I’m thinking of going to the Loire Valley next week, leaving Paris on Monday. I would like to see Villandry, Chenonceau, and Clos Lucé at a minimum, but would be very glad to add other castles. It is supposed to rain Monday and Thursday, and I am not sure how much public transport will be available on Sunday, so those may be limiting factors. I would like to leave by Saturday night to go back to Paris, and am thinking of using Airbnb for lodging. I’ve never driven in France and would need an automatic, so am trying to avoid that. More than the chateaux, I am interested in the gardens and would like to see what I can before it is too late in the season. Just wondering if anyone could suggest an itinerary using public transport, or any other tips. Thank you for any experience/advice.
Without a car, and given the locations you mention, I would stay in Tours, specifically the area surrounding Place Plumereau, the cathedral, and Tours Centre, the train station. There are a number of delightful hotel possibilities, my preference would be the Maison Jules.
The Office de Tourisme, across the street from Tours Centre, offers a number of minivan tours of local châteaux, you can take a look here:
A number of locations are easily visited by train: Blois, Amboise (le Clos Lucé), or Chenonceau. Chaumont s/Loire is also available by train which has an interesting château, but you may want to visit here because of the annual garden competition:
We, too, are visiting the Loire Valley without a car. I booked a couple of day tours of several chateaus through a company that was recommended by another poster on the Rick Steves forum a while ago.
The company is Acco Dispo Excursions (www.accodispo-tours.com). They have tours starting from Tours, or from Amboise. They offer full day (3,4 chateaus) or a half day. Mini van transportation. The fee (approx. 60-80 euros depending on the tour) is for the travel only - admissions are extra. Check out their website to see if this fits your traveling needs.
We are staying in Amboise, and will be taking two tours with acco-dispo in mid October. I will post again with a review.
I hope you enjoy your time in the Loire Valley.
Thank you, Camille, and thank you, too, Tocard, for your helpful advice!
Unfortunately, an issue came up with my daughter here in Switzerland almost right after I posted, and I have spent the last two weeks helping her and so was not able to get back to France. I do hope to try again next spring, which seems to be prime time for those gardens I’ve been wanting to see.
Best wishes on your upcoming trip, Camille, and thank you again!
"...glad to add other castles." If one of these chateaux you have in mind is Chambord, then I would suggest staying in Orleans or Blois. The regional train goes from Orleans to Blois, where at the station a bus takes you to Chambord. I did an afternoon trip to Orleans this time from Paris, didn't make it out to Blois (reserved for next summer), spent that hot afternoon all in Orleans, the centre ville.
Good to know, Fred. Thank you!
For those considering Loire valley without a car, we used the Navette Chataeux bus in 2022 (after finding the link on this forum). It worked great. I see it's running in 2023, so I assume likely 2024 also. We stayed in Blois specifically to use the bus. The Ibis near the train station was no frills, but fine: Rooms were very small, but AC, shower, beds were great. I'd stay there again. Lovely staff.
The place to catch the bus is a bit tricky--just 1.5 blocks from Ibis--it's at the bus stop BELOW the tourist info office. At Chambord, there's also a great coop wine store with tasting from automated machines that have info about the winery, region, etc.
To be closer to Chenonceau, we went the 1st night to Tours, where we could get a train. There was a strike, so we had to do a quick pivot--we took a day tour that also included Ambois or Clos de Luce. We could have taken one that would drop us off in Blois, but we weren't organized enough to do that when we booked the tour (which was about $60PP). This actually worked out great, and I'd do the same again.
In 2019, I stayed at Hotel L’Adresse near Place Plumereau in the historic center. I liked the location, room & breakfast. I had an attic room and was unable to get a good wifi connection as I went to my top floor.
I had reserved a chateau tour with Acco-Dispo, but they needed more participants, so I switched to a tour with A La Francaise. For this tour, a couple from Ireland & I went to see the outstanding gardens at Villandry. Our guide walked us through the chateau to see the rooms and see the garden views. Afterwards, she provided a relaxing picnic on the grounds of Chateau L'Iselette. The first tour I had planned to take was going to be intense, covering four chateaus during an entire day. This half-day tour turned out to be the opposite - very relaxing, and I really enjoyed the chance to relax in the country setting and hear much more about living in France from our young guide. Villandry is gorgeous and had been my top priority, and we had plenty of time there to enjoy the setting, arriving before it was crowded. (I had seen some of the other chateaus years ago.)