Loire Valley Highlights for Kids and their Parents

When our good friends suggested a trip to the Loire Valley with kids, I have to admit that I was not without reservations. Lots of castles and lots of wine — that’s all I really remembered from our last trip to this region 10 years ago. Sure, the former is kid-friendly in small doses. The latter? Not so much.

As it turns out, we loved exploring the Loire Valley with our children! We planned our days with care and always combined sightseeing with pool time before dinner (weather permitting).

Chenonceau Castle Exterior Loire Valley France
Chenonceau perched over the Cher River

Château de Chenonceau

This 16th century castle built over the River Cher was the hands-down favorite attraction of the trip for me. The castle is not as awe-inspiring on the outside as others in this area like Chambord, but the interior is to die for. The inside of Chenonceau is meticulously restored, immaculate, decadent, yet authentic. Minus the people inside with modern-day attire and electronics, visitors truly step back in time.

We were so impressed by the elaborate fresh flowers everywhere — it made the castle feel lived in! The kids enjoyed this too as it was easy for them to visualize royal life here (vs. some attractions that are more museum-like). The castle is small enough that you can tour all the rooms in 45 minutes.

Chateau de Chenonceau Maze Loire Valley France
Chenonceau maze is a crowd-pleaser

You can also rent boats and take a trip down the River Cher which we opted not to do. The kids loved the maze in the gorgeous gardens; the path to the center is just challenging enough to create some giggles.

Tip: We decided not to use an audio guide here and regretted it. They have a version for children. Even if the content on these guides is not fabulous, they successfully engage kids more in the experience and information.

In addition, it’s worth noting that the adjacent town of Chenonceau is adorable and a good place for a lunch stop or to buy supplies for a area picnic.

Chateau de Villandry Loire Valley France
Looking back at Château de Villandry from the garden

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Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry is best known for it’s magnificent gardens which have been admired for over 500 years.

We’ve visited gardens all over Europe and these gardens are indeed something very special. Elaborate and perfectly maintained, the sheer scale and complexity of the design is extraordinary.

Love Garden Villandry Loire Valley France
Garden of Love

The gardens are vast but divided into distinct, symmetrical sections so they are easy to explore. The best view of them is from the higher vantage points inside and outside the castle where you can look down and appreciate the complete designs and their meaning.

There is a small children’s play area integrated into the gardens and also a maze (although the one at Chenonceau is more interesting).

Tip: We used the audio guide here. This is an example of one where the content was just fair with no version just for kids (they have a French kids version), but using it kept them engaged.

The inside of Château de Villandry is interesting but not memorable. If you are short for time or attention, I’d skip the castle interior and just visit the gardens (ensuring you go high in the gardens for a view from above).

Exterior of Chateau du Luce Loire Valley France
Leonardo da Vinci’s last residence

Château du Clos Lucé

Château du Clos Lucé was Leonardo da Vinci’s last home. Located in the picturesque town of Amboise in the heart of the Loire Valley, this is a not-to-be-missed attraction for school-age and up kids visiting the area.

Leonardo da Vinci's Model Bike at Chateau du Luce Loire Valley France
Inventions galore in the basement of Château du Clos Lucé

You start the visit with a tour of the castle interior and see where and how he lived. The fun, however, begins in the basement where models of many of his inventions are on display. His far-reaching visions include an early airplane, bicycle, tank — it seems there is little he didn’t think about.

Parc Leonardo da Vinci Loire Valley France
Life-size models for exploring

When you enter the garden after the castle tour, an array of da Vinci’s models are full-size and “working.” Kids can step inside the tank he designed and turn it in circles, walk across his drawbridge, and “shoot” a cannon.  In short, they can spin, touch, and explore many of his fascinating inventions. There’s a playground and picnic grounds too. Kid heaven!

You can visit castles in the Loire Valley all day every day and never run out of places to see. Other area activities include visiting Troglodyte caves where people used to live and work. Canoeing, biking, and hiking are all plentiful for active families. As are an innumerable amount of interesting, historic villages.

If You Go

We stayed at Le Fleuray near Amboise. This hotel is in an absolutely ideal central location for exploring the Loire Valley. The owners go out of their way to create a family-friendly atmosphere. Rooms are spacious, comfortable, and spotless and there is plenty of room for kids to run and play. Pricing for rooms and meals is quite reasonable for the quality.

For more Photo Friday posts, visit Delicious Baby.

Photo credit Amie O’Shaughnessy

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Start a Discussion

  • Villandry & Chenonceau are both tops for getting an all round taste & experience of the Loire Valley chateau. Clos Luce too is fascinating for ALL ages and a day can easily be passed with a picnic and snooze under a tree in the gardens…lots of play areas.
    With kids in tow I also recommend Chateau du Rivau, pint sized in comparison & therefore less daunting, often with workshops & additional garden activities for children but a true delight offering giant sized displays making children feel they have stepped into another world..e.g. minature wooden foot to climb up inside, gives birds eye view of the ‘Chesire Cat’ maze.
    Chaumont-sur-Loire for its festival of gardens, surprises around each corner, hands-on things to try for kids, great buffet pasta restaurant with delicious locally made sorbets & ice cream for dessert. Chateau, gorgeous parkland, views of the river to Amboise and Tours & lots of interesting former stables & other outbuildings.
    For me, one of the best tips for visiting the Loire Valley with kids is to get to know which day the morning markets are on. Visit a town in the morning on market day and you will see it at its best, you will get to pick out a delicious array of food for a picnic or just watch the world go by mid-morning with a croissant & hot drink in a local bar.
    Don’t miss out on a wander in public gardens, they are beautifully kept municiple parks free to enter, free to park usually, often situated by a river where the standard of play equipment, plentiful benches, picnic areas often mean they compete with many of the pay to enter gardens – let the kids let off steam while you consult the map or take a well earned after-lunch sieste. Our favourites are in Loches, Descartes and the jardin botanique in Tours.
    Eat out in restaurants at lunchtime! And this means get to restaurant by 12.30 latest! More atmosphere, the time when the french eat out and better value all round.
    Don’t miss out on taking a walk or a bike ride. The roads are relatively quiet and safe, most villages offer well marked circular routes.
    Stop, try and buy from local farms & vineyards – we used to be intimidated English tourists who chickened out….now all our guests who we encourage to brave it & go visit our neighbouring goat cheese farm (there are plenty others to choose from) come back jubilant that they went for it – the farmer doesn’t speak english, but it is all part of the fun, & he is very keen to improve by showing most visitors that he has an Oxford English/French dictionary!

  • Looks lovely – I’ve always wanted to visit the Loire Valley to see the amazing castles! Our family has been to Provence and we are planning a trip to Paris – now that I know that the Loire Valley is family-friendly I can add it to our short list too!

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