The Châteaux of the Loire: the most beautiful visits

The Loire Valley is known worldwide for its great Renaissance castles: Blois, Chambord, Amboise, Chenonceau and many others! There's nothing like a bike trip to discover this unique architectural heritage in the world. On the way to Blois and Saumur you only need to travel a few kilometers to go from one castle to another. Whether you choose a route along the banks of the Loire, along its tributaries or in the heart of the forest, it is a festival of royal castles (Amboise, Blois, Chambord, etc.), medieval fortresses (Loches, Chinon, Montbazon) and private castles (Chenonceau, Rigny-Ussé, Beauregard, etc.) which punctuate the itineraries of cycle tourists.

Visit the most beautiful castles of the Loire

The simple question that all travelers ask themselves: which are the most beautiful castles of the Loire to visit? The answer is much more complex as the castles of the Loire Valley are numerous and majestic. Each has its own particularities linked to its architecture, its environment, its history and its characters. Royal castles or private castles, all worth visiting! Of course, at Trip à Vélo we have our favorites. The Loire Valley has always been our region, so when the childhood memories of a little girl mix with the curiosity and passion of an adult, this necessarily gives a subjective classification, because in reality, we love them all!

Our top 5 of the most beautiful castles of the Loire

1. The Château de Chenonceau

It is a “little gem” of the French Renaissance, of rare elegance. The two-story gallery bridge which spans the Cher is a unique structure in the world, magnified by the water mirror offered by the river. Nicknamed the Château des Dames, it was occupied by Diane de Poitiers, official and powerful mistress of King Henry II. Following his tragic death during a tournament, his widow Catherine de Medici took the castle back from her rival. Both have made Chenonceau this magnificent building. A few years later, Louise de Lorraine, widow of Henry III, retired to the castle. His room, dark and gloomy, is a curiosity. The gardens of Chenonceau, which bear the label “Jardins Remarquables”, are a superb testimony to the art of gardens which developed in the 16th century in France, under the influence of the Italian Renaissance. They form perfect harmony with the castle.

2. The Château de Blois

This royal castle has the particularity of having been built in the city center. However, the great richness of the building is exhibited on its facades, both on the street and on the courtyard. Thus, the four styles which marked the architecture of castles in France, from the 13th to the 17th century, are represented very distinctly on each of the wings: medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and classical. Seven kings and ten queens of France lived at the Château de Blois. They left a strong mark, starting with their emblems, the porcupine of Louis XII, the salamander of François I, the ermine of Anne of Brittany... Here, there is no need for spectacular staging to immerse the visitor in the heavy atmosphere of the court: Catherine de Medici's chamber of secrets, assassination of the Duke of Guise, spectacular escape of Marie de Medici, etc. Blois was a place of power and celebrations conducive to intrigue.

3. The Château de Chambord

It is an emblematic castle, the masterpiece of the Renaissance in France. It impresses both with its grandeur (426 rooms, 282 fireplaces!) and with its style, which is very homogeneous and perfectly symmetrical. Just like Versailles, it was born from the will of a king, Francis I, to mark his reign and his power; and it was successful. Inside, in the center of the dungeon, stands the famous double revolution staircase inspired by Leonardo da Vinci which can be climbed without ever meeting the person descending. It leads to the terraces, in a universe between sky and earth, where chimneys, turrets and sculpted dormer windows abound. The 360° view of the estate is breathtaking. On the second level, it is the coffered vaults carved in stone which create a surprise with a profusion of salamanders and “F” monograms, the emblems of François I. Today, many rooms of the castle have been carefully refurnished to offer visitors an even more immersive experience. Its 17th century French gardens have been reconstructed to bring even more majesty to the whole. With more than a million visitors per year, it is the second most visited castle in France…

4. The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Let Honoré de Balzac describe this castle, a jewel of the Renaissance in the Loire Valley, like a “faceted cut diamond set by the Indre mounted on stilts masked with flowers”.
Built on an island in the Indre, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau is an emblematic construction of this art nouveau which swept from Italy to the Loire Valley at the beginning of the 16th century: the Renaissance. This is evidenced by the staircase with a straight banister which integrates the body of the house and its large open bays as well as the sculpted decor which brings a lot of elegance.
The interiors of the castle offer a warm visit, from the ground floor with a very 19th century atmosphere, to the first floor which has kept its Renaissance layout.
Did you know ? The park of the castle of Azay-le-Rideau was transformed into an English garden in the 19th century. As for the famous water mirror, it was only in 1950 that it appeared as we know it today.

