The Loire Valley in France, just over one hour from Paris by train or two hours by car, has long been associated with grand historic chateaus. Many were first constructed as fortresses to protect from battles during medieval times, but in the 1500s, the kings and royalty either turned the fortresses into chateaus or commissioned their architects to design new opulent, massive palaces. The royalty imported artisans, architects, artists, landscape designers, and sculptors from Italy during the French Renaissance to enhance the chateaus and to establish France as a major center for arts and culture. In 1515, when Leonardo da Vinci was 64 years old, he was invited by King Francois I to create works for his Chateau d’Amboise, and DaVinci retained his residence at Chateau du Clos Luce nearby until his death three years later.
Over 3,000 chateaus were built in the Loire Valley between the early 1500s and the 1700s. Many of these chateaus still exist and today are privately owned and have been converted into opulent hotels and bed and breakfasts. The owners strive to keep the original architecture and decor intact but still provide all the modern-day conveniences necessary for a comfortable stay.
Below is a list of seven Loire chateaux we recommend staying in.
1. Chateau De Beauvois
In 2015, American businessman and entrepreneur Zaya S. Younan realized his childhood dream of owning a chateau in the Loire Valley. He decided one was not enough, so he bought and invested in four chateaus, transforming them into luxury hotels with amenities fit for royalty.
Chateau de Beauvois, a favorite hunting ground of King Louis XIII, was the first of Younan’s properties to be renovated and modernized. Just 20 minutes by car from the Tours railroad station, Chateau de Beauvois is located up a hill in a small village, Saint-Etienne-de-Chigny, surrounded by 37 acres of pristine woodland.
The four-star Chateau de Beauvois has 35 rooms and suites decorated in the opulent Louis XV style with crystal chandeliers, canopy beds with chintz fabric, and velvet chairs and couches. Outside is a terrace with a formal French garden where you can dine or have a drink with birds-eye views of the Loire River.
Since the property was originally a hunting ground, the aptly named gourmet restaurant Louis XIII specializes in venison and other game. Chef Regis Guilpain rounds out the menu with fresh oysters and other seafood delights, plus many vegetarian dishes.
The property also has an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and a bicycle path through a forest.
2. Chateau De La Barre
Chateau de la Barre prides itself on the fact that it is one of the very few Loire chateaux that still retains its original lineage, uninterrupted since 1404. Count and Countess de Vanssay will warmly welcome you for an authentic experience in their 600-year-old chateau.
The main chateau has eight opulently decorated suites, and each one has a unique decor with antique furniture and rugs and imported fabrics. The Marin de Vanssay, the largest suite in the main house, is over 610 square feet and has a king-size, canopy bed, Louis XVIII antiques, hardwood floors, a fireplace, and views facing the gardens. The bathroom has a Jacuzzi tub with a separate shower and Hermes toiletries.
Chateau de la Barre has two cottages, separate from the main house, that can accommodate families or larger groups.
An American-style breakfast is served in the elegant dining room with fresh fruit grown on the grounds.
Countess de Vanssay can arrange special activities in the chateau, such as a visit to their private wine cellar to taste Grand Crus wines, afternoon tea, and a multi-course dinner with matching wines in the dining room. She can also arrange visits to wineries, the major historic chateaus in the area, and garden tours.
You can admire and walk through the flower garden and the 100-acre property. An outdoor swimming pool and cabanas will be installed in 2021.
3. Le Prieure
Part of the Younan Luxury Chateau Collection, Le Prieure is a 10th-century castle that was built as a prayer house for Benedictine monks, and in the 18th century, it became the private home of the Count of Castellane.
The highlight of Le Prieure is the amazing view of the Loire River and the surrounding forest and chateaus. The 21 sumptuously decorated rooms, ranging from 150 square feet to 500 square feet, have vintage furniture and rugs, newly installed bathrooms, bathrobes and slippers, and large-screen televisions.
Executive chef Richard Prouteau prepares a contemporary menu using local ingredients when possible, and his signature dishes include multi-color beefsteak tomatoes with vinaigrette and local farm-raised guinea fowl.
If you fancy extraordinary Loire Valley wines, visit the exceptional wine cellar below the hotel, which houses over 25,000 bottles.
Activities on the hotel grounds include miniature golf, tennis, and basketball. There’s also a wooded park to walk through, and the hotel can arrange bicycle rentals.
4. Chateau De Noirieux
A designated property of the Relais and Chateau Group, Chateau de Noirieux is located 20 minutes by car from the Angers train station. Enjoy four-star luxury in the main chateau and the adjoining 15th-century manor house. The property has 19 rooms in total. Rooms range from an art deco deluxe room to a cozy attic room, perfect if you are traveling solo.
La Table du Chateau, the haute cuisine restaurant, has magnificent views of the rolling hills of the Loire Valley and, in spring and summer, an outdoor terrace. The cuisine reflects the four seasons of local products and one option is the reasonably priced three-course menu for only 50 euros per person.
Chateau de Noirieux offers a menu of well-being treatments including massages, a rose petal reflexology session, and a facial outdoors in the woods.
Mountain bike rides, a heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, and walking excursions on 22 acres of land along the Loire River are among the other activities available at the chateau.
Off-season prices are quite reasonable, starting at 120 euros per night for a double room.
5. Hauts De Loire
Just four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Onzain train station, Hauts de Loire is another Relais and Chateau establishment, a 19th-century chateau owned by a Parisian publisher and his son.
The hotel comprises two buildings, the Castle and the Carriage House, and has nine rooms in total, including the family room, which has two separate bedrooms.
The formal restaurant, where chef Remy Giraud presides over the menu, has a two-Michelin-star rating, and The Bistro is the more casual dining option. Cooking classes are given in a designated cooking facility.
The hotel has a Clarins Spa and fitness room plus an outdoor pool.
6. Chateau D’Artigny
Chateau d’Artigny, just 20 minutes south of the city of Tours, was built for business magnate Francois Coty, owner of the Coty brand of perfume and cosmetics. His unreasonable demands for supreme luxury resulted in a chateau that took 17 years to build (from 1912 to 1929). In 1961, it became a luxury hotel.
The white marble, belle epoque-style chateau has 56 rooms and suites. The beautiful grounds encompass 61 acres containing a formal French garden, woodwork, marble statues, and trompe l’oeil frescos.
The chateau’s L’Origan restaurant, situated under a spectacular rotunda, has handsome wood paneling gilded with gold leaf paint, fluted columns, and oversized windows with views of the Indre valley. Chef Herve Guttin prepares a lunch menu, a vegan menu with freshly grown vegetables, and, for dinner, a multi-course tasting menu.
The Spa d’Artigny has a long menu of treatments including massages, facials, marine body wraps, manicures, and hammam scrubbings.
7. Chateau De Verrieres
Located less than a mile from the town of Saumur, Chateau De Verrieres is a Napoleon III-style chateau built in 1896 by Madame Baillou de la Brosse.
The romantic rooms and suites are decorated with padded walls with toile de Jouy fabric, antique rugs, and high ceilings.
The salons of the main floor have dark wood paneling, fireplaces, crystal chandeliers, and libraries.
An extensive list of Loire wines and Champagne is available at the bar.
The spa includes a Jacuzzi, sauna, and massage and facial treatments, and outdoors, there’s a heated swimming pool.
The Loire Valley is quite expansive, and you will need to rent a car to get around unless you arrange transportation from your hotel, which can be costly.
Blois, Amboise, Tours, Saumur, and Angers are the main train stations of the Loire Valley.