I understand Châteaux de la Loire Valley has many amazing castles to see, as well as historic villages. However, if one only has a day (or possibly two) to see the best of this region, which castles would you choose to visit, and which town would you stay in?
We saw Villandry and Chenonceau on one day and stopped in Amboise and Chambord the 2nd day. Loved them all for different reasons but I have to say Villandry impressed me most of all as it's gardens are AMAZING.
Chambord was HUGE (the largest in the Loire) and was impressive but a little empty. It was drizzling when we were there and maybe we were tired. It was still neat and I don't regret it at all.
Loved Amboise, the town is soooooo cute.
If it helps we were there in early November 2015.
I've seen the 4 that photo mentions, and they are all great, but there are so many magnificent chateaux in the Loire. Chambord might be the most magnificent from the outside. Chenonceau is terrific inside and out, and may have the most spectacular overall setting. But, as I said, there are so many beautiful chateaux. For example, we recently spent a night in Montresor, and we had a beautiful view of the chateau from our kitchen and terrace, but I don't think it often gets mentioned on must-see lists of chateaux.
I'd stay in Amboise and visit nearby Chenonceau, Amboise itself, Chambord (which was closed due to flooding but I think has reopened), and Blois if time allows. All relatively close together. Two chateaux a day for two consecutive days is enough, you'll want a break after that anyway. On a longer trip I'd shift to another base west of Tours and visit some of the chateaux over there too.
Thank you all for the insightful comments. These will prove most helpful. Any additional ideas by others would be appreciated, too.
Just got back this week from a 15 day trip to France. We spent 3 days in the Loire Valley doing castles. We used Amboise as a base for our Loire Valley visits. Chambord was closed due to flooding but we saw Chenonceau, Azay-Le-Rideau, Villandry, Usse (from the outside, the sleeping beauty inspiration), Cheverny and the chateau at Amboise. I thought the setting and upkeep (floral arrangements, furnishings) set Chenonceau apart from the rest. The gal at the desk there told us 2 women arrange all of the fresh flowers that you see in Chenonceau....and they were gorgeous. Villandry's gardens were FANTASTIC. The surroundings made me love Villandry's chateau more....I have such respect for someone that keeps his chateau and grounds in such incredible shape. Looked like someone had manicured the gardens with tweezers! I liked Cheverny and seeing the dogs and the fact that a family actually lives on the third floor makes it special but the grounds looked tired....maybe after seeing Villandry the rest did not meet up! I really wanted mostly to see Leonardo Da Vinci's burial chapel as much as the Amboise castle.....but the views when I got up to the castle were really something. Glad I had gone there........The chapel is charming.
We LOVED Le Manior les Minimes in Amboise......a great place to stay.
I would say to do Chenonceau and Villandry for sure!
We stayed in Amboise and found it to be a good location. We visited the chateau in Amboise, as well as Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau. I loved Chambord for it's architectural amazement and did not mind that it is sparsely furnished. The rooftop is amazing! And as mentioned, the floral arrangements in Chenonceau were spectacular. Beyond all that, we found the Loire Valley to be a lovely, relaxing place to be. I could see returning for more days which may or may not include chateaux.
Look for the châteaux you think are of interest and try to find a central location as driving around along those local roads can take more time than most of the time expected. And also allow time to make stops for looking around in nice places you certainly will find underway. A few weeks back I stayed near Angers with the plan to visit Chinon and Villandry at the same day, but the latter proved to be too far away and so had to skip it. Combining Chinon with nearby Abbeye de Fontevraud proved to be very well doable without rushing.
We have a sister school in Loches with my new job, so I got to take my students to see the Loches donjon and chateau ---and for my own selfish reasons took them to see Saumur and Chinon because they are on my bucket list. I loved them both.
Thank you all for your wonderful contributions. Merci beaucoup !