How to plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary in France?

How to plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary in France

Impressive castles, lush gardens, charming villages, extensive vineyards and the delicious, local French cuisine. This time I will take you more to the beautiful Loire Valley in France. Because this extensive region has so much to offer, it’s important to prepare your trip a little. That’s why I created this blog full of tips to plan the perfect the Loire Valley itinerary in France.

A few years ago I traveled to Vallée du Loir in France. This lesser-known region, along the banks of the Loir, is about 40 km from the famous Loire Valley. Totally surprised by this beautiful and idyllic region and my love for history and castles, I decided to also visit the Loire Valley. I wanted to know if this popular destination could appeal to me as much?

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The Loire Valley in France

The Loire Valley is a stunningly beautiful region in France. It is often referred to as the “Garden of France” due to its abundance of lush vineyards, charming villages and breathtaking chateaux. This region is filled with history and culture, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Loire Valley stretches along the Loire River. Did you know that this is the longest river in France? This area is known for its mild climate which is perfect for growing grapes for wine. Many vineyards in the region produce some of the best wines in the world, including the famous Sancerre, Chinon and Vouvray.

The Loire Valley is also world famous for its impressive castles, which are among the best preserved in all of Europe. Many of these castles were built during the Renaissance and have been used as royal residences over the centuries.

In addition to the castles, the Loire region is also home to charming villages and towns, imposing churches and abbeys and beautiful, colorful gardens. It will therefore not surprise you that the part of the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as: Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes

How to get to the Loire Valley in France? 

The Loire Valley in France is roughly 600 km from Belgium and is therefore perfectly accessible by car. Keep in mind that you will pass Paris via the various routes that depart from Belgium. So you may experience some delays there.

You can also travel perfectly with the Thalys to Paris from Belgium and then take the TGV to one of the many stations in the Loire Valley such as Le Mans, Laval, Angers or La Roche-sur-Yon. In the Loire Valley there are more than 200 stations where trains and buses stop. There is a well-organized and extensive network of public transport that you can use to get around the Loire Valley.

When you travel by plane, you can travel from Aéroport Charles de Gaulle by TGV or Thalys to one of the stops in the Loire Valley and then use public transport from that region to get to your destination. You can also choose to rent a car at the airport and continue your journey towards the Loire region. When we rent a car, we always choose for Sunny Cars. The big advantage of renting a car at Sunny Cars is that all insurance policies are already included in the price. So you will not be faced with unpleasant surprises in the form of extra costs when you pick up your car.

When is the best time to travel to the Loire Valley

The best time to travel to the Loire Valley in France is in spring (April to June) or early autumn (September to October). During these seasons the weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and fewer visitors compared to the busy summer months.

In spring you can enjoy blooming flowers and lush green landscapes, while autumn shows beautiful leaf colors. It’s also important to know that the Loire Valley is a popular destination all year round, but try to avoid peak times such as the summer holidays. We were there in August and it was extremely busy at the popular sights such as the most famous castles. Some castle domains try to limit the crowds with reservations and time slots, but even then it was still queuing to visit the different areas. As a result, the whole experience that comes with visiting such an imposing castle got lost a bit.

Where to stay in the Loire Valley? 

We chose to stay in Appart’choisille in La Membrolle-sur-Choisille near Tours, a super nice vacation accommodation ideal for 2 people. An absolute bonus was the quiet area, the swimming pool and the cozy terrace.

We opted for this centrally located location because we wanted to stay in one destination and make various day trips to the many different sights. In hindsight, we should have split up our stay on different locations. We didn’t always enjoy the long distances to get to the various attractions and back, especially after a tiring day of sightseeing.

So plan your itinerary first before booking a stay. Be sure to check out my tips below. When you have a plan then start looking for the perfect accommodation based on the location(s) on your Loire Valley itinerary. A useful tool for this is the Booking.com folder widget that you can find here.



Booking.com

How to plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary in France? 

The Loire Valley in France is a extensive area. The various sights are therefore scattered and sometimes very far apart. So it’s best to map out your itinerary first. Here you will find some tips to help you. These are based on my own experiences.

