Châteaux of the Loire Valley: Like They Came Right Out of a Storybook

chateaux de chenonceau
“Romantic, majestic, breathtaking, and transcendent, the fairy tale-like châteaux in the Loire Valley are so unbelievably magical that you will visit more than just ‘once upon a time’.”

Known as the ‘Garden of France’, the valley region around the Loire River is abundant with vineyards, fruit orchards, and fertile ground. With pillowy soft greenery, dreamy flowing river, year-round sunshine, and romantic villages, this area has inspired many creatives, monarchs, and travellers alike. The Loire Valley looks like it came straight from the pages of a story book, with 42 spectacular castles, or châteaux, sprinkled throughout the region like fairy dust.

Whilst every castle in the Loire Valley is unfathomably breathtaking in its own right, we have narrowed it down to seven of the best châteaux that are particularly rich in historical importance, architectural prowess,and mind-blowing views. Let’s take a look at the top seven castles that highlight the remarkable beauty that the Loire Valley has to offer...

Article Published: July 12, 2022
Last Update: July 15, 2022

Table of Contents

Our Favorite Châteaux of the Loire Valley

Château de Chambord (Chambord Castle)

Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord is probably the biggest, most popular, and easily the most spectacular château in the Loire Valley, so it only makes sense that it's where we start our journey!

Nestled in the heart of the forest of Boulogne, the Château de Chambord is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and opulent decoration. Imposing and lavishly furnished, this château is a bold statement of the unprecedented wealth and monarchical power that Francois I already had at just 25 years old. Boasting 440 rooms, 800 carved capitals, and 282 fireplaces, the grandeur of Château de Chambord is unrivalled.

Château de Chambord in Pictures

Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord, Loire Valley
Inside Château de Chambord
Furniture Inside Château de Chambord
facade of Château de Chambord
Massive Façade of Chambord Castle
Double Helix Staircase Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord's Double Helix Staircase

Things to See & Do at Château de Chambord

1. Explore the Colossal Interior

double helix staircase Château de Chambord

Roam through the ‘central keep’ and four round towers, before taking a walk around the château terrace to view the thousands of attic windows, spires, capitals, chimneys, and little steeples. This is also a fantastic vantage point to take in the enormity of the Chambord national estate. Whilst inside the château, remember to ascend the famous double-helix staircase attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

2. Gaze upon the splendour of the façade

chambord castle facade

The façade of the Château de Chambord stands at 156 meters high – an example of pure Renaissance architectural brilliance with its jaw-dropping displays of intricate masonry. Built in 1519, this symmetrical French-Renaissance style castle is now protected by UNESCO.

3. Walk one of the trails through the surrounding park

view of chambord castle from surrounding park

The Park and hunting reserve in which the Château de Chambord sits is bigger than central Paris, spanning 13,000 acres. Surrounded by a 32-kilometer wall, it is also the largest enclosed forested area in all of Europe. Go for a walk along one of the many footpaths, or take a horse-drawn carriage tour from the Marshal of Saxony stables.

The Château de Chambord in Video

Château d’Ussé (Usse Castle)

usse castle

Become enchanted in childlike wonder as you open the storybook and step inside the Château d’Ussé. The magic of the Château d’Ussé is enough to make you feel like a prince or princess, full of character, delightful views, and immersing you into the fairy tales you were so fond of when you were young.

Château d’Ussé in Pictures

usse castle aerial view
Aerial View of Château d’Ussé
usse castle
Château d’Ussé
usse castle gardens
Château d’Ussé Gardens
fairtytale scenes in usse castle
Fairytale Scenes In Château d’Ussé
collegiate church usse castle
Collegiate Church at Château d’Ussé

Things to See & Do at Château d’Ussé

1. Follow the story of Sleeping Beauty

fairtytale scenes in usse castle

Once upon a time, author Charles Perrault fell so in love with the Château d’Ussé that it inspired him to pen the beloved fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, that was later adapted into the well-known Disney franchise. That’s right, this castle doesn’t just look like something out of a story book- it is. In tribute to Perrault, the attic of the Château d’Ussé tells the story of Sleeping Beauty through whimsical scenes, played out in various rooms, that are guaranteed to enchant everyone of all ages.

2. Fairy-Tale Views

usse castle with gardens

Once an enclosed space, the modern courtyard of the château opens out onto the river. Soak up the magical views of the white towers and luscious countryside from the courtyard or the top of the château. From here you can also enjoy a good view of the formal gardens that were designed by the same landscape architect behind Versailles.

3. Walk the Collegiate Church

collegiate church usse castle

Upon leaving the château, follow the path to a Gothic Renaissance Chapel, otherwise known as the Collegiate Church. Built in the 1520s, the chapel bears the symbol and initials of Charles d’Espinay and Lucrèce de Pons, who lived in the château from 1485, along with many fascinating religious carvings and sculptures.

Château d’Ussé in Video

Château de Chenonceau

chateaux de chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau exudes the traditional elegance of the Renaissance, situated along the sprawling Cher River. The château is a magnificent sight to behold both day and night, and is especially romantic during a night walk on a summer evening when the château is lit in the soft glow of candles and lanterns.

Also known as the Le Château des Femmes (the Women’s Castle), the château has been shaped over the centuries by many powerful women. Katherine Bohier, the wife of a tax collector for King Francis I, was the first who oversaw much of the initial construction starting in 1515 through to its completion in 1535. Diane de Poitier, the mistress of Henry II, made a huge mark on Château de Chenonceau and was the visionary behind the arched bridge over the Cher River. Louise Dupin also took great interest in Château de Chenonceau. After acquiring it in 1777, she put great efforts into restoring it to its former glory after roughly a century of neglect. Louise Dupin was known for hosting many parties at the château and attracted guests such as Voutaire and Rousseau.

