The Loire Valley is one of the many areas of France that seem to be straight out of a fairy tale. Here, castles can appear in any corner.
Among all the significant buildings in the Loire Valley, there is one that we love (we have already visited it twice!), which is the Château de Chenonceau, known as the Château des Dames.
We will tell you how to get there from Paris and why you should visit it. In addition, as all the castles of the Loire Valley are considered World Heritage Sites, we will also recommend some other castles worth visiting.
Opening hours: Most of the year, it is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm, but you can check the opening hours on the official website.
Tickets: You can buy tickets that will save you from waiting in line. Also, if you are traveling in high season, I recommend buying them at least a few days in advance. Same-day tickets are not usually available.
Where it is located: It is in the town of CHENONCEAUX, in the Loire Valley region, 14 kilometers from Ambroise and 235 kilometers from Paris.
Parking: The castle has a large free parking lot.
How long the visit lasts: the time of the visit is up to you, but at least dedicate a couple of hours to it. To tour the castle and read the explanations of what you are seeing.
The gardens are enormous, and you’re going to want to take lots of pictures, I guarantee it.
In addition, you can also visit the castle’s cellars or have a coffee in the cafeteria. Right in this area is where the bathrooms are located.
Guided tour with a guide in English: If you buy the ticket you will receive a brochure in English, with information about the castle and the most important curiosities.
We will tell you the alternatives you have to get from Paris to the Château de Chenonceau.
It is perhaps the most comfortable and fastest way to travel. Well, that will depend on the service you buy.
Some trips last less than 2 hours, and others last more than 4 hours. Prices also vary widely, ranging from $26 to $72.
There are no direct trains, so you’ll have at least one stop in all cases.
Some trains leave from Paris Montparnasse station; in that case, the first train you have to take is the TGV company and goes to St-Pierre-des-Corps station; from there, you have to take an SNCF train to Chenonceaux.
The other option is to take an SNCF train from Paris Bercy Bourgogne-Pays d’Auvergne, change trains at Nevers and then take the train to Chenonceaux.
From what we have seen, this combination is slower and more expensive.
You should look for the exit to the A10 freeway, number 18, called Château-Renault / Amboise. You will travel about 200 kilometers on the A10.
Then drive about ten kilometers on the D31 road, which is the one that goes to Amboise, and, finally, you will have to take the D81 to Chenonceaux, for a stretch of about 8 kilometers.
The total distance is 235 kilometers, and the trip takes almost 3 hours.
A Tour from Paris
You can also make the visit with a tour from Paris. The tour includes the Chateau of Chenonceau, Chateau of Chambord, and Chateau of Cheverny.
This tour lasts about 12 hours. You leave Paris at 7:00 am and arrive after 8:30 pm.
This is a fantastic tour if you are short on time and want to visit these beautiful castles in one day.
But, if you have time and want to visit these three castles on your own, I recommend you dedicate 2 or 3 days to the Loire Valley Castles. Then, the visit will be more relaxed, and you can go at your own pace.
If you are interested in the tour, click here to see if there is availability for your travel dates.
EXTRA TIP: plan what you will take in advance so you take everything you need and do not have to make extra expenses at the destination. You can download the PDF here; the price is up to you!
The Château de Chenonceau is one of those postcards that, when you discover it, you can’t believe it exists, and when you see it with your own eyes, you can’t believe it’s true.
It is not for nothing that it is the most visited privately managed historical monument in the country.
As soon as you see the castle of Chenonceau floating on the Cher river and perfectly reflecting on its waters, you will want to take thousands of pictures and stay several minutes enjoying the view.
If you go early, take the opportunity to walk around and at the end come back to enjoy the view outside at sunset, you will like it even more than before. The key is to observe it from the lookout point.
Now let’s see what’s inside the Château de Chenonceau.
Visit the interior of the Château de Chenonceau
Although the castle is not too big, it is good to dedicate time to this visit, since in addition to the building, it has a park and gardens that are worth as much as the castle.
Before entering the castle, you will find an Old Tower and a well are the oldest things in the enclosure.
They are there because that is where the original fortress was. Where the castle stands today, there used to be a mill.
The interior of the Château is one of the best examples of French Renaissance architecture and decoration and of all the luxury with which the aristocracy of the time lived.
In the first room, the guard room, you will see a collection of tapestries that the Court had moved between its various castles when they moved.
Then you can visit the chapel, with wonderful stained glass windows rebuilt after World War II, as they had been one of the few things damaged by the Germans.
Further, you will find the rooms of Diane de Poitiers, where you will see sculptures, paintings, the furniture used by this 16th-century aristocratic figure, and the fireplace, a sculpted work of art.
You will then enter the library and the green cabinet. It is said that Catherine de Medici ruled from these two rooms.