Start by listing the sights you definitely want to visit and activities you would like to do. To make everything as visual as possible, I advise you to create a personal map in google mymaps and indicate everything on your to-do list. In this way you can see how far the different points are located from each other and you can form a realistic image of which sights you can combine in one day. Also include sufficient travel time from your vacation accommodation and between the sights.

Here you can find my preparation. I give the sights of a certain region the same color so I know that I can combine these ones in one of more days.

Choose the location(s) of your residence(s) strategically based on the sights you want to visit. In the previous section you can find a useful map widget from booking.com to help you.

When you visit a few sights in the same area, be sure to check whether combi tickets are available. These are often cheaper if you plan to visit several attractions in one specific area. You can often just ask at the info point of the first sight you visit in a certain region. But your can also find  great deals for certain sights or activities or even combo tickets via Getyourguide.

The most beautiful sights and best things to do in the Loire Valley

Must visit castles in the Loire Valley

The vast Loire Valley counts thousands of castles. How many are there exactly? We’re not sure. What we do know is that this is the only place in the world where you can find so many castles so close together.

Many of these castles are said to have their origins in the 100-year war. Then the English army built numerous forts in this area to defend themselves against the French. After the war, these forts came into the hands of the nobility. It was not until the 15th century that the French became acquainted with the Renaissance, also through a war. They were inspired by this architectural and artistic style. Many of these former fortresses were transformed into real palaces with beautiful gardens. The Loire Valley became a very popular holiday destination for royalty and nobility. Everyone with a  name and money wanted to stay here too. That is why many more castles were built in addition to the already existing ones. Each castle has its own history and style.

Today, these majestic castles continue to capture the imagination. When you go on a vaction to the Loire Valley, a visit to some of these impressive castles should not be missed on your itinerary. Below you will find some of the most beautiful castles that are open to the public.

Château de Chambord 
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France

Château de Chambord  is one of the most impressive castles in the Loire Valley. It was built in the early 16th century under the direction of King Francis I. This building has a unique blend of French Renaissance styles and classic Italian architectural styles. The castle is known for its beautiful double helix staircase, said to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France

Throughout history Château de Chambord has been owned by several French monarchs, including Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte. During the French Revolution, the castle was plundered and its contents sold. However, it was later restored and opened to the public.

Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley, France

More practical information can be found on the website. Below you will also find some unmissable deals from Getyourguide.

Château de Chenonceau 
Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France

Château de Chenonceau is often referred to as the “Château des Dames” due to its history of ownership and maintenance by prominent women over the centuries. The castle was built in the 16th century and has a mix of late Gothic and early Renaissance architectural styles.

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France
Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France

Château de Chenonceau is perhaps most famous for its iconic arch bridge that spans the River Cher. The bridge was built in the 16th century by Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II, and is now one of the castle’s most recognizable features.

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France
Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France

Throughout history Château de Chenonceau has been owned by a number of influential women, including Catherine de’ Medici, Louise Dupin and Madame Pelouze. Perhaps it was this feminine touch that made Château de Chenonceau my favorite castle in the Loire Valley.

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley France

More practical information can be found on the website. Below you will also find some unmissable deals from Getyourguide.

Château de Villandry 

Château de Villandry is a beautiful castle, famous for its carefully designed Renaissance gardens. Built in the early 16th century, the castle has been owned by a number of prominent French nobles throughout its history.

Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France
Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France

However, it is the gardens of the castle that are the main attraction for visitors today. The gardens were designed in the early 20th century by Joachim Carvallo, who was inspired by the gardens of the Italian Renaissance. Villandry’s gardens are designed in a formal style with geometric patterns and a wide variety of plants, including vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France
Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France

In addition to the gardens, Château de Villandry also has beautiful interiors, including several furnished rooms and a collection of Renaissance art.

Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France
Château de Villandry, Loire Valley, France

More practical information can be found on the website. Below you will also find some unmissable deals from Getyourguide.

Château de Blois 

Château de Blois dates back to the 13th century, but has been renovated and expanded several times over the centuries. This resulted in a unique mix of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance and Classical

Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France
Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France

This castle was once the residence of several French kings, including Louis XII and François I. Today, the castle is open to the public and serves as a museum, showcasing its rich history and stunning architecture.

Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France
Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France

You can explore several furnished rooms, including the royal apartments, the Gothic chapel and the Renaissance-style François I wing. The castle also features a collection of art and historical artifacts, including tapestries, furniture and weapons.

Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France

One of the most unique features of the castle is the famous spiral staircase that was added in the 16th century. The staircase is a masterpiece of Renaissance design, with intricate carvings and a series of interlocking steps.

Château de Blois, Loire Valley, France

More practical information can be found on the website. Below you will also find some unmissable deals from Getyourguide.

Château de Cheverny 

Château de Cheverny was built in the 17th century and is known for its well-preserved interiors and beautiful French gardens.

Chateau de Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

The castle has a mix of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance and Classical. The interior of the castle is richly decorated with ornate furniture, tapestries and works of art. You can explore several furnished rooms, including the main lounge, the library and the dining room.

Chateau de Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

One of the most unique features of the Château de Cheverny are the kennels, which house a pack of hunting dogs that are still used for hunting. You can see how the dogs are fed and learn about their training and care.

The gardens of the Château de Cheverny are also a must-see. They were designed in the 17th century in a formal French style, with neatly trimmed hedges and flowerbeds. The gardens also have a large lake and several fountains.

Chateau de Cheverny, Loire Valley, France

Another interesting tidbit is that Château de Cheverny has been owned by the same family for over six centuries and is still maintained by the descendants of the original owners.

In addition, the castle is not unknown to the fervent Tintin readers. Château de Cheverny has been the model for the castle Molenslott from this comic. Outside of the outer wings, the castle is almost identical. Since July 2001 there is a permanent exhibition about Tintin.

More practical information can be found on the website. Below you will also find some unmissable deals from Getyourguide.

Must visit cities in the Loire Valley

We already know that the Loire Valley is famous for its beautiful castles. But it is also home to several beautiful historical towns that are definitely worth a visit.

Amboise 

Amboise is a picturesque town on the banks of the Loire River and is best known for its beautiful castle and rich history. It has a well-preserved historical center with narrow streets with half-timbered houses, cafes and craft shops.

The highlight of Amboise is Château d’Amboise, a beautiful castle that was once the residence of several French kings, including Charles VIII and Francis I. The castle has a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture and features beautiful gardens with stunning views on the Loire Valley.

Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Amboise, Loire Valley, France

In addition to the castle, Amboise is also known for its famous resident, Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the town for the last three years of his life. Visitors can explore the Clos Lucé, the country house where Leonardo da Vinci lived, which now houses a museum dedicated to his life and work.

Amboise is also home to several other museums, including the Musée de la Poste, which examines the history of the French postal service, and the Musée de l’Hôtel de Ville, which houses a collection of art and artifacts from the city’s history.

Blois 

The beautiful city of Blois is known for its rich history, architecture and cultural heritage. One of the most famous sights is Château de Blois, which I mentioned above as one of the must visit castles in the Loire Valley.

Blois, Loire Valley, France
Blois, Loire Valley, France
Blois, Loire Valley, France

Another notable landmark in Blois is the Maison de la Magie, a museum dedicated to magic and illusions. The museum has exhibits and performances that show the history of magic, as well as hands-on activities and workshops for visitors.

Blois is also home to several other museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with a collection of artworks from the 16th to the 20th centuries, and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, with exhibits on natural history and biodiversity.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Blois is also a popular destination for outdoor activities, such as walking and cycling along the Loire River and exploring the nearby forests and countryside.

Chartres 
Chartres, Loire Valley, France

Chartres is a beautiful medieval town known for its stunning Gothic cathedral and well-preserved historical center. Dating back to Roman times, the city has a rich history and cultural heritage.

Chartres, Loire Valley, France
Chartres, Loire Valley, France

The eye-catcher of Chartres is definitely the famous cathedral Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres and is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. The cathedral has soaring spires, intricate stained glass windows and beautiful sculptures and carvings. It is also home to the famous Chartres Labyrinth, a maze-like pattern etched into the cathedral floor that has become a symbol of spiritual pilgrimage.

