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How To Organize Your Loire Valley Day Trip From Paris

Updated 24 June 2024 by Leyla Alyanak — Parisian by birth, Lyonnaise by adoption, historian by passion

Trying to visit French castles in the Loire when you're short on time is a challenge, but a Loire Valley day trip from Paris is possible, whether by tour, train or car. Here are your best bets if all you have is one day.

If you've only got 24 hours to spare, can you still take a full day trip to Loire Valley from Paris?

Will you have time to experience the wonderful castles of the Loire you've heard so much about?

Absolutely! And it will be one of the best day trips from Paris you'll experience. I visit the Loire Valley about three times a year from my perch in eastern France, and I still haven't seen everything, so I keep going back.

I also know just how long it takes to go from one castle to the next, and the area is far less compact in reality than it seems on a map.

But even with limited time, you have options for a one-day visit to the Loire, one of the most popular day trips in France.

NOTE: Pages on this site may contain affiliate links, which bring in a small commission at no cost to you.

This article starts with a short explanation of why you should visit the Loire Valley chateaux, then tells you the best three ways to visit, and then looks at the best chateaux to visit. If you'd rather first read about the chateaux themselves, jump directly to that section.

Why visit the Loire Valley castles?

These castles of the Loire, which is considered the garden of France, are among the country's cultural and historical bastions: important French kings and queens lived here, crucial battles were fought here, Joan of Arc came through here, and the region just happens to be stunning to see, with its meandering rivers and more than 1000 sumptuous castles where people actually lived.

But that's only the beginning, because many of the chateaux have picturesque villages attached to them, not to mention vineyards with their excellent wines and gentle country roads that will show you some of the best French countryside.

Don't just take my word for it: the Loire Valley is so special it is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

But much as you would love to explore every nook, with only a day available, you'll have to make some difficult choices. Let me help you.

How to organize Loire Valley day trips from Paris

There are three main ways of organizing your one-day Loire Valley trip, and each has advantages and disadvantages:

1) Take a guided tour from Paris

2) Take the train

3) Rent a car

1. Here's what you can expect on a Loire castles guided tour from Paris

If you only have one day, taking a Loire Valley castles tour may be your best and easiest option.

There are plenty of excellent tours of the Loire Valley from Paris, including private tours, so you'll have to choose based on which chateaux you want to visit, how much time and money you want to spend, and what else you want to do once you get there (Lunch? Wine-tasting? Time to explore on your own?)

Advantages of a typical Loire Valley castles small-group tour

If you're a person for whom a one-day tour is just the right length, here are some of the benefits of jumping aboard:

  • You can see more castles in a day tour than if you organize things yourself
  • Your transportation is taken care of
  • Many include either guided tours or an audio guide
  • You won't waste time standing in line for tickets
  • You can enjoy other activities, like wine-tasting or garden tours
  • It's hassle-free and you don't have to worry about a thing
  • After an early start and at the end of what promises to be a long day, you can simply sleep the exhaustion away on the ride back to Paris

Popular small group Loire Valley tours from Paris

These Loire Valley chateaux tours are among the most popular when it comes to value for money and what you actually get to see:

NOTE: Not all castle tours in France offer guided commentary inside the castle: some may leave you to explore on your own, so be sure to check your tour's offering as you may prefer one over the other.

2. Here's what you can expect on a Paris to Loire Valley day trip by train

Please note: Schedules change with the seasons so be sure to check the actual schedule rather than take my word for it! You'll find train schedules and rates here.

If you truly dislike tours but don't want the hassle of driving, the train may be just the answer, although you will have to spend time figuring things out. 

Once you arrive by train to Blois (or possibly Tours), you can also use the Remi bus network to get around if there is no train to your destination. You'll find information on both the summer chateau shuttle and the regular bus lines on their website.

From Paris to Loire Valley by train

There are definite advantages to visiting the Loire Valley by train: 

  • You'll have more freedom than you would on a tour and can change your mind about what to see
  • Public transport in France is excellent and booking tickets is relatively simple
  • Trains can be cost effective
  • You can relax, as you would on a tour (which you could not do while driving)

Paris to Loire Valley train schedule examples

Sadly, not all Loire castles can be reached by train, so you'll have to limit your choices. But difficult does not mean impossible! There's plenty you can see by train.

