chenonceau castle best itinerary loire valley

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The castles of the Loire Valley are a big part of French history. Hundreds (thousands?) of castles, kings, murders, intrigues. Beyond the different architectures, stories and anecdotes will guide your visits.

With so many possibilities, it is not easy to find one’s way around, to make a choice for a few days on site.
So, I am going to propose you an itinerary to discover castles without driving too much and to enjoy your visit.

Then I’ll give you the full châteaux map, with ALL the châteaux you can visit, as well as all the activities and plenty of quality accommodation to suit you!

Anyway, here we go!

chambord castle loire valley sunset

5 reasons to visit these castles

  • So many beautiful castles
  • A nice region in a nice climate
  • We eat and drink very well
  • A foot in the history of France
  • A lot of different activities

A 2 – 3 day itinerary to the Loire Valley Castles

With so many castles, sites, historical cities, spread over two big regions (Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire), it is very difficult to plan a visit in a coherent way. So for this, I based myself on a simple element: each day places close to each other to minimize the car time and spend more time on site.

This itinerary is aimed more at new visitors than at connoisseurs of the region, as I will be proposing places for the general public.

Detail of a day :

  • morning : a big emblematic castle (to avoid the afternoon crowd)
  • afternoon: a different castle with a history, an anecdote, which will take less time than a major castle
  • evening : dinner/apéro in a nice city

It’s very (too) classic, but my 3 main favorite castles are Chenonceau, Chambord and Azay-le-Rideau. Because of their importance and popularity, it is better to visit them in the morning to avoid the crowds, and thus see one per day.

Suggested itinerary for the Loire Valley Castles

  • Day 1 morning : Chenonceau
  • Day 1 afternoon : Clos-Lucé
  • Day 1 evening : Amboise
  • Day 2 morning : Azay-le-Rideau
  • Day 2 afternoon: Ussé (or Chaumont, Villandry, Langeais)
  • Day 2 evening : Tours
  • Day 3 morning : Chambord
  • Day 3 afternoon : Cheverny
  • Day 3 evening : Blois

Castles in the Loire Valley Day 1 : Chenonceau / Clos-Lucé / Amboise

On this first day, I propose you to stay on the side of the city of Amboise. Why? Because it is one of the most prolific places for castles.

Morning at Chenonceau

The castle of Chenonceau (located in the town of… Chenonceaux with an x, go figure) is one of the most famous in the region, especially for its very emblematic shape: it spans the Cher river, strongly resembling the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, where Catherine de Medici, who did the work, spent part of her childhood.
The history of this castle, nicknamed the Ladies’ Castle, is mainly due to the hatred between Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medicis and it is quite funny.

You have to take advantage of the surroundings of the castle, on both sides, to have a nice view and possibly the reflection of the castle in the Cher.

Chenonceau : useful information

Price: 17€ (free for children under 7)
Reservationtickets available here
Opening hours: the castle is open all year round, between 9:30 am and 7 pm with variations according to the month (more info here)
Parking: there is a free parking lot at the entrance.
Note: tripods are accepted


Chenonceau castle loire valley

Afternoon at Clos-Lucé

Beyond the domain itself, this castle has a real beautiful history. As a royal residence, Francis I spent his childhood there. But above all, it hosted a prestigious guest: Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the last three years of his life there, at the request of Francis I, from 1516 to 1519.

Now a museum, his last home is entirely dedicated to the genius, to his work, with models and life-size reproductions of his inventions, from the original plans.

Even if you are not a fan of museums, like me, the universe and the creations of Da Vinci are very well retranscribed and it is really interesting. Especially to see all the inventions, everything he thought of, how far ahead of the engineering of the time he was.
Moreover, as we celebrate in 2019 the 500 years of his death, many events are planned.

clos lucé Leonardo da Vinci amboise loire castles

Evening in Amboise

The Clos-Lucé is located in the city of Amboise, so it is a perfect opportunity to spend the evening there. Amboise is a beautiful small historical town, with a cobbled and rather pedestrian center. Its royal castle, of Gothic style, is famous for having welcomed François 1st.

