Exploring Castles in France

Exploring Castles in France

GET marketing staffer Caitlin traveled to France for a firsthand look at the country’s highlights. Read about her unforgettable day exploring stunning castles in the Loire Valley.

Located a few hours south of Paris lies France’s Loire Valley.  Spotted with open fields, winding rivers, dense patches of forest and hundreds of châteaux — the Loire offers travelers an unforgettable perspective of French life through the eyes of its nobility.  As we make our way south toward Provence, we stopped here for a much anticipated day of castle-hopping. Keep reading to find out more about the jaw-dropping châteaux we visited.

VILLANDRY

We began our day at Château Villandry.  The castle, which was completed in 1536, was the last of the great Renaissance castles to be constructed in the Loire.  In the 18th century, a new lord of Villandry added large service quarters on either side of the forecourt.  The castle’s six gardens were maintained and remain beautifully preserved to this day.

My favorite part of the grounds were the decorative vegetable gardens — pictured behind me in the photo above.  Known as the “kitchen gardens” (jardin potager in French), the area consists of nine patches made of different geometric motifs.  Throughout the year you can find just about every vegetable imaginable in the castle’s gardens — including beautiful splashes of orange pumpkins during the autumn and winter months.  All of the produce is grown organically, and some of it can even be sampled at the Chateau’s restaurant.

Villandry’s arbour maze, pictured above, is another impressive example of Renaissance design.

CHENONCEAU

Next up on our castle tour was Château Chenonceau.  Originally built in 1513, the castle was successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers then Catherine de Medici.  A visionary castle from the Renaissance up until the Age of Enlightenment, Chenonceau has always benefited from innovation and the greatest thinkers and philosophers of its time.  Today, visitors flock from around the world to witness its well-preserved beauty, making it the second most visited castle in France after Versailles.

Chenonceau is completed with lavishly furnished interiors, including the living room of Louis XIV, a guards’ room, library, and study — but my favorite of all were the kitchens.  The enormous space includes a dining room where castle employees had their meals, a butchery, and larder.  During the First World War these Renaissance kitchens were even fitted out with modern equipment to convert the castle into a hospital.  It was fascinating to tour the space and imagine how feasts were prepared for figures such as Louise de Lorraine.

The most impressive views, however, be seen from the side of the castle where it rises above the Cher river.  Magnifique!

AMBOISE

Our final stop was in the town of Amboise for a tour of its castle, Château Amboise.  A place of royal power in the Renaissance, the castle housed many of the Valois and Bourbon kings.  Countless events of political and social significance took place here: it’s where Charles VIII was born, the children of Henri II and Catherine de Medici were raised, and numerous conspiracies and peace treaties emerged.

It is also reputed to be the final resting place of Leonardo da Vinci.  In the castle’s Gothic cathedral – pictured above – you can visit the tomb where he is believed to be buried.

The town itself, which has been occupied since Neolithic times, is a lovely place to have lunch or spend some time exploring the ancient streets of the old quarter.

À bientôt!

— Caitlin

 

Explore castles in France on Best of France and Normandy, Brittany, & Loire Valley. For more inspiration, browse our entire collection of French Vacations.

 

10 thoughts on “Exploring Castles in France

  • June 14, 2015 at 6:33 am
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    all travel sites have to start offering more single travel options?? We makeup 30% of the population in the U.S. By most estimates and in the 55 and above much more. Paying for a second person when none is there is not an option for most of us. A single supplement something.
    Kathleen

    Reply
    • June 16, 2015 at 8:46 am
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      Hi Kathleen, thanks for your question. We have many solo travelers on our vacations, and regularly offer specials on both River Cruises and Guided Vacations. You can find our current list of specials on River Cruises here and Guided Vacations here. And feel free to give one of our Travel Specialists a call at 1-800-552-5545 with any other questions or for help selecting a trip that’s right for you.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2015 at 8:35 am
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    Thank you for sharing about our wonderful trip! Your pictures are wonderful. Seeing your lovely face brings back as many happy memories as the beautiful countryside. Keep us up to date about “Luca Ian”

    Reply
    • June 15, 2015 at 8:36 am
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      Thank you, Linda! It was great getting to know you and Judy. I hope you enjoyed your trip and that you got lots of great photos along the way.
      Feel free to send me some if you have any great ones to share! My email is caitlin.junkin@getours.com.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2015 at 10:26 am
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    Caitlin,
    Thanks for the great article which touched only a part of our fantastic trip. From Paris to Nice we were introduced to a beautiful country and its friendly people. You and Ian(our guide)are great representatives of Grand European Tours! Best wishes for a happy future and motherhood!

    Reply
    • June 15, 2015 at 8:39 am
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      Thank you so much, Carl! I had a great time getting to know you and Terry and am glad to hear that you have such great memories from the trip.
      Please come see us sometime and I’ll buy you a coffee!

      Reply
  • June 14, 2015 at 11:42 am
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    Visited all but Amboise with Grand Europeans sister company Insight Vacations in May of 2015. I can attest: Villandry and Chenonceau are spectacular….each in their own way. Villandry for the gardens that are a wonder of French symetry and Chenonceau for the setting, history and glorious architecture! Don’t ever go to the Loire Valley without including at least these two sites.

    Reply
  • June 15, 2015 at 8:08 pm
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    Having toured the Loire Valley castles back in 2001 I can attest to the wonderful chateaux which await an intrepid follower of castles. I took my tour with castlesoftheworld.org back in September of that year and enjoyed Chenonceau and explored every single inch of Villandry which I will never forget. It was marvelous.

    Reply
  • February 18, 2019 at 11:16 am
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    Which tours cover the Loire Valley?

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    • February 19, 2019 at 11:52 am
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      Hi Jane,

      I’ve given your information to our team of Travel Specialist, please expect one of them to be in touch shortly to help you find the best trip for exploring the Loire Valley.

      All the best!

      Reply

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