The Loire Valley is a one-of-a-kind land where fairy tale style castles are in plentiful supply along with breathtaking views on the Loire river, and of course excellent food at every stop during your trip. If you have never been to this magical place, make it next on your to-do list of travel locations in France. When you pick up your rental vehicle in Paris, you are ready to go on an adventure back in time to the Renaissance era, only 2 hours away!
Start your adventure with Chambord Castle. This structure and its grounds are less than two hours from Paris to the west and slightly south. There are a royal river and woods on the property and deer, and wild boars have been spotted grazing. This is the start of the Loire Valley, and is a World Heritage UNESCO site. It is considered the biggest and finest of the French Renaissance castles.
Francois I, the King of France, built Chambord Castle as a hunting lodge for nobility. The sparsely furnished attraction offers a glimpse into the grace and scale of royal buildings in France, and the grounds are a favorite place to take a walk.
If you ascend the Leonardo staircase, you can see the tops of the turrets and the spread of the fields below. Check out the Double-Helix staircase, it is part of the reason that many think the castle was inspired, and perhaps designed, by the great master Leonardo da Vinci himself. While we will never know for sure, we can enjoy the private apartments of the royalty, guided tours, film presentations, and more at Chambord Castle.
After you are done this magnificent tour, if you are hungry or tired there are dining options and hotels nearby. For instance, the La Maison d’à côté or the Hotel-Restaurant du Grand Saint-Michel which both offer excellent food and accommodations to keep you in comfort until morning when you begin the next part of your journey and drive along beautiful roads of Loire Valley to the The Royal Amboise Castle.
The Royal Amboise Castle
During the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries there were many kings and nobility of the Court of Valois who spent time in the castle named after the nearby town. King Charles VIII was born at Amboise, and King Francois I spent much of his youth there.
The Royal Amboise Castle is also the resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. Today you can explore the incredible collection of gothic and renaissance furniture inside the castle and perhaps even see a chair sat in by Emperor Charles V, King Louis XIV, Phillippe V, Emperor Napoleon II, and many more!
Amboise castle exudes the sophistication of France under italian artistic influence. For instance, Saint-Hubert chapel and the Mediterranean gardens just off the chapel where you can see panoramic views of the Loire Valley. Make sure to check out guided and individual tours and watch for times of year when there are public events.
You may find yourself so enchanted that you stay far longer than planned. If this is so, there are dining and accommodations nearby in friendly Amboise. Riverloire offers local cuisine as well as wine tasting, or the local sunday market d’Amboise where you can buy virtually any kind of food and drink you have a craving for.
Before leaving Amboise, don’t forget to visit Clos Luce – Parc Leonardo da Vinci which is a museum dedicated to the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. The site was his final residence!
Less than one hour drive from Amboise, the former royal residence, Château de Chenonceau is one of the most visited castles in France, certainly for its breathtaking architecture and unique magical feeling it inspires. Women such as Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici has had their had in making sure it was an opulent and welcoming place to stay and treasure to visit. The castle was built over the river in 1513 by Katherine Briconnet. There is a very distinct feel to the castle – it has been carefully guarded against conflict, war, and revolution to remain intact today.
The castle is open year-round and has gardens, conservatories for various animals and plants, a restaurant, and even a sixteenth-century style farm and maze. The castle is inspired by the Italian Reinassance, and offers hours upon hours of guided tours, interactive displays, activities for all ages, shopping, and more.
While you are in the area of Chenonceau, why not take the opportunity to stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast in the beautiful Loire Valley setting? Plenty of local food and wine tours are to be found within short driving distance, and local attractions include canoeing; caves, hot-air balloon rides, wine tasting or lovely walks by the river.