Before, Amboise was really calm, not a very active city center, not much life in the evening. During the 7 years since my last visit, it has really changed and a lot of restaurants have appeared. At the Bistrot l’Atelier, they have good wine and great local food.

Don’t forget to cross the Loire to see the castle from the front, at night. If there is no wind, you can have a nice reflection.

Castle Amboise Loire valley

Some other options

 If you want to stay around Amboise, you can spend the morning at the castle of Amboise which is worth a visit. It’s not as amazing as Chenonceau, but it’s still a great time. You can also visit the Gaillard castle and the Pagode de Chanteloup.

Otherwise, you have just next door the suuuperb castle of Chaumont. I preferred its visit to the one of Amboise castle. It’s less than 10km along the Loire, so it’s super easy to get there.

Castles in the Loire Valley Day 2 : Azay-le-Rideau / Ussé / Tours

For this second day, let’s go a little further west, an area full of beautiful castles!

Morning in Azay le Rideau

Although it is truly magnificent, Azay-le-Rideau is not a royal castle. For me, it is easily one of the most beautiful, very emblematic of the French Renaissance. Not as original as Chenonceau, not as extravagant as Chambord, it has a true charm, on its little island in the middle of the Indre. This gives great pictures with the reflection of the castle in the water.

The interior is a bit kitschy with wax statues, but the visit is interesting. Less intriguing than in Chenonceau however.

Azay le Rideau : useful information

Price: 13€ (free for under 18)
Reservation: you can buy tickets here
Opening hours: the castle is open all year long, between 9:30 am and 7 pm with variations according to the month (more info here)
Parking: there is a parking lot nearby, small free parking lots a little further and free parking spaces at 5 minutes.
Note: tripods are not accepted inside the domain, as they are considered as pro equipment.

Castle Azay le rideau Loire valley

Afternoon in Ussé

The castle of Ussé is a bit different. It is not an Italian Renaissance style like Azay-le-Rideau, but a medieval part and the other one a classical Renaissance.

It would be from this castle that Charles Perrault would have been inspired for his tale “Sleeping Beauty” when he stayed there. Later, Disney was inspired by the castle of Neuschwanstein to create the castle of the Disneyland park.

Inside, we find a whole staging of the tale with wax statues in the tower and the walkway. A little kitsch.

Other options nearby: Chaumont is my favorite. Villandry and its superb gardens, the medieval castle Langeais

Castle Ussé Loire Valley Sleeping beauty

Evening in Tours

I was surprised by Tours. The city is a former royal city and has a castle, a beautiful basilica, towers (normal, in Tours… ), a cathedral, the remains of other religious buildings. The old Tours is medieval, super nice. Of course the classic is to pass by the Plumereau square, but all the surroundings are super nice.

I recommend spending the evening there because the old town and the historical buildings are beautifully lit.

City of Tours Loire valley Castles

Some other options

Here too we will have a lot of choice! Just next to Azay le Rideau is its little brother, the very pretty château de l’Islette. And that’s not all! Around Azay we will find 3 beautiful and well known castles. The castle of Villandry is especially famous for its gardens and is located less than 10km away. The castle of Langeais is a beautiful massive castle halfway between the medieval and the renaissance. Finally, a little further away, we have the beautiful royal fortress of Chinon.

Castles in the Loire Valley Day 3 : Chambord / Cheverny / Blois

Finally, for this last day, let’s go further east, in the region of Blois and the first castles.

Morning at Chambord

With Versailles, perhaps the most famous castle in the world. It must be said that it is damn beautiful, imposing, lots of details. In short, the photogenic castle par excellence

Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci was the architect after his last years in the area, but there are no documents to prove it, so it remains a hypothesis.

But Chambord also and above all owes its flamboyance to François I. After the heavy victory of Marignan (the famous 1515), the king wanted a castle worthy of this success. And it gives this magnificent castle. On the other hand, he will only stay there for 42 days during his 32 years of reign. Not very profitable, but we don’t care about that now.

