a peek at eight chateaux of the loire valley

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For a few days, we were walking through the same hallways that Leonardo da Vinci did during the last few years of his life. We also walked where Catherine de Medici did and where other French kings and nobility had walked.

We were in the Loire Valley of France and felt like we had been transported back several hundred years. It was time to explore the châteaux and castles of the region. But when there are approximately 300 of them, 100 or so of which we can actually visit – how do we choose which ones to go to?

So we decided to choose based on their exterior. Yes, we know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but we did! Because when we sought guidance by asking those working in the travel industry in Tours which were their favourites (to help us narrow it down), they all responded the same.

“It’s too hard to choose. Each one is beautiful in their own way!”

Which was clearly not helpful to us at all.

To start with, we thought they only said that because they were being diplomatic and didn’t want to influence which ones we saw. After seeing 8 of the chateaux– we realized we couldn’t choose which one was our favourite either! Each was so architecturally different, with different interiors, gorgeous gardens or unique histories that enchanted us.

Here are a few sneak peek photos of the 8 we saw.

Villandry

The last of the great château built during the Renaissance. This estate has a magnificently manicured garden, fitted out with a vegetable and herb garden as well. This one is probably best explored on a lovely day.

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Azay-le-Rideau 

It was owned by the financier to King Francois I. He initially acquired the fortress in the early 1500s before building the luxurious château.

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Chambord

The biggest of all in the Loire Valley – it was intended to be a hunting lodge for Francois I but he only spent about 72 days there. The grounds are so vast, it is enclosed with a 32 km wall.

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Cheverny

It is currently inhabited by the descendants of the Huraults Family. It has been owned by the Huraults for 6 centuries. It is still used for hunting parties and has kennels with about a hundred French Hounds which are fed at 5pm – it is rather entertaining to watch.

There may be a chance you recognise this château from Tintin?

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Clos Lucé

Leonardo da Vinci spent his last few years in this château at the invitation of Francois I. This was an interesting château as we really got an insight into the rather profound thoughts behind da Vinci’s inventions.

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Amboise

This was a place to live and stay for royalty but also had a wonderful view of the Loire Valley. It was a symbol of the King’s power and economic status.

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Chenonceau

Possibly one of the most recognised château of the region – it was built over the River Cher. This is another estate with beautiful gardens. King Henri II gifted his mistress Diane de Poitiers with the château. His wife, Catherine de Medici removed Diane and in exchange gave her Chaumont.

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Chaumont

This château was likely used as a hunting ground. It has a remarkable garden and each year hosts an International Garden Festival. It has well-preserved horse stables which houses one of the finest gala saddleries in France.

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Based on just the exteriors, which ones do you like the look of?

If you have visited the region, which was your favourite and why?

Tell us your thoughts here

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45 thoughts on “a peek at eight chateaux of the loire valley

    […] you commented on the original post, have you changed […]

    […] you have been following our blog for a while, you may remember the post about 8 of the chateaux in the Loire Valley that we shared last […]

    Mrs Hicks said:
    November 4, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I have friends who live near Montrichard, between the Cher and Loire rivers. I’ve been to Amboise, Clos Lucé, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Blois, Chaumont and Chambord. I like Chenonceau and Chaumont best because of the Catherine de Medici/Diane de Poitiers story. Chaumont has a beautiful garden festival, too, and I’ve seen some stunning outdoor artworks there during the festival. We had a behind the scenes tour at Amboise, once, as well – all about how it had been used as a prison with people incarcerated in the spiral coach passages. You can see graffiti carved into the stone by the prisoners. So I have a soft spot for Amboise, too!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      November 4, 2014 at 9:18 am

      Wow! What a lovely experience for you 🙂 We like the Catherine and Diane story too but still we find it too hard to choose one. Each is so unique and beautiful in its own right 🙂
      We would just love to have a time machine to whisk us back in time to see what it was like with all the people and atmosphere!!
      Thank you for visiting and for your comment!

