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The Best Places to See on a 5 Day Loire Valley Road Trip Itinerary

Explore the Loire Valley by car with this 5 day Loire Valley itinerary. Discover the best chateaux in Loire Valley. Find the best places to stay in the Loire Valley on a road trip. Drive from Nantes to the Loire Valley for an awesome long weekend.
The Loire Valley in France is an ideal destination for a road trip and one of the best places to photograph in France. Plan a 5 day Loire Valley itinerary to see the region's famous decadent chateaux. 

The Loire Valley is also famous for wine and boasts excellent cuisine. Make time for a winery visit or two on this indulgent French road trip and dine in casual and fine restaurants dotted throughout Loire Valley. 

Did you know that the Loire Valley as a whole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Read on to learn more about the best things to do on a 5 day Loire Valley itinerary.

Loire Valley Itinerary: Chateau Chambord

Getting to Loire Valley

Loire Valley is most easily accessed via Nantes Airport. You can also approach from Paris but I recommend avoiding the hassle of driving in Paris and opting for much more laid back Nantes. 

Using Chateau Chenonceau as a benchmark, it takes nearly 3 hours to reach this historic Loire Valley castle from either Paris or Nantes. 

However, the Western Loire Valley (e.g., Saumur) is just 1.5 hours from Nantes and is much less touristy since it's less convenient for weekenders from Paris.
Loire Valley Itinerary: Half timbered buildings in Saumur

Loire Valley Road Trip Map

Click on the image of the Loire Valley map below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps highlighting points of interest on our Loire Valley itinerary.
Loire Valley map

Loire Valley Itinerary Day 1: Drive from Nantes to Saumur

We arrived in Saumur in the Loire Valley after a nearly 2 hour drive from Nantes. We were just in time to enjoy a golden hour walk up to Chateau Saumur. 

We walked up the stairs where Rue Fourier meets Rue Jean Jaures to get to the Chateau and then down a different path to Centre Ville Saumur. 

Once we arrived in Saumur town centre, we spied fab half-timbered buildings and a blindingly white church on Place Saint-Pierre in Saumur. There was not a cloud in the sky. 

We couldn't have asked for better weather for our mid-September trip to the Loire Valley.
Loire Valley Castles: Chateau Saumur
Spend some time shopping for local treats on Place Gaspard in Saumur. We bought some crispy butter biscuits made with 15% wine. 

We learned the hard way that it's important to make a reservation if you want to eat at Bistrot de la Place in Saumur (even on a Wednesday in September). 

We were turned away at 7:30 but made a reservation at 8:45.
Loire Valley Itinerary: Things to do in Saumur France
1. Local Loire Valley treats at a shop on Place Gaspard in Saumur
2. Glass of Saumur Brut at La Tonnelle Bar in Saumur
3. Chicken with chorizo
4. Veal provencal

To tide us over until our late dinner, we took the opportunity to enjoy glasses of generously poured Saumur Brut and Crémant de Loire Rose with a cheese plate at La Tonnelle Bar á vin. 

Dinner at Bistrot de la Place in Saumur was worth the wait. We sampled homemade terrine, chicken with chorizo, veal Provencal and a chocolate entremet (mousse cake) paired with a carafe of Loire Valley red wine, of course!
Things to do in Loire Valley - eat well. Chocolate mousse cake in Saumur

Loire Valley Itinerary Day 2: Wine Tasting and Sleeping Beauty

We started the second day of our Loire Valley road trip with a French breakfast fit for a king at Hotel St. Pierre in Saumur.
Best places to stay in the Loire Valley - Hotel St. Pierre in Saumur
Hotel St. Pierre in Saumur France
1, 2. Breakfast
3. Our room
4. Globe chandelier

As we drove out of Saumur we noted that it looked like we had just missed sunflower season in the Loire Valley. We passed field after field of dried sunflowers. 

Visiting Loire Valley in September has the benefit of being less busy but the downside is you miss the peak season flowers.
Loire Valley Itinerary: sunflower field

Chateau de Miniere is a local Loire Valley vineyard not far from Saumur. We started by exploring the grounds of Chateau de Miniere. 

They offer a self-guided tour with a binder of notes in English. Chateau de Miniere exclusively cultivates Cabernet Franc. 

