From Paris to the Loire Valley: 4 Best Ways to Get There
The Loire Valley delights visitors with its enchanting fairy-tale castles and lush wooded parklands. Because of its exceptional cultural value, UNESCO has designated the entire 280-kilometer Loire Valley (between Chalonnes and Sully-sur-Loire) as a World Heritage Site.
When travelers decide on how to get to the Loire Valley from Paris, they should keep in mind their personal preferences. The style of vacation and travel itinerary will affect the choice of transportation.
A guided tour is the easiest way to see the highlights of the Loire Valley. Most organized excursions include several top attractions in a full-day tour, which gives travelers a chance to see the essential places on a short visit. Plus, organized excursions ensure a stress-free experience.
For those who enjoy traveling by railway, taking the train to the Loire Valley is a doable option. However, the train stops are not close to all of the Loire Valley attractions. Train travel allows easy access to only a handful of the top destinations in the Loire Valley: Château de Chambord, Château de Chenonceau, Chartres, Amboise, Bourges, and Tours.
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1. From Paris to the Loire Valley on a Guided Tour
The Loire Valley is one of the top day trips from Paris because it is only a two-hour drive to this marvelous area, where some of the most famous and most magnificent châteaux of France are found. Taking a guided tour is the best option for seeing several castles on a day trip, because it is difficult to visit multiple castles without a car.
An excellent organized tour option is the Loire Valley Castles Guided Visit from Paris. This small-group tour departs at a specified location in the 12th arrondissement of Paris at 7am and includes an extensive sightseeing itinerary. From start to finish, the full-day trip takes about 12 hours.
The tour includes visits to the Château Royal d'Amboise, a majestic Renaissance-era royal residence; the elegant Château de Chenonceau, with its iconic gallery built as an arched bridge across the Cher River; and the largest Loire Valley castle, the Château de Chambord, which is considered a symbol of the French Renaissance. The tour also stops at the Château du Clos Lucé, once the residence of Leonardo da Vinci, which today has a park and garden dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci's scientific observations and engineering inventions (with actual-size models).
2. From Paris to the Loire Valley by Car
The Loire Valley is about 100 kilometers south of Paris. It takes approximately two hours to reach the Château de Chambord, about two hours and 15 minutes to reach the Château de Cheverny, and around 2.5 hours to arrive at the Château de Chenonceau or the Château Royal d'Amboise.
Among the top attractions in the Loire Valley, the closest location to Paris is Chartres (just 89 kilometers away, about a one-hour-and-15-minute drive). Chartres has a glorious medieval cathedral that wows visitors with its soul-inspiring Gothic architecture and dazzling 13th-century stained-glass windows.
Orléans, the legendary city associated with Joan of Arc, is 130 kilometers south of Paris (a little more than a 1.5-hour drive). In this attractive riverside town, tourists will discover Joan of Arc's life story at the Maison de Jeanne d'Arc (museum) and the monumental twin-towered cathedral where Joan of Arc prayed.
The Loire Valley's largest town, Tours is 238 kilometers south of Paris (about a 2.5-hour drive). Tours has a charming historic center with a splendid Flamboyant Gothic cathedral and an excellent museum of fine arts. The Château de Villandry, renowned for its formal gardens, is just 17 kilometers from Tours.
It's worth driving a bit out of the way from Tours to the Château du Rivau for a romantic getaway. Nestled in a parkland 11 kilometers from Chinon, this turreted medieval castle features a contemporary garden classified as a "Jardin Remarquable." The Château du Rivau has two restaurants and devotes 12 rooms to its bed-and-breakfast hotel. The breakfast is prepared from fresh ingredients grown locally, including on the property's farm.
3. From Paris to the Loire Valley by Train
Taking the train from Paris to the Loire Valley is a good option if you want to visit just one château on a day trip. Some of the most-visited châteaux offer shuttle service to and from the nearest train station. Travelers can check the SNCF train schedules.
The Château de Chambord, the largest and most famous castle in the Loire Valley, can be reached by taking a direct SNCF train ride from the Montparnasse station or Austerlitz station in Paris to the Blois-Chambord station. A direct train ride takes approximately 1.5 hours. There are also routes from the Austerlitz station in Paris to Blois-Chambord with connections, which take from two hours to 2.5 hours.
A shuttle bus service is provided from the Blois-Chambord station to the Château de Chambord; the shuttle ride takes about 35 minutes.
The Château de Chenonceau, appreciated for its delicate feminine decor and graceful architecture, can be reached by the SNCF train from the Montparnasse station in Paris with a connection in Saint-Pierre-des-Corps. The two-hour train ride from Paris to the Chenonceaux station drops visitors off within walking distance of the Château de Chenonceau.
Another way to reach the Château de Chenonceau is by taking the TGV train (high-velocity train) ride from Paris Montparnasse station to the Tours station (which takes about 1.5 hours) and then connecting in Tours to the SNCF train to Chenonceaux station (the train ride from Tours takes about 50 minutes).
Traveling by train also makes sense for those who are spending several days in the Loire Valley or combining the Loire Valley visit with a larger itinerary that includes other tourist attractions in France. Depending on the destinations of a travel itinerary, renting a car may be more practical, especially in the neighboring Burgundy region.