Here are a few train-based day trips to the Loire chateaux you can organize yourself:

  • Blois: the chateau is in the center of town, ten minutes downhill from the Blois train station. If you want to explore a single chateau in a leisurely manner, then Blois it is. There's enough history here to keep you busy for the day.
  • Blois and Amboise: if you want to see two chateaux in a day, you can start with Blois early in the morning, then at lunchtime head for Amboise. The castle is a 15-minute walk from the train station in Amboise and the train journey is simple.
  • Blois and Chambord: this is definitely a possibility but not quite all year-round. There is a shuttle bus from Blois train station (here is the schedule) to several castles, including Chambord, but it only runs during the spring and summer. If that fits in with your schedule, you'll be able to see quite a bit by using a combination of train and bus.
  • Amboise and Clos Lucé: this is another, easier two-chateau alternative, with the advantage that you can see two castles in a single town. This can be a leisurely visit, with Amboise castle in the morning, a lovely lunch, and the Clos Lucé in the afternoon, getting you back to Paris at a decent hour in the early evening, in time for dinner.
  • Blois, Amboise and Clos Lucé: this is a tight squeeze and you'll have to pore over your train schedule carefully, but again, it can be done. Start with Blois in the morning, then head for Amboise before lunch. Walk into the city, grab a sandwich to go, and head for Amboise Castle. After a couple of hours, walk 15 minutes to Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final three years.
  • Chenonceau: there is a train station right next to the chateau so it's definitely achievable in a day. However, there are no other castles nearby so you'd have to limit yourself to the one. This could be a more leisurely day, as you can spend the morning on the train, have lunch in Chenonceaux (the village is spelled with an 'x' but not the chateau), and then start at the castle early in the afternoon.
  • From Tours instead of Blois: you can also take the train (plus a 15-25min walk) to Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon, Loches and Langeais. This, however, makes for a longer day, as not all trains go into central Tours and you may have an additional connection. From Paris, Tours is also a little further than Blois, so adding all this together makes it a bit long for a single day by train.

Visiting the Loire Valley is definitely one of the more fun and rewarding Paris day trips by train, and as you can see, it can be done in one day. 

 Want to go beyond the Loire?
Here are 
22 Fabulous Day Trips from Paris by Train.

3. Here's what you can expect from visiting the Loire Valley chateaux by car 

No question, there are definite advantages to traveling Paris to Loire Valley by car:

  • The freedom to be able to see what you want, leave when you want to and go at your own pace, with free time whenever you want it
  • You can take full advantage of your 24 hours and plan your trip to see the maximum
  • You can see more castles in a day than if you're on the train

However, it's not all roses, because if you don't know the region, you have to factor in the hassle of finding your way around and occasionally getting lost, not to mention getting used to gas pumps and toll payment booths. But if you've driven in France before, none of this will be an issue.


Don't wait until the last minute, especially if you want one of the scarcer automatics.

🚗 Check availability at Discover Cars (it's what I use to compare prices).

Here's what your one-day Loire Valley itinerary for a road trip could look like

If you're driving, you'll have total freedom and can simply map where you want to go... and go.

Here is a suggested Loire Valley itinerary (1 day) for a Paris-Loire Valley day trip by car, just to give you an idea of what can be accomplished. (You can choose to structure yours through Amboise, or any other chateau, but this will give you an idea of what you could do in one – long – day.)

  • Paris > Chambord > Cheverny > Chenonceau > Paris

Loire Valley trip from Paris: driving times

I've started your driving journey at the Hotel de Ville in Paris, to be a bit central, but of course the further south your starting point, the shorter your trip!

Here's a sampling of distances to popular chateaux using the autoroutes, or toll roads:

  • Paris to Blois: 2 hrs 4 min
  • Paris to Chambord: 2 hrs 7 min
  • Paris to Chenonceau: 2 hrs 39 min
  • Paris to Villandry: 2 hrs 47 min
  • Paris to Azay-le-Rideau: 2 hrs 47 min
  • Paris to Chinon: 3 hrs 6 min

Which chateaux can I see on a Loire day trip from Paris?

