Best Loire Valley chateaux to visit with kids

We spent two glorious weeks in the Loire Valley in October with our two kids, aged 3 and 7, at the time. If you’re wondering whether the Loire Valley is a family-friendly destination, it’s an absolute gem. Imagine knights, kings, queens, and majestic castles straight out of your favourite fairy tales.

Although the Loire Valley boasts over a hundred chateaux, our goal was never not to conquer them all (if that’s even possible!). Instead, we wanted to soak in the atmosphere of each castle, to use the time together as a family to connect and have unique shared experiences. No rushing from one castle to the next – just taking time to enjoy the moments and letting go of my inner urge to constantly see and do everything whenever I visit a new place.

Each chateau in the Loire Valley has its own unique story to tell. So, every visit feels like discovering a new chapter. Even after two weeks, we barely scratched the surface of what this incredible region has to offer. And it’s not just about the castles! The Loire Valley has many family-friendly activities, like the amazing ZooParc de Beauval, an absolute must during your chateau-hopping journey.

Below, I’ve handpicked a list of chateaux that I personally explored with my kids and wholeheartedly recommend for a family visit. Depending on the duration of your stay, choose one or more from this list, and I promise you’ll have an unforgettable experience. Tempted to see multiple chateaux in one day? I get it, but taking your time at each one is where the real magic happens. So, let’s get started on this incredible journey through the Loire Valley!

1. Chateau de Chambord

One of France’s most iconic and recognizable castles, this chateau is also the largest of them all on the list. So, plan to spend at least half a day or even an entire day here, especially when visiting with kids.

Over the centuries, Chateau de Chambord served various roles, transforming from a royal hunting lodge into a symbol of luxury and power. Surprisingly, King Francis I spent relatively little time here. Upon his demise, the chateau passed into the hands of his son, Henri II.

During the tumultuous period of World War II, Chateau de Chambord assumed a unique role. The Louvre Museum in Paris entrusted Chambord with safeguarding its invaluable art collection against the looming threat of war. Within Chambord’s protective walls, art treasures, including the iconic Mona Lisa, found refuge from the chaos of the conflict.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Don’t miss seeing the centrepiece inside the castle – the magnificent double-spiral staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself. Kids can run up and down the two spiral staircases without crossing paths, making it a unique and playful experience.
  • Horse and bird of prey show in the stables is excellent for kids of all ages. It’s in French and costs extra, but it’s worth seeing.
  • “Cassandra The Salamander” puzzle books available to buy at the entrance provide a fun way to explore the castle and its gardens through questions, games, and riddles.
  • Hire a digital tablet and audio guide, the HistoPad Chambord, for a virtual journey through the castle. Younger children will enjoy a fun treasure hunt as they walk through the chateau searching for missing items.
  • Check out an interactive discovery area, Logis des Enfants, where kids can experiment, play, wonder and relax, with 16 activities to explore.
  • If visiting during the French school holidays, sign up for fun workshops to interact with fictional characters from the castle

2. Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire

This castle, perched above the River Loire, may be smaller in scale than others, but its meticulously landscaped gardens make it an ideal destination for family outings. What surprised me was discovering that this Renaissance-style chateau hosts annual world-class exhibitions of contemporary art, which explains why I felt like I was exploring a modern art museum.

This castle has been the stage for royal intrigue, political power plays, and lavish celebrations. Catherine de’ Medici, the wife of King Henry II, acquired Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire in 1560 and exchanged it with her lifelong rival, Diane de Poitiers, for the Château de Chenonceau. The castle has welcomed many famous figures, including Nostradamus, Benjamin Franklin, Germaine de Staël and Chateaubriand.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Don’t miss seeing the annual art exhibition at the castle. The artworks are fascinating and make you feel like you’re visiting a modern art museum.
  • Walk around the beautiful garden creations by internationally acclaimed artists and landscapers, all part of the annual International Garden Festival (April – November).
  • Pick up a kids’ booklet for a fun and informative tour of the castle .
  • If visiting during the French school holidays, the castle organises daily creative workshops for children, at no extra charge.

3. Chateau de Chenonceau

This castle is as fairytale-looking as it gets! It’s also the one that sticks in my memory the most. We kept going around the castle to see the loveliest bridge on the river, and its reflection in the calm waters of River Cher was a sight to behold.

Known as a “Ladies’ Château”, the castle has a rich history of being influenced and inhabited by remarkable women. After King Henri II’s death, his widow, Catherine de Medici, assumed control. She took residence at Château de Chenonceau, which the late king had previously gifted to Diane de Poitiers. Catherine was able to assert her authority by exchanging the Château de Chenonceau for the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire with Diane de Poitiers.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Hire an audio guide for children aged 7+ for a fun tour around the castle.
  • Walk around the beautiful gardens designed by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici.
  • Get lost in the maze.
  • Rent a boat and take a trip down the River Cher.

