When you want to visit the Loire Valley, it is inevitably for these reasons: to see castles, to dive into the French history and its intrigues, to enjoy a good meal and to see pretty little towns. All this is possible from Amboise, a charming town which has no less than 3 castles (I would say 3.5, we’ll see) and which is a pillar of French history.
Amboise is a nice place where you can just spend the day and see the castles of the city or from which you can discover during several days to enjoy the surroundings. Because Tours, Chenonceau, Chambord in particular are not so far away. All the most beautiful castles are easily accessible.
The visit of Amboise fits well in a itinerary of a few days in the Loire Valley Castles !
Why should we visit Amboise
Amboise is a pretty town and a great place to visit. But there are also many things to see, in the heart of the Loire Valley. That’s why in my opinion it’s really a place to visit if you take your time.
- For the royal castle and the Clos Lucé, of course
- A nice little town from where you can easily discover the other castles, close from everything
- We eat and drink very well!
A visit the royal castle of Amboise
Very nice castle that belonged to the powerful House of Amboise, it passed into the hands of the royal family after a failed plot on a relative of King Charles VII. Big mistake. The castle became a very popular royal residence, and even more because it saw the birth and growth of many future kings of France, including Francis I. It must be said that the castle is really pleasant, dominating the city and the magnificent Loire.
In addition to an interesting history, it is really a beautiful castle, a beautiful architecture, worked, and which offers a very pleasant visit. On the other hand it can be quite crowded so I advise you to come early.
Oh, and I haven’t told you yet that there is the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci in the small chapel of the castle
Le Clos Lucé, home of Leonardo da Vinci
The Château du Clos Lucé is an ode to Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, it is his last residence after Francis I asked him to come and work for him. A few hundred meters from the center of town, there are several reproductions of the inventions of the Italian genius, some of them in life size, and it is impressive. In addition to being a beautiful residence, it is one of the most interesting castles of the Loire Valley, and which will interest both adults and children. I personally love it, I go there every time I come to town. This is for me the most interesting place in the Loire Valley.
Visit the old town
The city of Amboise is old and its center is typical of the Loire Valley, pretty, small streets, around the massive castle perched on its hill. And what is also nice, are the beautiful shop windows, the signs. In addition, you can eat well and cheaply. If you go a little further, you will also see some troglodyte houses
The Clock Tower
In the heart of the old town, rue Nationale, we will find one of the oldest vestiges, the pretty Clock Tower, a belfry with a clock (hence its name, probably) built on an old door of which the vaults remain. It dates from the 15th century and became a historical monument in 1933. So it seems that you can visit it. Don’t do as I did, look for the entrance because thinking to reach it I found myself in a toilet. But it seems that the interior is worth a look
The Loire banks
The banks of the Loire are always nice in this region. In Amboise, there is no exception to that rule. Whether it is on the quays at the edge of the city or on the other side of the river, there are many possibilities for really nice walks. For a nice view of the castle, cross the bridge and go to the island in the middle of the river
The church of Saint Denis
5 minutes from the city center, following the National street, we will find a nice church dating from the beginning of the 12th century. So quite massive, in classic roman style. You can see it from far away, especially when you are at the castle, it dominates the rest of the city
What else can we see in Amboise
The Chanteloup Pagoda
Originally, there was the château of the Duc de Choiseul here, a monumental château that was compared to Versailles at the end of the 18th century, to which a surprising pagoda was added. Except that, at the death of the owner, it passed from hand to hand to be finally emptied and destroyed by unscrupulous merchants of goods. There remains however the pagoda, in the middle of nowhere, with its pond.
The entrance fee is 10€, I found it a bit expensive for what it is. You can visit the pagoda, that is to say go up to the top and take the very small stairs, but the area is very quiet, it can be nice to come with the children. Keep in mind that there’s not much to do.
A somewhat forgotten castle in Amboise and yet Château Gaillard is also a royal estate, wanted by Charles VIII to get away from the castle of Amboise. In love with the Italian Renaissance, he wanted to draw inspiration from it for this residence and especially for its gardens, its orangery. Another curiosity is its troglodytic chapel, as well as some other rooms dug into the rock
The park of the Mini Châteaux
The 45 most beautiful castles of the Loire Valley reproduced in scale models. A pleasant outing for adults but especially for children. The models are very precise and well worked, and they are sent back to the model makers every winter for a makeover
Visit the cellars and taste the wine
In the Loire Valley, you will find some very good wine. White, red, crémant, there is something for every taste. And sometimes in very nice settings. By chance I came across a troglodyte cellar near Amboise, the Durand family, which also offers a great tasting, by passionate people. You can read more about it here
Visit the surroundings of Amboise
By going a bit further we will have many other castles accessible in less than one hour, for example:
- Chaumont sur Loire
- or Montpoupon
In short, I would say that almost all the castles are at one hour maximum (well ok, Angers maybe a little bit more), that leaves great opportunities to visit.
