best hotels in loire valley france
Once the picturesque Loire Valley was playground to the French Court. Where royalty went to get away from it all. And visitors today will still feel something of the regal about this green countryside just an hour outside Paris. The chateaux increase in extravagance and opulence, their gardens ordered and majestic, and the rows of vines create a neatness to the landscape which you can imagine The Sun King would approve of. Our pick of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley range from chic little chambre d'hotes to no-holes-barred luxury chateau hotels. For those in search of a holiday villa or apartment, we recommend the selection with our online partner, Booking.com.
The list of the Loire's great chateaux is long and includes some of the most famed in France. While exploring the Loire you can row a boat under the half-bridge-half-chateau that is Chenonceau, see French national treasure, Chateau de Chambord and sleep in rooms which hosted the medieval English Kings.
The other thing the Loire is famed for is its produce. Wines, game, cheese and other delicacies fit for a king will grace your plate when you visit this region.
The Loire Chateaux
The Loire is well known for its chateaux. There's no definitive list, but there are around fifty which sit within the Loire or on one of the river Loire's tributaries. Some of the most famous are:
Chambord, the largest of the Loire Valley castles. It has 440 rooms, 84 staircases and 365 fireplaces. Its wonderful rounded turrets and pointed roofs make it seem the perfect step between the medieval castles and gorgeous Renaissance palaces. Part of the detailing of the roof are all the chimneys for those fireplaces.
Chateau de Villandry is known for its beautiful gardens, which are laid out like a huge patchwork quilt, each square differently designed and separated by box hedges. Chateau d'Usse inspired Charles Perrault's 17th Century romantic classic 'Sleeping Beauty'. This is every inch a fairytale palace, rather than a castle of war. Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau may be familiar to you from photos - it's the one which seems to sit in a lake - but it's really the Indre River. Chateau de Cherverny is the one which looks most like a giant doll's house.
Tours, Saumur, Angers, Amboise and Fontevraud L'Abbaye are all good places to stay if you plan to explore the Loire Valley's historical past. And slightly further north and east, Orleans has plenty for culture vultures too.
The Loire has more than 70 separate appellations or wine regions, producing wine of all shades and tastes, from bone dry to sweet as pie. The very general rule is that the best wines come from the south facing left banks of the Loire River. These include the Sauvignon Blanc grapes for the Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumes, the Chenin Blancs for the Anjours and Saumurs and the Muscadets of Nantes.
Most wine tours of the Loire trace between Tours and Sancerre or Angers and Sancerre, and follow the back roads popping into little boutique or family run wineries. But for full immersion, stay amongst the vines in pretty Sancerre.
There are a few very good reasons why the Loire is a lovely place to cycle. Firstly it's relatively flat, the views are green and pleasant and the back roads wind through lots of lovely little villages. Secondly it's a good way to hop from vineyard to vineyard while still managing to taste.
This region is popular year round, but especially in the summer months. So if you want to guarantee yourself a room in one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley, we recommend you get organised and book well ahead.
For chateaux lovers
- If you want to feel like royalty one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley is Chateau de la Barre. The decor is sumptuous beyond opulent, collected over the last 600 years by the family who're still the current owners. Twice a week the owners do a formal Grand Siecle dinner for their guests. So this is also a great destination if you're interested in the history of the place.
- The Chateau de Gixeux has one of the grandest approaches you can imagine, so is one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley if you're planning a special surprise for someone. There's more to this chateau than acres of beautiful parkland though, with plenty of activities on offer for all the family. There are just five suites and one villa, so it's also one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley if you want some privacy.
For wine lovers
- If you want to stay right amongst the vines, Domaine des Bidaudieres is one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley. It's just out of the famous wine village of Vouvray. Of course they run tastings. This beautiful 15th Century estate has B&B style accommodation, with five rooms, two suites and two villas - one self catering. And with its generous grounds this means its also one of the best places to stay in the Loire for families.
- Also set amongst vineyards, Chateau de Marcay is ideal for people who want to spend some time 'at home'. Everything you need for a relaxing day can be found here, from cooking classes to wine tastings, to grand gardens with a lovely pool. The restaurant is excellent and the wine list impressive. And despite the stunning decor, Chateau de Marcay is also pet friendly, making it one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley for pampered pets.
Cycling the Loire
- The Hostellerie de la mere Hamard is one of the best places to stay in the Loire Valley for cyclists. It's reasonably priced, comfortable, and in an excellent location in a small town outside of Tours.
- If you're a cyclist who wants to pamper themselves after a long day in the saddle, Chateau de Beaulieu fits the bill. It has direct access to the Loire a velo, AND a wonderful spa in its grand grounds. Chateau de Beaulieu also has an excellent cellar, with over 350 vintages to choose from.
- If you like the idea of cycling, but you're not sure if you want to cycle the whole time, book into Le Fleuray, just south of Santenay. This country house hotel offers guests complimentary use of their bikes. And there are some lovely little villages nearby. Le Fleuray is also right by the golf course, so definitely the best place to stay in the Loire Valley for golfers.
For a villa or apartment
- If you're travelling with a larger group of family or friends, or simply want something a little more flexible or independent, then perhaps the answer is a villa or apartment. We recommend the selection with our online partner, Booking.com.