5. The Royal Fortress of Chinon

From the 12th to the 15th century, three distinct castles were built on the rocky promontory which dominates the town and the surrounding vineyards to form a unique ensemble in France. It is here that in 1429 Joan of Arc met Charles VII, asking him to raise an army to deliver Orléans and “kick the English out of France”. Prisons, defensive towers, royal residence, the visit is punctuated by the meeting with great figures of History, such as Jacques de Molay, the grand master of the Templars who was imprisoned in the Tower of Coudray, or Eleanor of Aquitaine and her husband Henry II Plantagenet, King of England.

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Continue discovering the Loire Valley...

The landscapes

Around the Loire and its tributaries, discover multiple landscapes where nature and man have coexisted for 2000 years. Troglodytes, game-filled forests, majestic rivers, bucolic rivers... Welcome to the Loire Valley!

Vineyards and gastronomy

A large French wine region, the Loire Valley is renowned for the quality and variety of its wines: Vouvray, Chinon, Saumur… It offers a gourmet gastronomy of savory or sweet specialties. A region to discover by bike!

Parks & gardens

Nicknamed “Garden of France”, the Loire Valley has cultivated the art of gardens since the beginning of the 16th century. From the first Renaissance gardens to the contemporary creations of Chaumont-sur-Loire, let yourself be guided!

Discover our selection of turnkey tours around the Loire castles

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Your questions about the Loire castles by bike

Here is some more information to answer your most frequently asked questions:

Châteaux de la Loire

  • Are there bicycle parking spaces and luggage storage in the Loire castles?

    The castles of the Loire located on the very popular Loire à Vélo route have therefore adapted to welcoming cycle tourists, some having even obtained the “Accueil Vélo” label. Bicycle parking spaces are available to cyclists, often in front of the castle, sometimes within the castle grounds, so that they can lock up their bicycles and fully enjoy their visit. Luggage lockers receive your personal belongings. 

    Note that during your stay with Trip à Vélo, you can leave your bike and your luggage in your hotel when it is close to the visit site.

  • How many days does it take to visit the Loire castles by bike?

    From powerful medieval fiefs to the possessions of the Plantagenets, until the heyday of the Renaissance, the Loire Valley saw a multitude of castles flourish.

    From Blois to Angers, at Trip à Vélo, we have selected more than twenty castles. They stretch along the Loire and its tributaries, the Cher, the Indre and the Vienne. All, or almost all, are located within the area listed as UNESCO World Heritage. 

    By bike, the distances separating them vary from around ten to around thirty kilometers. 

    You can therefore visit one castle per day, sometimes two. Take the time to breathe and enjoy your visits. Remember that you need to save energy for the cycling stages that follow. And despite all the beauty of so many treasures, don't risk an overdose. 

    The Loire Valley has so much to offer visitors that you can vary your pleasures with the discovery of Remarkable Parks and Gardens, vineyards, natural sites such as troglodytes and the banks of the Loire, and of course, towns and villages.

  • Which Loire castles to visit with children?

    Absolutely all the castles of the Loire will appeal to children. Most offer activities allowing young people to have an unforgettable time, in a magical setting. With game booklets, histoPad, fun accompanied visits, treasure hunts, exhibitions... there is always something to learn while having fun. Without forgetting the shows and other sounds and lights, like those of the castles of Blois and Amboise to name just two.