4. Chateau de Villandry

The last of the grand Loire chateaux built during the Renaissance period, this one is known for its magnificent gardens. The six different gardens form a tapestry of geometric perfection, inviting visitors to wander through intricate patterns of colour and greenery.

Once the residence of Jean LeBreton, a Finance Minister appointed by King Francis I, who acquired the property in the early 16th century, Chateau de Villandry has witnessed a succession of owners throughout its history. However, since the early 20th century, the château has been in the hands of the Carvallo family, who have lovingly maintained and cherished this historical gem across generations.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Visit the Children’s Rooms to gain insight into the lives of the chateau’s young residents, complete with toys and books.
  • Pick up a kids’ booklet (for ages 8 – 12) with games while visiting the gardens (in French only).
  • Hire an audio guide for children (in French only) to discover the chateau’s history and gardens.
  • Discover the children’s play area in the Sun Garden.
  • Get lost in the maze in the outside gardens.

5. Chateau Clos Lucé

I will admit Chateau du Clos Lucé was my favorite chateau to visit in the Loire Valley. Its façade is not as imposing as Chateau de Chambord and others in the area, but what it lacks in luxury, it makes up in oomphs of character.

The castle became famous for its association with the famous Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci, who was invited to stay at the chateau by King Francis I of France in 1516. Leonardo resided here until his passing in 1519, and it was at this very place where he spent his final years working on what he loved the most – his inventions, paintings, and scientific studies.

Among his prized possessions, Leonardo brought to France his major paintings – Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child, and St John the Baptist as well as his notes, sketches and manuscripts.

King Francis I of France was fascinated by Leonardo da Vinci and appointed him as “First Painter, Architect, and Engineer to the King”. So, the king gave him accommodation at the Clos Lucé, an allowance of money and a number of people to help him. At the chateau, Leonardo was free to work, think and dream.

His workshop at Chateau du Clos Lucé buzzed with innovation, where he designed a myriad of inventions. Among these creations were prototypes for a helicopter, an armored tank, and a machine for testing the tensile strength of materials. His forward-thinking inventions, although never constructed in his lifetime, foreshadowed technological advancements that would occur centuries later.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Pick up a free Le Carnet de l’Inventeur (The Inventor’s Notebook) booklet (for children aged 7 – 12) for a fun introduction to the castle (available in French and English).
  • Don’t miss the Model Rooms in the basement, which I guarantee the children will love. Here, you will find the models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions built by IBM using da Vinci’s original sketches. 3D animations show how some of these machines would have worked if they were actually made.
  • Pick up a map at the front entrance, which shows the park trail you can follow when exploring the outdoors.
  • In the park you will come across twenty giant interactive models built according to Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Children can stop at each one and test some of the inventions in real life. For example, they can board the tank, operate the aerial screw, handle the machine gun or cross the swing bridge.

6. Chateau d’Ussé

Château d’Ussé is often associated with the story of “Sleeping Beauty”. This is due to its striking resemblance to the fairy tale castle described by Charles Perrault in his rendition of the classic tale. The castle’s romantic spires, turrets, and idyllic location along the Indre River have led to it being linked with the story of a beautiful princess who pricks her finger on a spindle and falls into a deep slumber until awakened by a prince’s kiss.

The castle has been owned by the Blacas family since 1885 who decided to open it up to the public in 1975.

Recommended activities with kids:

  • Follow the trail inside the castle from one room to another to discover the recreated scenes from the story of Sleeping Beauty.
  • Check out the latest exhibitions – when we visited, there was a Fashion exhibition showing magnificent dresses and costumes worn in the late 19th to mid-20th century.
  • If visiting during the Halloween or Easter holidays, don’t miss the giant pumpkins on lawns and giant Easter bunnies distributing chocolates.

Getting to the Loire Valley

To make the most of your journey in the Loire Valley, renting a car is a good idea as the chateaux are spread out, giving you the freedom to travel at your own pace.

You can use Rentalcars or Discover Cars to compare prices of rental cars from your location to the Loire Valley.

Finding the perfect family-friendly accommodation

There are PLENTY of accommodation options in the Loire Valley. We chose to stay with friends in this amazing villa in Chaumont-sur-Loire which we booked directly through Booking.com. From there, it was a mere hop, skip, and a jump to some of the most famous chateaux in the region.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclaimer and privacy policy.

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