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where to stay in the loire valley

My husband and I will be staying in the Loire Valley for a few days (3-5) in May. Any recommendations on the best little town/village to stay in? We would like to use public transportation, but will rent a car if that is the better option to maximize what we can see and do.

Posted by
3614 posts

I suggest that 5 days is too much for the Loire Valley. Add 2 of those to Provence, which is huge and packed with wonderful sights. If you do that, you could have enough time to use 2 bases, one in the west and one further east.

Posted by
10344 posts

Loire Valley: If you want to visit some of the better known chateaus in the country where the rail lines don't go, then the Loire Valley can be a place where the hassle of driving can be worth it: gives you more flexibility, avoid driving in the bigger towns.
Some travelers are happy not renting a car, and just seeing the chateaus near the rail lines, combining rail with either public transportation and/or van/shuttle tours.

Depends on whether your bucket list includes the chateaus that are out in the country.

Provence: Similar advice as above for Provence. If you want to see places like Les Baux, a car is worth the trouble. But you don't want to, or need to, drive in places like Avignon or Nimes. The main urban areas are well served by rail, but not the country locations.

Posted by
112 posts

I really appreciate the information in these replies. I am still at a loss as to how to choose be best place for a home base in the Loire valley. Anyone have suggestions for that?

Posted by
10331 posts

I will be staying in Amboise next month and we will have a car. I chose it for the proximity to the places I want to see. I wanted to be in a town, as opposed to out in the country, so we could walk to dinner and have some wine without having to drive afterwards. This will be my first time in the area, so I can't say if 5 days would be too much. We are staying 3 nights.

Posted by
809 posts

Next month I'm spending more than a week in the Loire valley. We are planning to see a LOT of castles/chateaux; we start with 2 nights in Azay-le-Rideau to see some of the older castles west of Tours, then move to a 5-day rental cottage in La Croix en Touraine for some castles more to the east, and finish up outside Cheverny for 2 nights to see Chaumont, Chambord, and Cheverny. So think about which sights you want to see, and that may determine your location. Some of the castles are available by public transit, but a car will give you a lot more flexibility; it's easy driving in that area and you can pick up a car at the Tours or Amboise train station.

Ten years ago, on our previous trip, we stayed very near Chenonceau for one night at Hotel la Roseraie [very pleasant] and just saw Clos Luce [in Amboise; Leonardo da Vinci's last home], Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more this time. Happy planning!

Posted by
755 posts

We stayed in Amboise last summer for 4 nights and loved it! Easy to visit main chateaux by public transportation and/or shuttles.

Posted by
9429 posts

We've stayed in Amboise two times for 4 nights each time and really loved it. I've stayed two other places on previous trips and didn't like them as much as Amboise. I would be very happy spending a week in the Loire Valley. I highly recommend renting a car. In fact, I wouldn't go if I didn't have a car. Part of the fun for us is leisurely driving the two lane roads, exploring and enjoying all there is to enjoy there with the convenience of our own car.

Posted by
2916 posts

I'd also recommend Amboise, and renting a car. We've visited the Loire Valley several times with a car, and the one time we did it w/o a car it was more difficult getting to where we wanted to go.

Posted by
255 posts

Best place by far to stay in is Amboise. Convenient to all the best Chateaux and a nice village. We were just there in May and it is a great time to go there. Great weather and no crowds. We liked the hotel Le Manor Les Minimes which has great views of the Chateau, free parking and is a 3 minute walk to the town center. You really need a car and no more than 3 nights unless you are really Chateauxists!!!

Posted by
31 posts

I would rent a car, it is easy to drive in this area. I have stayed in Amboise and Blois. Either is fine, but i prefer Blois. It is a little smaller and I loved the hotel we stayed in, Hotel de France et de Guise. It is a two star hotel, that is family owned and operated, in the heart of downtown Blois. It is also within walking distance from from the Chateau de Blois, which has a light show projected on the chateau at night. (Be sure to ask which night the show is in English, if you don't speak French) The show tells the history of the chateau.

www.franceetguise.com

Have fun!

Posted by
9429 posts

I was surprised to read in the post above that Blois is smaller than Amboise.... I'm thinking that was a typo. Blois is a city and the capital of the department (population: 46,000). Amboise is a small town (population: 12,000).

