When in Paris, Don’t Miss a Day Trip to the Loire Valley
Famous for its charming towns, wines and castles, the Loire Valley was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Luckily it’s an easy day trip from Paris (a mere 40 minutes by fast train to the city of Tours, a great starting point for castle-hopping). Depending on your pace and ambition, you might visit two or even three in a day. Here’s a list of some of the most spectacular architectural treasures you can choose from:
(14 miles from Tours). Built by Henry II, Château Chenonceau overlooks a river and is an excellent example of Renaissance architecture. Since the 1950s, the castle has been owned by a family of chocolatiers who have lovingly restored it inside and out.
Château Amboise (18 miles from Tours) is considered to be the most historically significant of the Loire’s castles. The impressive present structure represents only a quarter of the original and offers superb views of the Loire River. On the Amboise grounds you’ll also find the Château du Clos Lucé, a small castle famous for being the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci between 1516 and 1519.
Château Chaumont (26 miles from Tours) was built between 1465 and 1510 by Charles I and Charles II d’Amboise on the remnants of a 10th-century fortress.
Château Chambord (48 miles from Tours) was built by Francois I as a hunting lodge, with 440 rooms and 13,000 acres of park land. Leonardo Da Vinci had a say in its design, and one of his key additions was an interlocking set of stairwells connecting four rooms so that people could come and go without being seen. It is said that one of the set of stairs was for the Queen and the other for the King’s mistresses.
Château Cheverny (47 miles from Tours) was built in the 17th century by the Count of Cheverny, whose descendants still own it. Take a guided tour of the impressive interior and its impeccably-maintained grounds.