The Loire Valley chateaux in Touraine
To say that the castles in Touraine are part of the landscape would be an understatement! Whether they are illustrious french chateaux or less well-known manor houses, their silhouettes are always omnipresent. Why are so many of them concentrated in this part of France, around the city of Tours?
Those heritage sites are the legacy of the French kings who adored the Loire Valley.
Alongside the medieval fortresses (Chinon, Loches) then the royal estates (Amboise), a large number of castles were built by leading figures of the realm (Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Villandry) and court nobility.
Initially built for defensive purposes in the troubled times of the Middle Ages (Langeais, Le Rivau, Ussé), the Loire chateaux gradually opened outwards during the French Renaissance (15th century), abandoning their austere ramparts and drawbridges to make way for a style particularly inspired by Italian culture. It was at this time that the tradition of gardens, considered as ‘outdoor salons’, came into being in the Loire Valley.
The myriad personalities of the Loire Valley Chateaux
Today, each one tells its own unique story, which is part of the French history: the sumptuous feasts of the royal court at Amboise, the legendary meeting between Joan of Arc and the French Dauphin at Chinon, the multi-talented genius Leonardo da Vinci at Clos Lucé, the epic marriage of a Windsor at the Domaine de Candé, the work of the great gardener Dom Pacello at the Royal estate of Château Gaillard, Rodin and Camille Claudel’s love affair at the Château de l’Islette… You’ll be spoilt for choice!
The Loire Valley Chateaux, heritage in motion
The revival is here to stay and Touraine’s heritage has its sights set firmly on the future. Almost everywhere, there are initiatives helping to improve the ways of discovering the Loire Valley castles and the visitor trails. The ‘Loire à Vélo’ cycle route also provides an opportunity to combine an active holiday in the French countryside with discovering this Unesco World Heritage Site, with essential steps like Chambord, Blois, Chaumont, Amboise, Tours, Villandry, Langeais, Azay-le-Rideau, Ussé, Chinon…
Even if summer is the ideal season for beautiful night shows or a wine tasting organized by winemakers in a castle courtyard, winter time has got surprises in store. In a few years’ time, The Touraine region has become the place to be in December thanks for “Christmas in the land of chateaux”. It is the occasion for 7 of our most famous castles to dedicate their monument to the magic of Christmas and celebrate the end of the year !