In the following article, you can discover more about the Château of Chambord, how to go, tickets and informations

Chambord : useful information

Price: 16€ (free for under 26 from EU, more info here)
Reservationbook your ticket by following this link
Opening hours: the castle is open all year round, from 9am to 6pm (5pm in low season). It seems that the park is open all the time.
Parking: you have to pay, it is better to go to P2, the cheapest one (4€ a day), more places and nice view on the castle.
Note: tripods are not allowed inside the castle, as they are considered as pro equipment. On the other hand, in the free part, the gardens, no problem.

chambord Castle in the Loire Valley Castles

Afternoon in Cheverny

Comic book fans are bound to cringe when they see Cheverny. This castle was the inspiration for the castle of Moulinsart, in Tintin, where Captain Haddock lives, and the scene of several albums such as The Secret of the Unicorn or The Treasure of Rackham the Red.

But Cheverny is a castle that surprises in the Loire Valley. A lot of charm, of course, but a totally different architecture. Much more classical, far from the Italian Renaissance style that we can see in many places.

Hunting place, there is also a big pack of dogs and we can attend their lunch.

Price : 14,50€, free for children under 7 years old. More info on their website. Free parking.
Note: the schedules are not the same between winter and summer season!

A nice alternative would be the beautiful castle of Chaumont or Blois.

cheverny castle loire valley

Evening in Blois

Close to the castles of Chambord and Cheverny, Blois is famous for its beautiful castle (and its famous staircase). But it is also a nice little town to spend the evening, especially thanks to the banks of the Loire (and the nice view from the other side). It’s not the equivalent of Tours, Orleans or Amboise, but it’s still a nice place to stay without driving too far.


Some other options

I may be a little less inspired in this area, but within shooting range of Blois/Chambord we will easily find the castle of Chinon. But also the castle of Blois! Which is quite convenient if you want to visit the city afterwards. A little further on we will have the castle of Meung sur Loire (it seems that the little town is also worth a visit) and the castle of Beaugency. They are more confidential but have their own reputation!

Where to stay for this itinerary in the Loire Valley ?

For these 3 days, I wanted a single accommodation which is central. That is to say, not too much travel each day, not far from each castle. I targeted the area between Tours and Amboise, and I preferred the “castle life”. If you’re going to be in the Loire Valley Castles, you might as well sleep in a castle. So I found the Château de la Bourdaisière, a sublime little renaissance castle in the small town of Montlouis sur Loire. In addition, we are very well received. Next time, I will try the Relais de Chambord to wake up in front of the castle!

chateau la bourdaisière

The beautiful Château de la Bourdaisière, ideal for a romantic week end

Hotels and castles

We will have other castles like the superb Châteaux des Arpentis, the Manoir Saint Thomas in Amboise or the magnificent Prieuré d’Orchaise.

In the more classic (and also less expensive) hotels and bed & breakfasts, we will find the Castel Fleuri or the Best Western in Tours, the Sans Souci Bed & Breakfast in Luzille for example.

The offer in the region is really great and of high quality. I advise you to look here for a list of what you can find in the Loire Valley.

Apartments, castles and atypical housing

The advantage of the tourist areas is that you will find a lot of accommodation outside hotels. There is a good offer, very varied, and not particularly expensive. On top of that, you will find some quite atypical and central accommodations. Here are some examples: a nice troglodyte house near Vouvray, the famous castle of la Bourdaisière, or the superb castle of Verrière in Saumur.


The beautiful Château de Pray

  • A real small castle of the 12th century, a perfect setting to be in the bath of the Loire castles!
  • A gastronomic restaurant
  • Located in Amboise (perfect)
  • Price from 140€
Château de Pray amboise

Map of the best accommodation in the Loire Valley

In the following map, I’ve inserted the map of the best accommodations in the Loire Valley. You have to unselect the other layers and you’ll only have the lodgings.

You can choose to sleep in a castle, in beautiful boutique hotels, or in budgets hotels. Here is the map!

⭐️Click here to access the map!

