France is the most popular tourist destination in the world and there’s good reason. For a start there’s Paris, Nice, beaches, vineyards, medieval towns, picturesque villages and a whole lot more. There’s something for everyone here.
Two hours southwest of Paris is the “Valley of the Kings” – the Loire Valley, home to France’s greatest chateaux. This lush green area is criss-crossed by rivers, covered in vineyards and peppered with hundreds of beautiful chateaux from the small and bijou to the grandest of the grand.
5 Fabulous Chateaux in the Loire Valley
Chateau de Blois
Big, bold and beautiful, the chateau of Blois is right in the centre of this charming town. Kings and Queens lived here for centuries and the chateau bears witness to a lively past with its medieval to Renaissance footprint evident in the building styles and interiors. The staircase in the courtyard is incredible and never more so than when lit up during summer nights for a most illuminating son et lumière. Inside, the fabulous décor, paintings, tapestries and artefacts are great; listen to the audio guide for a fascinating tale of love, power, rivalry and murder that took place here. Details: en.chateaudeblois.fr
Chateau de Brissac
The tallest castle in France, at 7 stories high, and still lived in by the aristocratic family owners – this is a chateau with immense charm and a lovely wine shop! Beautiful and sumptuous interiors, wonderful gardens which border with the Chateau’s vineyards and the feeling that this place with all its history is still inhabited, make this a unique and wonderful place to visit. Details: www.chateau-brissac.fr
Chateau de Chambord
This pointy roof pile is absolutely stunning. This massive castle was built by King Francis I to illustrate the might of French Royalty. 600 years later, it’s still extraordinary – 282 fire places and monumental halls plus the incredible double spiral staircase in the centre are awe inspiring. In 2017 the formal gardens in front of the chateau will be opened for the first time after being renovated and replanted – they are sublime, nip to the roof top to view them in all their glory from above. Don’t miss the fabulous shops and restaurants on the estate – especially the artisan biscuiterie! Details: www.chambord.org
Chateau de Chaumont
Quite a small chateau, it’s romantic and very pretty inside but what makes this an absolute must-see is the garden. This is the home of the all summer long International Garden Festival – think Kew Gardens meets Chelsea Flower show plus a big dollop of French style with contemporary artworks everywhere you look. Sometimes modern and ancient don’t gel well – they do here in this former home of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II. Details: www.domaine-chaumont.fr
Chateau de Rivau
This captivating Renaissance chateau has the most beautiful gardens – like a real life fairy tale complete with a Rapunzel Tower. Everywhere you look in there’s something to please and enchant, giant wellington boots, a delicate carousel, even a chapel made from rose bushes with peacocks wandering about. Don’t miss the fabulous restaurant on site for a relaxing break and delicious dish made from local, seasonal produce. Details: Chateaudurivau.com