        Mrs Hicks said:
        November 4, 2014 at 9:37 am

        I would go back to when Da Vinci was at Clos Lucé, I think. I’d like to follow the tunnel from Amboise to Clos Lucé and see what he was working on!

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          November 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm

          Oh yes!! Absolutely would be good to have a nosy around at that:)

    thebritishberliner said:
    August 25, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I love France! I have been to the Valley but it was way back in 2000 so I can’t remember which ones they were. However, I hope to visit again soon. Brilliant pictures bringing it all back!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 26, 2014 at 2:06 am

      Yes – we are in love with France too 🙂 Thanks for your lovely comment! Guess you must be due back to the Loire Valley if you can’t recall which ones you visited 😉

    the eternal traveller said:
    August 20, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I’m in agreement with you, because I can’t choose either. I love the thought of walking in the footsteps of all those illustrious people from the past.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Yes – that was probably the most exciting thing knowing who walked those same hallways many hundreds of years before us 🙂

    katpegimana said:
    August 19, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Mind-blowing! I think your post is the first I have ever read on Loire Valley. Great pics.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 20, 2014 at 2:43 am

      Fantastic! So glad we were able to share something new for you 🙂 And thank you for the lovely message – we will likely put more posts out slowly in the future for each of the chateaux!

    Packing my Suitcase said:
    August 19, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Amazing you guys!! It really reminds of my trip!! I visited all of these Castles…and I loved them! You are right, its impossible to choose one, each one is special, with its own history! 😀 next castle you should visit is Neuschwanstein here in Germany 😀

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 20, 2014 at 2:45 am

      Yep – we’ve been there back in 2006! One of the most magical ones to see 🙂
      Beautiful in a different way to the ones in the Loire Valley.
      Thanks for your comment!

    MiaMusings said:
    August 18, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I think I like Aza-le and Cheveny the best. 100 hounds sounds crazy!!!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 19, 2014 at 1:47 am

      100 hounds was crazy – especially during the feeding frenzy 🙂

    kayrpea61 said:
    August 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    From your photos I would choose Clos Lucé or Chaumont. I always remember the guide (French, of course) at Chenonceau, while describing the gardens, saying that “the English know nothing about garden design”. On behalf of our ancestors, and thinking of some lovely English gardens, we were somewhat offended 🙂
    We liked Blois, by the way, with its parallel helical staircases, allowing the fugitives to escape while the pursuers went up the other way 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 19, 2014 at 1:51 am

      Those helical staircases were quite something, weren’t they? Clos Luce was really special particularly because of the model exhibits of da Vinci’s inventions. The Chaumont stables were sensational – we will definitely have to share those in a future post! Thanks for reading and stopping! Have a great week! 🙂

    Jill's Scene said:
    August 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I’ve visited Chenonceau and I was totally entranced – it was the history, the grandeur, the beauty of the gardens. Time was very short – and we could only visit the one. If I return to the Loire Valley I’d visit Chaumont the rivalry between Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici is fascinating

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 19, 2014 at 1:54 am

      Yeah, Chenonceau was extremely entrancing inside and out, wasn’t it? Back in 2006 – we only had the choice of one and we chose Chenonceau too. But we just wanted to see it again. And it was even more breathtaking the second time 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    Mabel Kwong said:
    August 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Wow. The Loire Valley must have been a feast for your eyes, Monkeys. What stood out to me were not the castles (though very magnificent) but the gardens. It must be a “see-no-touch” kind of garden and vegetation patch. I wonder how the plants stay green like that 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Yes, the gardens were really spectacular! And yes, no touching… just looking 🙂 There was certainly a lot to see!
      Not sure about the actual gardening procedures there but assuming they water them a LOT to keep them green 😉 Plus, the summers in France are certainly not as dry and scorching as our summers.

    thetravellush said:
    August 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    These places are incredible! It’s crazy that Cheverny has been owned by the same family for six centuries. And they have all of those hunting dogs! Too funny 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Yes – each seemed to have something a little intriguing about it! We couldn’t believe they still lived there. In their living quarters – we couldn’t see but in the welcoming area – they have their family photos up! It was so unreal!
      Watching those dogs feed was rather entertaining… they were gnarly and feisty. Climbing and growling over one another. It was quite a sight that we won’t forget! We felt sorry for the poor guy who had to feed them! 😉
      Thanks so much for reading and leaving us a comment!

    ytaba36 said:
    August 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Good grief, they’re stunning! They knew how to build them, didn’t they? Man, I’d hate to have the heating/cleaning bills for any one of them.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      LOL – yep cleaning bills and gardening bills! And to think there are about 300 of these chateaus in the region….. Thanks for stopping by!

