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Loire Valley in April 2023

My husband and I are traveling to France and Netherlands in mid-April 2023. Unfortunately, our itinerary only allows for four days in France. We plan to spend one day/night in Paris (this is our third visit) and the rest of the time in a small, un-touristy, relaxed-pace base town in the Loire Valley from which we can explore a chateau or two and enjoy the town.

From reading other RS forum posts, I’ve picked up some great ideas but I’d love input on an itinerary and a Loire base town. Ideally, we’d prefer that it’s within three hours from Paris via public transpo. On one day we’d like to visit the gardens of Villandry, and maybe another castle known for the interior, such as Azay-le-Rideau or Château de Langeais. On the other day we’d like to simply explore the base town -- maybe check out a local site or museum, or take a bike ride. The base towns that seem really appealing are Chinon, Azay-le-Rideau, and Langeais. Loches looks lovely too but seems out of the way. Chinon is the most appealing. Is it realistic to travel from Paris to any of these towns, and get to the castles, using public transpo? Or given our short timeframe, does it make more sense to take the train to Tours, and then rent a car for the days we’re in the Loire? We’d prefer to take public transpo so we can both relax and enjoy the scenery, but we’re fine renting a car if needed.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions you have about the base town, getting there, the castles, and other things to do!

P.S. We’ve been to Chenonceau and Chambord. And Versailles seems way too crowded.

Posted by
2323 posts

If you do not have a car, I would stay in Tours, specifically Old Tours and the area around Place Plumereau. From there, the Office de Tourisme is a short walk, and it is from the OT that the minivan tours depart. Your visit will be, more or less, determined by the tours offered mid-April. I am not sure about how much of the Villandry garden will be developed by mid-April. The last time I was at Villandry, virtually nothing remained of the interior. The only château with a good amount of the original interior is Château Cheverny, which is still inhabited by the family who has owned it for some time.

If you have a car, you can choose to stay anywhere. Loches is a long way from the other sites, and I am not sure if it is technically in the Loire Valley. Traffic being what it now is, you might consider staying on the west side of Tours which will allow easier access to Azay-le-Rideau, Langeais, and Chinon.

Ultimately, it all depends upon how you allocate your time and the days you have available. With only 4 days in France, does it really make sense to spend any time in Paris if your primary objective is the Loire Valley?

Posted by
525 posts

You fail to mention Cheverny, which is the only château with its original interior and furnishings.

Logistically, though, Azay le Rideau and Villandry make a good pairing, especially if you base yourself in Tours. The only downside is that getting too and from Villandry by public transport is a right royal PITA.
If you rent a car for a day I would visit those two and add Domaine de Candé to the list.

Staying in Chinon, Azay-le-Rideau or Langeais looks pretty, but they really are not much more than villages in the services available. I doubt if you would be able to rent a car in any of them. They will also add an hour onto your travelling time, in practice making them no more practical a choice than Loches.

Posted by
629 posts

Imho a car is pretty essential in this region. It’s pretty easy to drive around the Loire and the Autoroute makes connecting the chateau very easy. And it sounds like you want to enjoy staying in a small town and get that countryside vibe more than sticking with pub transportation. Take the TGV to Tours and pick up your car there, it’s a breeze.

Given your goals, I think staying in Azay is a fine choice. Very convenient to Villandry, which along with Chenonceaux was our favorite. We did not stay there, but the town certainly had its own little charm. It’s much smaller compared to Amboise or Chinon. So, I don’t think there’s much to explore per se, but it’s convenient enough that you could go off somewhere else if you felt bored.

Posted by
54 posts

During my visits (some years ago) to the Loire Valley, I stayed in Amboise and also in Tours. I thought Tours was an excellent base. There are restaurants, a little local museum, nice architecture timbered buildings, and quaint shops. I caught a minivan tour from the Office of Tourisme to see a handful of chateaux. I particularly loved Villandry (beautiful gardens/I think I was there in the month of June), Cheverny and Chenonceau. If you want a small town to stay in, Amboise would be a good choice. It is accessible by public transport. I only tour and stay in places accessible by train in France. Amboise is a charming town with a castle and loads of history; especially the last home of Leonardo da Vinci. I stayed in a hotel that was outside the town walls under the castle. It was called Les Manoirs des Minimes. Thinking back on what I saw, many of the chateaux are fine to look at but most are unoccupied. You'll be admiring the architecture of the structure and maybe the grounds. But the Loire Valley is charming and it is a wine region!

Posted by
1248 posts

I also recommend Tours for a base if you're without a car.

Villandry is easily accessible via bus, and the "Quart de Tours" tours offer transportation to 2-3 chateaux per trip.
Place Plumereau is a magical place, so is the guinguette next to the Loire.

Posted by
525 posts


How did you manage to get to Villandry by bus? Using the public transport system it's usually two bus trip, with the second bus only running twice a day

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful input. We've decided to rent a car near the Saint-Pierre-des-Corps train station in Tours so we have more flexibility to spend our limited time enjoying the area vs. adhering to public transpo schedules. We also appreciate the feedback about the small towns in the Loire and places to visit. Looking forward to our trip!

Posted by
1995 posts

Check out “France with Vero.” She is a RIck Steves tour guide living in Tours. She has a Facebook page as well as YouTube videos of the Loire region.