Château de Chenonceau in Pictures

view of chateau de chenonceau
View of Château de Chenonceau
grand gallery of chateau de chenonceau
Grand Gallery, Château de Chenonceau
keep at chateau de chenonceau
View of Chapel (left) and Marques Keep (right) at Château de Chenonceau
five queens bedroom chateau chenonceau
Five Queens' Bedroom, Château de Chenonceau
canoeing towards chateau chenonceau
Canoeing Towards Château de Chenonceau

Things to See & Do at Château de Chenonceau

1. View The Grand Gallery

grand gallery of chateau de chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau is famous for its grand gallery that spans the Cher River. At 60 meters long and containing 18 windows, the iconic five arches reach delicately over the river, overlooking the flowing waters below.

2. Private Quarters For Queens & Mistresses

five queens bedroom chateau chenonceau

Visit the chambers of Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de’ Medici and the five queens. Part of the reason why this castle is such a masterpiece is down to the embellishments made by both Catherine and Diane during their times as the wife and mistress of Henry II respectively.

3. Explore On Foot or by Boat

canoeing towards chateau chenonceau

Bask in the serenity of the Loire Valley as you stroll through the park, looking back on the stunning architecture from afar, or take a boat ride on the Cher to get up close to the building. You can also wander through floral gardens or try and escape the maze.

Château de Chenonceau in Video

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

azay le rideau

Though considered one of the most famous Loire Valley castles, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is gently nestled along the Indre River, at the eastern end of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Natural Park. One of the earliest examples of French Renaissance architecture in the Loire Valley, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is potentially the most beautiful. This is largely to do with how the whole castle appears to ascend from the river itself, magically reflecting in the surrounding waters.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau in Pictures

aerial view of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Aerial view of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
night pond reflection Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Château d’Azay-le-Rideau at night with pond reflection
interior of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Detailed Interior Carpentry of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
flemish tapestry Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Tapestry in Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
gardens Château d’Azay-le-Rideau
Gardens of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Things to See & Do at Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

1. Check out the exceptional carpentry

interior of Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau has some unrivalled examples of carpentry within its walls, namely on its staircase and within the attic. The iconic staircase within the castle walls is richly decorated both on its façade and ceiling. From here, check out the remarkable woodwork in the attic, using wood that was cut down in the Forest of Chinon in 1517.

2. Rare Flemish Tapestries

flemish tapistry in Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The estate of the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau includes an impressive collection of furnishings, tapestries, and paintings. The highlight of these are the rare 16th and 17th century Flemish tapestries that are on display all year round in the château.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau in Video

Château du Clos-Lucé

Château du Clos-Lucé

The famed home of Leonardo da Vinci between 1516 to 1519, Château du Clos-Lucé is a love letter to the iconic artist who took his last breath within its walls. This château is located a few hundred meters from the center of Amboise, showcasing the artistry, botany, and inventions of the brilliant mind that once inhabited the castle.

Château du Clos-Lucé in Pictures

Château du Clos-Lucéé
Château du Clos-Lucé
Inside Château du Clos-Lucéé
Interior of Château du Clos-Lucé
gardens of Château du Clos-Lucé
Gardens of Château du Clos-Lucé
model of flying machine leonardo Château du Clos-Lucé
Model of Leonardo da Vinci Flying Machine at Château du Clos-Lucé

Things to See & Do at Château du Clos-Lucé

1. Tour the Château

Inside Château du Clos-Lucé

The exterior of the Château du Clos-Lucé is a vibrant red brick with stark white stone detailing. Once inside, you will find that several of the important rooms of the house have been dutifully restored, including the bedrooms of Marguerite de Navarre and Leonardo da Vinci, plus the Queen Anne chapel.

2. Visit the Underground Rooms

model of flying machine leonardo Château du Clos-Lucé

After you have made your way through the house itself, visit the underground rooms of the château. These rooms contain around forty authentic recreations of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions. Many of these inventions were detailed centuries before anyone else built them, including a machine gun, car, and flying machine.

3. Stroll the Surrounding Gardens & Parkland

Gardens of Château du Clos-Lucé

To see more of da Vinci’s larger inventions brought to life, stroll around the surrounding gardens. These gardens also boast a dovecote from the original castle, a natural marsh garden, and a quaint boating lake.

Château du Clos-Lucé in Video

Château de Blois

Château de Blois

During its heyday in the Renaissance period, Château de Blois was the favourite residence of many kings of France. In fact, seven kings and ten queens have lived in this castle. Due to this, Château de Blois played an important role in French history as a hub of royal power.

Château de Blois in Pictures

Château de Blois view from street
Outside Château de Blois
view of blois castle tower
View of the Château de Blois Tower
blois castle Son et Lumière show
Son et Lumière (Sound and Light) Show, Château de Blois
Château de Blois
Château de Blois
interior of Château de Blois
Interior of Château de Blois

Things to See & Do at Château de Blois

1. Explore 30 Furnished Rooms

inside blois castle

The interior of the château includes 30 furnished rooms for you to visit, plus an unbelievable collection of art in the onsite museum. Highlights of the numerous rooms include the ornately decorated 13th century state room, Catherine de’ Medici’s ‘Chamber of Secrets’, and the lavish bedroom of Henry IV.

2. Climb Up to the Top Tower

view of blois castle tower

Clamber up the iconic buttressed staircase to the very top of the highest tower for stunning panoramic views of the Loire Valley, especially at dusk.

3. Son et Lumière

Château de Blois Son Lumiere Show

Ideally plan your visit for between April and September when the Son et Lumière (Sound and Light) show takes place in the castle courtyard every evening after dark. The visual special effects play out events from the château’s rich and colorful history.

Château de Blois in Video