When thinking of French castles and palaces, luxurious châteaux like Versailles may spring to mind. One of the country’s most idyllic regions happens to be chock full of dazzling castles. These extravagant buildings harbor so much history behind their stone walls and are beautiful to look at. What’s better? Many of them are easy to reach by bus with regular connections between cities like Samur, Tour and Blois. If you’re a history lover, then be sure to plan a trip to France and explore as many châteaux as you can!
The castle of Azay-le-Rideau
Built on an island in the Indre, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is impressive inside and out. WIth gardens designed in the 19th century and tapestries dating from the 17th century, it’s a feast for the eyes. Before seducing tourists from around the world, Azay-le-Rideau amazed esteemed authors. Balzac, for example, compared it to a “polished diamond.”
Getting There: To reach the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, you can take a bus to Tours or Saumur.
The castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire
This castle is part of a large property that belonged to Marie de Medici. Today, the house is renowned for its contemporary art center in addition to the annual garden festival which takes place there from April to October.
Getting There: To reach the castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire, you can take a bus to Blois.
Chinon Castle is a must-see for history buffs. Located above the Vienne, it is a royal fortress that dates back to the early 12th century. Chinon has seen many important events, such as the death of Henri II and the meeting between Charles VII and Joan of Arc.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Chinon, you can take a bus to Saumur.
Built under Louis XI in 1465, the Château de Langeais surprises with two very different sides. Its feudal exterior, reminiscent of a fortress, meets a Renaissance interior consistent with the prestige of a royal residence. Today, this castle is famous for having hosted the wedding of King Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Langeais, you can take a bus to Tours or Saumur.
Legend has it that this castle, located in the town of Rigny-Ussé, was the inspiration for writing La Belle au Bois Dormant. Whether it is a myth or a reality, the Château d’Ussé has all the assets to captivate and inspire romantic couples as well as children who love fairy tales. Naturally, it’s one of the most striking châteaux in France.
Getting There: To reach the Château d’Ussé, you can take a bus to Saumur or Tours.
The castle of Villandry
Dating from 1532, the Château de Villandry went through a long period of renovation at the start of the 20th century. Currently, spring and summer are the perfect seasons to visit. The castle is world famous for its French gardens, manicured with grace and elegance. Here, you’ll find floral and ornamental beauties in every alley.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Villandry, you can take a bus to Tours.
The Château de Cheverny is distinguished by its interior decoration and furniture, imagined and created by a local craftsman at the time of Marie de Médici. The walls, in particular, are adorned with exquisitely patterned tapestries and paintings. The curtains reflect natural light that enters through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Cheverny, you can take a bus to Blois.
More organized like a museum than a castle, the royal residence of Blois is worth a visit to understand why so many castles were built in the Loire Valley region. One of the favorites of François I, it is also in Blois that Joan of Arc received a flag in 1429 before going to fight the English.
Getting There: To reach the castle of Blois, you can take a bus to Blois.
The castle of Chambord
This is one of the most famous châteaux in France. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Château de Chambord is one of the best known in the Loire Valley. For a complete visit, you will have to spend the day there, alternating between indoor and outdoor discoveries. Outside, you will be able to explore the entire area along the 30 km long surrounding wall.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Chambord, you can take a bus to Blois.
The architecture of this castle is characterized by the transformation of the original medieval fortress into an extravagant gothic palace in the Charles VIII era. In the Saint-Hubert chapel, you can discover the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci, who loved the Loire Valley, where he spent many years of his life.
Getting There: To reach the Château d’Amboise, you can take a bus to Tours.
Clos Lucé castle
Located atop a hill above the fortified city of Amboise, Clos Lucé, dates from 1471, and was once the residence of Leonardo da Vinci. François I decided to make it a holiday resort, but also a place of work, during his visits to Amboise. Its charm, closer to that of a country manor than a royal residence, will surprise you.
Getting There: To reach the Clos Lucé castle, you can take a bus to Tours or Blois.
The residence of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II, later became the home of his wife Catherine de Médici. Chenonceaux is the second most visited castle in France, after Versailles. Its most notable feature is its construction spanning the Cher. Gothic-style columns give the impression that this castle is a bridge over the river.
Getting There: To reach the Château de Chenonceaux, you can take a bus to Tours.
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