    Jess Carey said:
    August 18, 2014 at 8:55 am

    They look like one movie set after the other – Chaumont looks like something out of a Disney movie! My winner would have to be the feeding of the hounds though – they’re just so damn cute!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      Great observation Jess! They did look like movie sets!! The feeding of the hounds was unreal. As we mentioned in reply to The Travel Lush – watching those dogs feed was memorable. They were so cute but we certainly would not want to pet one especially when they’re hungry. Goodness – they were gnarling at one another and barking aggressively. Thanks for reading and leaving us a comment 🙂

        JC said:
        August 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

        Haha yeah I can imagine – would my make midget Beagle who whimpers and yelps at dinner time look pretty pathetic I bet! Loving your adventures 🙂

    Expat Eye said:
    August 18, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I think Chaumont is my favourite! The last two are amazing 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 7:14 am

      🙂 We thought after seeing so many in such a short time, we would get chateau fatigue… but each one kept offering something different to intrigue us 🙂
      More posts will have to follow showcasing the interiors we think!

        Expat Eye said:
        August 18, 2014 at 7:15 am

        You’ll probably still be writing about that in 50 years time judging by the exteriors! 🙂

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 18, 2014 at 7:16 am

          LOL – you are probably right 😉 We’ll see how we go with time!

    mytravelmonkey said:
    August 18, 2014 at 7:09 am

    They all look stunning! I don’t think I could choose between them! 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Thanks for commenting and kind of choosing 😉
      So glad we were not the only ones stumped by which was our favourite!
      Hope you had a great weekend!

    renxkyoko said:
    August 18, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I’d been to Amboise and saw da Vinci’s house. But I’m sure the other castles are more spectacular. I wish I had seen them too.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

      First time we went to the area we only did a day trip from Paris so only saw Chenonceau but this time round we stayed for 3 days so were able to explore more! It was well worth the extra stay 🙂

    ifollowislands said:
    August 18, 2014 at 6:49 am

    It’s so hard to decide! They are all so beautiful in their own way. But I think the last two did it for me. It’s like out of a fairytale 😀 Are these castles close to each other or is it quite a trip?

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 7:03 am

      Yes – it is very hard to choose. Chenonceau along with the history might be a notch above the others on our list. But all in all – still hard to choose 🙂
      They are not very close to one another. The furthest took about an hour from Tours but most were within half an hour or so. Thanks for your comment!

        ifollowislands said:
        August 18, 2014 at 7:37 am

        Thanks, good to know! So would you have to road trip it and stay in different hotels? Because I’d love to visit these castles but we prefer to base ourselves somewhere permanent for the majority of the holiday and then do day trips from there.

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          August 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

          Base yourself in one place and you can hire a car or there are lots of tour companies that do day trips out of the city of Tours for you. The Tours Tourist Information are really great and the place to start when you arrive in Tours. We chose to join a tour group for ease 🙂

            ifollowislands said:
            August 18, 2014 at 7:41 am

            Tours it is then! Thanks so much for the advice, much appreciated. This is why I love the WordPress Community 🙂

            wisemonkeysabroad responded:
            August 18, 2014 at 7:42 am

            Pleasure to help 🙂 And yes – the blogging community is amazing! Love being connected to so many like-minded people!

    jessyh19 said:
    August 18, 2014 at 6:33 am

    It’s almost too beautiful to believe, incredible photos 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 6:38 am

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 We have to agree with you that it is too beautiful too believe! Even when we saw them – we kept thinking… “Really? People lived like this”

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