When we made plans to visit my boyfriend’s hometown near the Loire Valley, I knew we had to spend a day chateau hopping. The Loire Valley is a beautiful region in central France with over 300 castles. It’s even a UNESCO World Heritage site. Needless to say, I couldn’t miss a chance to visit a few beautiful French castles! We woke up with the sun to get an early start to the day; the first castle was a 2-hour drive from the little village we stayed in, Chatellerault. I didn’t want to waste any sunlight in the late-November day. Our first glimpse of the massive castle was down a long tree-lined driveway still painted the color of fall. I immediately imagined myself as a sixteenth century queen making my way home from a hunt on a horse-drawn carriage. Our day exploring the must visit castles in the Loire Valley had officially begun!
The enormous Chambord was our first stop. It is HUGE. This is the epitome of what you imagine a castle to be. There is a grand double spiral staircase in the center that leads to different floors, including a rooftop with great views of the gardens. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great while we were there. I was hoping to see the castle reflected in the moat but the cloudy gray sky just laughed at me. One advantage of the weather though, was that there were very few visitors and we had many parts of the castle to ourselves. That made it all worth it!
Must-See because… Huge castle, magnificent façade
What Chambord lacked in interior design, Cheverny made up for. This castle, while not especially magnificent on the exterior, is absolutely beautiful on the inside. It’s actually still owned and used by a French family, but the first floor is a re-creation of times gone by. Our visit in November meant that Christmas decorations were up, making it even more cozy and cute. But my absolute favorite part of the castle grounds was the dog kennels! I hadn’t seen my own dogs in weeks at this point so I loved checking out the French hunting hounds and hearing their bellowing barks.
Must-See because… Incredible interior, dog kennels
All 3 castles on our itinerary were so unique it is hard to pick a favorite, but I think I liked Chenonceau the most because it combined a stunning exterior with nice interior rooms. Luckily the clouds had finally parted for the day and we came just in time for a spectacular sunset over the castle. Chenonceau is dubbed “the ladies castle” due to some badass females being largely in charge of its construction and design over history. That in itself makes it a castle worth visiting! The two gardens (one side designed by the wife, the other by the mistress) are nice to take a stroll in as well as the small maze just off the main drive.
Must-See because… Fairy tale view over river, great gardens
There are so many more castles in the Loire Valley that are worth visiting, but these three are a great introduction to the area. They are close enough together that we drove to all in one day and had ample time during our visit to explore and take pictures. I definitely recommend making time for these three castles if you are in the Loire Valley; you won’t be disappointed!