Any recommendations on which castles to see in the Loire Valley and places to stay?
These chateaux are at the top of some travelers' lists:ChambordChenonceauChevernyAmboiseAzay-le-RideauVillandry
There are others, as well.
You may find it helpful to read the Loire Valley chapter in Rick's book France or get another guidebook, so you have the best information.
Places to stay: It depends partly on which chateaux you decide to see, and on whether you have a car:
Amboise is a good home base for first timers to this area, as if offers handy access to about 8 of the important chateaux.
Rick thinks Chinon appeals to the "road less traveled types" (his words).
I think you would want to make sure to see Chateau de Chenonceau in the village of Chenonceaux and Chateau de Chambord around Blois. A good place to stay in Chenonceaux is the Hotel la Roseraie which is recommended in Rick's France guidebook. The owners are a delightful couple and we were served the best food of our recent trip in their restaurant. There is limited seating for dining so if you decide to go to Chenonceaux and wish to eat there it would be advisable to make reservations. Their place is popular with locals and fills up fast. Even if you do not stay at their hotel you would enjoy a meal there. If you go to Chambord there is a hotel with a view of the Chateau (Hotel du Grand St. Michel) which is also mentioned in Rick's book. Both of these places have web sites and reservations can be made on line. There are many Chateaus to see in the Loire Valley so it would depend on how much time you have to devote to that area. A car would be an advantage for sightseeing in the Loire Valley. Hotel Rosarie has parking for their guests. A good guide book will help you to decide and Rick covers this area really well in his book.
If you stay in Amboise, you'll pass Chaumont-sur-Loire on the way to Chambord. Of all the chateaux in the Loire Valley, this one probably most resembles a fairy tale castle (one of several castles that influenced the Disney Company in it's castle designs). The decor here is a little more elaborate than many of the other chateaux (The interior of Chambord is rather stark in comparison). The gardens are also wonderful.
Plan on visiting two chateaux per day.
I'm assuming you will have a car.
We have stayed at the Hotel le Fleuray near Amboise twice in the last 5 years - www.lefleurayhotel.com.
It is owned by a charming English family and makes a wonderful base from which to venture out to the various chateaux. I would definitely recommend those mentioned by Kent. Another really charming chateau that we discovered is "Chateau de Valmers". You cannot actually tour the house itself but they have extensive grounds and a truly amazing vegetable garden where they are propagating old seeds and "heritage" type vegetables as well as new varieties. It is fascinating. They also make a very good Vouvray and they have a tasting room on the property. I would agree with Tom. Don't try to do more than two chateaux per day. There can be a lot of walking and climbing.
Others have recommended chateaus. I would highly recommend the Chateau des Tertres in Onzain as a place to stay (www.chateau-tertres.com). We stayed there 10 years ago, and are going back there in three weeks. The room prices are quite reasonable.
Another thought that occurred to me when considering which chateaux to visit. You can do it two ways- pick a place to stay , then research which chateaux are within a reasonable distance, or pick which one's you want to see and find lodging in a convenient central area. I mention this because the Loire Valley is fairly large and some of the chateaux lie a great distance from each other. A good way to pick a chateau for your itinerary- check the entry on Wikipedia and see which one's interest you:
You'll see links to the individual chateaux at the bottom of the page.
Joan, after you've seen the "heavy hitters" (or maybe instead) and viewed their magnificent, um, tour buses and parking lots, head on over to Château de Brézé for a nice change of pace and a truly interesting experience. It's a castle built on top of an ancient underground fortress.
Chambord is cool too, but skip the equestrian show. Also, Saumur. Go there.
My favorite chateau is Chenonceau. The long, beautiful, tree-canopied walk up to the chateau is wonderful, as are the grounds all around it. We spent hours in the grounds, particularly the area that was like a little village. It's magical. The cafeteria they have there actually has good food, we sat outside with a beautiful view of the chateau...doesn't get much better than that for me.
Twenty miles from Chenonceau is Clos de Luce, Leonardo's final home. While it isn't technically a chateau, it is fascinating to visit his home and gardens.
If you like gardens, Chenonceau and Villandry have spectacular gardens and the chateaux are lovely, too. We stayed at the Hotel Diderot in Chinon and were very pleased with the hotel and the breakfast.
VILLANDRY! Car or bike is needed but Villandry was the hightpoint of our visit. If you only visit one chateau go here. Not as crowded as most and the gardens are amazing. Avoid Chenonceau until later in the day, after 4:00. The crowds are huge and reconstruction castle is distracting. Rent a little boat and view the castle from it's best side.
