’Ussé, which is literally a fairytale castle! Legend says that this castle formed the inspiration for the fairytale The Sleeping Beauty. Inside the castle, you can find large dolls portraying scenes from The Sleeping Beauty.

Château d'Ussé
Château d’Ussé, a fairytale castle
Read more: if you like visiting castles, make sure to check out De Haar Castle in the Netherlands as well.

The castle started as a medieval stronghold. Around 1000 AD, Gelduin I decided to build a stronghold of wood and stone. However, changes to the castle were made a couple of times. The result is this beautiful Renaissance castle dating mostly from the 16th to 18th century. Moreover, make sure to check out the gardens of the château as well, which are very lovely.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Day 2

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Day 2 starts with one of my favourite castles of the Loire Valley: Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. This castle is the prime example of a fine and elegant castle. The graceful turrets, the beautiful reflection of the castle on the water… This castle is definitely the perfect place when you’re looking to take Instagram pictures.

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The castle was built between 1518 and 1527 during the reign of Francis I. Experts consider it one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture. It blends French tradition with influences of the Italian Renaissance. Furthermore, the interior of the castle is just as gorgeous as the exterior. The decorations in the salons are beautiful. They have constructed the gardens in English style.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry is famous for its gardens. They are probably the most beautiful ones you can find in the Loire Valley. The gardens consist of a large number of “knot gardens”, which are square gardens that are bordered by box hedging. These squares are then filled in with different plants or vegetables. This creates intricate symmetrical gardens.

Château de Villandry and its gardens

The castle is the last of the large castles of the Loire built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. After you’ve visited the gardens (and the other castles of this Loire Valley itinerary), the castle may feel a bit as let-down. Nevertheless, it’s still worth going inside the castle for a quick visit. Make sure to admire the view from the top of the 12th-century donjon and visit the Oriental drawing room.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Château de Chenonceau

Last but not least on day 2 is Château de Chenonceau. Unfortunately, compared to most Loire castles, this castle is rather touristy. Nevertheless, a visit to Château de Chenonceau is a must on your Loire Valley itinerary. The castle you can admire nowadays was built between 1514 and 1522 on the foundations of an old mill. However, they built the part that spans the river at a later time. The result is a beautiful and elegant castle.

Château de Chenceau
Château de Chenonceau

Both the interior and exterior remind me of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau. They are built in a similar style. Both are one of the most elegant castles I have ever visited. Furthermore, Chenonceau has some really fine gardens as well. After a visit to Château de Chenonceau, continue your Loire Valley itinerary to Amboise, where you’ll spend the night.

Tip: go on a 50-minute cruise on the river Cher and explore Chenonceaux in a unique manner.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Day 3

Amboise

In Amboise, there are two castles that you cannot miss. Firstly, visit Château du Clos Lucé. This castle is famous, because it was the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci for the last 3 years of his life. Nowadays, the gardens of the castle exhibit models of the various machines that Leonarda da Vinci has designed. It’s a great place to visit if your travelling with kids.

Château du Clos Lucé
Château du Clos Lucé

The second attraction of Amboise is the Château d’Amboise. Situated on a hill, the views overlooking the Loire are stunning. A must visit is the Chapelle St. Hubert (dating to the end of the fifteenth century), where they buried Leonardo da Vinci’s presumed remains in 1863.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times of Château du Clos Lucé and here for Château d’Amboise.

Château de Chambord

The biggest of the Loire Valley castles on this list is the Château de Chambord. With its 426 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 77 staircases it’s the largest castle in the area. Again, they built this castle in the style of French Renaissance. I visited this castle in 2008 for the first time and still remember its enormous size. Moreover, some say that the famous Leonardo da Vinci has designed the spiral staircase of the castle.

Château de Chambord

Moreover, it’s almost impossible to believe, but this castle was never meant as a permanent residence. Rather, it served as a hunting lodge for king Francis I. However, Francis didn’t like the castle, but preferred the castles in Amboise and Blois. Just 72 did he spent at Chambord.

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire

This Loire Valley itinerary ends at one of the lesser known Loire Valley châteaux. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favourites. This castle was the seat of the dukes of Sully. From 1218 onwards, parts of the castle were built and embellished. I really like the moat of this castle. It gives a great medieval vibe. Furthermore, the large round towers of the castle allow me to pretend I’m in a Fantasy world.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire, the last stop of your Loire Valley itinerary

Click here for more information about admission tickets and opening times.

Of course, many more castles could be included during a trip to the Loire Valley, such as Château de Blois, Château de Chaumont, Château de Cheverny, and Château de Chinon. Furthermore, another great way to explore the Loire Valley is by bike.

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3 Replies to “3 day Loire Valley Itinerary: the most beautiful castles of France”

  1. I’ve visited them too (with my parents a long time ago). I would recommend le Chateau de Giverny (beautiful interior and it’s also the setting of the Tintin comic books!).

      1. I think we stopped by once to take a picture, but didn’t visit the castle. Thanks for the recommendation!

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