Castles of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is home to some of France’s most famous must-see châteaux and in recognition of the sheer number in the area, and their beauty, and grandeur, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built for Francis I, the Château of Chambord is one of the most emblematic masterpieces of the French Renaissance. At 21 square miles it’s an immense estate almost as large as Paris and has an intriguing double helix staircase.
One of the best-known châteaux, Chenonceau is a masterpiece of architecture, bridging the River Cher in a series of arches. It boasts an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings and remarkable series of Flemish 16th-century tapestries.
Home to seven kings and ten queens of France, the town centre Royal Château of Blois was where Joan of Arc set out with her army to drive the English from Orléans. It has 100 bedrooms and no fewer than 75 staircases. Joan also prepared to do battle against the Dauphin in the spectacular ridge-topping fortress of Chinon which is 400 metres long and sits above the River Vienne.
The Château of Saumur overlooks the Loire and offers a magnificent view of the valley. At Chateau Clos Lucé in Ambois François I installed Leonardo da Vinci into the manor house next door for three years. There, his inventions, including a giant lion which, when hit on the chest, disgorged fleur-de-lys, amused guests at royal parties.
Other standout châteaux of the Loire include Château of Azay-le-Rideau, the Royal Château of Amboise, Château des ducs de Bretagne, Château d’Angers, Château of Brézé, The Abbey of Fontevraud and Villandry, which has spectacular geometric gardens.