France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Loire Chateaux & Loire Valley Guide
The châteaux (castles) of the Loire Valley, only an hour southwest of Paris, are a must-see on your trip to France. Here's how to go for the day or overnight, where to stay, where to dine, what to see and do.

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The Loire is France's longest river, flowing 1,012 km (629 miles) from the mountains west of Valence northward to Orléans, then westward to the Atlantic.

When most of us think of the Loire, it is the east-west portion, lined with sumptuous châteaux (castles) and noble vineyards, flowing from Orléans through Amboise, Tours, Angers and Nantes to the Atlantic coast at Saint-Nazaire (map).

Châteaux of the Loire

Châteaux of the Loire—a must-see on your trip to France. But there are dozens—actually hundreds of them! Which ones to visit? And how?

Some of the best Loire châteaux can be visited easily on a day-trip excursion from Paris. Others require an overnight stay. Some can be reached easily by train and bus, others are best reached by private car, or on a guided tour.

Here is our list of châteaux. Groups of chateaux can be visited together to make the best use of your precious travel time. More...

Some châteaux have sound and light shows.

If you plan to tour the Loire Valley for more than one day, the towns below are the best to use as bases for your excursions to the castles:


The favorite residence of King François I (1494-1547), this dramatic hilltop castle in a delightful town is among France's finest, and relatively easy to get to. A bonus: it also boasts the last home and the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci. More...


Surrounded by rivers, the historic capital of Anjou and seat of the Plantagenet kings is also a rich agricultural region. Some of its fine fruits end up as Cointreau, the delicious triple-sec liqueur. More...


Another favorite of François I, the Château de Blois is huge, grand, and right in the center of one of the Loire Valley's main cities, easily reached by train from Paris. More...


The huge fortress-château dominates the hill on which the town is built, as it dominates the history of the town. Chinon, a noted winemaking town, is another suitable base for explorations of the Loire Valley. More...


Although historically part of Brittany, Nantes is today the capital of the département of Loire-Atlantique. It's historic, pleasant, easy to see on foot, can be reached by direct Ouigo train from Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport, and has some of the weirdest stuff you can imagine. More...


Even though it has no château, the noble City of Joan of Arc is architecturally distinguished, a beautiful place to spend a few hours or a day—and it's only an hour south of Paris by train. You can easily see it on your way to another Loire Valley town. More...


Though it has no impressive château of its own, Tours is a prime base for your Loire excursion because it is a major transportation point served by TGV trains from Paris—in fact, even trains directly from Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport. More...

For more towns and villages along the Loire, see Châteaux of the Loire.

Châteaux of the Loire

Groups of Châteaux

Châteaux Map

How to Visit Châteaux

Sound & Light Shows

Loire Valley Transport




Château d'Amboise, France

Above, Château d'Amboise.


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