France is famous all over the world for its incredible cuisine, its extraordinary history, its unique culture, its diverse landscapes, and its amazing touristic potential. It’s a perfect place for a vacation for people of all ages and backgrounds. If you love to ski, you can find amazing experiences down in the Alps. If you love beaches, you can head to the South of France and enjoy the sunshine and beauty of places like Nice. If you love big cities and good food, Lyon and Paris are waiting for you.
France is also famous for its rural landscapes, countryside scenes, and historic ‘chateaux’. There are many castles and palaces to be found all over the country, especially in the famed Loire Valley region. Stretching out some 170 miles, the Loire Valley runs along the Loire River in the center of France. It covers over 300 square miles of land and is home to many castles, vineyards, historic towns, and beautiful sites of interest. Here’s how to plan a day trip to the Loire Valley from Paris.
Getting to the Loire Valley from Paris
Paris is perfectly positioned for many different day trips, being nicely placed for trips east, west, north, and south to many major cities and beautiful spots. It's also in a great place for day trips to the Loire Valley, and organizing your Loire Valley day trip isn't as difficult or time consuming as you might imagine. There are several different options available when traveling from Paris to the Loire Valley, including taking a rental car, riding the train, or signing up for a bus/coach tour.
Getting to the Loire Valley from Paris by Car
Many people would recommend taking a rental car from Paris to the Loire Valley as the best way to enjoy this scenic part of France. The advantages of having your own car are clear to see: you'll have freedom to decide when you want to leave Paris and when you want to return, and you'll also have lots of flexibility in terms of where you go and when you decide to get there.
The drive from Paris to Tours, which is one of the main cities in the Loire Valley and one of the closest major points of the valley to Paris, takes between two and three hours on average. On a good day, you can be there quite quickly, but the traffic in and around Paris will determine your journey's overall length. To get there, simply follow the périphérique around Paris and follow signs for the E15. You'll then want to take the exit for the A10 towards Orléans, and then follow that road before turning off towards Tours.
Getting to the Loire Valley from Paris by Train
The Loire Valley is a very rural and pristine place, but it does still have decent train links to connect it to the capital. There's a TGV service, which is the high speed train in France, connecting Montparnasse station in Paris with the aforementioned Loire Valley city of Tours. The TGV is exceptionally fast, only taking about half an hour to get to Tours from Paris.
Once you get to Tours, you can catch other trains to visit various locations around the valley or hop on a bus tour. You could even choose to rent a car from Tours in order to explore the area with ease and catch the train back to Paris later on. If you'd like to go beyond Tours, you can take a train from Paris to Blois, which takes about 90 minutes.
Getting to the Loire Valley from Paris on a Tour
Of course, one of the simplest options for your Paris day trip to the Loire Valley is to let the professionals handle all the transport and organization. Various tour operators run guided bus and coach tours to the Loire Valley straight from Paris.
The prices of these tours can vary and the details of each tour can be quite different too. Some will focus on certain chateaux, for example, while others will head to the cities of the valley instead. Be sure to do your research and compare tours to find the right option for your Loire Valley day trip.
Things to See in the Loire Valley
- Chateau de Villandry - There are hundreds of chateaux to explore around the Loire Valley, but the Chateau de Villandry is easily one of the best known and most beautiful. It has one of the most extraordinary gardens you'll ever see and is known as one of the best spots for families to visit in the Loire Valley with its children's play area and hedge maze.
- Tours - Tours is the main city in the Indre-et-Loire department of France. It's a historic and cultural location with plenty of pretty buildings and architecture dating back to the Middle Ages. It's a big student town, so there are plenty of good shops, restaurants, and bars around, and it's a great place to base yourself for Loire Valley exploration, with lots of connecting bus and train services.
- Amboise - Very popular with tourists in the Loire Valley due to its picturesque beauty and fascinating history, Amboise is a lovely little town with links to French royalty. You'll find lots of hold homes and buildings in Amboise, and like so many other spots around the valley, it has its own chateau too, as well as a 12th century church.
- Chateau de Chenonceau - Arguably the most famous of all the castles and palaces of the Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chenonceau is a simply breathtaking location sitting above the River Cher. It was the home of Queen Catherine de Medici and is filled with history and heritage, as well as being a simply extraordinary feat of architecture and design.
- Chateau de Chambord - Another iconic chateau of the Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord dates back to the 16th century. It was used as a simple hunting lodge to begin with but is home to more than 400 different rooms. The grounds and design of this chateau are truly magical and you can easily spend a full day here and still have so much left over to see.