Loire Valley

Fairytale châteaux, wine, cheese and river life


Fairytale châteaux, wine, cheese and river life

Have you ever had a fantasy? No, not like that….rather the kind of fanciful notion where you’re a princess or a knight in a magnificent white castle with soaring turrets, grand galleries, fine tapestries, wide moats and romantic grounds? Welcome to France’s Loire Valley where your dreams are about to come true.

Here you’ll find not only 300 historic chateaux, but also traditional vineyards and wine cellars, beautiful Loire boats, and old-world towns with half-timbered houses.  Spanning 280 kilometres along the Loire in central France, the region is reachable from Paris in a couple of hours making it super accessible and yet it feels like a world apart.  It’s a land for feasting with a plethora of working farms offering cheese, saffron, snail, and mushroom tasting tours; Michelin starred restaurants and rustic eateries serving mouth-watering home-cooked fare.

Touraine Loire Valley is one of France’s top destinations, where life is enjoyed to the full at all times of the year. The biggest crowds are drawn during the warm summer months when the weather is at its dependable best and the queues are long. For a proper escape, we’d suggest a visit between October and March when holidaying families stay home and the coach trips have shut up shop. Autumn is beautiful in here the Loire, if occasionally frosty. Wildflowers still bloom and the colours along the river are stunning, shimmering as they turn from green to orange, before falling to form a leafy carpet. Winter and early spring remain pleasant if chilly. The coldest months can dip to 3 or 4°C with some morning fog. Nonetheless, walking or cycling in the crisp country air is a wonderful way to spend a day, ending with a hearty meal and a glass of Malbec (called Côt here) by a crackling log fire. You might choose to escape the chill in a stylish hotel spa or Turkish hamman. And of course, it’s the very best time to explore the chateaux in peace and for your princess to kiss her frog prince.

The Land of the Chateaux

From medieval fortresses to Renaissance palaces and hilltop castles, you’re spoilt for choice. The 15th century marks the beginning of the chateaux golden age as French royalty, tired from years of war, relaxed in the Loire Valley in their gilded finery. Lesser nobility followed and then over the years, wealthy celebrities jumped onto that bandwagon too. The result is that the whole valley is now recognised by UNESCO for its contribution to the historic, artistic, architectural and intellectual development of the nation. You can’t miss the biggest players of course, and low season is the best time to do so without the summer hoards. The top picks are huge Chambord built by François I as a mere hunting lodge; Château Amboise home to many royal children including Mary Stuart; and stunning Azay-le-Rideau built on an island in the River Indre. Don’t forget though to check out the smaller, often more fascinating sites like those at Chateaux de Moulinde Chemery and de Fougères-sur-Bièvre.

The River Loire

The longest waterway in France, the river historically splits the country into north and south. It’s been a border during several wars and remains culturally and agriculturally significant. If you feel like you’re getting chateaux burn out, explore the river itself.  The well-established “Loire à Vélo” trail takes in pretty towns and villages, vineyards and wineries. You can bring your own bikes or rent by the day or week. E-scooters and off-road Segways are another option. Take a boat ride in a traditional river vessel. Although mainly catering to the summer visitors, there are companies that operate throughout the year.

Low Season Months

Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct

Featured Hotels

Top Experiences

Christmas in the Land of Chateaux

Come in December and children and adults alike can enjoy this magical season. Seven of the Loire chateaux go to town with iconic festive events including a Christmas tree maze, a huge Neapolitan Nativity scene, flamboyant decorations, gingerbread, roasting chestnuts and pretty illuminations.

Wine Tasting in a Troglodyte Cave

Hidden across the region you’ll find an expansive network of troglodyte caverns. The vast underground galleries of tuffeau stone have multiple uses but are ideal for the storage of wines. Visit the Veuve Amiot cellars by candlelight or explore the cycle trail deep beneath Bouvet-Ladubay.

Loire Valley Cooking Class

Throughout the valley, lessons in Loire cuisine take place year-round. Choose from small intimate affairs or larger events, hosted by local families or Michelin starred chefs. Try your hand chocolate or patisserie techniques, or learn to prepare extraordinary meat, fish, veggie and cheese dishes.

Insider Tips

  • Art lovers will be fascinated at Chateau Clos Lucé, the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. You can see 20 life-size models of his inventions throughout the gardens and park as well as examples of his art. Many of the inventions are interactive and include a flying machine and portable bridge.
  • Highlighting the skills of local chefs, the "Automnales de la Gastronomie" food festival takes place in November and December and celebrates delicious autumn ingredients. Also at the end of autumn, catch the Château du Rivau flower festival with its large stunning floral displays.
  • If you’re looking for original Christmas gifts, arts and crafts shops always highlight local skills, starting with wickerwork. Touraine Loire Valley has been the French capital of wickerwork since the 7th century. Check out especially the small picturesque village of Villaines-les-Rochers.

Good To Know

  • It’s time to brush up your vino tasting skills. Bourgueil, Chinon, Vouvray are the most renowned cellars. Loire is known for its white wines, with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé producing a remarkable Sauvignon Blanc, and Vouvray and Montlouise, considered the home of Chenin Blanc.
  • Car hire is a good idea to get the best of your time here. Some chateaux can be reached by train and there are local bus services, but these peter out in low season. Your own vehicle allows access to some of the more remote chateaux and to create your own schedule and stop offs.
  • For sports fans, a Tours VB volleyball match is just the thing to share the fervour of Touraine's aficionados. The club from Tours is the record-holder for the greatest number of French volleyball championships. Join in the exciting atmosphere of this fast paced game.

Food & Drink

Charles Barrier, Tours

This Michelin rated restaurant is a historic centre for Touraine Loire Valley gastronomy. Established since the 1970s, the grand venue remains the epitome of fine dining with its crystal chandeliers, wood panelling, and drapes. Steeped in tradition while exploring contemporary variations.

Au Chapeau Rouge, Chinon

Set in the medieval town of Chinon, and specialising in local traditional and gourmet cuisine. The venue was the 16th home of Royal Messengers who wore distinctive red hats. Chef Christophe Duguin is passionate about local produce, including fresh Loire fish and a winter truffle menu.

Château d’Artigny, Montbazon

Dine in a prestigious setting at “l’Origan”, the magnificent dining room of this Belle Époque castle, once home to perfumer Coty. Woodwork reliefs, gold leaf and beautiful views complement the exquisite dishes while the plush bar formed from a book-lined library is perfect for an aperitif.

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