Chartres, Loire Valley, France
Chartres, Loire Valley, France
Chartres, Loire Valley, France
Chartres, Loire Valley, France

In addition to the cathedral, Chartres also has a picturesque old center with a maze of narrow streets with half-timbered houses, shops and cafes.

The city is also home to several museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Center International du Vitrail.

Chartres is also known for its annual Chartres en Lumières festival, which takes place in the summer months where you can admire beautiful light shows and projections that illuminate the historic buildings and landmarks of the city.

Chartres is a little further from the Loire river, but is definitely worth a visit. When you travel by car to the Loire Valley, you can take a break on the outward or return journey.

Chinon  

Chinon is a charming medieval town on the banks of the river Vienne. Here you can get lost in the maze of narrow streets down the historical centre. You will find many local boutiques, half-timbered houses and cozy bars and restaurants.

Chinon, Loire Valley, France
Chinon, Loire Valley, France

In Chinon you will of course also find a castle that once served as the residence of Henry II of England. Not much remains of the castle except for some ruins. Today it’s a museum where you can explore the preserved medieval architecture and learn about its rich history. The chateau also offers wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and the town below.

Chinon, Loire Valley, France
Chinon, Loire Valley, France

In addition to its castle, Chinon is also known for its wine, which is produced in the surrounding vineyards. You can take tours of local wineries and sample the city’s famous red wines, which are made from the Cabernet Franc grape.

Chinon is also home to several museums, including the Musée du Vieux Chinon, which explores the town’s rich history, and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Chinon, which features a collection of art and artifacts from the region.

Saumur 

Saumur is a picturesque town nestled along the banks of the Loire. This place is known for its rich history, stunning architecture and world-class wines.

The centerpiece of the town is the magnificent Château de Saumur, a grand castle perched on a hill overlooking the town. You can explore the medieval ramparts and elegant rooms and enjoy a panoramic view of the surroundings.

Saumur, Loire Valley, France

Saumur is also famous for its equestrian heritage. The city is home to the prestigious Cadre Noir, one of the world’s most renowned equestrian schools. Horse lovers can witness breathtaking equestrian shows and discover the art of horse riding.

Wine lovers will enjoy themselves in the vineyards and wine cellars of Saumur. The region produces exceptional sparkling wines, most notably the famous Crémant de Loire. Here you can participate in wine tours, tastings and learn more about the winemaking process.

The charming historical centre of the city with its narrow streets, quaint shops and lively markets invites you to explore. You can also enjoy a walk along the charming promenade next to the river or have a delicious meal in a restaurant along the Loire. Saumur offers a relaxed and idyllic atmosphere.

Tours 

Tours is a rather large and vibrant city in the Loire Valley. But despite its size, Tours is not less charming. This is due to the enchanting old town, where you can wander through narrow medieval streets, admire picturesque half-timbered houses and discover hidden squares.

Tours, Loire Valley, France
Tours, Loire Valley, France

A must-see in the city is the magnificent Cathédrale Saint-Gatien, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that dominates the skyline. Inside, the cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows and exquisite details.

Tours is also known for its gastronomy and local cuisine. Foodies can enjoy the delicious specialties of the region, such as rillettes (pork pâté), goat cheese and delicious pastries. The bustling markets of the city offer a feast for the senses, with fresh produce, artisan products and a vibrant atmosphere.

You can also find numerous museums and galleries in the city. The Musée des Beaux-Arts houses an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, including works by famous artists such as Rubens and Rembrandt. The city’s cultural calendar is packed with festivals, concerts and theater performances, so there’s always something going on.

For nature lovers, Tours is an excellent starting point to explore the enchanting Loire Valley. With its gently rolling hills, picturesque vineyards and beautiful castles, the region offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities and scenic drives.

Just like the peaceful Vallée du Loir, the more famous Loire Valley has charmed us. We really enjoyed our trip to this beautiful region in France. I hope that with my tips I can help you plan your Loire Valley itinerary in the best possible way so that you have an unforgettable travel experience.

Which sights should not be missing on your Loire Valley itinerary? Let me know below in the comments.

Do you want to discover more of France? Definitely check out:

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How to plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary
How to plan the perfect Loire Valley itinerary

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