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Things to do in Loire Valley

Things to do in  Loire Valley

Welcome to Loire Valley

Stretching 174 miles (280 kilometers) through central France along its eponymous river, the UNESCO-listed Loire Valley is a destination for its wealth of opulent chateaux, including famous examples in Amboise, Blois, Chenonceau, and Chambord. Fittingly, the Loire is also one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions, where award-winning producers turn out coveted bottles of red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert wines. Hopping between palaces and vineyards is one of the top things to do in the Loire Valley, but be sure to mix in visits to history-packed cities such as Orléans and Tours as well.

Top 15 attractions in Loire Valley

Tours Old Town

The old city center of Tours, called Old Town (Vieux Tours), is one of medieval-era winding streets, quaint shops, a bustling square (Place Pumereau) with cafes and restaurants and half-timbered homes that date back to the 14th century. With so much to see here, it's a wonder that the city had at one point slated to tear it all down in favor of a grid street system!Don't miss the St Gatien Cathedral, the weekly market in Place Jean Jaurès or the garden of the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This is where a cedar tree planted by Napoleon Bonaparte sits, as well as a bizarre stuffed elephant from the 1903 circus that came through town.More

Chateau Gaillard

Take your place alongside royalty with a visit to Chateau Gaillard, one of the Loire Valley’s most celebrated palaces, commissioned by Charles VIII in 1496. The chateau is known for having some of the first Renaissance-style gardens in France, and today both its interior and grounds are open to visitors.More

Château de Chambord

The largest and most-visited castle among the 300 found in the Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is a grandiose example of French Renaissance architecture. Commissioned by King Francis I in 1519, and part of the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 426-room castle includes a moat and French formal garden.More


A scenic hub from which to discover the UNESCO-listed Châteaux of the Loire Valley, historic Amboise is also well worth exploring. The market town was once frequented by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Joan of Arc, and is best known for its own castle—the Château d’Amboise, former home of King Francis I.More

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau is France’s second-most-visited castle (after Versaille). The 16th-century UNESCO-listed castle is built over the Cher river, on top of a series of bridge-like arches, and looks like the scene of a fairy tail. The building is also famous for its relationship with the many powerful women who designed and owned it.More

Machines of the Isle (Les Machines de L'ile)

Whether you’re climbing aboard a life-size mechanical elephant, riding on a carousel of fantastical sea creatures, or operating a flying machine, a visit to Les Machines de L'île is probably unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Inspired by the creations of novelist Jules Verne, Nantes’ flagship attraction is fun for all ages.More

Château Royal d'Amboise

Situated overlooking the city of Amboise and one of hundreds of UNESCO-listed Châteaux of the Loire, the grand Château Royal d'Amboise was home to French royalty from the 15th–19th centuries. Built in the Gothic and Renaissance styles in the late 15th century, the hilltop castle is accessible on foot, and just over an hour from Paris by train.More

Château de Blois

The exteriors of the castle are impressive in and of themselves, with four wings surrounding an interior courtyard. Inside, you'll find royal apartments spread across two floors, including the royal chambers of numerous erstwhile monarchs—Catherine de Medici is believed to have died in the Queen's Chamber. Nine rooms of the Louis XII Wing have served as a fine arts museum since the 19th-century. Single and multi-day Loire Valley tours, most of which depart from Paris, tend to make stops at Château de Blois.More

Chartres Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of Christian pilgrimage trails, Chartres Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres) is hailed as one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in France. As well as boasting panoramic city views from its Bell Tower, the cathedral is home to more than 4,000 sculptures.More

Nantes Art Museum (Musée d'Arts de Nantes)

Inaugurated in 1900 and currently undergoing a thorough renovation and extension by the Stanton Williams architect group, the Nantes Art Museum (Musée d'Arts de Nantes) is Nantes’ flagship art museum, celebrated for its large and varied collection of works, dating from the 12th to the 20th centuries.Highlights of the vast permanent collection include works by Delacroix, Rousseau, Tintoretto, Perugino, Renoir, and Gauguin, among many others, with key pieces including Rubens’ The Triumph of Judas Maccabaeus, Delaunay’s David Triumphant and Chagall’s Le Cheval Rouge. A well-established series of temporary exhibits complement the main displays, with a greater focus on contemporary art, while late openings on Thursday evenings include music, dance and literature inspired events.More

Rivau Castle (Chateau du Rivau)

With its medieval buildings and fairy-tale turrets encircled by landscaped gardens, lush woodlands, and bursts of lavender and roses—Chȃteau du Rivau is among the most underrated of the Loire Valley castles. Once visited by Joan of Arc, the 15th-century castle is also renowned for its Royal Stables.More


