The Loire Valley is loaded with châteaux – 22 to be exact. The royal record associated with these great castles is so inextricably linked with the history of France that the whole region is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
These properties are wonderful to visit any time of the year, but there is a special magic that comes to life around the season of Noël. Across the 280 kilometers that span the Loire Valley, many of the grandest châteaux in France put on their best dress for the holidays.
With different events throughout the month of December, the Loire Valley is the place to be to indulge in an imperial holiday experience of a lifetime. Stroll through the winter gardens, marvel at the millions of lights, and watch out for Père Noël – who we hear likes to hang out in this region before he has to hop on his sleigh.
Château de Chenonceau
A castle fit for – and made by – queens. This ancient château has a rich history of women who protected, restored, and expanded the astonishing property: Diane de Poitiers, mistress to Henry II; Henry’s wife/widow Catherine de’ Medici; and Catherine’s daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine.
Today, Chenonceau offers guided tours to experience castle life during the Renaissance as well as a unique opportunity to witness floral artistry. Each year, the Chenonceau Floral Workshop showcases mesmerizing bouquets made of winter foliage, moss, and mushrooms alongside their vast Christmas decoration display.
This year, you can tune in live to the château’s “Soirée Nocturne” on Wednesday, December 21st between 6 pm – 8 pm CET to see floral artist Jean-François Boucher compose floral arrangements in real time for the castle’s Grand Gallery.
Château de Villandry
At the Château de Villandry, each room and hall in this home has been decked from wall to wall in festive Christmas attire. Situated in the heart of the property’s gardens, the holiday spirit is impossible to ignore inside or out.
Winter creatures like reindeer, bunnies, and owls pop up around the castle. The fireplaces are overflowing with presents. The mosaics of boxwoods and ornamental bushes just outside the window are equally as mesmerizing. This château is nothing short of enchanting, inspiring visitors to stroll the gardens and roam the halls to uncover the season’s magic.
Château de Chambord
With half a millennium of history between its walls, Chambord is an architectural feat and an important symbol of French power surrounded by 13,500 acres of natural parkland.
Lit by a thousand lights, the Château de Chambord’s illuminations light up the night as well as the imagination of onlookers, young and old. Throughout the gardens and the main castle, visitors are left in awe at the astounding display. The visit is also kept interactive with showings of an original performance titled, “The (almost) true story of François the First.” Games from the 16th to 18th centuries are on offer as well as various Renaissance experiences.
Château de Cheverny
An institution for almost 30 years, the Château de Cheverny magnifies the charms of Christmas on a grand scale. Giant ornament installations fill the gardens, a candy forest sprouts up in the Trophy Room, and an enchanted carriage is parked outside. On top of that, massive gingerbread men guide visitors to the Orangery where they can indulge in artisanal hot chocolate and a special Christmas menu.
Château Royal d’Amboise
With its enormous terrace offering panoramic views over the Loire River and surrounding valley, it is easy to understand why French kings and queens were enchanted by Amboise. In fact, King François the First invited Leonardo da Vinci to be his painter/engineer in residence at this castle which became da Vinci’s final resting place – you can even visit the artist’s tomb.
At Christmastime, the gardens are covered in dazzling lights which serve as the twinkling backdrop for the weekend holiday markets and Christmas choirs. This castle is great for families, as there are many children’s activities organized with the star of the season: Santa Claus.
Château de Langeais
Bought by Charles VII in 1422, this medieval château was saved from ruin and is one of the oldest stone keeps still standing today. Although no longer a fortified castle, its large towers, drawbridge, and parapet will check all the boxes for medieval fans.
Visitors are transported back in time to Christmas in the Middle Ages with an illuminated display lit by candles, lanterns, and lamps, rather than blinking strings of lights. In the garden, professional sculptors have crafted impressive elves and deer which are given the spotlight at night via hundreds of candles.
Start planning a trip for next winter to the majestic Loire Valley for a holiday you won’t soon forget. In the meantime, tune in to Château de Chenonceau’s Soirée Nocturne on Wednesday, December 21st!