Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Which are the best Châteaux in the Loire Valley?

Which are the best Châteaux in the Loire Valley?

Dec 20th, 2011, 04:55 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 1,285
Montresor is delightful (and very dog friendly, the staff insisted we bring Raisin along for our visit). You can see most of it one your own. Time it right and you'll have it almost to yourself; time it wrong and you will be seeing it with one or more Polish tour groups
Many chateaux are in private hands and not open to the public, so it's doubtful one person has seen every single one, but nonetheless, here are the ones we've shortlisted to present a variety of types:
Angers, for its tapestries, for not being a more typical Loire Valley pleasure palace, and for being in lovely city with a nice medieval district, friendly people and good food.
Chenonceau, for the whole combo package of looks, history, gardens
Villandry for gardens
Chambord for the boat tour around the extensive moat system. The castle itself wasn't our favourite, but we really enjoyed the guided boat tour. We took the first tour of the morning and were the only passengers, so had a great private tour.
Montresor (see above)
Nantes for its interactive displays
Bourges - it doesn't have a castle, but has several fascinating historic buildings, including a renowned cathedral, plus a very nice historic district. It's off the usal tourist radar and is within an easy drive of Sancerre for wine and goat-cheese tasting. A short drive from Bourges is Ainay le Viel, another lesser known chateau. Raisin and I had the entire gardens to ourselves while my husband toured the castle. http://www.chateaux-france.com/ainaylevieil/ Sometimes called the Petite Carcassonne
Azay-le-Rideau, but try to get there before or after the tour groups
Fougeres-sur-Bievre http://fougeres-sur-bievre.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/ , a lesser known but delightful chateau

Fontrevaud was fascinating, agree with the OP's plans to visit there.
FoFoBT is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 05:41 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,522
Pick up a copy of Ina Caro's "The Road from the Past"... I particularly enjoyed the section on the Loire. On 3 visits to Amboise over the years I'd missed the fact that there used to be lions kept in the moat!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 07:25 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,561
Chenonceau is very pretty, but it is relatively small. The grounds can take some time to explore if you want to do so.

Chambord is a monster - google Gormenghast and you'll get the concept. It has over 200 fireplaces and still was cold in the winter.

I agree that Cheverny is worth visiting w/o any reference to Tintin - we didn't know of the connection until we popped into the store.

We skipped Usse - it's a stretch to call it the Sleeping Beauty castle because it was merely an inspiration for the concept.

Villandry is all about the gardens.

All that said, do spend a decent amount of time at the Abbey de Fontevreaud - that's really something.
BigRuss is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 07:35 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,932
I agree with PalenQ about Uzès being a wonderful château to visit but it's a bit south of the Loire Valley. If the intention was to include Ussé, I believe it's best viewed with a quick drive by; there is little to see on the interior.

I like to classify recommendations geographically, east/west of Tours. There are many from which to choose but I prefer the following:

East of Tours

Chambord - essential to fully appreciating the area's architectural developments.

Cheverny - one of the few fully furnished examples in the Loire Valley.

Chenonceau - everyone must visit once but the crowds can be horrendous.

Blois - the most overlooked and undervalued of all of the châteaux of the Loire Valley. Visits now include admission to an art museum at the end of the tour, all very worthwhile.

If you have time: Château de Beauregard, Chaumont, le Clos Lucé (there is nothing of Leonardo's to be seen here except a few recreated models), Château Amboise which is best seen from across the Loire River. 80% of this over-rated château was destroyed during the Revolution and what is left is unremarkable given what is otherwise available to visit nearby.

Other points of interest:

Cave de la Grand Brosse - best to call Philip in advance for a visit to his winery and caves:


Château de Chemery - in addition to being an old residence (dating to the 13th century), it is now a chambre d'hote allowing anyone so inclined to spend the night. Probably just as well known as the once home of French recording artist Alain Souchon (from whom the current owners purchased the property).


