No stay in France is complete without visiting some of its magnificent châteaux!

Stunning symbols of the French Renaissance, these incredible castles and manor houses all have their own unique character and are often nestled in exquisite gardens that are also well worth exploring.

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.

Château de Lude in Vallee du Loir near Hotel de France

Chateaux of the Vallée du Loir


The Hotel sits in the Vallée du Loir area, just to the north of The Loire Valley.  Despite being less well known than its more famous cousin it should not be overlooked: it has no fewer than 130 magnificent chateaux of its own. 

Château de Lude is one of the most impressive.  This huge and rambling property’s exquisite gardens feature a labyrinthine maze and a richness of rare flowers.

Nearby Château de Poncé is a stunning Renaissance-style castle on the banks of the River Loir, also with remarkable gardens. Château de Baugé is rumoured to be haunted by a former lord of the castle; visit if you dare! Bauge also stages historical re-enactments where you can immerse yourself in the region’s rich history.

Other chateaux of note in the Loir include Château de Bazouges and Château du Paty à Chenu.

Known as the ‘Garden of France’

the Loire Valley is an excellent place to discover some of France’s most impressive public gardens. Some of the most remarkable are attached to the region’s grand châteaux; designed in the meticulous Renaissance style and featuring an amazing selection of flowers and plants. More relaxed styles can also be explored, along with botanical gardens and gorgeous examples of romantic rose gardens.

The Vallée du Loir also has a wealth of gorgeous gardens planted in both formal and contemporary designs.

The Loire Valley


Two of the most visited sites are the incredible geometric Renaissance gardens of Château Villandry and the more contemporary, but highly imaginative gardens of the fairytale Château of Le Rivau.

The region has something for budding botanists too. Terra Botanica is a theme park dedicated to the plant world and the Arboretum National des Barres is home to trees from all five continents.

Romantics will enjoy the area’s ‘Gardens of a Thousand Roses’ (there are many!) including the quaint Jardin de Roquelin outside Orléans and Les Chemins de la rose de Doué-­la—Fontaine, west of Saumur, which is home to over 14,000 roses of all different colours.

Vallée du Loir


Hedge mazes are a popular feature of many classic French gardens; wind your way through two enthralling labyrinths nearby, at Château de Poncé, and, one of the most impressive, at Hortus Conclusus du Prieuré de Vauboin.

In April, the Jardins du Loir (Gardens of the Loir) horticultural event is held at Marçon leisure park, just to the west of La Chartre-sur-la-Loir.

The Garden Festival at Château de Lude in the last weekend of June is a horticulturists’ delight; the château’s stunning gardens are a backdrop for workshops, lectures and entertainment.