Paris day trips – Loire Valley

val de loire chambord city wonders

A while ago, while I was in Paris, I felt a bit of a hyper romantic mood and decided to leave the crowded city for one day and head to Val de Loire (Loire Valley).

In my opinion, Loire Valley is a real must-do if you have more then 5 days in France. What is it and why do you have to visit it?

The Loire Valley is located about 200 km. south from Paris  (see the map below) and is considered to be “The Gardens of France”. There are about 1000 chateaux (castles) all together JUST there. Some of them are small and private, but some are huge, open to public and truly outstanding!

The abundance of beautiful landscapes with vineyards, fairly tale castles and rich history, that surrounds them, makes the place truly an incredible attraction which would be a pity to miss!

Loire Valley map france

No wonder why so many tourists take a one day trip from Paris just to see the chateaux of Val de Loire. That is what I did as well. I took a Paris day tour – Loire Valley with City Wonders tours and sat in their bus, filled with expectations of epic landmarks.

While our tour guide, Adam, a flamboyant Canadian who knows absolutely everything about French culture, language and history, was explaining us a bit about our schedule, my mind started wandering into day dreams of castles with high towers and spiral staircases, labyrinths of gardens and love stories between fair princesses and handsome knights in shining armor…

A little bit of history:

chateaux chambord view

When you will wake up from your day dreams, you will hear your guide explaining some rather interesting facts. Seems like Val de Loire used to be quite populated especially by the royal family and the nobles at the court, in times of war. In case of attacks which would come either from the rivers or from land, the royal family would be like, hmm…

Instead of trying to stay in the castle while it’s being sieged, why don’t we just, you know… move castle?!

Don’t take that literally. They wouldn’t move the structure itself. But they would move everything in it, together with all the people in the court, the guests, the servants, the livestock (cows, chicken, pigs) and so on. That would make a convoy of a few thousands which had to be moved, and this could happen even once every two weeks, can you imagine?

The guide kept on telling us stories of plots, schemes, arranged marriages, affairs and big egos. The type that in order to copy the Italian Renaissance would order a huge, beautifully architecture castles with 800 hundreds rooms, which, up to modern days, has no real good heating solution on the inside. What am I talking about? Well for example…

First stop: Château de Chambord

Beauty and the beast castle france

Chateau de chambord val de loire france

Did you ever see the “Beauty and the Beast” cartoon?

The story goes that this is the castle which the animator inspired from for the classic cartoon. It was commissioned by the King Francis I to be his 800 room hunting lodge. It was indeed made after he had a failed campaign in Italy and came back wanting to copy the Italian new age architecture (at that time). I’m glad I took the tour as the guide kept telling us all little side stories which made the visit even more enjoyable. I don’t remember all the names and facts but if you have the opportunity to take an excursion, do it!

loire valley view chambord

Outside, Château de Chambord is magnificent! I mean I just couldn’t stop clicking with my camera! The towers, the walls, the terraces, the outside spiral staircases…

Oh, just stop the time and give me a long classy dress!!

Inside the castle there’s a different story. Still, there were some cool elements, like a spiral staircase with two flights of stairs made in such a way that if one person goes up and another comes down on the other one, they will never see each other and they will never know who passed by them. Otherwise, the rooms are too tall, too stony. As the chimneys are too weak and not able to heat up the rooms, the castle stayed so cold throughout its history that almost no one could ever live in it except for a few days.

Though it was immense amount of money spent on building this chateau, no one ever really lived there, isn’t it sad?

Well, at least it was discovered by tourists and it is visited now all year long!

chateau chambord castle france

Once inside, don’t dare not to take the stairs up to the roof where you will have the opportunity to see the great surroundings as well as all the cool towers from up close. Again, I grabbed my camera and took advantage of all the angles I could find 🙂

Second stop : Lunch at a private château

lunch french chateau wine tasting2

The tour took us to a second chateau for lunch. This one was much smaller, but had all the mandatory elements to be called a château (= a castle). The lunch was very French and there was plenty of wine to enjoy. At the end, we were offered a few historical facts about the place and a quick tour, presented by the family who owned the castle and some wine tasting (of course!)

Third stop: Château de Chenonceau

chateau chenonceau val de loire

This one was by far my favorite!

It is an absolutely gorgeous castle which includes a bridge over the river Cher. The chateau de Chenonceaux is well known for the rivalry between two famous women – Catherine de’ Medici and Diane de Poitiers, the wife and the mistress of King Henry II respectively.

Seems this mistress was quite an emancipated woman, and hot as hell for those times. She took care of her body and not only that she bathed regularly (hey, we are talking about medieval France here!), but she also ate right, had a diet based on home-grown fruits and vegetables. She definitely had the looks, and the king adored her, to the queen’s dismay of course!

The queen was quite the opposite. She was short and not pretty at all. She made her enemies’ life a hell, especially Diane’s, from whom the vengeful queen took away the castle right after her husband’s death.

