12 Loire châteaux that you have to visit at least once in your life
If you want to live a unique experience in France, you can not miss the Loire Valley, a territory declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, where you can admire more than fifty fairytale castles, surrounded by vineyards and dreamy landscapes. Here are 12 castles that are well worth a visit.
Château de Sully-sur-Loire
The Château de Sully-sur-Loire is a medieval fortress located on the banks of the Loire, in the department of Loiret. It was built in the late 14th century by Guy de La Trémouille and was the residence of the Dukes of Sully, including Maximilien de Béthune, minister of Henry IV. The castle is surrounded by a moat filled with water and has four circular towers and a square tower. It is possible to visit its interior, which houses a museum and a chapel.
Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany is a fortress and ducal palace located in the city of Nantes, in the Pays de la Loire region. It was built in the late 15th century by Francis II and Anne of Brittany, dukes of Brittany and kings of France. The castle has a Gothic and Renaissance style and is surrounded by a moat. Inside you can visit the Museum of History of Nantes, which tells the history of the city and the region.
The Château d’Angers is an imposing medieval fortress located in the department of Maine-et-Loire, on the banks of the Maine River. It was built between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries by the Counts of Anjou and the kings of France. It has 17 towers and a height of almost 40 meters. Inside you can visit the residence of the Dukes of Anjou, the chapel and the famous Tapestry of the Apocalypse, which represents the biblical book with 90 scenes.
Château de Blois
Blois Castle is one of the most emblematic of the Loire Valley and was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2000. It was the residence of several kings of France during the Renaissance and the scene of intrigues and assassinations. The castle shows four different architectural styles: medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and classical. You can visit its interior, which houses a museum of fine arts, and admire its light and sound show on the facade.
Château de Brissac
The Château de Brissac is an impressive fortress located in the Loire Valley, 20 km from Angers. It is the highest castle in France, with seven floors and 204 rooms. It was built in the eleventh century by the Count of Anjou and rebuilt in the fifteenth century by a minister of Charles VII. It belongs to the Brissac family since the 16th century and can be visited with a guide. Highlights include its gardens, its theater and its collection of tapestries.
Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord is the largest and most famous of the Loire châteaux. It was built by King François I in the 16th century as a hunting lodge and as a token of his power and wealth. The castle has a French Renaissance architecture that combines medieval and Italian elements. It is notable for its double helix staircase, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, and its 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces. It is surrounded by an extensive park and beautiful gardens.
Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau is a Renaissance jewel that stretches over the Cher River. It is known as the «ladies’ castle» because it was transformed by several illustrious women, such as Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, who gave it its current appearance. The castle has a gallery over the river, a chapel, a library and several halls decorated with antique furniture and tapestries. You can also visit its gardens, its labyrinth and its 16th century farm.
Royal fortress of Chinon
The Royal Fortress of Chinon is a medieval castle that stands on the Vienne River, in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It was founded by the Counts of Blois and passed into the hands of the Plantagenets and the Capets. It was the residence of Charles VII, who received Joan of Arc there in 1429. The castle has three fortified enclosures: the Saint-Georges fort, the Château du Milieu and the Coudray fort. You can visit its museum and ramparts.
Château de Langeais
Château de Langeais is a medieval fortress located in the Loire Valley, France. It was built by Foulques Nerra in the 10th century and enlarged by Richard the Lionheart. In the 15th century, Louis XI ordered its reconstruction in a flamboyant Gothic style. The castle preserves its drawbridge, its sculpted chimneys and its rooms decorated with furniture and tapestries. It was the site of the wedding of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany, which united France and Brittany.
The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a jewel of French Renaissance architecture, built between 1518 and 1523 by order of Gilles Berthelot, treasurer of Francis I. The castle stands on an island in the Indre River and is reflected in its waters. Its plan is L-shaped and its central staircase is the most remarkable feature. The castle was confiscated by the king and passed into the hands of the Biencourt family, who decorated it with elegance.
Château de Saumur
The Château de Saumur is a jewel of the French Renaissance that stands on the Loire River. It was built in the 10th century by the Counts of Blois and passed through the hands of the Plantagenets, the Anjou and the Capets. It was a royal residence, prison and military barracks. Today it is a museum that houses collections of decorative arts and horses. From its towers you can admire the beauty of the Loire Valley.
Château de Valençay
The Château de Valençay is a masterpiece of Renaissance and classical architecture, located in the department of Indre, near the Loire River. It was owned by Prince de Talleyrand, a famous diplomat who turned it into a center of power and culture. The castle houses historic furniture of great value, an imperial theater and splendid gardens. Ferdinand VII and Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in its halls, and the Treaty of Valençay was signed in 1813.