But also other nice places like the Beauval Zoo (one of the most famous in the world) at 45min or the nice city of Tours for example. I give several examples in this article about Indre et Loire.
Ideas for a weekend in Amboise
It is easy to see that Amboise is an ideal city to spend a weekend in the heart of the Loire Valley. Moreover, the evenings in Amboise are pleasant, it is not too hot. It’s quiet but there are a lot of restaurants next to the castle and the city is pretty at night. Two or three days are very easy to occupy, I could propose you the following planning:
- Day 1 morning: visit of the castle of Amboise
- D1 afternoon : Stroll in the city and along the Loire river
- D1 night in Amboise
- D2 morning: visit of the Clos Lucé
- D2 afternoon: visit of Chaumont castle
And if you want to stay more to visit the surroundings :
- D3 morning : Chenonceau
- D3 afternoon : Chambord
Where to sleep in Amboise
Amboise is a town with fairly expensive, but ultra-classy accommodations. It’s full of beautiful residences and small castles. While walking around, I saw the hotels and woulalah it was beautiful! We will count between 150€ and 200€ the night for a small life of castle. Here I would quote the superb Manoir Saint Thomas the great class of the Château des Arpentis the spa of the 4* hotel of Rabelaisian Charm the elegance of the Clos d’Amboise or the very famous Manoir des Minimes. But take the time to look around because there are still others, each one as beautiful as the next.
For a smaller budget, I tried the Ibis budget at 70€ and it’s a good value for money. A great classic is The Originals Hôtel Chaptal at about 80€, very good in the city center. Or the exceptional reputation of the chambre d’hôte des Hauts d’Amboise 5 minutes walk from the center
You can also find much more accomodations in this article, with some special ones
Practical information about Amboise
How long to stay in Amboise
There is a lot to do in Amboise. I didn’t have time to see everything, but if you want to do the royal castle, the Clos Lucé, Château Gaillard, discover the city, then you need two days.
One day is already great, it allows you to do at least the Clos Lucé and the Château Royal, take a tour of the city, have lunch or dinner there, and see the banks of the Loire. To add Château Gaillard and Chanteloup, you need to add at least half a day.
But if you really want to do the whole area, then you will easily spend 3 days there and radiate from Amboise. It is very easy!
Coming by train to Amboise
On the other side of the Loire River, you will find the SNCF station of Amboise which is easily accessible from Paris Austerlitz, Tours, Orleans, Nantes or Bordeaux.
From Paris, it is sometimes direct on the line to Bordeaux, for 1h50. But from Montparnasse it is faster with a change in Tours, 1h30. Prices are between 15 and 30€.
From Orléans, it’s about 45min and 20min from Tours.
From Nantes, more than 2h and sometimes direct.
And from Bordeaux, 2h also.
Amboise and the surroundings without car
It’s super easy to get around without a car. The different castles are accessible either by bus or by regional train. You can also easily rent bikes, there are some stores on the banks of the Loire.
In this article, I explain you absolutely everything about the Loire castles by train or by bus
Free parking in the city center
It’s complicated to get around the city. Lots of small one-way streets, priority to pedestrians, so it’s better to leave your car in the parking lot and walk around.
There are several paying parking lots, especially along the Loire, but there are two free (convenient!) and well located parking lots. One is just behind the Clos Lucé, the second is the parking des tanneurs, 5 minutes from the castle. In high season, it is better to arrive early because the places go quickly
Some good restaurants in Amboise
The food in the area is great and there are some good restaurants worth eating at. I enjoyed the plates and wines of the Bistrot l’Atelier, a really nice place, and a little more expensive is Chez Bruno, also with excellent quality products and very good dishes. Both are in front of the castle. The Restaurant des Arpents is considered one of the best restaurants in town, at a decent price. And on top of that, they have a bed and breakfast, which is a good thing
The weather and when to go to Amboise
In the region, the weather is always relatively good, which allows you to visit all year round. In winter, it can be a bit cold, never very cold, and it rains a bit all year round. You can see more of that here, but every time I’ve been there, I have good weather and I don’t think that’s just luck, the climate is really good there.
Amboise is really a nice stop, a pleasant moment for 2 hours (which would be a shame) or a few days. Culturally it’s really good with the castles in town and those nearby, the Loire river allows you to get some fresh air without a car, you eat and sleep very well. So if you want to go from Amboise to visit the region, it’s far from being a bad idea in my opinion 🙂