We could all use a little bit of magic in our lives right now, and nowhere else is as brimming with enchanting fairy-tale châteaus, rolling fields of lavender, sweeping vineyards, cherry orchards and charming medieval villages as the Loire Valley. They don’t call this stunning region the Garden of France for nothing!
With exquisite food, gorgeous weather, and scenery to die for, it’s hard to think of anywhere more quintessentially French, or anywhere more perfect to give yourself the summer of a lifetime than here. Here are some of the Loire Valley landmarks you should absolutely visit.
For the royal gossip
Why you’ll love it: With over 500 rooms, this grandiose 13th-century château in the center of Blois is a former royal residence, and as such has a history of over 1,000 years of French political intrigue. This magnificent building has played host to reams of high-profile French historical figures, including some of its most famous kings and queens.
Now, the castle is a royal relic, open to knowledge-thirsty visitors wishing to delve into its storied past. Encyclopedic tablets are provided to give context to the monument’s history and architecture, along with guided tours that are available on-site. Stick around until after dark and you’ll see the tales of the château play out via a projection of light and color on its outer walls. It’s not to be missed!
For the garden
Why you’ll love it: The gardens of the historic Château de Villandry are arguably the most jaw-dropping in the entire Loire Valley – and that’s really saying something! You could spend the entire day wandering amongst the immaculately arranged variety of flowerbeds, plants, herbs, vegetables and water features, which all contrast starkly against the sober elegance of the château’s architecture.
Full of history, the site of the château was once a 14th-century keep where a truce between France and England was discussed, as well as a gift once acquired by Napoleon Bonaparte for his brother. No summer in the Loire Valley would really be complete without checking out these gardens.
For the anachronistic art lover
Why you’ll love it: It doesn’t get much more culturally extravagant than a contemporary art museum in a Flamboyant Gothic-style castle! The elegant riverside Château de Montsoreau would be worth a visit on the merit of its striking architecture alone. However, these days it’s also home to the world’s largest collection of works from the Art & Language movement (a branch of the Conceptual art movement), making it truly one of the Loire Valley’s most unique and unmissable attractions.
The mind-bending contemporary art within stands in stark contrast to the historical charm of the castle and its surroundings. Trust us, you won’t ever forget your summer in the Loire Valley after you visit this hidden treasure.
For the footsteps of genius
Why you’ll love it: From the outside, it looks like just another majestic dream home that you’ll see a lot of as you explore the Loire Valley. However, the Château du Clos Lucé is actually one of history’s most important celebrity cribs! This beautiful château was the final home of one Leonardo da Vinci, and as you might expect, the Florentine master left his mark on the place.
Da Vinci arrived here in 1516, with a little painting called the Mona Lisa under his arm – the rest is history. Make your way inside and explore the former home of the great Renaissance man. It doesn’t take a genius to know this is a pretty special experience, and not one to miss this summer in the Loire Valley.