Map Best Accommodations Loire Valley Castles

Discovering the Loire Castles without a car

In this itinerary, everything can be done without a car, using the bus or train network. Well, almost everything, except the castle of Ussé which is only accessible by bike.
In this case, I would advise you to visit either the castle of Islette which is very nice and next to Azay le Rideau, or Langeais, or the royal fortress of Chinon on the same line.

You can find in this article (still in French) all the possibilities to visit the Loire castles without car, by bus or by train. Very practical!

vincent voyage instagram northern lights norway

What are the best castles for kids

So this is a question that I am asked more and more regularly. Is it that the castles of the Loire Valley will please the children, which are those to privilege and why, some small councils.

I’m going to do a much more complete article about it, but here’s what I can tell you already. I think you know it better than I do, kids get bored quickly, so you need a little bit of a wow factor. But already, don’t try to do too many things, really I think staying on two castles a day is a maximum. Here are the ones that I think would really interest them:

  • Le Clos Lucé, because it is the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci and they have put plans of his works, miniature reproductions and especially some to scale, especially in the large garden. So you can see his inventions and it’s very interesting
  • Chenonceau of course, for its impressive arches over the Cher. There are 2/3 small walks to do on the banks of the river and the gardens are nice
  • Villandry for its gardens, I haven’t been there since I was an adult but I have great memories of it as a child
  • Ussé is a pretty castle and there is a whole staging around the tale of Sleeping Beauty because it would have served as inspiration for Perrault.
  • Azay le Rideau is nice, already a very pretty and classy architecture, water around and automatons that reproduce the scenes of the time, especially the meals.
  • Chambord to a certain extent and especially for its staircase which will really interest the children! And in the good season you can go on with the stag’s bellow
  • Cheverny if your children are fans of Tintin, because it is this castle which was used as a model for Moulinsart. Moreover, there is a beautiful permanent exhibition. There is also a huge kennel with more than a hundred dogs that can be seen during the visit.
  • Chaumont can be nice for two reasons. First of all its massive side with big towers which is totally different from what we can find. Then for its garden festival and its tropical greenhouse. It is surprising!
Chaumont Castle Loire valley
Pass Loire Valley Castles
Pass Loire Valley Castles
Pass Loire Valley Castles

The map of the Loire Valley Castles

You’ll find below the map of the Loire Valley Castles: the most beautiful castles, the royal castles, the most essential ones.

There is no official count, but there are about 3000 castles in the region. Well, the objective is not to visit them all, but we can already categorize them and highlight the 11 royal castles and the 21 most important ones.

The map of the Loire castles is made on Google maps, I give you all information about the content, how it works, the layers, in this article, so you can easily keep it aside on your phone to reuse it when you are there

They are placed here on the map and it is easy to understand why they are called “Loire castles”

Loire Valley map castles

Useful information

Should I book the tickets in advance?

Well it depends. During the touristic season, yes, you must book in advance for two reasons:

  • otherwise you’ll spend time in the queue to buy your ticket
  • and there is a limited amount of persons each day

So, not to lose time at the entrance and (mostly) to be sure to visit, I buy it at least one day before. And if I book it several days before, I double check if there is the possibility to cancel or if the entrance is valid for months/year

What is the best time to visit the Loire Valley Castles ?

It’s easy! All seasons are good. I really like spring and fall, because they are flowery seasons and not too (too) touristy. Some castles have beautiful gardens like Villandry or even Chenonceau, so if it’s something important to you, winter might not be recommended.

But the big advantage of winter, from November to March, excluding school vacations, is that there are not many people. So it’s great to be able to visit the castles of the Loire Valley in peace.

June, July and August are the most touristy months of course, until the first week of September. But it is a fantastic time to see them. For the gardens, the nature, the blue sky. But it can be very crowded.

What is the best hour to visit the castles

For the big castles, I advise to arrive at the opening. You will arrive before the bulk of the tourists and the tour buses. So really, come early.

End of the day is as well, as well as at lunch time.

But from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, and 2 pm to 4 pm, there will be a lot of people.