West of Tours

Azay le Rideau - delightful architecture in a storybook setting.

Villandry - the gardens are the draw here however there has been a recent effort to upgrade some of the interior rooms.

If time allows: Langais, Chinon, Loches (actually all south of Tours) and Saumur.


Overall, most people should limit their visits to no more than 3 châteaux a day; two would be even better as sensory overload can become a concern when trying to see too much too quickly.
Sarastro is online now  
Dec 20th, 2011, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,525
Chenonceau is my favorite, and as the above shows, I am not alone.

You are staying in Loches, but I can recommend a nice place for a superb $$$ dinner, Auberge du Bon Laboureur in Chenonceaux. I stayed there one night on my trip. The best beds of the whole trip, and I wandered into their restaurant and had a culinary experience.

Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 09:01 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 309
Valencay is one of our favorites. It was the home of Tallyrand and still includes most of the original furnishings. The audio guide is included with the admission charge; even though we have been there ten times or more, I still listen to every word on the audio guide and select the additional information options.

The gardens are gorgeous. Peacocks are everywhere. You can explore the grounds and gardens by walking or taking a golf cart tour; the grounds are huge and full of history.

On weekends they have skits or presentations (in French) of Tallyrand's activities at the chateau. They also offer free wine tastings in the kitchens.

There is a lovely picnic area on the grounds. A supermarket is just a few blocks away in town. The parking is free.

The town of Valencay is quite charming with lots of shops, boulangeries, and ATMs. You can visit the church where Tallyrand is buried.
Dorothy01 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6,138
I guess I'll add my opinions also.

Villandry--for the gardens
Frontevraud Abbey--surprisingly we stayed longer than anticipated

Least favorite:
Azay le Rideau---I don't know why, but this one just did nothing for us. Maybe we were underwhelmed because we has visited the above first.

We also liked:
The DaVinci House
Balzac's home in Sache

Good luck!
TPAYT is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,525
Near Chinon is Couly Dutheil, who make the best Chinon red wine (Clos de L'Echo). I was not able to visit, but they do offer tours.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 10:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 754
Thank you all for taking so much time to answer my question. I now need to sit down and think hard. Ideally I plan to do one château a day and spend the rest of the day doing something else.
ESW is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,525
There are also some caves you can visit, I am trying to find out which ones to recommend. I know I visited one as I was driving by.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Dec 20th, 2011, 12:35 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,735

Cheverny is especially noted for its famous Soupe des Chiens - mass feeding of the hounds!
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 20th, 2011, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,735

If you want to see a lived in chateau and take a tour with the owner then check out Meung-s/Loire's stately, but kind of shabby, castle!

We were there for the Christmas decorations throughout and the lady owner showed us around - sold tickets and was even seen with her Wellingtons on cleaning up some gradeau!

You can see the attic where the roof leaks - hinting at how expensive maintaining such a castle can be.

Meung/s/Loire is a sleepy old village not far from Orleans and it also has a nice Loire front and old moulin factories along a small river, which makes a lovely walk.

So for some Loire experience nearly no other foreign tourist will have check out Meung-sur-Loire!
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 20th, 2011, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,409
Tchopy, there's no advertising on this forum.

And just so you know, hardly anyone on this forum would think the Champs Elysées is the best part of Paris to stay in.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 10:59 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,735
I absolutely love the Chateau d'Eaus in every town!
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,051
ESW, where are you staying? I recommend finding a chateau where you can stay to enhance the chateau experience.
Grassshopper is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,735
You can stay in the Chateau d'Eau in Amboise, high up on a hill with views for kilometres around.
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 754
We've already got a gite booked near Loches. I enjoy the architecture and just looking at the outside of the Chateaux.
ESW is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 04:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 2,552

FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,735
Cheateaus d'Eaux are especially known for their great showers - lots of water always.
PalenQ is online now  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:45 AM.