If you are planning a trip to France and want to visit both the City of Light and the castles of the Loire, you will be pleased to hear that getting from Paris to the Loire Valley is super fast and easy. In fact, it is no coincidence that this beautiful river valley that once served as the stomping grounds of Kings is located fairly close to Paris. In the days before high-speed trains, cars and planes, the Loire was close enough to the capital that French royalty could get there in about a day, either on horseback or by carriage.
Luckily, we have now entered the 21st century and visitors to the Loire are no longer required to travel via horseback or carriage – now you can be there in practically a blink of the day thanks to modern travel options.
Something you may want to keep in mind, however, that while it is easy to get TO the Loire from Paris without having to rent a car in France, it is not as easy to see the individual castles of the Loire without a car (unless you opt for one of the bus tours of the area).
There is a TGV (high-speed train) that runs in between the Montparnasse station in Paris and Tours, which can serve as a connecting point for other trains or a base from which to visit specific châteaux. The TGV from Paris to Tours takes only 35 minutes, meaning that you can see a few of the Loire castles even as a day-trip from Paris.
There is also a train that runs from Paris to Blois, at the “other end” of the Loire river on the map above, which takes 1.5 hours. From Blois, you can easily access Chambord via bus and there are regular trains to Amboise as well.
Azay-le-Rideau, 15 miles SW of Tours
Chenonceau, 14 miles SE of Tours
Villandry, 12 miles west of Tours
Amboise, 18 miles from Tours
Direct trains from Paris for Blois take a different route than those for Tours, but you can go to Blois via a switch in Tours (or the other Tours station, called St. Pierre-des-Corps).
Blois has its own famous castle, which has been linked throughout the centuries as the center of court intrigue during the 15th – 17th Centuries and with the history of French Kings. Nearby: the Châteaux of Beauregard and Chaumont-sur Loire.
Blois Castle (located in town)
Cheverney, eight miles SE of Blois
While it is not terribly difficult to take public transportation to the various castles from the Tours or Blois train stations, another possibility if you are spending more than one day in the Loire and want to see as many castles as possible is to take the train from Paris to Tours and then rent a car for your remaining time in the Loire Valley. This way you can go to and from the castles at your own pace and easily travel from castle to castle (and you don’t have to deal with Parisian traffic).
The local train from Tours to Orleans takes around 90 minutes and stops en route in Amboise (20 minutes from Tour) and in Blois (20 minutes from Amboise).
This is one of the few times I will ever recommend taking a car to get between cities in France, but driving from Paris to the Loire is actually an easy, quick way to go. Also, having a car gives you the freedom to easily travel between castles and allows visitors the flexibility and ease of being able to see numerous castles in the same day and during the same trip.
From Paris, the drive to Tours takes about 2-3 hours depending on the traffic situation in Paris.
- From the Paris périphérique (other ring road), take E15/E50/l’Autoroute du Soleil. Continue along: A6B / E15 / E50
- Take the Exit towards A10/E05 towards Oreleans/Nantes/Bordeaux/Palaiseau
- Take Exit 21 towards Tours-Centre/Montlouis/Saint-Pierre-des-Corps
The drive is approximately 240 km, takes 2-3 hours and should cost you about €30 in tolls.
Another option is to take the train to Tours and then rent a car and see the various castles from there. This way you avoid having to deal with the traffic/roads in Paris, but you have the freedom of a car to get you from chateau to chateau.
>>Read more about renting a car in France.
>>For specific directions visit www.viamichelin.com, which provides driving maps, gas cost estimates and specific directions for driving in Europe.
By Bus/Coach Tours
If you do decide to see the main castles of the Loire in just a day or two, these guided bus tours are probably one of the easiest ways to see the most in a limited amount of time (unless you prefer to rent a car and drive it yourself). While I am not a fan of bus tours in general, the Loire Valley is not a bad place for them, as you are going to châteaux that will already be full of tourists and the buses allow for quick and easy transportation in between the castles.
Ze Bus offers affordable, great bus tours all over France (and even in Spain and Portugal) that allows passengers to get to many of France’s main tourist sites easily (including the Loire). Visit the ZE Bus website for more information.
You can also opt to take a full-day tour of the valley by bus or mini van. These range in price, but a full-day escorted coach tour should run you €150-€200.
M. Touch Travel does a full-day Châteaux Tour for €159 that stops at Chambord, Cheverny and Chenonceau. Visit their website for more information.