The three 'Cs' form a sort of triangle south of Blois, so what makes most sense is to start with either Chambord or Chenonceau, with Cheverny in the middle. If you think you have time, you can add Blois to the mix (it is perhaps less visited than the first two but oh so worth it!)

Which is best of the 3Cs? I prefer Chenonceau in the afternoon because the light is better, but it's also the furthest from Paris so if you're the kind of person who prefers to drive as far as needed and then work your way back, you'll want to start with Chenonceau, then Cheverny, and end with Chambord before you go home.

The map below should give you a better idea of the respective location of these three chateaux.

Sample one-day Loire Valley driving trip from Paris

The following itinerary is extremely rough – and optimistic. It depends on each chateau's opening hours, which change by the season and day of the week.

Ideally, you want to arrive at your first chateau at opening time, and leave your last one when it closes.

As I mentioned above, you can start or end at any castle of your choice but in true French fashion, lunch is NOT a moveable feast and if you want to eat sitting down, you'll only have between noon and 2pm. Don't expect food outside those hours unless you opt for a sandwich stand or snack bar.

  • Leave Paris and head for the A10 (towards Orléans) – use your GPS! Take Exit 16 towards Chambord and follow the signs (2-2.5hrs)
  • Park in the lot and walk to the chateau (10min) and visit (1.5hrs)
  • Have an early lunch at Chambord (1hr)
  • From Chambord, follow the easy signs to Cheverny (20min)
  • Visit Cheverny. The dogs are located at the opposite end of the grounds from the chateau, past the Tintin museum (1.5hrs)
  • 45 min: drive from Cheverny to Chenonceau – use your map or GPS as there are several routes (45min)
  • Visit Chenonceau + gardens (2hrs)
  • Drive from Chenonceau to Paris (2hrs 45min)
Loire Valley castles - Cheverny hunting dogsThe hunting dog kennels at Cheverny ©Leyla Alyanak/OffbeatFrance

So as you can see, it is do-able, but it's a very long day if you're driving. While a car gives you more flexibility, my personal recommendation is to take a tour, or at least take the train, if all you have is one day. If you have more time, then by all means, drive – you'll see more out-of-the-way châteaux and you'll have time to get to some of the less visited (but equally beautiful) ones.

  Do you want to stay longer than a day?
Here are the top 10 multi-day Loire Valley tours

Loire day trip pin new

The best Chateaux to visit if you only have one day

Of all the beautiful chateaux in the Loire Valley, we must try to be realistic about what we can see. Depending on how you plan to visit, these are the most accessible from Paris. Let's take a quick look!

The Royal Château of Blois, built by four kings

Blois chateau - the perfect Loire Valley day trip from Paris by train

The advantage of Blois (home of many kings and queens) is that it is right in the center of town, within walking distance of the train station. It is a fascinating chateau built in four different time periods, each wing in its own style, and with one of those delightful spiral staircases we often look for in these chateaux.

This is also the chateau in which the Archbishop of Reims gave his blessing to Joan of Arc as she went off to fight the English and drive them out of Orléans, and where Catherine de Medici often received her seer, Nostradamus. (Here's more of the backstory of Blois chateau, if you're interested.)

Château de Chambord, an over-the-top hunting lodge

Chambord double helix - a sight on your Paris Loire valley day trip

It took several reigns to complete (Chambord is the largest castle in the Loire) but this jewel of the Renaissance is staggering in every way – 426 rooms, 77 staircases,  282 chimneys and Europe's largest fenced-in forest. Much of the building was undertaken by François I and he meant it as a hunting lodge. In fact, he hardly ever stayed there (no wonder: it's huge, hard to heat and there's not much else around).

Still, the chateau de Chambord is astonishing in its design and you can get lost in its features and symbolism and not notice the time go by. (Click here for a deeper look into Chambord.)

If you choose to visit independently by train or car, don't forget to buy skip the line tickets.

