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A Storybook Setting

The castles, gardens, and rivers of Loire Valley look straight out of the pages of a fairytale. A few must-sees include the 16th century Chateau de Chenonceau, one of France’s most visited castles, Oreans, the town of Joan of Arc, and the flower gardens and canals of lovely Vendome.

You can also join countless wine and cheese tasting tours and shop for souvenirs unique to the Loire Valley, such as saffron, wickerwork, pottery, and stained glass. And for an alternative perspective of the region’s famous sites, boat cruises on the Loire Valley’s many lakes and rivers are a great option — and will give your legs a rest. You can even take a ride across the longest canal bridge in Europe, the Briare Bridge, which runs suspended over the Loire River. Of course, in an area filled with splendid castles surrounded by moats, such an extraordinary architectural feat isn’t nearly as out of the ordinary as you might expect.

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The Châteaux of Loire Valley

There are 42 total castles in the Loire Valley alone, earning it a UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction in 2000. Though all the castles are very impressive, we wouldn’t recommend visiting all 42 in a single trip. A few highlights:

  • Château de Chambord – The biggest and most visited castle in the Loire Valley, the Château de Chambord was built under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci and was once home to the Mona Lisa.
  • Château du Clos Lucé – Leonardo da Vinci lived here for a short time before his death.
  • Château de Chenonceau – Also known as the “Château des Dames” (Women’s Castle), the Château de Chenonceau was built, inhabited and protected from destruction by a series of women, making it very unique in style and ambience. 
  • Château d'Ussé – Rumored to be the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s “Sleeping Beauty" – the attic is decorated in a Sleeping Beauty theme, with fairytale-inspired toys and furniture.