Emblematic of France at its most Romantic, the Loire Valley is an essential stop for any traveler wishing to experience some of the country’s most beautiful architecture and natural landscapes, not to mention superb wines. With its dozens of Renaissance-era chateaux dotted mostly along the breathtaking Loire and Cher Rivers– themselves offering incredible opportunities for a luxury boat cruise and wild bird-watching tour— the region is so precious that it is been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re seeking history, culture, natural beauty and luxurious surroundings, this region is the ideal destination.
That’s why we’ve put together the following list of the most beautiful Loire Valley castles to visit, whether on a first or fifth trip to France. Some of these are world-famous chateaux attracting thousands of visitors per year and managed by the state; while others are intimate, privately owned properties offering luxurious overnight stays and true exclusivity. All have our stamp of approval as places in the Loire guaranteed to take your breath away. They will transport you to a world of literary-level romance worthy of a novel by Balzac or Chateaubriand, who both wrote from and about the mythical region. If you find our suggestions inspiring, make sure to get in touch with us so we can start crafting your tailored getaway in the area.
Widely considered to be the most stunning of the Loire Valley’s legendary chateaux, Chambord is synonymous with epic grandeur and romance. Blending medieval and Renaissance-style architecture in ways that are relatively uncommon, Chambord is a jaw-dropping sight: the largest of the castles to grace the region, it was built by King Francis the I to serve as a hunting lodge in the 16th century. Although it was never completed, its enormous fortified wall and moat (both purely decorative), Romantic towers jutting into the sky and dramatic spiral staircases are all but guaranteed to whisk you away to eras past. It can be crowded, however, so it’s essential to entrust your visit to a private tour guide who can ensure you avoid the long queues and experience the chateau in its most pleasant guise.
For those who wish to stay at Chambord, it’s now possible to enjoy a sojourn feet away at three and four-star “gites” (country lodges) offering magnificent views over the Romantic castle, walls and gardens. Each has a private garden, offering a quieter, more intimate experience of the world-famous site.
Another legendary castle in the Loire Valley, stretched romantically over the River Cher and in close reach of the old village of Chenonceaux, the Chateau de Chenonceau has captured the imagination of those lucky enough to see it firsthand for centuries. Built in the early 16th century, the castle was constructed on the foundations of a former mill, which explains why it spans the river, creating a uniquely beautiful effect.
Melding Gothic and early Renaissance architecture, the chateau is much smaller than Chambord, and arguably even more romantic: the subtle play of light and shadows created by the structure reflecting on the water at different times of day has long inspired writers and painters. It was also a royal favourite for many monarchs, including Catherine de Medici, widow of King Henry II and Regent of France. Late, during the Enlightenment, Louise Dupin held a literary salon at Chenonceau that attracted great thinkers and writers including Voltaire and Rousseau. The latter composed some of his most famous works of philosophy there. Anyone with an interest in French literary and intellectual history should make Chenonceau a priority for that reason alone.
While a stay at this sumptuous castle is unfortunately not possible, the onsite gastronomic restaurant, The Orangerie, offers fine French cuisine in the verdant setting of the Green Garden. A lush setting for a gourmet experience with excellent food and local Loire Valley wines awaits after visiting the chateau with your private guide.
Legendary for having housed Italian inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci in the years before his death, this lesser-known but remarkable chateau is an absolute must for anyone fascinated by Renaissance art and history. Situated in the town of Amboise, the distinctive-looking castle boasts a Renaissance style unlike most others, whose rose-coloured brick and free-masoned structure is more reminiscent of a manor than a fairy-tale chateau.
Constructed in the fifteenth century, it was acquired by the French King Charles VIII who transformed it into a “pleasure castle” for his wife, Anne de Bretagne. King Francis I and his sister Marguerite de Navarre also resided here for a time; the latter penned one of her most beloved novels at the chateau.
However it is the legacy of Da Vinci that truly captures most visitors’ imaginations today. Leonardo resided here for three years until his death in 1519. In homage to the genius of his vision, some 40 models of his machines and other inventions are on display in one of the rooms, as well as a replica of the Mona Lisa, painted by Ambroise Dubois in the late 16th century.
While there are no onsite hotels or other lodgings here, the chateau can be privatised for company retreats, meetings or other private events. Talk to us about holding your next company event in France at this remarkable chateau.
