France 3-Day Itinerary: Loire Valley
A Loire Valley 3-day trip is an experience in full immersion into Frenchness, and a must-do for any Francophile. It’s beautiful any time of year, but the Châteaux gardens really should be seen in late spring and summer. (That being said, there is a case to be made for Fall in France: Beautiful foliage and great wines in the Loire Valley.)
I’d recommend a road trip for this one, as it’s much easier to get from one castle to another and you can do it at your own pace. However, there are many worthy castle tours that make sure you hit all the biggies.
To get you oriented and help with logistics, check out this Loire Valley overview and how to get from Paris to the Loire Valley (complete with handy map!).
As for a base, Tours is the closest major city to the region’s sites, but I’ve stayed in Amboise (at the ridiculously stunning Château des Arpentis, pictured above) and found that the town not only has amazing restaurants – seriously, every one was a home run – but its general vibe fits well with the castles we saw each day.
To help you with the decision, mull over these articles:
- How to Get from Paris to Tours
- Cheap Hotels in Tours
- How to Get from Paris to Amboise
- Cheap Hotels in Amboise
And you can check right now for rates at the Château des Arpentis – a splurge, but so worth it!
As for the castles, there’s not a bad one in the lot. They each have their own unique history and interesting features. To help you choose which ones to see, read this article on Castles of the Loire Valley.
The thing is, though, if you want to do a 3-day trip here, you want to limit it to no more than six castles – one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a break for lunch. Any more than that, and they all start to blend together. You could easily explore one castle a day as well; I could easily spend a full day smelling the roses in the gardens of Château Villandry, and I spied an adorable restaurant on the grounds of Château Chambord.
Just one more note here: This is a great itinerary if you have kids. They may be a bit bored by the history of the castles, but there is so much cool stuff to see inside (some even have creepy/cool mannequins in tableaux), and the expansive grounds surrounding them are perfect for running around after being cooped up in the car.