Kyriad Tours


  • Very good and very practical
  • South of Tours, ideal
  • From 79€!
chateau la bourdaisière


  • In the heart of the Loire Valley
  • A magnificent 15th château
  • From 135€ !
Chateau de Perreux Amboise


  • A very elegant château
  • In beautiful Amboise
  • From 180€!
Relais Chambord


  • Sleep facing the castle!
  • You couldn’t be better placed!
  • From 150€!

What are the nearest train stations

It’s easy, almost ALL castles have a train station nearby.

First of all, you have to reach OrleansTours or Angers. From there, you are on a train line that will connect many castles:

  • Blois / Chambord (same station)
  • Cheverny
  • Chaumont
  • Amboise / Clos Lucé
  • Chenonceau
  • Saumur
  • Chinon
  • and many others!

Ussé is the only one for which I have not found a solution other than the car or the bicycle.

I advise you to look at this article to see the train lines (still in french) and schedules.

What is the budget to visit the castles

An entrance to a castle costs on average 13€.

  • Tip: if you want to visit several castles, some PASSES exist to pay less expensive. For example this Château Pass with Chambord/Chenonceau/Blois

A night in a hotel costs on average 100€ (well, it goes from 50 to 400€, but at 100€ you can have something really nice)
For the transport, count either 40€ of train from Paris (for example) for the round trip, or 70€ of car (toll + gasoline) from Paris also round trip.
A nice restaurant will cost 35€ per head, with a glass of wine (it’s cheap and it’s good in the area!). A lunch snack, not much. Let’s count 10€ per head.

So it can give, for 2 people and 1 day:

  • 2 castles (4 tickets) = 52€.
  • return trip (car or train, for 2) = 80€.
  • 2 snacks = 20€.
  • This gives about 150€ / 2 people / 1 day. We see that the transport is expensive.

For 2 people, 2 days and one night, this would give approximately:

  • 2 castles per day per person (4 castles so 8 tickets) = 104
  • 1 night = 100€.
  • 1 nice restaurant for 2 in the evening = 70€.
  • 2 lunchtime snacks = 40€.
  • Transport = 100€ (to the basic transport I add the transport between the castles of the 2nd day)
  • We are on 415€ for 2 days / 2 people by indulging in the visits, the restaurant and accommodation

Over 2 days, the two big adjustment variables are accommodation and food. For the accommodation, we can have a small price around 50€(examples here) or be pleased with for example the superb Château des Arpentis.

And I repeat that the transport is to come from Paris, if you do not have to take the highway, it will cost you much less. You have to pay attention to the toll and the gasoline, the estimates are on Mappy.

Can we discover the castles in one day

It’s possible !

Let’s say that in one day you will have to leave early and return late, but you can discover 2 castles. I recommend castles that are close to each other. For example :

  • Amboise and the Clos Lucé (+ visit of the beautiful city)
  • Chambord and Blois
  • Chenonceau and Amboise or Chaumont
  • Azay le Rideau and Chinon
  • Angers and Saumur

And I’m only talking about the most famous ones!

If you don’t drive and you don’t want to take the trouble, there are organized tours that make the visit from Paris, by bus.

For example, with this excurtion, you can discover 3 castles from Paris for 140€ with a guide:

  • Chenonceau
  • Blois
  • Chambord
  • And a wine tasting

Over 70 pages of information on :

  • Indispensable castles
  • Practical information (planners, comparators, routes, itineraries…)
  • More than 30 castles to discover
  • The most beautiful towns
  • Where to sleep

Over 70 pages of information on :

  • Indispensable castles
  • Practical information (planners, comparators, routes, itineraries…)
  • More than 30 castles to discover
  • The most beautiful towns
  • Where to stay

In conclusion

I insist, at the Loire castles, the objective is not to see as much as possible in a short period of time, otherwise you can’t enjoy it and you quickly overdoses. Here, the idea is to spread out the “big” castles, to couple them with a different castle nearby. The whole without making too much car.

But the Loire castles cannot be limited to these few. There are so many of them, each with its own history, its own specificities. Medieval, Renaissance, dramas, royal residences. There is really something to spend a lot of good moments and the desire to come back regularly

Some other resources to visit the Loire Valley Castles

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