Must-see attractions in The Loire Valley

  • France, Indre et Loire, Loire Castles, Chenonceau

    Château de Chenonceau


    Spanning the languid Cher River atop a graceful arched bridge, Chenonceau is one of France's most elegant châteaux. It's hard not to be moved and…

  • The royal Chateau de Chambord in the evening, France. This castle is located in the Loire Valley, was built in the 16th century and is one of the most recognizable chateaux in the world.

    Château de Chambord

    The Loire Valley

    If you only have time to visit one château in the Loire, you might as well make it the grandest – and Chambord is the most lavish of them all, and the…

  • Exterior of Villandry Castle with its manicured garden.

    Château de Villandry


    Villandry's six glorious landscaped gardens à la française are some of France's finest, with more than 6 hectares of kitchen gardens, cascading flowers,…

  • Spiral staircase in the Francis I wing, the Royal ChÃ?¢teau de Blois, France; Château Royal de Blois

Shutterstock ID 97979516; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

    Château Royal de Blois


    Seven French kings lived in Blois' royal château, whose four grand wings were built during four distinct periods in French architecture: Gothic (13th…

  • Musée du Compagnonnage


    This extraordinary museum – an absolute gem! – spotlights France's renowned compagnonnages, guild organisations of skilled craftspeople who have created…

  • May 11, 2013: Exterior of the chateau at Azay le Rideau in the Loire.
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    Château d’Azay-le-Rideau


    Romantic, moat-ringed Azay-le-Rideau is celebrated for its elegant turrets, perfectly proportioned windows, delicate stonework and steep slate roofs…

  • Panoramic view of the castle, garden and town Langeais, Loire Valley, France.

    Château de Langeais


    The most medieval of the Loire châteaux, Langeais – built in the 1460s – looks much as it did at the tail end of the Middle Ages, with crenellated…

  • Chinon and Royal Fortress of Chinon.

    Forteresse Royale de Chinon


    Surrounded by massive walls, this hilltop castle – offering fabulous views across town, river and countryside – is split into three sections separated by…

  • Chateau Gaillard, Amboise, France.

    Château Gaillard


    The most exciting Loire château to open to visitors in years, Gaillard is the earliest expression of the Italian Renaissance in France. Begun in 1496, the…

  • Chateau du Clos Luce castle, Amboise, France.

    Le Clos Lucé


    It was at the invitation of François I that Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), aged 64, took up residence in this grand manor house, built in 1471. An admirer…

  • Bourges Cathedral.

    Cathédrale St-Étienne

    The Loire Valley

    Declared a 'masterpiece of Gothic art' by Unesco, Bourges' 118m-long cathedral was built between 1195 and 1324 on the site of earlier churches and Gallo…

  • Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud


    The highlight of this 12th-century abbey complex is the vast but movingly simple church, notable for its soaring pillars, Romanesque domes and polychrome…

  • École Nationale d’Équitation


    One of the world's premier equestrian academies, the prestigious French National Riding School is home to the Cadre Noir, an elite group of riding…

  • Cathédrale Sainte-Croix rises up above Rue Jeanne d'Arc in Orléans, France.

    Cathédrale Ste-Croix


    In a country of jaw-dropping churches, Gothic-style Cathédrale Ste-Croix still raises a gasp. Originally built in the 13th century, it underwent tinkering…

  • Chateau Angers.

    Château d’Angers


    Looming above the river, this forbidding medieval castle – seat of power of the once-mighty counts of Anjou – is ringed by moats, 2.5m-thick walls and 17…

  • The Castle of Brissac.

    Château de Brissac


    Owned by the Brissac family for 18 generations (since 1502), this seven-storey castle, the tallest in France, has 204 rooms, many of them sumptuously…

  • Aerial view of historic center of Loches town overlooking ancient Chateau of Anjou family with collegiate church, royal lodge and donjon.

