Paris, France’s ‘City of Light’, is a magical city with an abundance of sights to see, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre with the Mona Lisa, Montmartre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the nearby Palace of Versailles.
But after all this sightseeing, you might be looking to escape the hustle and bustle of central Paris. If so, and if you’re looking for an easy day trip out, look no further than the Loire Valley.
The region is located not far from the south of the French capital and offers a wealth of attractions.
It is home to some of France’s most beautiful scenery. You can explore quaint medieval towns and picturesque villages, admire fairy-tale castles dating back centuries, and take in stunning river views. It’s a perfect day trip from Paris.
Read on for information on a Loire Valley day trip from Paris.
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How to get to the Loire Valley from Paris
It’s really easy to get to the Loire Valley from Paris. You can drive or travel by train.
However, given that the area stretches for over 300 square miles, how – and where – you choose to go will depend on the time you have available.
For example, you can drive to the city of Orléans in the east part of the region in around an hour and a half. It is around an hour by train.
By contrast, Nantes in the western part is over three and a half hours to drive.
If you’re heading for a specific place in the north east part of the valley, then travelling by car or public transportation is feasible.
However, if you want to see several things on your Loire Valley day trip from Paris, then one of the best ways to do this is to book a guided tour that will take you between different places of interest.
These offer a full day trip to the region. They also give you the added benefit of an expert tour guide or local guide who can explain the history of the sights and make sure you don’t miss the main attractions.
Loire Valley tours
There are a wide variety of tours that you can book. Many are château tours (there are hundreds in the area so there are plenty to choose from).
Others include the opportunity to sample some of the region’s food and indulge in some wine-tasting.
- This Loire Valley Castles day trip takes you to the valley via air-conditioned coach and combines visits to three castles (the Château de Chambord, the first stop of the day, then the Château de Chenonceau, and Blois Castle).
The tour includes skip-the-line tickets to the two chateaux, as well as wine tasting in Chenonceau. There’s also free time built into the itinerary in Blois, a city that sits alongside the Loire River.
- This full-day Loire Valley Châteaux tour combines visits to three Chateaux – the Château de Chambord, the Château de Chenonceau and the Château de Cheverny – three stunning castles in the region.
- There is a similar full-day tour here for those who prefer to sightsee as part of a small group tour.
- For foodies, there is this tour. The tour takes you to Chambord Castle, and then through the local countryside and vineyards, all while learning about the wine-making industry in the Loire Valley. Included in the price is a gourmet lunch and a wine tasting.
- If you’re lucky enough to have more time in the area, there is also this 2-day tour. It also includes a visit to the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey and Normandy beaches and an overnight stay in a hotel.
For other Loire Valley day tours, click here.
Things to see on your Loire Valley day trip from Paris
Below I have provided some information on some things to see on your Loire Valley day trip from Paris.
I have focused primarily on those sights within just a couple of hours from Paris.
Most of these cover the region’s famous châteaux (castles). With over 300 of these to choose from, it’s no surprise that these tend to be the main attractions for tourists.
I have included brief information on the history of the châteaux and what you can see see on a visit. I’ve also provided ideas for other nearby towns and experiences that it would be possible to visit on a Loire Valley day trip from Paris.
The Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau is a 16th-century castle on the river Cher in the Loire Valley. It is just over two hours by train from Paris and so often features in day tours here.
The Castle is also known as the Château des Dames (‘Castle of the Ladies’). This is because it was built and owned by a succession of women throughout its history. In its earliest days, this included Diane de Poitiers, Henry II’s mistress, and Catherine de Medici, his wife.
It also served as a military hospital in the First World War. The castle is now a popular tourist attraction in France.
Chenonceau Castle is an absolutely beautiful castle. Uniquely, part of it forms an arched bridge over the Cher river.
It has lavish formal gardens with pretty manicured lawns, statues, and fountains. There is a garden named after Henry II’s wife and one after his mistress, as well as an Italian maze, and a flower and vegetable garden. There is also a farm and stables, and a donkey sanctuary.
Inside the castle, you can see the rooms where the residents slept, plus the Chapel, the guard’s room, the Gallery ballroom, the kitchens, and various drawing rooms belonging to some of the different Kings. The Medici Galley displays a collection of art, large tapestries, and furniture.
The castle also has the Cave des Domes, a 16th-century wine cellar that stores the wine produced from the château’s vines. You can do some wine-tasting here and buy a few bottles of your favourite to take home.
If you you’d like to do this, the best time to visit Chenonceau is between mid-March and mid-November when the cave is open.
You can pre-book entrance tickets here if you prefer to visit Chenonceau independently and at your own pace.
The Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site around 100 miles from Paris. It’s another popular attraction and the largest castle in the Loire.
Chambord was built in the 16th century as a hunting lodge for King Francis I.
But when you see it, it couldn’t be further from the image of this type of building. It’s a stunning French Renaissance royal palace inspired by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. And it’s huge!
The castle has almost 450 rooms, over 360 fireplaces, and 84 staircases (one of these is a striking double helix staircase). There are spectacular views from the top of the towers and turrets.
It sits in a large 18th-century garden surrounded by Europe’s largest walled park (the wall is 32 kilometres long). The park is home to deer, wild boar, and other animals. There are stables, vineyards, and a vegetable garden.
Chambord is a really impressive place and well worth a visit. You can also take a boat trip on the canal while here, a great way to look back at the castle as you sail along the river banks.
Or you can hire a pedal car to travel around the grounds or walk along the 23 kilometres of pathways around the estate.
The Château de Cheverny
The Château de Cheverny is in Loir-et-Cher, just over 100 miles from Paris and near the city of Blois (it’s less than 20 minutes to drive from Blois). A trip to Cheverny Castle features in many of the day trips to the Loire Valley.
