My favorite sights of Loire Valley

The Valley of Loire, home to a few hundred castles, is a fascinating destination for a Western history and architecture buff, who I make pretenses to be. We’ve been to the area more than once, visited all major points of interest and a fair number of minor ones, and definitely marked a few of the castles as our favorites.

Our top favorite is Château de Chenonceau.
 

Chenonceau, Loire Valley

 
Frequently dubbed a “Castle of Ladies” on account of being associated with a number of important women in French history, it is an exquisite piece of architecture. With a long wooded alley leading up to it and majestic formal gardens fronting it, it is as fairy-tale-like castle as they come. It also spans a river – albeit a small one, called Cher.

Our second favorite is Azay-le-Rideau.
 

Azay-le-Rideau, Loire Valley

 
This castle is smaller, more intimate, maybe not as regally serene, but still awfully picturesque.

The largest of them all – and an obligatory stop on practically any castle-viewing itinerary – is Château de Chambord.
 

Chambord, Loire Valley

 
Built as an official royal residence in 16th century, it has several famous architectural details, among them the double-helix staircase rumored to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and the elaborate masonry of its roof, with a fantastic assemblage of towers, cupolas, gables, lanterns, and chimneys. A few of the castle and roof details.
 

Chambord roof detail, Loire ValleyChambord detail, Loire ValleyChambord roof detail, Loire Valley

 
While the main attraction of Loire Valley is undoubtedly its castles, there are hundreds of quaint, charming, vivid and photogenic corners all over the area. Places where I feel inclined to linger and take in the serene beauty.
 

View upon Langeais, Loire ValleyA corner of Loches, Loire Valley
A street in Loches, Loire ValleyMontresor, Loire Valley

 
A significant portion of “lesser” castles (not châteaux, but rather domaines) exist nowadays as hotels. We stayed at a couple during our visits to the Valley. Here is a view of one of those, Hotel Domaine de la Tortinière, near Tours, which attempts to blend historic magnificence with modern facilities.
 

Hotel Domaine de la Tortiniere, Loire Valley

 
One other of our favorites is Château de Villandry. What it lacks in presentation from a castle standpoint, it compensates for with its incomparable gardens.
 

Gardens of Villandry, Loire Valley

 
Those are just a few favorite castles. I am omitting Chaumont, Cheverny, Langeais, Blois, Amboise, Usse, and dozens of others, each with its own unique and fascinating features. Loire Valley is the land of the castles like no other.