Today they are home to paintings by great painters such as Tintoretto, Ribera, and Van Dyck.
The kitchen is located in the basement, just above the river, so it was, and still is, at risk of flooding.
In addition to seeing an incredible collection of kitchen artifacts and antique china, you’ll see the water pumps ready for any disaster.
On the top floor of the Château de Chenonceau, you will see the room known as the Room of the Five Queens, in honor of the two daughters and three daughters-in-law of Catherine de Medici, all married to kings.
Upstairs you will also see, in another room, a collection of documents and historical archives of Chenonceau. In addition to seeing paintings, furniture, and art objects.
Here you will see (and be amazed) the bedroom of Luisa de Lorena. As soon as you enter, you will realize that it is a widow’s room, with black walls and decorated with all kinds of symbols of mourning. A rather gloomy setting.
After so many tapestries and furniture, it’s good to get back outside and breathe some fresh air. But, for that, nothing like the gardens of Chenonceau.
The initials of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers can be seen in the castle’s various rooms. The rivalry between these two women extends to the castle’s gardens, where a garden is dedicated to each.
We already told you that the exterior and interior of the castle are beautiful, and the truth is that the gardens do not clash at all.
So if you can, take advantage of the night walks during July and August, where you will have the opportunity to see the gardens illuminated.
It is the most popular and the largest of the castle gardens.
The garden is entered through the Regidor’s house. It was built in the 16th century and had its own pier and vineyard.
To protect the garden from the river’s floods, elevated terraces were built, from which magnificent views of the rest of the park and the castle.
The garden design is composed of 8 lawn triangles, which converge at a water fountain that was somewhat surprising at the time of its creation.
If you visit the castle in spring and summer, you will see a range of colors on the triangles thanks to the Santolina scrolls planted everywhere.
Catalina’s garden is smaller but no less beautiful. Here you will see a great variety of rose bushes and lavender plants that scent and give life and color to the whole garden.
And in the center of the garden, you will find a circular pond surrounded by the five panels that make up the garden.
The labyrinth is enormous, over a hectare in size, so you are guaranteed to get lost. However, if you go with children, it is an ideal place to play for a while. Finding the exit can take up to an hour.
In the center is an elevated gazebo, from which you can see the entire design of the labyrinth.
Inside the castle is the Cellar of Les Dômes de Chenonceau. Vineyards have existed in the castle since the 16th century.
A wine with Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Touraine-Chenonceaux is currently being produced.
During your visit to the Château de Chenonceau, you can taste these wines and, if you like them, buy some to take away.
The castle also has a restaurant, where you can taste local dishes and wines.
The present castle was built by Thomas Bohier, who was secretary of the treasury of King François I.
After an audit, it was discovered that he had embezzled funds, so the king fined him and recovered the feudal domains and the castle in 1535.
Henry II gave it to his favorite Diana de Poitiers, Duchess of Valentinois and one of the most important promoters of the castle’s beauty today.
Diana and Catherine had been rivals in the king’s heart, and once he died, Catherine became regent of the entire kingdom and forced Diana to restore the castle to the crown.
And Catalina made the extensions and reforms that gave the current style.
We already told you that there are many castles in the area, here we bring you 3 of the ones we liked the most.
It is located 12 kilometers from Chenonceau, in Amboise. Although it is a well-known mansion, its fame is much less than that of its most illustrious inhabitant: Leonardo da Vinci.
The castle has become a great tribute to Leonardo. In the basement are exposed numerous sketches of the most ingenious inventions of the genius that took centuries to become a reality, such as a helicopter and the tank.
Walking through the gardens of the Clos Lucé castle, you will find models of these inventions.
In addition, you will be able to enjoy an immersive exhibition, with 17 works by the master Da Vinci presented in different formats, such as models, 3D images, and video games.
It is a medieval jewel and one of the most important castles in the Loire Valley.
In the gardens of this castle is the chapel of St. Hubertus, where Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb is located.
You will have magnificent views of the Loire River from the castle’s terraces.
From the city of Amboise, you can hire an excursion to visit the Château de Chenonceau. Visit the Château de Chenonceau and the Chambord Castle. It also includes a visit to the Duhard winery.
It is a perfect tour if you are staying in Amboise if you don’t feel like driving and prefer to travel with an expert guide.
It is one of the most famous castles in the region and one of the most incredible you will see in all of France.
Francis I of France was one of the driving forces of the Renaissance, so his castle is a monument to that architectural style. Leonardo himself participated in the design of his castle.
There are several rooms not to be missed, such as the royal chapel, the rooms of Louis XIV, and the staircase believed to have been designed by Leonardo.
Plan your trip to Paris and the Loire Valley
- How to Get to Versailles from Paris
- Visiting Champagne from Paris
- Romantic plans in Paris
- How to visit Giverny from Paris and when is the best time to go.
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