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Best Chateaux to visit in the Loire Valley, France

What to do and when to go in the Loire valley.

Vallée de la Loire” known in English as The Loire Valley is located in central France, in the central stretch of the Loire River in both regions Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire, It is just two hours southwest of Paris. The Telegraph newspaper (2014) listed the following as the premiere chateaux for tourists: Chinon, Cité royale de Loches, Chaumont, Blois, Meung, Chenonceau, Rivau, Lemeré, Amboise, Clos Lucé, Amboise, Chambord, Villandry and Valençay, all these chateaux adds to the splendour of the valley.

Delights of the French countryside, known as the Garden of France it’s the chateaux of the Loire Valley river valley!  It is a place to experience the history of chateaux in the Loire Valley, Surrounded by vineyards and acres of orchards. Here, you will find some amazing Villas to rent in Loire valley. The Garden of France is where royals and noble ministers not only built fantastic châteaux but also established the art of the French Renaissance garden.

The Loire Valley wine region comprises the French wine regions situated along the Loire River. it is best to explore the wine region by combining your stay either in Villa in Loire Valley or living like a noble in Luxury Chateaux in Loire valley. The Loire Valley is separated into three wine production divisions. Upper Loire comprises areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, Middle Loire regions around Touraine, Saumur, Chinon and Vouvray and the Lower Loire which leads to the aperture of the river’s entrance to the Atlantic goes through the Muscadet region. Crémant production throughout the Loire is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. The area of the Loire Valley covers around 800 square kilometres. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley to its list of World Heritage Sites.

The Royal connection with Vallée de la Loire goes back to the 100 years’ war (1350-1450). Due to a ruling disagreement, the English were seriously pursuing the French throne,  and it didn’t take much time for the English to control France (including Paris) by the early 1400s. The French were in a state of decline, Kings always escaped to the Loire to rule what was left of their kingdom. When there were fewer menaces the kings returned to Paris, many of their Loire châteaux became Luxury country escapes.

After the French recovered, they successfully drove the English back to England and the French kings lived in the Loire region for the next two centuries, getting comfortable with Château culture in the region. With a wonderfully mild climate and good hunting grounds, flowing rivers, Affluent friends by side with similar luxury with close proximity to the capital Paris, yet far enough away, the life in Loire valley seems to do just fine for the ruling class of France.

The 16th Cultural golden age with peace and stability with no longer a need for fortification was the fantasy of the economic elite. By the middle of the 16th century, King François I had shifted his throne from the Loire back to the ancient capital of Paris. With him went the great architects, but the Loire Valley continued to be the place where most of the French royalty preferred to spend most of their time. King Louis XIV, in the middle of the 17th century, made the Paris area the permanent locale for great royal residences when he built the Palace of Versailles. Nonetheless, those who gained the king’s favour and the wealthy bourgeoisie continued to renovate existing châteaux or build lavish new ones in the Loire as summer residences.

The French Revolution saw a number of the great châteaux destroyed and many ransacked, their treasures stolen. The overnight impoverishment of many French noble families, usually after one of their members lost his or her head to the guillotine, saw many châteaux demolished. During World War I and World War II, various chateaux were commandeered as military headquarters. Some of these continued to be so used after the end of World War II. These palaces are open to visitors now but are finding it hard to upkeep with rising costs, however, they enjoy financial assistance from the government if they open these mansions to the public.

Châteaux in Loire Valley

There are more than 300 Châteaux in Loire Valley, which rules this region in terms of architecture, building, and power.  Well obviously, you can’t visit them all in one holiday, unless you have a whole year to explore these palaces. These big castles not only need time to walk but also need time to soak in the history behind them. So we thought, best work out some Unique châteaux in Loire Valley for your interests.

Enjoy the river that marks the heart of France, Play with Leonardo’s invention at his last home, admire the ultimate and graceful palaces that you don’t find anywhere else in Europe, feed the dogs, and eat well yourself before enjoying the Castles and gardens of your dream.

The Loire Valley hides countless castles or chateaus, while you might be planning to visit several, it is important to choose the visits prudently. Instead of seeing similar castles, it is better to choose variety. Some examples are shown below. They are chosen for their distinctive differences.

The Famous and the biggest: Château de Chambord

Start your trip with the grandest of all chateaus, Château de Chambord. France has historically been dived by the Loire River, using your own luxury villa or Château in Loire valley as a base, you can explore some important castles, such as Chateau de Chambord much bigger than the average castle.

The Château de Chambord has 440 rooms and is surrounded by Europe’s largest and closed forest. Still home to wild deer and wild boar, you can explore the area by rental bike, it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I. Starting in 1519, French king Francis the 1st built and employed 1800 workmen for 15 years. With the château nearing completion in 1547, Francis showed off his enormous symbol of wealth and power by hosting his old archrival, Emperor Charles V, at Chambord.

