When you visit Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley, the number one attraction without a doubt is the Renasissance Chateau. Set on an island in the River Indre, the fairy tale like castle is stunning both inside and out. It’s also worth taking the time to discover the town while you’re there. It’s charming and authentic and there are some lovely shops and restaurants.
Must-sees in Azay-le-Rideau
Start with a stroll down rue de Balzac, the road which leads to the gates of the chateau. Lined with galleries, boutiques and cafés, it’s very pretty and a perfect place to stop and watch the world go by from a terrace (top photo).
Relax in the secret garden in front of the chateau. Just to the right of the chateau as you approach it, the garden is filled with seasonal flowers and herbs.
Don’t miss: the Thé Salon with its gorgeous artisan cakes at 23 Rue nationale.
Enjoy the wine. This is an area of magnificent vineyards producing Touraine wines including dry whites, sweet wines, reds, rosés and sparkling wines. Follow the Loire Valley wine route and explore the vineyards and domaines along the counrtry lanes of this lush region. There’s evidence that vines have been grown here since Gallo-Roman times and the wines of Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau reflect the centuries of savoire-faire.
Don’t forget to sample the delicious Touraine cheeses such as Sainte-Maure de Touraine, a tangy goats cheese that’s perfect with the regional wines!
Musée Maurice Dufresne
Just outside the centre of Azay-le-Rideau in Marnay you’ll find the quirky and fascinating Musée Maurice Dufresne.
Monseiur Dufresne was an obsessive collector of things. All sorts of things! Set on an island, the museum holds an authentic and amazing collection of ancient vehicles, cars, bicycles, planes, trucks, motorbikes, tractors, agricultural or military machinery, vintage posters and peculiar objects – including a mobile guillotine. With more than 3000 pieces, allow a minimum of 2-3 hours to see it all. There’s also a restaurant on site which is popular for lunch, so book your slot on arrival if you can. And, if you’ve got kids, there’s a terrific play area where they can let off steam and run about…
Chateau de l’Islette
Close by is the Chateau de l’Islette. It’s a bit of a hidden gem and not on the main tourist route. Still lived in, the pretty Renaissance chateau is known locally as the little sister of the Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau.
Here, the great Rodin conducted his stormy love affair with fellow artist Camille Claudel. It’s charming, authentic and has lovely gardens, perfect for a picnic or a boat ride on the small lake.
Stay at: Lagrange Vacances Les Jardins Renaissance, located in Azay-le-Rideau, on the banks of the Indre and Loire rivers. The residence offers self-catering holiday cottages with furnished terrace and a small garden. Perfectly located just 800 meters from the centre of Azay-le-Rideau guests have access to heated indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and tennis courts. Hotel service available plus daily reception. It’s the perfect base for your Loire Valley visit…
Hotel Grand Monarque a former 18th century post house in the centre of Azay-le-Rideau is charming – lovely restaurant too.
Take a tour with: Val de Loire Travel
Tourist office info: www.touraineloirevalley.com; www.loirevalley-france.co.uk; www.azay-le-rideau.fr/en/