The castle’s history dates back to the 17th century and the Hurault family, generations of which have lived here over the years to the present day.
As with the other castles in the area, it is a striking building. The Lonely Planet guide states that it is “perhaps the Loire’s most elegantly proportioned chateau…the zenith of French classical architecture: a perfect blend of symmetry, geometry and aesthetic order”.
Today, the castle is open to visitors, and you can go inside and wander through some of the rooms and see the artefacts stored in them. There is also a park and several different gardens to explore (including a tulip and vegetable garden, plus the ‘Garden of Love’ with bronze sculptures).
You can also get lost in a maze and, for dog lovers, there are kennels housing over 100 dogs. Time it right and you can watch these being fed.
The Château D’Amboise
The Château D’Amboise was built in the 15th century and served as a royal residence until the 19th century.
It is best known for its connection to King Charles VIII. He was born there in 1470 and converted the chateau into an opulent palace.
You can learn about the château’s history when you visit, find out about its subsequent residents (these include Louis XII, Henri II, and Catherine de Medici), as well as the changes made after Charles died in the chateau in 1498.
Take a look inside the castle and walk around its pretty gardens (which includes the the ‘Naples Gardens’, a nod to the garden’s Italian connections).
Trains to the Château D’Amboise take around two hours from Paris.
The Château du Clos Lucé
There’s not just one château in Amboise, but two. In addition to the Château D’Amboise, there is also the Château du Clos Lucé. It’s less than 10 minutes away from Amboise by train, so it would be easy for this to be the next stop on your day out.
This chateau is a more modest one as Loire Valley châteaux go, but if you’re a fan of Leonardo da Vinci, you need to go. It was his last home.
You can learn about his time here, as well as the castle’s other owners and residents. You can step into the rooms where Da Vinci lived, see models of some of his work, and walk around his garden.
If this interests you, you can book a ticket here.
The Château Chaumont
Château Chaumont is in Chaumont-Sur-Loire and is around 1 hour and 40 minutes by train from Paris.
After the château was burned down and demolished, it was rebuilt in the last years of the 15th century/ first decade of the 16th century. Over the centuries, it has been the home to several famous rulers and their spouses, including Charles II, Henri II, and his wife Catherine de Medici.
Diane de Poitiers also went on to own the castle, and it is said that the current design of the château is attributable to her. When you visit, you can see some of this: the “so-called Catherine de Medici Room”, the Council Room, the Chapel, the Guard Room, and the grand spiral staircase.
You can also see the lovely 19th century manicured grounds, which cover an area of 21 hectares. There is a reservoir with an old bridge, stables, and a model farm.
Blois Castle – or the Château Royal de Blois – is in the centre of Blois, around an hour and a half by fast train from Paris.
Built in the 13th century, the castle was the home of seven French Kings and ten Queens. It was also the place where Joan of Arc was blessed before leading the French to victory at nearby Orléans.
Throughout its history, the Château de Blois has undergone several renovations resulting in a fascinating mix of different architectures to see when you visit.
These reflect the castle’s different historical periods: the medieval period and the original fortress; a gothic wing with 15th-century architecture developed during the reign of Louis XII, and a 16th-century Italian Renaissance section attributed to Francois I.
The 17th-century part of the palace has classical Greek-style architecture.
The Château de Blois is in the centre of Blois so take a look around the city when you visit. The old town is home to several historic landmarks. These include the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Louis, and the church of Saint-Nicolas. The Jardins de l’Ancien Évêché near the Cathedral displays a rose garden.
You can also stroll along the River Loire and look at the 18th-century Pont Jacques-Gabriel.
Orléans is an easy Loire Valley day trip from Paris that you could easily do independently. It is between one and two hours away by train.
Orléans sits by the Loire River and has a lovely old town with historic renaissance buildings. It also has a gothic cathedral (the Sainte Croix Cathedral), an impressive art museum (Le Musee des Beaux-Arts), and a botanical garden (the Parc Floral de la Source).
However, the city is best known for its association with the famous Joan of Arc, who led the country’s army to victory against the English in the Siege of Orleans in the Hundred Years’ War. Today, visitors to Orleans can learn about Joan of Arc at the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc, where she stayed in the city in 1429, and the Orléans archaeology museum (the Musée Historique et Archéologique de l’Orléanais).
You can also see tributes to her throughout Orléans, including a statue of Joan on horseback in the Place du Martroi and in the cathedral. The city also hosts a festival to honour her every year.
Loire Valley wine tasting
Wine aficionados should add a Loire Valley wine tour to their must-do list. It is one of the best places to sample some of France’s finest wines.
Many different varieties are produced here, including the white Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sancerre. The red wines include Cabernet Franc from towns and cities such as Chinon and Saumur. The area around Saumur also produces some of the area’s sparkling wines.
There are apparently over 1,000 vineyards that you can visit in the Loire Valley, so you won’t be spoilt for choice.
But if you’re short on time, you can book a private tour that includes wine tasting. Click to explore options.
Other ideas for short breaks in France
A Loire Valley day trip from Paris is just one of the places you can visit from the capital.
Other nearby places include Lyon which is a great place to visit for a couple of days.
It has fabulous food here – if you go, visit the wonderful Brasseries Georges.
And if you want to go to Switzerland from here, Geneva is less than two hours away.
Further south, is the city of Nice. Sitting on the Cote d’Azur, it’s a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. My recent post outlines 15 top day trips from Nice, including Monaco, Menton, Cannes, St. Tropez and Grasse.
If you do go and make your way to Menton, I have also written about the top things to do here.