The Garden

Diane de Poitiers took care that extensive flower and vegetable gardens along with a variety of fruit trees would be built around the castle so she would always have fresh food. Her gardens still stand and they look great!

chateau chenanceau parks

Catherine de’ Medici also had commissioned her own gardens, which have the predominant blue, with a bit of pink. Why these colors? Because back then blue was the strong feminine color while pink was a male color. How the times we live in shape our perception, doen’t they?

beautiful chateaux chenanceau

 

The Castle

The castle is wonderful, if you go there by yourself you can easily spend half a day or more just visiting it and its surroundings. Make sure to visit it all the way to the top floor, where you can see the rooms, especially the “dark” room!

After taking the castle from Diane, Queen Catherine changed many things in it, mostly to have her presence felt and to show who is in charge now. She even put her portrait in the former bedroom of Diane to make her point.

chateau chenonceau view france

Make sure you visit all the rooms, and pay attention to the traditional kitchen which was is placed on the lowest floor!

The Wine tasting

wine tasting loire valley chenonceau

When my tour gave us a choice to stay more in the castle or to proceed to wine tastings, it was so hard to choose! I went for the wine at the end 😉

I tasted 4 good wines and enjoyed every drop. If you want you can take the tasting, otherwise, you can walk more around the castle for the duration of the tasting.

Eloire valley chateu excursionven if I usually go independent, without a tour, I am glad I made an exception this time. I felt otherwise I would miss so much!

The full name of the tour I took is  “Full day Loire Valley Castles and Wine Tasting Tours from Paris” by the City Wonders tours. It felt very well organized and not rushed (very important for me). They also divided us in two groups, which made it easier to manage.  Even though I usually prefer to organize everything by myself, this is the time when I actually do recommend taking a tour for these reasons:

Firstly, you won’t need to worry about the transportation to the place (it’s not that easy by public transport to make your way from from one Chateau to the other) and no need to exhaust yourself and drive all the way and back (200 km one way).

Secondly, it is actually cheaper. If you take public transport (will explain the procedure below) and will pay for everything separately – train tickets, lunch, tour guides and entrance tickets to castles, it will be more expensive. Plus, you will have to stay in the queue, which I did not have to bother at all, as all the tickets were bought for us in advance.

And third, and the most important, the guides! You will never read all the amount of extremely interesting info our guides shared with us from the Internet or your guide book. Seriously, I pitied those people in the queue I passed by, who were reading Wikipedia from their tablets. You will not enjoy it the same much, you just won’t!

PRICE: The tour costs 165 EUR per person. Transportation, lunch, guides, tickets to the chateaux and wine tastings are included in the price.

If, after all my reasoning, you still want to have do-it-yourself-tour, no problem, it is your choice, let me explain:

How to get to Loire Valley by yourself:

val de loire view city wonders tour

My advice is, if you are going to go by yourself, than do it for more than one day. Go for a few days, rent a car and drive to all the castles you want to see. Alternatively, take a train to Tours, and then rent bikes and cycle around the castles.

As I said, it is totally possible to see the main castles in a one day trip, but if you have a chance, you should stay in the area for a couple of days, there is really so much to see!

How to get to Tours:

By car:

If you choose to rent a car, this link gives you a 10% discount on it.

By train: 

The route Paris – Tours (the city close to Loire Valley) is quite frequent. Every 40 mins trains leave from Gare Montparnasse to Tours. You can see the schedule here. The cheapest train ticket, if you buy it in advance, will be 36 EUR round trip. However, take into consideration that this train will also be the slowest (2 hours one way). You will not be able to see much of the castles if you send 4 hours on the road, right? If you want to get there by fast train in 1 hour, count at least 90 EUR for a return trip.

From Tours city you can get to the most famous chateux by public transport, but the service is very rare. To avoid frustration, I do recommend either renting a bike/car from there or take a local tour from Tours.

Buy your train ticket to Loire Valley here!

– Where to stay in Loire Valley – 

There are many hotels for all budgets there in Tours, so that might be a good option to stay overnight.

I can recommend these ones for:

Here is the map of the most popular castles in Loire Valley. I circled the ones I have visited in my tour (these 2 are really  the most important ones to visit!):

val de loire map3
PRO TIP: 
Since the gardens of each Chateau are responsible for at least half of the atmosphere, I recommend is to go either in the late spring or in the summer, when the weather is better.

I hope it was useful, thank you for reading this article!

Disclaimer: I was invited to the City Wonders tour as a guest, but as usual, I have stated my honest opinion.


Have you been to Loire Valley? Which castles did you visit? Which ones would you like to visit?

Share your thoughts about the article, I am always very happy to hear from my readers!

If you liked this article, please share!

Yulia


If you liked the article, don’t forget to pin it on your Pinterest!

Loire Valley Paris Day trips

By | 2017-02-13T20:30:52+00:00 October 9th, 2015|Europe, France, Loire Valley|28 Comments

About the Author:

Yulia is originally Russian but truly is a world citizen in heart. She was traveling around the world for over 4 years now. Her blog MissTourist.com is created with the purpose to inspire people to travel more and to share her advice of how to travel "smart".