The northern gateway to the Loire Valley and a popular day trip from Paris, the historic town of Chartres is quintessentially French – a storybook town of cobblestone lanes, half-timbered buildings and quaint stone footbridges crisscrossing the Eure River. Chartres’ most noteworthy attraction is the magnificent UNESCO-listed Notre Dame Cathedral and most visitors make a beeline for the Gothic masterpiece, renowned for its dazzling 12th- and 13th-century stained glass windows.Additional highlights of a trip to Chartres include Raymond Isidore’s unique Maison Picassiette, the Bel Air frescoes and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, but the best way to discover its charms is by exploring the shops and cafés of the Old Town on foot, or hiring a boat or canoe to cruise along the river.More

Château du Clos Lucé

The Château d’Amboise isn’t the only castle worth exploring in Amboise. Though smaller, the nearby Château du Clos Lucé enjoys an outsize reputation, thanks to its famous former resident: Leonardo da Vinci lived his last years here before his death in 1519. Today, the castle showcases exhibitions dedicated to the artist and inventor.More

Château de Cheverny

The Château de Cheverny is one of the more popular castles in the Loire Valley. Inhabited by the same family for over six centuries, this castle is of particular interest if you’re curious about what it’s like to live in a castle—dog lovers may also appreciate that there are around 100 canines that call these grounds home.More

Château d’Angers

The multiple drum towers that make up the imposing façade of this massive chateau were once a part of an impressive fortress inhabited by the Romans in the 9th century. After some additional construction, Château d’Angers was used as an armory in the First and Second World Wars. Today it’s been converted into an epic museum that houses the largest—and oldest—collection of medieval tapestries in the world.Visitors can venture past the castle’s three-meter-thick walls and explore the 17 towers that stretch high into the sky surrounding the city of Angers. Covering an area of more than 220,000 square feet, the castle grounds offer tourists plenty to discover outdoors before venturing inside to check out the museum’s galleries.More
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Trip ideas

Top activities in Loire Valley

Hot-Air Balloon Ride over the Loire Valley, from Amboise or Chenonceau
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Day Tour of Chateaux of Chenonceau, Chambord & Caves Ambacia from Tours/Amboise
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Loire Valley Half Day with Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau Castles from Tours
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Loire Valley Day from Tours : Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry and 2 Vouvray Wineries
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Loire Valley Day from Amboise : Azay le Rideau, Villandry and 2 Vouvray Wineries
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All about Loire Valley

When to visit

The most popular time to visit the Loire Valley is in summer, when tourists flock to visit its famous chateaux and wineries. For a more tranquil visiting experience (and fewer lines at top chateaux such as Chambord and Chenonceau), consider the spring shoulder season. Alternatively, if it’s the wine that draws you, time your visit for September or October to see harvest in full swing.

Getting around

Toronto and Ottawa are Toronto’s two major urban hubs, and the province has four main airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport, London International Airport, Ottawa International Airport, and Thunder Bay International Airport. The region’s cities have many public transportation options, and mainline trains and buses also traverse the province. Multi-day tour itineraries make it easy to discover the region’s cities, blockbuster attractions such as Niagara Falls, and scenic national and provincial parks.

Traveler tips

Don’t limit your castle visits to only the blockbuster names such as Amboise, Blois, and Chaumont. After all, there are some 300 castles in the UNESCO-listed Loire Valley. You’ll enjoy a calmer visiting experience and fewer crowds when you seek out the region’s lesser-known (but no less splendid) gems, such as the Château de Talcy, the Château de Candé, and the Château de la Bussière.

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People Also Ask

What is the Loire Valley known for?

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Loire Valley is known for its magnificent royal châteaux, picturesque medieval towns, and idyllic countryside, flanking the Loire River. The Loire Valley is also famous for its wine—most notably white and rosé wines—and its Loire à Vélo cycle route.

What is the biggest attraction in the Loire Valley?

The Loire Valley’s most visited attraction is the Château de Chenonceau, closely followed by Château de Chambord and Château de Cheverny. The château and gardens of Villandry, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, and the wine region of Sancerre are also among the most popular sites.

What activities can you do at Loire Valley?

Châteaux visits, wine tasting tours, and hot-air balloon flights are the most popular activities in the Loire Valley. You can also enjoy walking in the royal parks, cycling the Loire à Vélo bike route, kayaking along the Loire River, or playing a game of golf.

What else can you do in the Loire Valley apart from visiting castles?

There’s plenty more to see and do in the Loire Valley once you’ve visited the châteaux. Enjoy hiking, cycling, and canoeing along the Loire River. Or, go wine tasting, take a hot air balloon flight, play a game of golf, and explore the many markets, museums, and historic towns.

Where can I base myself in the Loire Valley?

The major towns of the Loire Valley include Chinon, Tours, Amboise, and Blois—you can visit the chateaux and vineyards of the central Loire from any of these cities. Alternatively, base yourself in Orléans or Sancerre to explore the eastern Loire or in Angers, Saumur, or Nantes to tour the west.

How many days do you need in the Loire Valley?

Time-crunched travelers can take in the highlights of the Loire Valley on a day trip from Paris, but three days gives you time to visit the main châteaux, go wine tasting, and enjoy other activities. Plan a week or more to include the western cities of Saumur and Nantes.


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