An interesting travel itinerary through the Loire Valley could include several train station stops: Chartres to see its exquisite Gothic cathedral; the town of Blois, which has shuttle bus services to the Château de Chambord; Amboise, a charming medieval town with a spectacular Renaissance-era castle (Château Royal d'Amboise); and the picturesque old ducal city of Bourges, with its richly adorned, UNESCO-listed Gothic cathedral.
The town of Tours is easily accessible by train from Paris and is certainly worth the journey. Visitors enjoy wandering the cobblestone streets of Tours' historic center to discover pleasant squares and admire quaint half-timbered houses. Other attractions of Tours are the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), which displays a superb collection of paintings, and the Gothic cathedral, which has marvelous 13th-century stained-glass windows.
4. From Paris to the Loire Valley by Bus
The FlixBus has a direct bus route from Paris (Bercy Seine station) to Blois, which takes 2.5 hours, but this bus service only runs once a day at most (some days do not have service), usually departing at 12:20pm. Tourists who choose this option will want to spend a few nights in Blois as a base for exploring the Loire Valley châteaux.
Those seeking accommodations in Blois will find reasonable rates at the three-star ibis Styles Blois Centre Gare, located in the center of Blois near the train station and about a 15-minute walk to the Château de Blois. A bit closer to the Château de Blois in the heart of town, the three-star Best Western Blois Château offers stylish accommodations at a good price, with excellent amenities including a 24-hour front reception desk.
The advantage of staying in Blois is the bus shuttle service from the Blois SNCF train station to several of the most noteworthy castles: Château de Chambord, Château de Cheverny, and Château de Beauregard.
Travelers who are interested in the story of Joan of Arc should travel to Orléans. The BlaBlaBus runs frequent, direct bus routes from Paris (Bercy Seine) to Orléans; the bus ride only takes about one hour and 45 minutes or less. This option could work as a day trip from Paris or for spending a few nights in the Loire Valley based in Orléans.
FlixBus has a direct bus that runs several times a day from Paris to Orléans, and the quickest route takes approximately 1.5 hours. The buses run frequently enough that travelers could take a day trip from Paris to Orléans.
Near Orléans (27 kilometers away) is the Château de Meung-sur-Loire, a medieval fortress that was transformed into a palace in the 16th century. The Château de Meung-sur-Loire is open from February through October for self-guided visits. To get to the château, travelers can take a short (12-minute) SNCF train ride from Orléans to the town of Meung-sur-Loire.
After arriving in Meung-sur-Loire, visitors can get around the area by bicycle. There are many beautiful cycling trails around Meung-sur-Loire and Orléans (as well as throughout the Loire Valley). The Office of Tourism in Meung-sur-Loire (1 Rue Emmanuel Troulet) has bicycles that are available for rent by the day.
Another option to get to the Loire Valley on the FlixBus is the three-hour bus route from Paris (Bercy Seine) to Tours, 17 kilometers from Villandry. The 16th-century Château de Villandry is renowned for its lavish Renaissance gardens. It's feasible to visit as a day trip from Paris in July or August, when the Fil Bleu shuttle bus service runs from Tours to the Château de Villandry, which is open from early February through mid-November (the gardens are open every day year-round).
At other times of year (anytime except July and August), when the Fil Bleu shuttle bus service is not available, spending a few nights in Tours makes more sense if you take the FlixBus.
For those who extend their stay in Tours, there are other dreamy castles to visit nearby. About 30 kilometers (a 25-minute taxi ride) from Tours is the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, a gem of Renaissance architecture. This unique castle was built on an island in the Indre River and is surrounded by a romantic parkland. The Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is open to the public for visits year-round.
For those who want to visit the Loire Valley as a day trip, the BlaBlaBus offers frequent (several times a day) direct bus service from Paris (Bercy Seine) to Tours. The bus ride from Paris to Tours takes at least three hours. If you would like to see more than just one château, it's best to spend a few nights in Tours.
Affordable hotels in the center of Tours include the four-star Grand Hôtel de Tours, located near the train station and within a 15-minute walk of the Vieille Ville (Old Town) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts; and the three-star Au Relais Saint Eloi, a cozy contemporary-style hotel that is about a 10-minute walk from the Vieille Ville.
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Planning a Stay in Paris: Many tourists travel to the Loire Valley as a day trip from Paris, where they are basing their vacation. To get the most out of visiting Paris, learn about the top tourist attractions such as the historic churches and world-class museums. Plan ahead by deciding where to stay in Paris, to make sure that you select a hotel that suits your preferences.
Nearby Attractions by Train: From Tours in the Loire Valley, it's a 2.5-hour train ride to Nantes, where the Edict of Nantes was signed in the city's impressive cathedral. Tourists enjoy wandering Nantes' quaint cobblestone streets and soaking up the urban ambience at bustling cafés. Another easy trip from Tours is the two-hour train ride to La Rochelle, an atmospheric Atlantic Coast port town surrounded by medieval walls.
Visiting Burgundy by Car: A driving itinerary is best for visiting the Burgundy region, which has many lovely historic towns and country villages that are inaccessible by train. From Bourges, it's a two-hour drive to Auxerre, a charming riverside city with many architectural treasures. It also takes about 2 hours by car from Bourges to Vézelay, a beautiful village with a UNESCO-listed basilica. The city of Dijon is a 3.5-hour drive from Bourges; it would take much longer to get there by train.