28 Comments

  1. Jennifer 10.10.2015 at 18:00 - Reply

    Oh, what a lovely day trip you had! When my family and I go to Paris, we like to take trains out of the city for our day trips, but we get nervous even going anywhere further than Versailles because we are beholden to train schedules in terms of getting back to our home base before it’s too late. The bus tour you were on seems like a smart alternative. How big was the group?

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:46 - Reply

      The group was not more than 20 people and all of us, we were given headphones so that we can hear the guide even if we’d stop for a photo etc.!

  2. I’ve visited France several times, but sadly I haven’t made it to the Loire Valley. The castles look incredible and I always love a great guide who adds such interesting anecdotal and factual tidbits to the experience. My husband and I had a great guide while on an out-of-Paris couple of days to Normandy.

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:44 - Reply

      Normandy is also amazing, but these 2 are different, hard to compare!

  3. anna 10.10.2015 at 20:33 - Reply

    Lovely!! Paris bound this November so will keep this side trip in mind!

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:40 - Reply

      Definitely do it if you have a chance! I promise you wont regret!:)

  4. Erica 10.10.2015 at 22:00 - Reply

    Gorgeous photos! Love the classic vibe going on. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  5. melody pittman 11.10.2015 at 00:10 - Reply

    Loved this post because i am a HUGE Beauty & the Beast fan! I had no idea this was the castle it was fashioned from .They all look fantastic to visit. I have no desire to ever see Paris but would gladly visit this part of France any time!

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:40 - Reply

      Yes, Val de Loire is the biggest UNESCO heritage area for a reason. And the chateau is so amazing, you should go esp as you are the cartoon fan!:)

  6. This is what I appreciate about Europe, gardens and castles. I love nice gardens. That is something we lack here.

  7. Himanshu 11.10.2015 at 16:46 - Reply

    Awesome clicks. Loved you style of writing and yes good to have found you.
    Following on twitter and FB from now.

  8. The chateau de Chenonceaux looks like it belongs in a fairytale!

  9. Laura 12.10.2015 at 01:24 - Reply

    I’ve wanted to take a trip to France especially for wine tasting and Loire Valley is at the top of the list. Not only do they amazing wine, there are so many other great things to see too, as you’ve shown here.

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:38 - Reply

      yes, you get 2 trips in 1 basically! 🙂

  10. Lesley 12.10.2015 at 02:00 - Reply

    I’ve been to dozens of areas in France. It’s one of my favorite countries to visit, but I haven’t been to Loire Valley. It seems like a great place to take my daughter. I think she’d fall in love with chateau de Chenonceaux.

    • Yulia 14.10.2015 at 00:36 - Reply

      oh, she definitely would! which girl would not!:)

  11. Jill BARTH 12.10.2015 at 22:20 - Reply

    A story full of temptation 🙂 I’d love to enjoy the lunch followed by an afternoon of wine tasting!
    Lovely post.

  12. Mags 13.10.2015 at 07:14 - Reply

    This post has me swooning! It’s so beautiful there. I have been to France a few times, but never outside of Paris. There is so much more to discover!

  13. Carl Wright 15.10.2015 at 10:15 - Reply

    This is such an absolutely gorgeous castle. What a pity that no one has actually lived in it.
    Sometimes it is far better to take a tour. The side stories would make the castle visit so much more interesting.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂
    ~Carl~

  14. K. 16.10.2015 at 09:36 - Reply

    There’s no finer way to spend a day than wandering around castles. Loved this – thanks for sharing! 🙂 x

  15. Gary Pearson 18.10.2015 at 17:23 - Reply

    The Loire Valley looks like a perfect getaway from the frenetic streets of Paris. So quaint, charming and medieval in appearance, I wish I had time to visit the region on my previous visit to France. Great post by the way.

  16. pragati 21.10.2015 at 17:56 - Reply

    How lovely! The photos of you from a distance are especially great..how did you manage them? 🙂

  17. Shannon 23.11.2016 at 22:06 - Reply

    Amazing! Did the tour include lunch? How was the lunch? I am going to Paris next Spring 2017 and I was thinking of doing the same tour!

    • Yulia 25.11.2016 at 22:10 - Reply

      Yes, the lunch was included. you can see some pictures up the post. I cant remember now what we had exactly, but it was good and there was a lot of good wine! 😉

      • Shannon 01.12.2016 at 00:54 - Reply

        Thank you! I booked the tour, can’t wait! So Excited

  18. Donita 30.11.2016 at 18:46 - Reply

    what a lovely trip you had Yulia! will be in Paris for new year , good photo anyway 😀

  19. Carrie 12.12.2016 at 22:09 - Reply

    We are going in early May. Will the gardens be in bloom?

    • Yulia 19.12.2016 at 15:00 - Reply

      not sure, but you might catch it yes!

Leave A Comment

188 Shares
Pin111
Share77
Tweet
WhatsApp
Email

By continuing to use the site by scrolling or navigating further, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close