Italian renaissance influenced – Château d’Amboise

Château d’Amboise, Sits in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. Confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, was the famous royal residence of several kings with commanding views. Here in the Loire,  you will notice the impact of the Italian renaissance when the French dignitaries went to Italy they returned enthused by the art and architecture they saw. The Inspiration of Italian culture did not stop at art but even extended to culinary, gardens & landscapes, and fashion. You can see the attempt Francois premier (Francis I of France), did to physically bring the Renaissance to France. It sort of made sense: the ultimate French renaissance French king invited the ultimate renaissance Artist, Leonardo da Vinci to join his court. Leonardo da Vinci and other Italian artists arrived to design and beautify these residences. The king set Leonardo in Clos Lucé (Château du Clos Lucé), a small mansion just down the road, where he spent his last days.

Also, Chenonceau, Château de Cheverny and Villandry are other incredible castles not to be missed during your visit to the Loire Valley. Due to its strategic location, productiveness of its land and long history, the Loire Valley is home to fainting variety of castles and palaces. While the earliest were designed mainly for defence, but a valley address became a “must have” for the royalties of the 16th century, the old medieval towers were replaced by luxurious castles (chateaux).

Chateau of the ladies – Château de Chenonceau

Graceful Château de Chenonceau is a tribute to Loire valley. A 16th Century renaissance castle curves elegantly over the cher river. The Official garden of the palace combines with a delightful riverside setting, making it one of the must-see sights in all of France. You will see 16th-century tapestries inside the palace, they are the finest in France. The current château was built in 1514–1522 and the bridge over the river was built (1556-1559), but the estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century.

Château de Chenonceau was known as the first great pleasure palace with its eye-catching grand gallery straddling the river, it was made for the high society. Nicknamed “Chateau of the ladies” Château de Chenonceau housed many well-known women over the centuries. In the 13th century, the fief of Chenonceau belonged to the Marques family. The original château was torched in 1412 to punish the owner, Jean Marques, for an act of sedition. He rebuilt a château and fortified mill on the site in the 1430s. Jean Marques’ indebted heir Pierre Marques found it necessary to sell.

in 1535 the château was taken from Bohier’s son by King Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the Crown; after Francis’ death in 1547, Henri II, offered the château as a gift to his mistress to Diane-de-Poitiers, once his governess, presently his mistress, she added an arch bridge over the river. When the king passed away, his wife Catherine de Medici expelled Diane, and took Chenonceau for herself and she turned the bridge into a fancy ballroom. Great personalities like kings, stroked more than one tiara at a time. Mistresses were a routine part of the mix. Louis XV, ornamented this château with a painting of three graces…containing his three favorite mistresses. Now, that is the arrogance of power.  As a result of her good relations with the village, the Chateau was spared the iconoclastic damage suffered by many other monuments during the Revolution.

Five century of rule and up to date –  Château de Cheverny

Henry Le Mareschau was the owner of Cheverny in 1315, held under the Count of Blois. It was sold to Jean Huraults with its “houses, presses and vineyards” in the late 14th century.

The royally hunting Château de Cheverny is located at Cheverny, in the department of Loir-et-Cher in the Loire Valley. It is a magnificently preserved castle which was designed and built-in 30 years, in the 1600s. its conspicuous architectural harmony and unity of elegance are still visible. The Château de Cheverny has been in the same family for five centuries and the intimate details like the wedding dress in the bedroom, are a reminder that the marquise lives here to this day.  If you go upstairs you can see the family quarters, which has a more “lived in” feel, the library shows a desire for music and culture, you can even notice in the kids’ room the 19th-century toys, and the clock does it all showing the stage of the moon day and date. Clock’s second hand has been ticking away for 250 years now.

The 1789 revolution caused major destruction to many French chateaus and palaces, many ransacked, their valuables stolen, and yet some burned down Châteaux managed to survive. Some were lucky, and some had nagging owners with friends in high places, some had a good reputation like Château de Cheverny, even up to today of being good to workers. During World War I and World War II, various chateaux were commandeered as military headquarters.

In the Present day, the remaining private châteaux serve as homes and some of them open their doors as Holiday Rentals to tourists, while others operate as hotels or B&B.  Some are owned by local governments (Mairie), and the more famous castles like those at Chambord, is owned and operated by the national government and are large tourist sites.

During the French king’s ruling, there was a good part of life was spent hunting and to some degree it still does. Marquis hunt two times a week, a pack of some seventy hunting hounds is kept in kennels within the grounds, feeding times for the hounds are 5 pm daily, and many visits to see this, as the master moves the dogs out and prepares the red meat feast. Then he allows them to come down and gather at the concrete table and gives the signal to feast.

Château de Villandry – Jean le Breton inspired Gardeners Paradise

Château de Villandry by the River Cher, is one special castle in France. Loire Valley many have many castles with impressive gardens, yet Villandry stands out above all of these, specifically for its landscaping.

Completed in 1536, Château de Villandry was the last major renaissance chateau built on Loire valley. The Château is a fabulous country home located in Villandry, in Indre-et-Loire. Château is famed for its pretty gardens. If you are garden lovers, you must pay a visit to Château de Villandry. The castle is all about its grounds, is arranged in intricate geometric patterns, and spotlessly well kept – it’s the dream of a Gardner. The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Columbine until the 17th century. They were acquired in the early 16th century by a very rich banker named Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I (Francois premier). Jean le Breton was inspired by Italian Renaissance gardens, as a result of building his Château he made sure he had renaissance gardens in his castle.

