Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley – Image courtesy of Ra Smit/Creative Commons
Introducing the Loire Valley
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Loire Valley is famous for its gourmet cuisine, fine wine, graceful châteaux and medieval history – the perfect destination for a honeymoon or romantic getaway.
For an insight into how French royalty once lived, take time to explore the many sumptuous châteaux that grace the valley's rich vineyards and forests.
What to do and see in the Loire Valley
Admire the decorative remnants of medieval fortifications at the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau; the amazing Château de Chenonceau, built on arched stone vaults above the Cher River; and the vast medieval fortress of Château d’Angers, which houses the 100m-long Tapestry of the Apocalypse.
Must-see sightseeing attractions in the Loire Valley, include:
Tapestry of the Apocalypse
Admire one of the greatest works of medieval art, a 100m-long tapestry displayed in the semi-ruined Château d'Angers. Woven between 1373 and 1382 AD for Louis I of Anjou, the colourful tapestry evokes the text of St John's vision of the Apocalypse, as described in the Book of Revelation.
Château de Chenonceau
Discover one of the most graceful and photographed of all the Renaissance château, featuring a section that stretches across arched stone piers above the slow-moving River Cher.
Built between 1513 and 1521, the château is nicknamed the ‘Chateau of the Ladies’ because its history (until recent times) has been dominated by a succession of women of the royal court, including Henri II ‘s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and his widow Catherine de Medici.
Tour the chateau’s palatial rooms, which feature tapestries, paintings attributed to Veronese, Tintoretto, Murillo and Rubens as well as numerous portraits of the château's female owners. Then get lost in the maze and gardens that are perfumed with the scent of roses.
Château de Chenonceau is located in Touraine on the bank of the Cher River, around 34kms from Tours and and is 214kms from Paris.
Château de Chambord
Explore more than 440 rooms of King Francois I’s Renaissance ‘hunting lodge’, the largest of the Loire châteaux and one of the most extravagant commissions of its day – built to outshine the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Climb the Great Staircase, a double spiral staircase that ascends to the roof, wander the mix of old and refurbished rooms as well as the Museum of Hunting to see magnificent 17th century tapestries.
Later, rent a bike, row a boat or explore on foot the Parc de Chambord, an immense walled game reserve – the largest in Europe – that surrounds the château. Look out for wild boars and red deer.
Château de Chambord is located 79kms northheast of Tours and 47kms southwest of Orleans.
This graceful, turreted château seems to rise out of the River Indre, although it’s actually built on a small island. Admire the decorative remnants of medieval fortifications, climb the central staircase, peer through the mullioned windows overlooking the moat and parkland and tour the portrait gallery with its portraits of 16th century Loire royalty including Francois I and Catherine de' Medici.
In summer, relive the medieval era during the evening son et lumiere (light and sound show). Don’t miss the nearby village to examine the Carolingian-era statues embedded in the façade of the church of St Symphorien.
Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is located 26kms southwest of Tours.