    Cité Royale de Loches


    Loches’ vast hilltop citadel is the size of a small town – a few lucky people even live here! Inside you can visit the Logis Royal and the Donjon et…

  • Château Royal d’Amboise


    Perched atop a rocky escarpment above town, Amboise's castle was a favoured retreat for all of France's Valois and Bourbon kings. Only a few of the…

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts


    This superb fine-arts museum, in a gorgeous 18th-century archbishop’s palace, features paintings, sculpture, furniture and objets d'art from the 14th to…

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts


    Orléans’ five-level fine-arts museum is a treat, with an excellent collection of Italian, Flemish and Dutch paintings (including works by Correggio,…

  • Musée Balzac


    You don't have to be a French-literature major to enjoy the lovely Musée Balzac, in a Renaissance manor house where Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was a…

  • Maison de la Magie


    This museum of magic occupies the one-time home of watchmaker, inventor and conjurer Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805–71), after whom the American magician…

  • Oratoire de Germigny-des-Prés

    The Loire Valley

    One of France’s few Carolingian-era churches, this exceptional oratory – sadly, over-restored in the mid-19th century – is renowned for its unusual…

  • Chaumont Castle in Loire Valley France - Panoramic wide view to the entrance and the garden at sunrise with trees, grass under blue sky;,,Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire,,Shutterstock ID 1467775043; your: Bridget Brown; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: POI Image Update

    Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

    The Loire Valley

    Set on a strategic bluff with sweeping views along the Loire, Chaumont-sur-Loire is known for three things: the château itself, which has a medieval…

  • View of Cheverny Chateau from apprentice's garden.

    Château de Cheverny

    The Loire Valley

    Perhaps the Loire's most elegantly proportioned château, Cheverny represents the zenith of French classical architecture: a perfect blend of symmetry,…

  • Medieval Donjon Tower of the castle in Loches, France.

    Donjon et Cachots


    At the southern end of the Cité Royale, the rectangular, 36m-high Donjon (Tour Carrée; defensive tower) was Loches’ original medieval stronghold, built…

  •  The Chanteloup pagoda, Amboise, France.

    Pagode de Chanteloup


    Three kilometres south of Amboise, this seven-storey, vaguely Asian 'pagoda' (44m) was built between 1775 and 1778, when blending classical French…

  • ZooParc de Beauval

    The Loire Valley

    One of Europe's most beautiful zoos, the ZooParc de Beauval is home to an incredible 600 species, including France's only giant pandas and their baby,…

  • Château d’Ussé


    The creamy white towers and slate roofs of the Château d’Ussé offer sweeping views across the flat Loire countryside, the flood-prone Indre River and…

  • Domaine National de Chambord

    The Loire Valley

    The 54-sq-km hunting reserve around the Château de Chambord – the largest walled park in Europe – is reserved for the exclusive use of very high-ranking…

  • Old City


    Blois’ medieval and Renaissance old town is well worth a stroll. The façade of Maison des Acrobates – one of Blois' few surviving 15th-century houses – is…

  • Cathédrale St-Gatien


    With its flying buttresses, gargoyles and twin Renaissance-style towers (70m) – and, inside, Gothic vaulting, dazzling stained glass and huge baroque…

  • Cité Médiévale


    François Rabelais (c 1494–1553), whose works include the Gargantua and Pantagruel series, spent part of his childhood in Chinon; you’ll see Rabelais…

  • Château de Brézé


    Brézé sits on top of a network of subterranean rooms and passages, 1.5km of them open to the public, that include a boulangerie, wine cellars, defensive…

  • Château de Sully-sur-Loire

    The Loire Valley

    With its machicolated ramparts (featuring holes for pouring boiling liquid on attackers), soaring round turrets and steeply pitched roof, this fairy-tale…

  • Quartier de la Cité


    One of the earliest examples of Angevin (Plantagenet) architecture in France, Gothic Cathédrale St-Maurice is distinguished by its striking Norman portal…

  • Château de Serrant


    Owned and lived in by the same Irish family and its descendants since 1749, this elegant Renaissance-style castle, built on medieval foundations, is…

  • Musée Rabelais


    La Devinière, the prosperous farm where François Rabelais (1483 or 1494–1553) – doctor, Franciscan friar, theoretician, author and all-around Renaissance…

  • Cathédrale St-Maurice


    Angers' austere, mainly 12th- to 13th-century cathedral has a striking Norman porch and nave (mid-1100s); the latter's three convex vaults, forming a…