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When visiting France, one of the great things to see are the Chateaux of the Loire Valley. An hour by TGV from Paris, yet a world apart, with stunning grand palatial castles in beautiful scenery, it's certainly somewhere to visit.

If you check most guidebooks, they all seem to agree on two Chateaux to visit. Firstly there's the Château de Chambord, an impressive Renaissance masterpiece that's the largest of the Loire Chateau.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:France_Loir-et-Cher_Chambord_Chateau_03.jpg

The other that everyone seems to agree on is the Château de Chenonceau. While smaller, the rooms, tapestries, furniture and artworks are stunning, and you visit as much for the contents as the building itself. There are some very nice gardens too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chateau_de_Chenonceau_2008E.jpg

Having visited these two last year (along with a couple of others), I'm keen to see a few more this year. The problem is that most guidebooks either seem to stop after just a few, or go on to list several hundred, without the middle ground.

My question therefore is what other Chateaux of the mid Loire (roughly Angers to Tours) should one try to see (beyond the obvious two of Chenonceau and Chambord), and why?

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So that we stay within the bounds of what's allowed here, please avoid posting a long list, but instead perhaps suggest one Chateau and explain why it's special –  Gagravarr Jul 5 '11 at 21:20
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This seems too open ended... –  Ginamin Jul 6 '11 at 3:03
    
In a school report after our trip to France, my youngest declared the Mona Lisa a bit of a let down (I agree) and recommended Chambord for DaVinci fans, especially the dual helix staircase. –  Kate Gregory Jul 6 '11 at 11:47
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I'm hoping it won't be. There are likely a small number of other Chateaux that people should try to see, and a reason for them. For example, there's one really great medieval one (see my answer below) –  Gagravarr Jul 6 '11 at 11:56

3 Answers 3

I'll throw in one suggestion from my trip last year, though obviously I'm keen on hearing others!

While many of the Chateaux along the Loire tend towards the later Renaissance styles, with grand palatial architecture, one does stand out as a "classic" medieval castle.

The Château d'Angers (in Anger) was built as a fortress, with the main parts dating from the 9th and 13th Centuries. It's a formidable looking building, even today with the lovely ornate gardens that surround it! It's possible to walk around most of the ramparts, which offer stunning views out, and it now features a museum with a fine collection of medieval tapestries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Loire_Maine_Angers2_tango7174.jpg

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Angers was the first we went to on our trip. Definitely go up as high as you can, and go into the tapestry building. –  Kate Gregory Jul 6 '11 at 11:49

I can add a few little things - our trip was built around Angers, Chenonceau and Chambord:

  • In Nantes we had a great lunch at La Belle Epoque on the river
  • Don't miss the troglodyte houses, suburban-style doors and windows set into caves in a cliff (apparently there's a museum you can go into, but we didn't).
  • The cathedral in Tours was memorable too
  • Do the garden maze at Chenonceau.
  • Keep your eyes open as you travel between sites - Roman aqueducts, giant wooden windmills, a huge wireframe statue of a horse and much more don't apparently warrant signs or anything, you just happen to see them
  • We wanted to see Talcy, but it was being renovated or something and we had to miss it. That was 2004 so I'm sure it's open now.

Finally, and the real point of my post, end your trip in Chartres so you can spend a day in the cathedral (we had a guided tour and he explained the carvings etc) and wandering this very old town. Go up the belltower so you can see the town.

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There is the Parc des Mini Chateaux. Although catering for an audience of (small-) children it has most if not all castles in the Loire valley. It gives a great starting point to figure out which Castles you want to visit.

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