Azay le Rideau has a wonderful exibition on Psyche.
Amboise is a great home base. Pretty town along the Loire River.
I've been to Chenonceau 3 times in the past 8 years and it was never crowded when we were there, which was most of the day each time. Maybe we were just lucky. Whatever chateau(x) you choose, a weekday would be better than a weekend day.
Many thanks to everyone for your responses. Our trip is still in the beginning planning stages. I am hoping to paint/sketch some of the castles...I do watercolors and am more interested in the outsides of the castles than the insides of them. I've checked out photos of some of them to get an idea of which ones would be best.
JOAN, my wife and I visited the Loire Valley last May and were impressed with all of the castles you listed, except for Chenonceau. This castle was under major rennovation and much of it was closed, including some of the gardens. Although higly regarded, this may not be the summer to visit. We were disappointed. We followed RS advise and spend two nights each in Chinon and Amboise. Dorsey
Dorsey - Thanks for the heads-up about the renovations at Chenonceau!!
We stayed in Amboise for 2 nights in Sept 08, a very charming town. We stayed at La Grange, it's in RS, which was lovely. Rented a car for a day and saw Chenonceau and Cheverny...had to choose between a wine tour in Vouvray or a third castle, and we picked wine instead of the chateau in Amboise.
Anyway, we loved loved loved Chenonceau but were less impressed with Cheverny. It's privately owned (the family still lives in half) and it just seemed much more commercial which turned us off a little. Likely didn't help that it was pouring rain when we got there though.
In May 2008 we stayed at the Auberge des Launay and liked it a lot. It is across the river from Amboise, along the road (blessedly not in any city or town so no "urban driving" experiences daily). It was very convenient for touring all the major chateaeux. We did a few each day over four days. The hotel has comfortable rooms and a fantastic restuarant with lovely garden seating. We got the bfast/dinner plan and loved it. Great to come back each night after running wild and have a four course dinner equivalent to any I have had on any cruise (lots) in our own backyard. We had terrific food and ordered wine several nights. We'd never done a place like this and it was a highlight of our trip. All for less than our shabby hotel in Paris alone. Found this place on tripadvisor, loved it, and highly recommend. And...saw it featured in this summer issue of Frommer's Budget Travel.Good luck. The Loire is a fascinating area, with lots to see.
We loved our stay in Ambois. Can recommend a wonderful place to stay just below the castle. As others have advised a visit to Vilandrey and Chenacaue, sorry I butcher the spellings. If interested I will have to look up name of hotel. Small hotel with beautiful rooms. You can go on line to see the rooms. Couple blocks from down town. Lots of restaurants. In the AM grab some cheese, salami, wine and go on with your day. Enjoy.
We visited this area two years ago and stayed at Le Fleuray...it is outside of Amboise ....but driveable. We toured two of the chateaus but then took a balloon ride ...it was perfect and I would recommend it,,we went with Montgolfier. It was expensive but awesome. Check out their website.
We just returned yesterday from France and our third visit to the Loire Valley. We have visited all of the chateaux on Kent's list. Each one has its own special charm and individuality. We stayed in Amboise at the Manoir Les Minimes in the shadow of the Amboise Chateau. It was a great centralized location. For an especially nice dinner, try Le Pavillon des Lys (also recommended in Rick's book. Have a wonderful trip.
I travelled to Amboise (stayed there 3 nights and day-tripped) this past June and visited Chenonceau, Chambord, Cheverny, and Chaumont chateaux. [It was my first trip to the Loire Valley.] Chaumont was probably my favorite (most fairy tale castle-like and cute), then Chenonceau (fairly easy to bike to from Amboise), and then Cheverny (nice interiors; tour of the house felt set up like a historic house tour in the US, with roped-off doorways so you can look in). Chambord was impressive from the outside, but one of the floors was under construction (2nd floor, I think), plus some of the roof, and it just wasn't my cup of tea.
I loved visiting Chinon. Unlike many of the other chateaux it is not restored. But this was the home of Henry and Eleanor and is wonderful. I also liked the Abbey which is nearby that is where they were buried. It is restored. It's southwest of Tours. Pam
We recently returned from a trip which included the Loire Valley. We stayed in Amboise and it was a good base. Right in Amboise there is a chateau and the house Leonardo da Vinci lived in at the end of his life. We enjoyed both. For everyone in my family, Chenonceau was the favorite. The gardens were lovely and really added to the visit for me, so it might be different at a different time of year. We also visited Chambord, Chaumont and Cheverny. So I guess we saw three per day, which was plenty but didn't seem like too much for us.