We got to see the vines laden with Cabernet Franc grapes two weeks before the harvest. We tasted 5 wines for free. 

If you taste wine in the Loire Valley, there is generally an expectation that you'll buy some wine to justify the cost of the free tasting. 

We took home a sparkling rose and two bottles of the 2014 Chateau de Miniere rouge. The lady working in the tasting room was very friendly and spoke excellent English.
Loire Valley Wine: Chateau de Miniere
Chateau Miniere
1. Cabernet Franc vines
2, 3. Touring the grounds
4. Wine bottles

Next stop? Château d'Ussé, a 17th century castle built near the River Loire. There is a charming chapel and cool caves on the property. The admission fee is steep at 14 EUR per person but it's worth it.
Loire Valley Castles: Chateau d'Usse
Château d'Ussé
1. gargoyle
2. church
3. caves
4. chapel

Château d'Ussé was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty. Climb the tower and watch the story unfold as you peek through various windows and see scenes laid out with mannequins.
Sleeping Beauty at Château d'Ussé
The story of Sleeping Beauty at Château d'Ussé

Guests can tour a section of Château d'Ussé. The rest of the chateau is still lived in. Check out period furniture and fashion through the centuries. You can even tour the king's bedroom which is done up in sumptuous red.
Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley - Château d'Ussé
Self-guided tour of Château d'Ussé

The exterior of Château d'Ussé is simply magical on a sunny day. Make sure to spend some time wandering through the colorful gardens.
Loire Valley Itinerary
1. Vineyard
2. Château d'Ussé
3. Chinon

We left our car parked in the parking lot at Château d'Ussé and took a short walk into Rigny-Ussé. What we discovered was shocking at the time...a baguette vending machine

Just put in 1 EUR and a fresh baguette pops out. We just had to try it. I can attest that the baguette was fresh and delicious. 

The baguette vending machine was also handy because the boulanger in town was taking a siesta when we visited. 

The only place I've seen anything like this before was when we explored Belgium by train and found a bread vending machine in Mechelen.
Château d'Ussé and Rigny d'Ussé
1-3. The grounds of Château d'Ussé.
4. Baguette vending machine.

We stopped for another wine tasting at Pierre and Bertrand Couly. The winery has a modern tasting room located just off a traffic circle outside of Chinon. 

You'll be greeted with a lazy nod from the resident dog. We tasted 4 Cabernet Francs representing different terroir and bought two bottles.
Loire Valley Wine: Pierre and Bertrand Couly
Take some time to explore Chinon. We parked along the river (2 EUR for 2 hours) and took an exploratory walk around the town. 

We found lots of awesome half-timbered buildings plus we met an affectionate cat.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other wine regions to visit in France? Why not spend 3 days in Bordeaux and cast your vote on which appellation reigns supreme: Medoc or St. Emilion

Chinon features a free elevator to take you up to the clock tower and chateau. Take the elevator up and then walk the cobbled path back down to the Medieval city. 

Be careful though since the footing is really uneven. The views of the fortress are actually the best from below so if you are short on time or the weather is bad, you can skip the ascent.
Loire Valley Itinerary: Chinon
Scenes from Chinon in the Loire Valley.

We finished the second day of our Loire Valley itinerary with a Michelin-starred dinner with wine pairings at Le Gambetta in Saumur. We were treated to five courses paired with the perfect wines and presented exquisitely. 

Dishes included whitefish, monkfish, lobster, and veal. The dessert at Le Gambetta was quite unusual mixing olive, fennel, and lemon flavors. It worked. 

I just don't care for olives so the olive gravel and olive ice cream were a bit much. Mixing the olive flavored elements with the lemon custard made it tolerable. The fennel and lemon also paired really well.
Loire Valley Itinerary: Half-timbered buildings in Chinon

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: We love celebrating special occasions with Michelin-starred meals. Looking for restaurants to add to your bucket? Here are some recommendations based on our personal experience:

Loire Valley Itinerary Day 3: From Saumur to Amboise

After two nights based in Saumur, we packed up to move our home base from Saumur to Amboise to make it easier to explore the sites further east in the Loire Valley. Before departing, we grabbed breakfast at a local bakery. 

In France, croissants and baguettes are a right not a privilege: We paid 3.15 EUR for 2 pain au chocolat and a baguette Val de Loire.