Perhaps the definitive fairy-tale castle in the region if not the world, the Chateau d’Ussé inspired the one depicted in Sleeping Beauty (a tale originally penned by French author Charles Perrault). Inhabited in the past by Perrault himself, followed by the Romantic writer Chateaubriand and later by the Blacas family who still reside there today, this private chateau certainly has more than a slight touch of magic to offer.
Featuring a genuine drawbridge, sumptuous 17th-century tapestries, a dungeon and underground vault that dates back over a millenium, and lavish rooms filled with Louis XIV furniture, this family home breathes luxury and prestige of a kind that’s now rare to find. The onsite wine cellar preserves some fine old vintage in its vaulted premises, but unfortunately tastings are not on offer. Luckily, the celebrated wine-making towns and areas of Saumur and Chinon are close by, affording some luxury wine-tasting opportunities in the area for those interested in sampling local bottles.
Meanwhile, the elegant gardens designed by Le Nôtre, who was also the mastermind behind the breathtaking formal gardens at Versailles, are symbols of French harmony, rationalism and pure symmetrical beauty. The verdant surroundings of the castle are perfect for a leisurely bike ride, allowing you to take in some fresh Loire air…
Known foremost for its breathtaking formal gardens, the Chateau de Villandry is another living testament to the peak of French Renaissance landscaping techniques. Recently restored to their former glory, the gardens offer a haven of peace and symmetrical harmony. First designed in 1532, the original Renaissance landscaping was recreated in the 20th century under then-owner Carvallo, and are considered remarkable today for their large variety of organic vegetables.
The Chateau, meanwhile, is a fine example of a lesser-known private Loire property that nevertheless seduces for its quiet elegance and harmonious architecture. Less flashy than many of the other chateaux, it represents a more sober and stately side of the French Renaissance style.
This elegant castle overlooking the Loire and Viennes rivers and surrounding green landscapes is a privileged site for unforgettable private events and exclusive evenings, whether for a company anniversary or fairy-tale destination wedding in the Loire Valley.
Boasting a monumental double entrance with grand staircase, eight guest rooms within the castle walls, heated outdoor swimming pool, sauna, spa, indoor pool, and sprawling terrace with river views, the chateau is located in close reach of wine-making centres including Chinon and Saumur. A private event held here can be made even more extraordinary by incorporating wine tours in the area, or hiring an expert French sommelier to carefully choose local wines to accompany your special evening at the chateau.
The Domaine des Hauts de Loire is as majestic as it is vast. The prestigious hunting lodge-style property includes a 4-star hotel decorated in floral and antique furniture with exposed wood-beamed ceilings, as well as a renowned gastronomic restaurant which boasts two Michelin stars. Every day, Chef Rémy Giraud and his team, who share the same passion for the beautiful and the good, create innovative menus with cuisine inspired by regional traditions.
Take the time to let yourself be charmed by the Domaine’ s superb, bucolic setting, relaxing in the onsite park measuring some 70 hectares. Tennis courts, a heated outdoor pool, and bicycles reserved especially for guests make this an ideal spot for anyone wishing to both relax and enjoy being outdoors.
Meanwhile, for guests interested in learning the art of French cuisine, onsite cooking classes will allow you to work under expert Chefs and patissiers, adding an element to your stay that’s at once educational and relaxing.
Moving on to our favourite chateaux in the region for a luxury overnight stay or weekend, the Chateau de Verrières in Saumur is an excellent choice in the famed vintnering region: perfect if you’re interested in including wine tasting in your bespoke Loire itinerary.
Boasting 10 ultra-luxurious rooms decorated in various sumptuous styles, the 5-star hotel is housed in a 19th-century mansion that includes spa facilities, a heated outdoor pool and a large, verdant park. It’s within walking distance of the town of Saumur, making it an ideal choice for wine-tasting in the prestigious cellars there.
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Are you ready to explore the possibility of embarking on your own bespoke excursion around the Loire Valley? Whether you’re interested in touring remarkable French chateaux, tasting local wines, embarking on a private champagne boat cruise and watching flocks of wild birds assemble around the riverbanks, or rent an elegant castle for your private event, we’ll take care of every detail. Just get in touch with us to start crafting your dream luxury getaway.
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