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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
- Le Manoir Les Minimes — 34 Quai Charles Guinot, 37400 Amboise
- Château de Pray — Rue du Cèdre, 37530 Chargé
- Manoir Saint-Thomas — 1 Mail Saint-Thomas, 37400 Amboise
- Fleur de Loire — Quai Villebois Mareuil, 41000 Blois
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