Best Loire castles
to visit

Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay-Le-Rideau… There are hundreds of castles in the Loire, each deserving a visit lasting several hours. We have selected eight castles to see near the Domaine de la Commanderie de Ballan.

The Loire’s Valley of the Kings is home to several hundred castles. Some of these buildings are better-known than others, but all offer visitors an exceptional experience easily accesssible from the Commanderie de Ballan.

The Domaine is the ideal base from which to explore the Loire’s castles, which are mostly under an hour away. Book one of our accommodation options in the heart of Touraine.

Le Château de Villandry

Just five miles from the Domaine de la Commanderie de Ballan, the Château de Villandry attracts visitors with its unusual architecture for a castle in Touraine , and its stunning and surprising gardens. Villandry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This former feudal stronghold is testament to the architectural transformation that took place in France in the early 16th century, when it was decked out in Renaissance finery with arcade galleries and high sculpted dormers. 

In the early 20th century, benefactors Joachim Carvallo and Ann Coleman took the château in hand, redid the facade, renovated and decorated the interior in a Spanish style, and installed six new gardens covering 15 acres. These included an ornamental garden with box topiary in the shape of musical symbols, hearts and butterflies; a soothing water garden; and a physic garden containing medicinal and culinary plants.


Le Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Built on an islet in the Indre River, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is known for being idyllic and how it reflects in the river. It’s also a remarkable example of French Renaissance architecture: 

the building features 15th-century Italian innovations. Having come across these during military campaigns on the other side of the Alps, the French brought them back to the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau in the form of regular symmetrical designs, straight flights of stairs, and other elements. The garden is in the style of romantic 19th-century English landscaped gardens. It was updated in 2014 with undergrowth beds as well as new rose bushes and hortensias creating a very floral effect. This is the perfect place to go during your next weekend visiting the Loire’s castles.


Le Château de Chenonceau

40 minutes from the Commanderie de Ballan, the unmissable “Ladies’ Castle” stands proudly above the Cher River’s reflections of its white walls. 

Built in the 16th century, the history of the Château de Chenonceau involves a series of famous women. Henry II’s mistress Diane de Poitiers and queen consort and regent Catherine de’ Medici both owned it. In the 18th century, Louise Dupin held court here surrounded by famous philosophers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu. During World War One, matron Simone Menier turned the building into a war hospital. 

Chenonceau stands out for more than just its rich history: the Castle is also home to opulent collections of tapestries, furniture and artwork, including paintings by Murillo, Tintoretto, Nicolas Poussin, Correggio and Rubens.


Le Château d’Amboise

French kings Charles VIII, Francis I and Louis XII made Amboise the prestigious Renaissance castle it is today thanks to both its architecture and its guests. 


Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most famous. Francis I was a sovereign of the period who truly valued the arts and welcomed the Italian genius to his territory. Da Vinci resided at th Château du Clos Lucé until he died. His tomb is at Amboise within the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, a flamboyant Gothic building.

The Château d’Amboise has a significant collection of Gothic and Renaissance furnishings reflecting the sophisticated French art of living at the time.

Outside, there are five acres of contemporary landscaped gardens with a Mediterranean feel and some of the best views of the Loire Valley. 

This Castle just 30 minutes from the Domaine de la Commanderie de Ballan is worth visiting for several hours.

Le Château du Clos Lucé

Next to the Château d’Amboise, you have Clos Lucé. This might not be the most famous castle in the Loire Valley, but it’s still stunning with a pink brick and tuffeau stone design.  

Built in the 15th century, it soon became French kings’ pleasure residence. In the 16th century, Francis I offered it to his friend Leonardo da Vinci, who worked on a range of projects here during the final three years of his life. 

The Castle boasts a unique collection of his inventions set out in different rooms. There are even some models that visitors can try out!

When you visit Clos Lucé, you immerse yourself in Leonardo da Vinci’s daily life. You find out how his bedroom was decorated and furnished, you enter the boardroom where he met with distinguished guests, and you see his workshop where he worked alone and with apprentices.


Le Château de Cheverny

Tintin fans will find the Château de Cheverny familiar as it looks like Captain Haddock’s country house Marlinspike Hall. Indeed, the Adventures of Tintin cartoonist Hergé was inspired by this Loire Castle’s perfect symmetry and understated facade. 

Inside the Château de Cheverny, you find amazingly well-preserved furniture and fittings. For example, there is a chest of drawers from the Louis XIV era in Boulle style, a four-poster bed decorated with Persian embroidery from the 16th century, and a 17th-century Gobelins tapestry.

The English landscaped park and gardens covering almost 250 acres around the Castle are also open to the public. They are home to lime trees, sequoias, cedars and a flower garden that blooms all year round. These flowers are often picked and displayed in rooms around the Castle.

The Château de Cheverny is an hour away from the Domaine de la Commanderie de Ballan.


Le Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Another option an hour’s drive from the Commanderie is the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, a gorgeous imposing 16th-century building set in tree-filled parkland.

This was built by Catherine de’ Medici, who exchanged it for the Château de Chenonceau belonging to Diane de Poitiers. 

In the 20th century, owner Princess de Broglie made it a venue for parties popular among leading artists and royalty. But Chaumont-sur-Loire is best known for its International Garden Festival from April to November. During this event, around 20 gardens in Chaumont’s park designed by architects, designers, gardeners, scenographers, landscapers and various artists from all over the world are given awards for their innovative and unique beauty.


Le Château de Chambord

There are some Loire castles you just have to visit, and the Château de Chambord is the most famous of all. Considered a Renaissance masterpiece, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

And this artwork has more to it than just ornate facades: it’s huge. Legend has it that the Castle was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s made of 220,000 tones of tuffeau stone and has 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 70 sets of stairs. 

The Castle is also surrounded by an impressive 20-mile wall and the estate covers 13,590 acres home to red deer, wild boar and European mouflon sheep…all 70 minutes from the Domaine de la Commanderie de Ballan.

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