Visit the castles of the Loire, it is one of the great classics of travel in France. I had been there several times as a child and a young adult, but not for a long time … After returning from a long trip to Japan and before flying to Guadeloupe, I wanted to rediscover this beautiful region of France, with an incredible historical and cultural heritage. I drove away with my father, without planning too much in advance, to make room for discovery. Here are some tips that I can give you to prepare for such a trip to discover the castles of the Loire.
This is the most delicate part! There are dozens and dozens (if we count only the main ones), located essentially from Blois to Tours. Better to avoid wanting to see too much because otherwise we no longer enjoy visits. The ideal I find is to see two castles a day, or even three at most. Do not forget that visiting the gardens often takes as much time as visiting the castles themselves, finally when the weather is nice of course. This is certainly my top 6 castles not to be missed.
The most beautiful: Chenonceau
If there was only one to see, for me it would be the castle of Chenonceau. Nicknamed the “ladies’ castle” because of the women who built and inhabited it, like Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, it is just sublime with its arch that spans the Cher River. Special mention also for gardens, and when you cross the other side, you can walk in the forest or on the banks of the Cher.
The largest: Chambord
The castle of Chambord, built at the request of François 1st, is the accumulation of all superlatives. With a total of 426 rooms, it is the largest of the castles of the Loire. Its huge park which is a hunting reserve is also the largest closed forest park in Europe, with an area similar to the city of Paris. Its facade with its hundreds of richly carved chimneys and capitals is spectacular. In addition, there are horse shows and raptors.
The most «architecture»: Blois
To visit the royal castle of Blois is to discover in one place a vast panorama of the history of French architecture, from medieval style to classical style, passing through Gothic and Renaissance. The kings who have successively lived left their mark, with the most famous François 1st, the famous spiral staircase in an open tower. This is a visit where you have to take the time to read all the explanatory panels.
The most beautiful interior: Cheverny
Architecture less spectacular than its neighbors, the castle of Cheverny is the one with the most beautiful interior and the most beautiful furniture. The most unusual: Hergé was inspired to create the castle of Moulinsart in the famous comics Tintin. You can also visit an exhibition devoted to comics.
The most beautiful gardens: Chaumont-sur-Loire
The castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire is worth the detour, not for the castle itself, but for its gardens. Every year, they host the International Garden Festival, from April to November. Far from the “French garden” style of the other castles, it is an exhibition that shows the contemporary landscape artistic creation. Really amazing and surprising to discover!