Posted by
6619 posts

Susan's right about the city sizes, and I think Amboise might be a little more central for the Loire country as a whole. The OP is looking for a "little town/village" and Amboise is closer to that.

But I agree that the chateau in Blois is well worth seeing, especially if you have 5 days. Unlike some of the "jewel box" places like Chenonceau, Chambord, Azay, Villandry, it's a mix of periods and styles, plus it has a rich history.

You might consider a cottage or apartment on the Gites de France website. Many of them are in small towns but still in easy reach of chateaux and other sights with a car. (I'd strongly recommend a car to get the most for your time.) I haven't used but friends and other posters have recommended. Go for 5 days if you can.

Posted by
9429 posts

I agree with Dick, I really like the chateau in Blois, and the city itself. But then, I like all the chateaux... every one of them. The history that took place in each one is fascinating to me. The more you learn about the history before you go, the more you will enjoy them.

Posted by
33123 posts

I'd consider strongly having a car if chateau hopping - only a few are in town centres. There is free parking at most, including Chenonceau.

I happily stayed at a very small chateau between Blois and Amboise, but you definitely need a car as it is several km from the nearest station.

Posted by
7490 posts

Susan, I wonder if you really meant to ask about what to see in the Loire. I ask because for us, the key decision before selecting a hotel was to consider which Chateaux and other sights (like Fontevraud Abbey, or the ruined but evocative Chinon castle) were a must. Then decide whether to stay East or West of Tours. For us, the decision pivoted around Tours because we wanted to take the TGV directly from CDG airport. Perhaps the next issue is whether you want to stay in a town or out of town. (Chinon looked attractive for a city stay-maybe even without a car.) BTW, although we were pleased enough with our upscale countryside chateau, Château de Marçay, despite being far out of town, the stay was slightly marred by a huge (I only mean, for the size of the hotel) escorted bicycle tour one night.

Certainly, one could argue that certain Chateaux are a "must". We made our decision based on the plan to drive next to Dinard and Mont St. Michel. I found the east-west driving (rental car) to be more time-consuming than expected, so I'm not devastated by having missed the easterly chateaux. And wow, was I surprised to find Homer Simpson's nuclear plant in Chinon. Our own must-sees were Villandry and Azay, but not simply for guidebook reasons. And although May is early for this, I always advise visitors to check for candlelight or son-et-lumiere exterior night events.

Posted by
295 posts

Amboise or Chinon make the best base to explore the Loire Valley. I did this area with a car and that's really best. You can then drop the car off in Tours or another close town and then hop back on the train. Villandry, Chenonceaux, Azay are great stops. Another option is you would like to be in a smaller town would be to rent a car and sleep in Loches. You could also base in Amboise and bike or hire a shuttle to explore the area or depending on the season take buses.

Posted by
2462 posts

I stayed twice in Onzain, halfway between Blois and Amboise, across the river from Chaumont.

To visit the chateaux, get a car (or a bike if you are so inclined)

Posted by
2004 posts

If you have five days for the Loire Valley it´s best to look for some variation to my opinion. If you are only focussed on castles there is the risk to get (believe it or not) sooner or later fed up with it. A car gives you the flexibility to see other things and places and also be lesser dependent on the route and timetable of public transport. It gives you also more flexibility to select the place you like to stay at a more remote location.

To get more involved what to see and experience, get to know before the visit something about the Renaissance period and key figures like François I, Henry II, earlier period Jeanne d’Arc in case of Chinon, etc.

Posted by
784 posts

I like the village of Ozain, which is across the river from Chaumont and just a little west of Blois. The reason why I like it is that there is a bridge crossing the river over to Chaumont which makes it very easy to access both sides of the river without having to deal with the traffic in the larger cities such as Amboise and Tours. We were able to see all of the chateaux we could possibly want to see from that base. Yes, I do think you need to have a car to explore the Loire Valley. It will allow you to time your visits to the chateau when it is less busy, ie., where there are few bus tours. For example, our B&B hosts suggested that we visit Chenenceau at noon as there are fewer bus tours at that time.

Posted by
9429 posts

"without having to deal with the traffic in the larger cities such as Amboise and Tours"

Amboise is not a city. Amboise is a small town, mostly residential. Cars drive by on the street along the river but we never saw any traffic in the town itself the two times we've stayed there. It's the opposite of Tours.