Travel Guide: The Loire Valley

Aug 4, 2023by Madi Lowry

If you haven’t tried a wine from the Loire Valley, head to your closest store and pick one up. And if you haven’t added the Loire Valley to your travel destination bucket list, add it!

For more information on the history and wines of the Loire Valley, see our blog post titled, “The Loire Valley” in the Wine 101 section. For where to eat, sleep, and drink in the Loire Valley keep reading!!!

To accompany your trip, you need to read The Nightingale!! It is a historical fiction novel based in France in 1939 (specifically Paris and the Loire Valley). This is my all time favorite book that is being developed into a movie in the next few years!

How to Get There:

  1. Fly into Paris, FR
    1. There are two airports: Charles de Gaulle and Orly. These airports are on opposite sides of the city, with CDG being the bigger of the two. 
  2. Train to Tours, FR
    1. The train to Tours will take ~2 hours from either airport with 1-2 changes depending on the time of day and what trains are running.
    2. You can skip the train and rent a car from either of the Paris airports and drive straight to the Loire Valley. We recommend renting a car in Tours to save money and save yourself from the wild driving in Paris. 
  3. Rent a car and drive to your selected city in the Loire Valley
    1. It is ~1 hour to the Loire Valley from Tours. Another hour of travel may not be what you are looking forward to after a long flight and train, but the drive is absolutely gorgeous and will fly by! If you are there in the summer, you will be greeted by large fields of blooming sunflowers. 
    2. You can continue on local trains from Tours to various cities within the Loire Valley, but we strongly recommend having a car. The drives through the countryside are stunning and an attraction in itself!

Where to Stay:

You can stay in any of the main cities and have easy access to restaurants or find accommodations in more remote areas of the countryside. We stayed at the stunning Chateau de Rochecotte located in the wine region of Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil. It is ~30 minutes drive to the city of Chinon (or 4 hours by public transportation…take our advice and rent a car). 

Château de Rochecotte — Wikipédia

If you are traveling with a larger group, an AirBnb would be a great option as well. There is a mix of accommodations on AirBnb like apartments in the city centers, cottages in the countryside, and rooms in castles (or entire castles if your group is large enough)!

What to Do:

We went to the Loire Valley to mainly drink wine, so we chose a location that was central enough to the wineries we planned to visit. However, the valley has a lot more to offer like stunning castles and charming cities. The famous castles include Chateau de Blois, Chateau de Chambord Chateau d’Amboise, Chateau du Clos Luce, Chateau de Chenonceaux, Chateau de Villandry, and Chateau D’Usse. There are amazing tours that offer guided trips to both castles and wineries. Searching and booking through Viator is a great option.

The 15 Best Castles in the Loire Valley, France + Tips to Visit - Travel  Bliss Now

Loire Valley Castles: The Best French Châteaux You Mustn't Miss

The valley is also a popular location for biking. There was a group staying at our hotel that biked around all day (averaging ~20 miles/day) to different sites, returned to the property for an afternoon swim and glass (or two) of wine, and then off to a dinner where they basically had the entire, small restaurant to themselves. Unfortunately, this made it hard for us to find reservations for dinner but I’m glad they got to experience the culinary experiences they did! In June there is a biking festival, Anjou Velo, in Saumur that we were lucky enough to witness. 

Where to Eat:

Our #1 recommendation is to utilize your hotel’s concierge (if you are staying in a hotel). They will be able to give local recommendations and assist in making reservations where the language barrier may cause issues/confusion. Our hotel had an amazing restaurant that rivaled any restaurant on our trip! 

We visited Saumur and Chinon and found cafes to eat at during the day in both cities. You honestly can’t go wrong with any cafe or restaurant in either of these cities. If you do not have dinner reservations in Chinon, head to the Hotel de France and find a gorgeous square with multiple restaurants you can walk into and enjoy a nice meal. In Saumur, head to St Peter’s Church and find a square with bustling restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and bars with views of the chapel. 

If you are visiting Chinon, do not miss a sunset at La Guinguette Rabelaisienne. This casual bar and restaurant serves local wines, small bites, occasional summer concerts, and stunning views of the Fortresse Royale de Chinon. Also, be sure to try the tarte vignerone, which is a Chinon's famous tarte made with red wine jam.

Where to Drink:

There are endless wineries and places to drink in the Loire Valley! We booked a day tour through Loire Valley Wine Tours and cannot recommend them enough. The tour guides, Keith and Linda Mills, are a married couple from the US that moved to France and now host these wine tours. We went to 3 wineries and were provided a traditional French lunch from local markets and the hosts’ garden. Here is a list of wineries we visited while in the Loire Valley (on our own and on the tour)!

Domaine Filliatreau - We visited this winery (built into the limestone hillside) on our tour and had the previously mentioned lunch in one of the 'lookout bird houses' on the property, pictured below. It was the best meal and experience!

Photo

Domaine de la Cotellarie - We visited this beautiful winery in the heart of Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil. We were impressed by all their wines but could not resist taking home a few bottles of 'Postumus', which had insane tasting notes of olive. 

Bouvet Ladubay - Tour the caves where the wine is made and aged! There are biking tours through the caves as well as they span 8 km. 

Le Clos de la Meslerie - Arguably our favorite visit of the trip. This winery is owned by Peter, who moved to France from the US and purchased the property. Peter uses biodynamic and organic farming practices to create the most delicious wines. On our visit, horses were being drawn to plow his vineyard... no modern machinery was in sight!  

We did not visit these wineries in the other major wine cities of the Loire, but you should! 

In Sancerre - Laporte 

In Pouilly Fume - Domaine Serge Dagueneau 

In Savennieres - Coulee de Serrant, the father of biodynamic winemaking and know for the best Chenin Blanc in the world!

As mentioned earlier, there are so many great wineries to visit in the Loire Valley! We hope you make the trip next time you find yourself in Paris and fall in love with it as much as we did. And if you do visit, let us know your favorite places so we can add them to our list for our next trip!


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