4 Loire Valley chateaux that are perfect for kids

The Loire valley is world renowned for its magnificent chateaux and fine wine. At first glance, however, the region does not seem particularly appropriate for kids. With all the chateaux nestled along the River Loire, it is important to pick the right ones, because there is no escaping that some are a bit on the dull side!

But forget the slightly tedious image traditionally associated with visiting a chateau. Kids just love stories about kings and queens and castles… So if you want to take your family back in time and give the young ones the chance to play knights and damsels, here are my suggestions for the top 4 Loire Valley chateaux to visit, all perfect at any time of the year.
And remember, if your children are teenagers or a bit older, the best way to experience the Loire Valley is by bicycle. It is a wonderful chance to join the dots between the different chateaux and vineyards. The routes are very clear and maps can be easily found on the internet (eg. www.cycling-loire.com).

Château de Chenonceau

This 16th Century chateau built above the River Cher is hands-down the best loved in the region. The outside of the chateau is maybe not as breathtaking as others in the area such as Chambord, but the interior is simply incredible. The inside of Chenonceau is meticulously restored, immaculate, decadent, yet authentic. You will find the scent of fresh flowers everywhere — the chateau feels truly alive and lived in!

Château de Chenonceau

It will be very easy for your kids to visualise royal life here (while some attractions are more museum-like). The castle is small enough for you to look round all the rooms in 45 minutes. You can also rent boats and take a trip down the River Cher. The gardens are fantastic too, with a wonderful maze for the kids to run around in. My advice is to go with a professional guide or to rent an audio guide (there is a version for children). Even though the content on these guides is not the most fabulous, they do successfully engage kids in the experience and provide loads of information.

Château de Villandry

Château de Villandry is best known for its magnificent gardens which have been admired for over 500 years. I have visited these gardens many times and they are indeed something very special. Elaborate and perfectly maintained, the sheer scale and complexity of the design is extraordinary.

Château de Villandry

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 chateau, where you can look down and appreciate the overall designs and their meaning. There is a small children’s play area located in the gardens, as well as a fantastic maze.

The inside of Château de Villandry is interesting but not the most exceptional in the area. If you are short on time (or attention!), I recommend you skip the interior and just go to visit the gardens (making sure you head up to the top of the gardens for that wonderful view from above).

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 an unmissable attraction for school-age and older kids visiting the area. You will start the visit with a tour of the chateau’s 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.

Château du Clos Lucé

When you enter the garden after the chateau tour, an array of Leonardo’s models, full-sized and in operation, are there for all to see. Kids can step inside the tank he designed and turn it round in circles, walk across his drawbridge, and fire a cannon. In short, they can sample, touch and explore many of his fascinating inventions. There’s a playground and picnic area too. A kid’s heaven!

Château de Cheverny

Cheverny is the chateau which inspired Moulainsart, Tintin’s castle. This chateau is particularly child-friendly, and the different games and explanations are available in English, so I don’t think you will need a guide. There is a special, extensive exhibition about Tintin to enjoy for old fans and new.

Château de Cheverny

You can also visit the kennels where more than a hundred hunting dogs live. If your kids are animal friendly you can go to visit the hounds throughout the day, and you even have the chance to feed them at the end of the afternoon.

The chateau, which appears to float on an ocean of green lawns, is surrounded by an English-style park consisting of magnificent giant redwoods, cedars and lime trees, which were planted between 1820 and 1860. Your children can enjoy boarding the electric boats and cars which are there to visit this charming forest.

Magali Déchelette is CEO at Family Twist.

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  1. You can raise the list to 5 adding one of my children’s favorite: Château de Chambord. It has a very special 16th-century design and architecture, influenced by Leonardo da Vinci. Its double helical open staircase is a unique work, as well as the impressive 128 meter long Renaissance façade with atypical towers.

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