    As it is impossible to give an exhaustive and objective answer, here are three that marked our childhood memories:

    • The Château de Chambord: it is the largest and most majestic of the Loire castles. From the first glance, it awakens the imagination of all children and the numerous activities offered only increase their desire for discovery. There's something for all ages, from a tour with a costumed guide to a horse and bird of prey show.
    • The Château d'Ussé: Charles Perrault, who stayed there, would have been inspired to write his famous tale Sleeping Beauty in these places. A forest, a large castle and at the very top of the keep, a walkway where the most beautiful episodes of Princess Aurora's life are represented, in real size! Little girls will love it and so will their mothers…
    • The Château de Cheverny: this castle is reminiscent of that of Moulinsart in The Adventures of Tintin and this is quite normal because Hergé was largely inspired by it to draw it! A permanent, interactive and life-size exhibition “Les Secrets de Moulinsart” offers a fun dive into Captain Haddock and his guests, Tintin, Snowy, Professor Tournesol… 

    Furthermore, the castle is very well furnished and decorated, which children will appreciate to better project themselves into the daily life of the lords.

Do you still have questions about choosing your bike trip to the land of Loire castles? Do not hesitate to contact us so that we can help you choose the solution that suits you best, according to your desires and your constraints.

To find out more...

The castles of the Loire: a little history

Since the Middle Ages, large castles have appeared on the banks of the Loire and its tributaries. In 1418, in the middle of the 100 Years' War, Paris fell into the hands of the Burgundians. The future Charles VII then fled the capital to quickly settle in Chinon, on his lands. It is here that the legendary meeting with Joan of Arc will take place, who came to raise an army to free the Kingdom of France from the English invader. In the second half of the 15th century, after the Hundred Years' War and faced with the development of artillery, medieval fortresses gradually lost their defensive interest. The Renaissance which emerged in Italy then crossed borders. Major patrons like Jacques Cœur, financier of Charles VII (him again!) favored its deployment in France. The facades of the castles are adorned with openings and sculpted decorations. The fortresses of Chinon and Loches were abandoned by the kings of France, the Château d'Amboise expanded and was transformed into a holiday palace, just like the Château de Blois. Beautiful, refined residences were erected, such as the Château de Chenonceau or the Château d'Azay le Rideau. The Loire Valley therefore became the privileged land of successive kings. Far from Paris and its tumults, it has the advantage of offering game-rich forests ideal for practicing their favorite leisure activity: hunting. The legendary mildness of the climate and the beauty of the landscapes are a setting of choice for so many architectural jewels.
Thus, through the history of the Châteaux de la Loire, several centuries of French history are told. Wars, court intrigues, dramas and jealousies but also entertainment and beautiful encounters, in these places of power the destiny of France has long been played out.

The great characters of the Loire castles

The castles of the Loire, from the Middle Ages to the present day, are linked to the destinies of great people who grew up there, met, loved, envied, killed and entertained each other.
Thus Loches evokes the loves of Charles VII and Agnès Sorel, the first official favorite of a king of France. In Chinon, the meeting between Joan of Arc and Charles VII will be decisive in favorably changing the destiny of France. Amboise saw the growth of François I who, a few years later, welcomed his friend Leonardo da Vinci to Clos Lucé. The castle also became the “nursery” of the kingdom. The young Mary Stuart grew up there with three future kings of France. Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici were jealous of Chenonceau. In Blois the Duke of Guise is assassinated and Marie de Medici is exiled. Later, we will again come across the paths of Gaston d'Orléans in Blois, of Charles Perrault in Ussé, of Louis XIV in Chambord, of Madame de Pompadour in Ménard, of Rodin and Camille Claudel at the Château de l'Islette...

Loire castles by department

The great castles of the Loire are concentrated in 4 departments of the Center Val de Loire and Pays de Loire regions, in the lands of Orléanais, Sologne, Touraine and Anjou.


Château Sully-sur-Loire
Chateau Meung-sur-Loire
Château Beaugency


Loir et Cher
Royal Castle of Blois
Chambord Castle
Château de Villesavin
Cheverny Castle
Château de Troussay
Beauregard Castle
Domaine de Chaumont sur Loire


Indre et Loire
Chenonceau Castle
Royal Castle of Amboise
Château Manoir du Clos Lucé
Royal estate of Château Gaillard
Loches Castle and medieval Loche fortress
Montbazon Castle
Château de Plessis les Tours
Villandry Castle
Langeais Castle
Ussé Castle
Azay le Rideau Castle
Royal Fortress of Chinon
Rivau Castle


Maine et Loire
Montsoreau Castle
Saumur Castle
Brézé Castle
Angers Castle