• Jenny

Castles of the Loire Valley: A Road Trip from Paris

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Château de Chambord

Dreaming of a trip to France? What could be more French than picturesque towns and fairy tale castles? Make yours a trip of a lifetime by exploring the magnificent Loire Valley. Wander through gardens and walk on ramparts that overlook domains of the Kings and Queens of old. Discover where Leonardo DaVinci spent his last days and witness some of his most famous inventions. Learn the history of famous castles and uncover secret royal scandals!

Rent a car, get out of the city, and step into your very own French fairytale on this three day road trip to some of the most iconic and beautiful castles of the Loire Valley.

Day 1: Royal Château de Blois

Jacques Gabriel Bridge over the River Loire, Blois

For this trip, I highly recommend that you stay in Blois. Only a three hour drive from Paris, it’s centrally located for visiting the castles in this post, as well as others in the area if you are more ambitious.

Old Town Blois

The old town area below the castle is the perfect size to explore on foot, while having plenty of options for dining and shopping. The cobblestoned pedestrian area with its narrow streets and ancient buildings is rich in historical French charm, and dotted with restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops.

We found some particularly delicious local honey that I would make a trip back there just to buy more of. I’m not kidding. Life changing.

Locally made honey and other delicacies!

Speaking of this honey, the bed and breakfast where we stayed, La Perluette, served it at breakfast every morning with fresh croissants. Hands down one of my all-time favorite places to stay! Not only did they help us find a store in town to buy the honey, they also gave us awesome restaurant recommendations, offered to make reservations for us, and helped us plan our castle itinerary. We left there feeling like we were old friends! If we ever go back to Blois, we will stay with them again in a heartbeat. And also buy more honey.

But I digress. Let’s get down to the business of French castles! Although we didn’t choose Blois because of its castle, I was blown away by the Chateau Royal de Blois.

Royal Château de Blois
Royal Château de Blois

The history of how this royal castle changed hands over the years was fascinating, not to mention having artifacts from the Roman Empire and quite an impressive art collection. You can see the variation in its distinct architectural styles from the different time periods of its construction.

The self-guided tour explains when and why each addition was made using a histo-pad, which is a tablet type of device that you wear around your neck. It was entertaining and educational, which for us nerdy types, was quite a lot of fun! This castle may not be one of the most well known in the Loire Valley, but it is truly a hidden treasure!

Another good reason to stay in Blois is that there are quite a few other points of interest that can make for a fun and unique visit! The castle tour will take about two to three hours, which leaves you time to explore the rest of this captivating city. We found Blois to be surprisingly artsy and edgy.

Blois Old Town Arts Quarter
Les Trois Clés (The Three Keys)

For religious interests, visit St. Nicholas’s Church to see the exquisite stained glass windows. There is also the Abbaye Saint-Laumer, as well as the Musee Diocesain Art Religieux, one of the few Museums of Religious Art in France.

Maison de la Magie (House of Magic)
St. Nicholas's Church

Looking for a fun diversion the kids will enjoy? Liven up your day with a visit to the House of Magic Museum or the House of Comics. If you're an art or history lover you might enjoy the Natural History Museum or the contemporary art center, Fondation du Doute.

My most favorite discovery, however, was what I call the Mona Lisa stairs. It’s official name is L’escalier Denis Papin, as it is a beautiful stone stairway in the center of Blois with a statue of Denis Papin, a famous French Physicist and Inventor. From the top of the stairs, you can see the Loire River and the Jacques Gabriel Bridge with its beautiful arches. The staircase is used as an outdoor art exhibition, with a different design each year. When we were there in the Fall of 2019, the entire staircase was a gigantic recreation of the Mona Lisa. It was one of the highlights of our stay, an enchanting and unique discovery!