We started our day exploring the magnificent restored Renaissance gardens at Chateau de Villandry. 

The chateau dates back to the 15th century and the gardens are planted for practicality (with produce for the kitchen) but with an eye toward beauty. 

The colors of the produce repeat in specific patterns that change through the years.
Best chateaux in the Loire Valley: Chateau de Villandry
I like to think that they use the vegetables from the gardens at the cafe on site at Chateau de Villandry. 

We ate a yummy quiche Lorraine and stuffed pepper for lunch with a glass of local wine served in a sturdy goblet.
Best chateaux in the Loire Valley: Chateau de Villandry
Chateau de Villandry

Next up, we stopped for a wine tasting at Plou and Fils. I absolutely loved the unicorn in their logo. 

The Amboise appellation specializes in Malbec. We also took the opportunity to walk up a steep hill to see the vineyards and a quick peek into the wine caves.
Loire Valley Wine: crest of Plou and Fils near Amboise
We parked the car in Amboise and explored the town on foot. We got to tour Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise where Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life and died 500 years ago.
Best Loire Valley Chateaux: Château du Clos Lucé
Reminders of Da Vinci at Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise.

We also had the chance to see a number of Da Vinci's inventions brought to life at Château du Clos Luce including a tank that looks a bit like a spaceship and an Archimedes screw for drawing water. 

The grounds around the chateau are extensive. You could easily spend a few hours here. 

Fun fact: Château du Clos Lucé is a chateau not a manoir because it had enough fortification to repel Medieval attackers.
Best Loire Valley Chateaux: Château du Clos Lucé
Time for a golden hour walk in Amboise France. We went inside Église Saint-Florentin in Amboise expecting to see yet another church interior. 

This one was turned into an art gallery including some really cool metallic sculptures on display.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other ideas for places to visit in France? Have you thought about:

We enjoyed dinner with a view of Chateau Amboise at Chez Bruno. Pork tenderloin with tarragon sauce and duck breast with red berries served alfresco were a real treat. 

Earlier in the afternoon, we'd noticed a long queue snaking from a local bakery. We decided to see what the fuss was about and bought La Pave Royal from Bigot in Amboise. 

We enjoyed the sweet pastry back at our hotel that evening.
Where to stay in the Loire Valley: Amboise
1-3. Dinner at Chez Bruno in Amboise.
4. La Pave Royal from Bigot.

Loire Valley Itinerary Day 4: Châteaux Extravaganza

Amboise, nestled along the Loire River, is a great home base from which to travel to the more popular Loire Valley chateaux as a day trip. 

We spent the 4th day of our Loire Valley itinerary touring the most impressive Loire Valley Castles.
Best places to stay in the Loire Valley - Amboise
Our favorite chateau was by far the beautiful 16th century Château de Chenonceau and we spent a good few hours exploring the grounds and gardens. 

Get to Château de Chenonceau early to avoid the crowds. Château de Chenonceau is the most crowded chateau in Loire Valley. The chateau is simply enchanting and is actually built to span the River Cher.
Best chateaux in the Loire Valley: Château de Chenonceau
Definitely get the audio guide for an extra 3 EUR to learn about French history and the seven illustrious women who called Château de Chenonceau home. The chateau is full of sumptuous period furnishings. 

The Apothecary, 16th century farm and garden (full of awesome gourds), and donkey park are lesser known sights associated with Château de Chenonceau but are worth spending a little extra time to check out.
Loire Valley Castles: Gardens of Château de Chenonceau
We learned a critical lesson on our road trip today. Use Google Maps navigation. We didn't and we missed a critical turn, tried to correct by getting on the motorway, and then missed our exit. 

We had to detour 20 km and pay a higher toll as a result. There was a silver lining though. 

We stopped in a random town for lunch and enjoyed a delicious menu of the day. Oh, and did I mention that we had a glass of local wine with lunch?!
Best Loire Valley Chateaux
1,2. Château de Chambord
3. Château de Chenonceau

After lunch, we finally made it to Château de Chambord. It was by far the busiest chateau that we visited. 

Louis XIV spent time at Chambord and invested considerably in the castle. The architecture was magnificent but I would have preferred a more structured visit. It really was a self-guided free for all.
Loire Valley Itinerary: pineapple dessert at La Creusille
We finished our day out in the Loire Valley with a pre-dinner walk around Blois. 