Castle of Chenonceau, the ladies' château of the Loire Valley

Chenonceau from the air

To get the inside story of the Château de Chenonceau and why it's called the Ladies' Castle, click here. But first, look at its beauty. It is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite of the many exquisite Loire chateaux, but there's something special about the way it shimmers over the Cher River (no, that's not actually the Loire but one of its tributaries). There are some interesting stories behind this castle and the River Cher too...

Amboise and Clos Lucé, Leonardo's legacy

Amboise, among the best castles Loire Valley

Not many people realize Leonardo da Vinci lived his last years at the Clos Lucé. He did so at the request of François I (King Francis I), who lived down the road at the Château d'Amboise, another royal chateau along the banks of the Loire River. Amboise stands over the city, looking positively urban, yet go behind and a completely different castle unfurls. Explore more of its history  here. As for the Clos Lucé, it is a delightful manor house a ten-minute walk from Amboise.

If you visit independently, you can buy a skip-the-line ticket to Clos Lucé.

Cheverny, hunting dogs and Tintin memories

Cheverny - an unusual stop on your castle tour France

More Classical than Renaissance, Cheverny is a lovely chateau and one that is still very much lived in, not to mention lovingly cared for. Apart from the perfectly decorated rooms inside, this castle is a bit unusual. It has a pack of 150 hunting dogs (arrive at feeding time for some crazy moments) as well as a Tintin museum, if you're a fan. Legend has it that Cheverny inspired the creation of Tintin's fictional chateau de Moulinsart (Marlinspike in the English editions).

FAQ Loire Valley day trip from Paris

What is the cheapest way to get from Paris to chateaux of the Loire Valley?

The cheapest way to visit the Loire Valley chateaux from Paris would be by train, even if you factor in the cost of buying entrance tickets. You will see less than if you took a tour or drove yourself, but if you buy your train tickets well ahead of time (see above), the cost will be quite low.

How far is it from Paris to chateaux of the Loire Valley?

The distance from Paris to Blois, your first suggested jumping off point, is 185 km/115 mi. By car, the trip should take around two hours

Is Loire Valley worth visiting?

Absolutely! If you love culture and history and are curious about France's monarchy, a day trip to Loire Valley from Paris might just be the highlight of your trip, from the architectural wonders of centuries-old castles to the ornate furnishings that populate them. You'll leave with a strong sense of what France was like long ago.

What is the best time to visit Loire Valley?

There is no BAD time to visit – although if you come in February, wear warm clothing because remember, castles didn't have central heating, and warmth escapes quickly from those giant fireplaces. The best time to visit is outside the freezing winter or crushing summer: come in spring, early summer or fall.

What are the most popular Loire Valley tours?

There are so many! This tour to Chambord and Chenonceau includes a wine tasting, while this one includes lunch and a visit to Amboise. Both are among the most popular and sell out quickly.

Where to stay when visiting Loire Valley? What is the best town to use as a home when visiting the Loire Valley?

I alternate between two towns, both excellent locations. From Blois, you can easily reach the chateaux of Blois (it's right downtown), Chambord, and Cheverny. From Tours, you can easily reach Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Chinon, Le Clos Lucé, Langeais, Loches, or Villandry. Do note that we're not talking about major distances here – the two towns are 45 minutes from one another, both by car or train.

Before you go...

The Renaissance, which is when most of these chateaux were built or enhanced, was a time wild artistic and intellectual ferment in France. All you have to do is look at Versailles under Louis XIV to see the extent to which some of these trends were taken...

Essential France travel resources

I use booking.com: for their huge inventory and for their easy cancellation policies

can get you compensation (it works, I've used it)

Here's the one I use when I travel abroad

Keep pickpockets away with an anti-theft purse or an infinity scarf - and your identity with a VPN (I'm using Nord VPN)

I recommend Visitors' Coverage or SafetyWing. for health away from home

I use Discovercars to rent cars and either Omio or RailEurope for train tickets

Here's my long list of books about France

➽ Lonely Planet's Best Road Trips France
➽ DK Witness Road Trips France
➽ Any of the Green Guides series
➽ And, while you're at it, why not a map of France?

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