In 1934, Château de Villandry was appointed a Monument historique. Like all the other châteaux of the Loire Valley, it is a World Heritage Site. The earlier Loire gardens were maintained by abbey monks, and the monks seems to like geometrical patterns, however later the Italian of pretty ponds, arbours, and fountains. Today you can visit Villandry castle and still see how the careful steps that are taken to preserve the originality of this 1530 castle. Thanks to the owners of the Carvallo family, the Château de Villandry is open to the public. Well, it is not all about Châteaux, Châteaux and Châteaux….there is much more to explore here during your villa rentals in Loire Valley.

Things to do in Loire river valley during your villa or Château holiday in France

Unwind here with some delicious French cuisine as evening sets in. There are many rustic and elegant spots that serve delicious and well-presented traditional cuisine and are hit with the locals. Try the freshwater Shrimp from Loire River with Tapenade, and in summer in France, it’s always Rose wine, even with escargot, yes it’s perfect they say! There the classic dishes with and in French cuisine duck (more like chicken of France) and lamb is pretty common. Remember all meals prices include all service charges and taxes, so no need to tip like in the UK or US of A. Try the local cheeses here and everywhere in France for that matter, they are from both the Cow and Goats. Cheeses like Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles-sur-Cher, Valençay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre (a French goats’-milk cheese), if you like Savoie (Savoy cow) then try reblochon, from the North you have Maroilles, it is a cow milk cheese from the regions of Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais and not to forget is the fourme d’ambert bleu from Auvergne. All the Luxury Chateaux and Villas to rent in Loire Valley should be within a good 1 to 1.30 hr of travel time to castles, so make sure you have time to relax and enjoy the pools at the Chateaus and Villas, where you have booked your rentals.

Meander the Terra Botanica Garden in Angers

If you like plant life, here’s a place to pay a visit. This Terra Botanica Garden in Angers, has a history of plants from around the world, brought over by explorers to bloom in the gardens of the châteaux. Thousands of plants are showcased to explore if you have the time for it, from tropical jungles to greenhouse plants, ask the gardeners.

The Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans

If you are a car race lover and around this vicinity, see if you have time to visit the Circuit de la Sarthe, Found south of the city, on the road to Tours, the 24 Hours circuit has changed since its creation in 1923. The beginning of this circuit is closely related to the Grand Prix of France, which took place in the Sarthe in 1906. It is a semi-permanent motorsport race course primarily famous as the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race.

Go on the wine trail in an exploration of its delicate essences

Saumur, Chinon, Bourgueil, Vouvray, Muscadet—these are jewel known appellations of the Loire Valley, spread over 300 kilometers (180 miles) in the middle of Blois and Nantes. White, red, rosé, mellow, quiet or sparkling, their variety will please your taste buds.

Partake in some wine tasting at Bouvet-Ladubay

For a wide guided trip of one of France’s best makers of sparkling wine, this is the place to visit. It owns no fewer than 10 miles of wine cellars— with a tasting at the end of the tour.  Don’t worry about having to walk so many kilometers; the winery offers wonderful cycling tours. If you have energetic teens it’s a good way to keep them away from their devices. If they can’t taste, they can still learn about wines.

Cycle the bends of Loire

Want to stretch your legs?! If you’d fancy a shorter route, from one chateau to another: there are 14 routes in the Loire Valley, with more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) of bike trails with well-marked routes. For the fit, follow the longest route of the river for 900 kilometres (560 miles), starting from Cuffy in the Cher and ending in St Brevin

Family with kids in the Loire valley – some suggested activities

Malagué Lake activities and swimming

In Chaumont d’Anjou, a leisure base is located by the side of Lac Malagué within a 20 acre wood. Swimming is overseen by lifeguards in summer, and numerous activities such as peddle-boating, canoeing, stand-up paddling are offered. If you with your family this is an idea base!

Awe at the technical accomplishments of the Scénoféerie de Semblançay

During the summer, at the base of the Semblançay castle north of Tours, this live show traces the great historical fresco of Touraine from the Gallo-Romans to the Revolution. Totally, around 450 actors participate in costumes, 60 fighters and stuntmen and many horses that will bring memorable moments to life in the midst of fireworks, flames and fountains. Great fun for families holidaying Loire valley with kids.

Watch the Châteaux from the top of a hot air balloon

Well, maybe you are short of time or prefer to have a glance of the Châteaux of France from above until your next visit to explore them in detail? Or you just want to spend less time with castle and see other things to do around. From a bird’s eye view, the landscape looks so amazing, more like a movie or like travelling back in time so quickly and having a peep into the old France and making your own movie on your head. Flying over the Châteaux of Chenonceau or Chambord in tranquillity, drift above the sandy coasts of the Loire, and peek over the vineyards extending out to the forests packed with wildlife.

Papea Parc, Yvre-l’Eveque

Nice little amusement park with rides for all ages. Papea Parc is located in Yvre-l’Eveque.

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