We ate dinner in the courtyard at La Creusille in Blois enjoying a homemade pork terrine, chicken with dried apricots and figs plus a pineapple dessert with wafer thin pineapple slices washed down with a local white wine. 

Make an effort to see Blois' Mona Lisa staircase!
Loire Valley Itinerary: Blois
1. Sunset view
2. Mona Lisa steps
3. Cathedral
4. Loire Valley wine with dinner at La Creusille

Son et Lumiere at Château Royal de Blois tells the history and intrigue of the palace through the centuries. PSA: bring your own headphones if you want to listen in English or other language that isn't French. 

Note: they sometimes shift the start time by 30 minutes if there is a concert beforehand. In our case, the light show started at 10:30 instead of 10:00 pm. 

The Blois light show is worth seeing but you'll be facing a dark and winding 45 minute drive from Blois to Amboise afterwards.Loire Valley Castles: Son et Lumiere at Château Royal de Blois

Loire Valley Itinerary Day 5: Amboise to Nantes via Angers

I took a quiet morning walk to get breakfast on our final day in Loire Valley. Most things are closed in France on a Sunday but at least some bakeries are open. 

It takes a little under 3 hours to drive from Amboise to Nantes Airport. We broke up the journey with a visit to Chateau d'Angers, a proper Medieval fortress! 

There was a cool display of brightly colored metallic animals on display which added a touch of the modern to the historic fortress. Chateau d'Angers is a truly impressive fortress. 

It is well worth a stop on the drive between points east in Loire Valley and Nantes Airport.
Best Chateaux in Loire Valley: Chateau d'Angers
Chateaux d'Angers

Chateau d'Angers is home to the Apocalypse Tapestries. Dating back to the 14th century, the tapestries were cut up and sold off piecemeal (some as horse blankets) in the 18th century. 

Fortunately, the pieces have been reunited in Angers for visitors to admire.
Apocalyse tapestry at Chateau d'Angers in the Loire Valley
Stretch your legs with a quick wander around Angers between the Chateau d'Angers and the cathedral. 

The church facade is impressive especially when approached from below and you'll see some awesome 14th century half-timbered houses.
Loire Valley Itinerary: Angers
1. Chateau d'Angers
2. Apocalyse tapestry
3. 14th century door

Loire Valley Wine

Achievement unlocked! We managed to squeeze 6 bottles of Loire Valley wine into our checked bag from Nantes to Dublin. This awesome long weekend will live on for a while!
Loire Valley wine

Where to Stay in Loire Valley

While it would be a pain to change hotels every night on a five day Loire Valley itinerary, it's worth splitting time between two destinations to minimize driving time between different points of interest. 

After researching Loire Valley hotels and the best places to stay in the Loire Valley in general, we decided to focus on Saumur and Amboise.

We stayed at Hotel St. Pierre in Saumur (about 200 EUR per night) where the sumptuous rooms in a historic building within walking distance from the town square made me feel a bit like royalty. 

Breakfast isn't typically included in the price of the room but it's worth doing one day. Hotel St. Pierre serves up an interesting lemon health drink with breakfast. On other days, you can easily walk to a local bakery to get a baguette or a pastry. 

When searching for an Amboise hotel, we couldn't resist Hotel Le Manoir St. Thomas, another historic property. I simply loved the suit of armor in the lobby. 

Hotel Le Manoir St. Thomas also cost about 200 EUR per night for a superior double room and was about a 10 minute walk from the main strip of shops and restaurants in Amboise. 

Manoir St. Thomas also offered an outdoor swimming pool. Off-street parking made Hotel Le Manoir St. Thomas an ideal addition to our Loire Valley road trip.

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The Chateaux of the Loire ValleyLoire Valley Itinerary

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The Best Places to See on a 5 Day Loire Valley Road Trip Itinerary
The Best Places to See on a 5 Day Loire Valley Road Trip Itinerary
Explore the Loire Valley by car with this 5 day Loire Valley itinerary. Discover the best chateaux in Loire Valley. Find the best places to stay in the Loire Valley on a road trip. Drive from Nantes to the Loire Valley for an awesome long weekend.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog