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Chinon or Amboise?

Which is better, Chinon or Amboise both for staying in and seeing either the Chateau of the king and Leonardo or Chinon Castle? Thanks!

Posted by
2502 posts

I have not been to Amboise but I really enjoyed Chinon. We had a car so traveling to the various chateaux was not a problem. Chinon is a charming small town right on the river and is a pleasure in which to wander. Wonderful restaurants and when we were there, free parking near the statue of Jean d’Arc.

Posted by
1864 posts

During our RS Loire to the South of France tour we stayed 2 nights in charming Chinon. It was a perfect base. We enjoyed an afternoon stop in lovely Amboise.

Posted by
4668 posts

The castle in Chinon is a ruin. The “chateaux” in Amboise and elsewhere are not ruined.

Edit: As it happened, we chose to stay in a slightly faded luxury chateau accommodation called Château de Marçay, 37500 Marçay - Chinon. This required a car. We chose to stay west of Tours because our next stop was the Brittany coast. And the excellent UNESCO WHS Fontevraud Abby was on the way. Summer traffic was heavy at all times of day. So we elected not to see the popular chateaux well east of Tours. We did see several to the west, including Villandry and Azay. Villandry was particularly important to us because of our interest in public gardens. In fact, their was a "take some" bin at Villandry full of lettuce - although it was so hot we had to borrow a fan from the hotel.

If I were visiting this area again, I would check the (summer only) special activities like Son et Lumiere, and rare "candle-light nights", which book up really fast. I suspect that most Americans have to buy their air tickets before these specific dates are announced.

Please note that I did not say that Chateau Chinon is not open to the public, or not supported by interpretive facilities. I made a technical statement about the condition of the actual historicresidential property of that name. It is served well by a public elevator to the lower town, where much of the enjoyable strolling and dining are.

Posted by
1046 posts

The “chateaux” in Amboise and elsewhere are not ruined.

Most of Château Amboise was destroyed during the Revolution. What was not destroyed was later dismantled, the stone sold. While not a complete ruin, what is left of Château Amboise is but a small portion of what once was. Considering what is otherwise nearby and available to visit, Amboise is rather unremarkable.

Posted by
895 posts

The castle in Chinon is a ruin.

I'm not sure if that's 100% accurate. It's still a functioning museum with exhibits. If you have the audio/video guide it will show you in some areas how the interior would have been decorated in its day. The Joan of Arc exhibit is interesting as is the graffiti in the dungeon that is said to have been left there by the leader of the Knights Templar while he was imprisoned.

We were also on an RS Loire Valley to the South of France tour and stayed in Chinon while having a morning visit to Amboise. Chinon has plenty of hotels and restaurants. Amboise was very pretty but I can't vouch for it since we were only there for 4 hours.

Posted by
756 posts

Thanks! We love ruins and plan on visiting the abbey in the area that houses Eleanor and Richard so thought it might be nice to see Chinon as well. Didn't even think of the candlelight visits and lumiere nights! Thanks all!

Posted by
430 posts

Can't say which is better because we only were in Amboise - great place and it's closer to Paris.

Posted by
16743 posts

I have stayed at both locations in the same trip, finding them far enough apart for different sightseeing.

Posted by
2621 posts

We only visited the chateau at Amboise. It was ok, but not as nice as some others. In Chinon, we actually stayed at a campground right on the river, across from the older section, close to the bridge. We thoroughly enjoyed the little time we had there.

Posted by
2562 posts

We visited both. Absolutely loved the Fortress of Chinon. It is a ruin but very tastefully restored with interactive video exhibits, informative signposting, etc. We wished we'd had more time to explore the town. As I recall, the RS Guide to France that year (we had the 2014 edition) included a self-guided walk through the old town near the river.

We stayed in Azay-le-Rideau at Hotel Biencourt, which I highly recommend. The town is tiny and lovely, and the tourist office was very helpful.

Amboise for us was hectic and not very pleasant. I'm really glad we didn't stay there. We passed through en route to the Chateau of Chenonceaux, which was beautiful and well worth the visit. We also took the boat trip on La Belandre which went under the chateau's iconic arched bridge. That was really special!

Posted by
282 posts

The Chateau of Chinon was the subject of the largest single restoration project in French heritage history at the time (It was finished 4 or 5 years ago now). It is a rebuilt medieval castle, rather than a 19th century guess at what a renaissance chateau would be

I like Chinon, but It suffers rather the same drawbacks as Amboise - the hotels are OK, but the restaurants are (for the main part) a bit ordinary. Both towns are worth exploring and have some excellent "hidden" features, with Chinon probably edging it

Posted by
11683 posts

I've stayed in both. IMO a completely different feel/experience in the two places. Chinon seems older. You could interpret that as "genuine" or as "rundown" - depending on your perspective. I liked the old feel in Chinon. The fortress isn't anything like other chateaux up the Loire. The fortress has a real military past and a connection to Joan of Arc. This is where she found the Dauphin and encouraged him to be crowned.

The Chinon fortress is mostly ruin but parts are restored with movies, displays, music around the lawns of what was once a massive military base. I also liked visiting nearby Fontevraud Abbey. The area provides a nice change of pace from from the Chateaux that most visitors come to Loire to see.

Amboise is an ideal base to catch the western chateaux. These chateaux are fancy hunting lodges that got their start as defensive castles but were later dressed up. Amboise makes a great base for Chenonceaux, Villandry, Royal Amboise, Clos Luce plus others with a little longer drive.

The feel in Amboise is more dressed up. Still a historic place but benefiting from lots of tourist dollars for renovation.

Posted by
5305 posts

I am excited to give Chinon a try. I know Amboise relatively well, and like it, but I have bought a “voucher” from a small independent hotel in Chinon as a means of support during the shutdown, and look forward to going there for a weekend when we can travel within France again!

Keeping an eye on this thread for recommendations.