Travel

A Car-free Trip to the Loire Valley

by Lily Heise
Left: Sun is shining on a busy street in Amboise. Right: Three boats are on a lake in Amboise.
Above: Street in Amboise, @igers_valdeloire/ Amboise lake, @omonchateau
Top: Château de Chambord gardens @chateaudechambord, Vines @vinsvaldeloire

With its proximity to Paris, stunning castles and charming towns, the Loire Valley is ideal for an excursion from the capital. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest regions to visit without renting a car, which can be both cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Enjoy a car-free trip to the Loire thanks to these useful tips and selection of places to stay.

Left: Vineyard is lit up by the sunset. Right: Dining tables and chairs inside Fleur de Loire Bistrot.
Vineyard,@Lukas/ Fleur de Loire Bistrot, fleurdeloire.com

The Loire by Train & Bus

Although France has one of the world’s best train systems, it doesn’t reach all destinations of interest. This is the case with a number of the castles in the Loire. Nevertheless, a number of the region’s top sites are accessible by train or bus. The gateway to the Loire, the city of Tours, is only an hour from Paris by the TGV high-speed train which goes to Tour’s Saint-Pierre-des-Corps station. From here, regional trains travel to a variety of castles and towns.

Left: Château de Chenonceau is reflected in the nearby water. Right: Woman looks out of large window inside Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau, @igers_valdeloire/ @nomibis

Pair exploring a typical French town with visiting a castle by going to Amboise, Blois or Chinon, all home to historically significant châteaux. On a different train line from Tours is the Château de Chenonceau, with its famed gallery spanning the Cher River. There’s also a twice-daily Rémi bus which goes between Amboise and Chenonceau. The Château de Chaumont is on the train line between Amboise and Blois, then there’s a bus between the station and castle or it’s a pleasant 30-minute walk.

Left: Large double bed inside a bedroom at Chaâteau de Pray, Right: Wine glasses are sat on top of a dining table with a white tablecloth at Château de Pray
Bedroom at Château de Pray, @plume.dhistoire/ Outdoor dining at Château de Pray, @lechateaudepray

While the most renowned castle of the Loire, le Château de Chambord, isn’t on a train line, it can be reached by a special shuttle at Blois station. The shuttle also stops at the Château de Cheverny, one of the few castles in the Loire still owned by the family who built it. Because of this these two castles can be easily visited on the same day. Be sure to check schedules in advance to ensure a smooth trip.

The Loire by Bike

Left: A group of four cycle in front of Château Chenonceau. Right: The sun is shining on wooden dining table inside Fleur de Loire
Group biking, @toursvaldeloiretourisme/ Fleur de Loire @lespetitscoinsdeblois

Even more eco-friendly, and quite fun, is touring the Loire by bike. The relatively flat region is dissected by a 900-kilometer cycle route called La Loire à Vélo. This gives you the flexibility of chateaux-hopping along the Loire River as well as taking detours to villages, castles and vineyards which aren’t accessible by train.

Left: Family of four cycle next to water in the Loire. Right: Old-fashioned bicycle leans up against a wall on a cobbled street
Family on bike, @loirevalleytourism/ Bike on path, Hugo Coulbouée

What’s more, most bike rental companies allow you to rent a bike in one destination and leave it at another, so there’s no need to back track. Rentals come with helmets and some companies also offer electric bikes for an even easier journey! Bikes can also be delivered to a specific train station or your hotel.

Where to Stay in the Loire

Left: The outside of Le Manoir Les Minimes is covered with wisteria. Right: A white sofa is sat in the centre of a bedroom suite inside Le Manoir Les Minimes hotel
Le Manoir Les Minimes, hotelmix.fr/Le Manoir Les Minimes suite, manoirlesminimes.com

Another nice element of the Loire are the area’s many charming hotels. While several Loire’s castle-hotels are found in the countryside, there are some lovely accessible options. Amboise is a convenient base, which also allows you to get to its wide array of restaurants on foot. You can have a princely experience by staying at Le Manoir Les Minimes or Château de Pray, both located in historic chateaux right in Amboise. For a more intimate stay, book the Manoir Saint-Thomas, a cozy historic manor home with individually decorated rooms, a lovely garden and heated pool.


Left: Three chairs line the sides of the swimming pool inside Fleur de Loire hotel. Velouté is being poured on top of a plate of tortellini at Château de Pray restaurant.
Fleur de Loire, @booking.com/ Food from Le Château de Pray, @symbolesdefrance

The city of Blois is another well-situated base for exploring the region. Located across the river from the Chateau de Blois is the newly opened Fleur de Loire. The 5-star Relais & Châteaux hotel is housed in a 17th-century manor built for the brother of King Louis XIII. The lifelong project of two-Michelin-starred Chef Christophe Hay puts sustainability at the forefront and includes a gastronomic restaurant and spa to enhance your getaway to the Loire!

Left: Candles and a fireplace sit inside a living room at Manoir St Thomas. Right: A blue sky sits behind Le Manoir St Thomas, which is surrounded by shrubs and greenery
Le Manoir St Thomas, manoir-saint-thomas.com 

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Written by Lily Heise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out marketplace shop and experiences.

Written By

Lily Heise

Lily Heise has been living in Paris for more than 10 years. When she's not getting into romantic mischief, she writes on dating, travel, and culture. Her writing has been featured in Frommer’s Guides, the Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, City Secrets, DK Eyewitness Guides, and other local and international publications. She is the author of Je T'Aime, Me Neither, and Je T'Aime... Maybe? lively novelized memoirs on her romantic misadventures, and continues to share dating tips, stories and travel features on her blog www.jetaimemeneither.com. View Lily Heise's Website

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