The Loire Valley with its famous châteaux, especially Chenonceau, Chambord, Chaumont and Cheverny, is only a couple of hours from Paris by train or car. Visiting the area by car provides the greatest freedom but not everyone wants the added expense or bother of hiring a car. Fortunately, public transport is available to get around the main châteaux. You simply need to choose the best base and plan in advance as departure times are often limited.
Start by deciding which towns and châteaux you are interested in. I have written several posts that might help you particularly Ten Top Châteaux in the Loire Valley and Secret Châteaux of the Loire : Langais, Montsavin, Montpoupon and Beauregard.
The train from Paris Austerlitz goes to Orléans, Beaugency, Blois, Onzain (Chaumont), Amboise and Tours. Trains can be direct or stop at several stations along the way. The direct train to Blois takes just under 1 ½ hours. A good train for a day trip to visit Chambord and Cheverny, for example, would be the 7.38 am from Paris arriving in Blois at 9.01 am.
Blois would seem to offer the best base for visiting the four C’s without a car because it has a special shuttle (Navette Route 41) that takes you from the train station or Blois Castle to Chambord (40 mins), Cheverny and Beauregard. The current price is €6 for the day (adults and children are the same price) whatever the journey and also gives you a reduction to the different châteaux. For the timetable in French click here (timetable in English below).
The shuttle operates from the beginning of April to the end of October on Wednesdays, weekends and school holidays, leaving Blois around 9.30 and 11.30. It also operates every day from mid-July to the end of August. There are regular lines that operate during the winter (information on www.tlcinfo.net). The shuttle times are organised so you can visit Chambord in the morning and Cheverny in the afternoon. If you just want to go to Cheverny, for example, there is a shuttle leaving at 11.30, arriving at Chambord at 12.10 then at Cheverny at 12.34 (see timetable below).
Even in peak season, there are plenty of seats. However, the bus is not very well indicated at Blois station. When you walk out, look diagonally to the left and you’ll see a large sign indicating “Gare Routière” “Châteaux”. The bus stop is just behind it (you can see a small queue in the photo below) to the right of the red car).
A second shuttle (Navette Azalys) takes you from Blois to Chaumont (€2.15 one way, €4.15 return), leaving at 9.25 am and 2.05 pm from the train station and two minutes later from Blois Castle and arriving in Chaumont at 10.05 am and 2.45 pm (see timetable below).
To access Chenonceau from Blois, you first need to go Amboise which is an easy 16 to 20 minute train ride (7.20 €). A half-hour bus ride then takes you to Chenonceau which can also be reached by a half-hour train ride from Tours.
To go to Azay le Rideau, you need to take a 40-minute trip to Tours by train from Blois (€11.20) and allow another ½ hour train ride from Tours. Tours also offers the possibility of going to Villandry (35 minutes by train or Fil Bleu bus n° 117 leaving at 9 am and returning at 1 pm which is plenty of time to visit the garden as the château isn’t very interesting) and could provide a second base if you have more time in the Loire. The 20 K bike path from Tours to Villandry is also a pleasant, easy ride and quite feasible even if you don’t normally cycle that far.
So, to sum up, if you want to visit the Chambord, Cheverny, Chaumont, Chenonceau, Blois and Amboise castles, you will need at least three full days based in Blois: Chambord and Cheverny the first day (Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday except from mid-July to end of August when the day doesn’t matter), Chaumont and Blois the second day (Saturday or Sunday, except from mid-July to end of August when the day doesn’t matter) and Chenonceau and Amboise the third day. If you are interested in also visiting Villandry and Azay le Rideau, Tours would be a good second base.
There is another way to visit the châteaux – by bike. A network of bike paths links up all the châteaux and towns in the Loire Valley. Once again, Blois is a good base for Chambord, Cheverny, Chaumont and Beauregard, with comfortable distances, but Amboise would be a better base for Chenonceau.
Day Trip from Paris – both suggestions should be good with kids
Chambord and Cheverny (train and bus with only short walks)
Take the 7.38 am train from Paris Austerlitz, arriving at 9.01 am. Take the 9.30 shuttle from the station, arriving in Chambord at 10.10 am. Have lunch in Chambord (many choices including sandwiches and a picnic ground). Leave Chambord at 2.05 pm arriving in Cheverny at 2.29 pm. Leave Cheverny at 4.09 pm or, if you want to watch the 5 pm feeding of the hounds, leave at 6.30 pm, arriving at Blois station at 7.15 pm. There are trains for Paris at 4.17 pm (going to Montparnasse), 4.41 pm, 6 pm, 6.43 pm (all going to Austerlitz), 7.19 (Montparnasse) with the last train at 8.37 pm (arriving at 10.34 pm in Austerlitz). You can also get out of the bus at Blois Castle if you would like to include a third castle or walk down into the old town to visit or have dinner.
Amboise Castle and Clos Lucé, Chaumont (train and bus with long walks especially if you include Chaumont)
Take the 7.38 am train from Paris Austerlitz arriving at Amboise at 9.17 am. Visit the castle, then walk to Clos Lucé (10 mins). Have lunch in Amboise and walk to the station which is across the Loire (20 mins) to take the 2.22 pm train to Onzain, arriving 2.31 pm. Alternatively, take the 12.58 train to Onzain, arriving at 1.08 pm and have lunch in either Onzain or Chaumont (there are places to eat in the castle grounds as well as in the town). Walk to the castle (about 1/2 hour from the station but a great walk across the bridge with a fantastic view of Chaumont). Visit the castle. Take the 5.28 shuttle back to Onzain (or walk) and catch the 6.30 train to Paris. You can also take the same shuttle to Blois, arriving at 6.06 pm and have dinner in Blois and visit the old town (train times above).
If you need further information, I will be happy to add to this post. Just write a comment!
SHUTTLE ROUTE 41 – Blois Chambord Cheverny Beauregard (ticket from bus driver – there is always room on the bus)
4 April to 30 August > Wednesdays, weekends, public holidays and school holidays (every day in July and August).
31 August to 1 November > Wednesdays and weekends.
|BLOIS||TRAIN STATION||9.30 AM||11.30 AM|
|BLOIS||CASTLE||9.33 AM||11.33 AM|
|CHAMBORD||CASTLE||10.10 AM||12.10 PM||2.10 PM||4.10 PM|
|BRACIEUX||Camping||12.20 PM||2.20 PM||4.20 PM|
|CHEVERNY||CASTLE||12.34 PM||2.34 PM||4.34 PM||6.34 PM|
|BEAUREGARD||CASTLE||12.52 PM||2.52 PM||4.52 PM||6.52 PM|
|BLOIS||CASTLE||3.18 PM||5.18 PM||7.18 PM|
|BLOIS||TRAIN STATION||3.20 PM||5.20 PM||7.20 PM|
AZALYS SHUTTLE – Blois Chaumont-sur-Loire (tickets from bus driver)
April to June > Saturday, Sunday and public holidays (except 1st May)
July and August > every day
September to October > Saturday, Sunday and public holidays
|BLOIS||TRAIN STATION*||9.25 AM||2.05 PM|
|BLOIS||CASTLE||9.27 AM||2.07 PM|
|ONZAIN||TRAIN STATION||9.55 AM||2.35 PM|
|CHAUMONT||CASTLE**||10.05 AM||2.45 PM|
|CHAUMONT||CASTLE**||2.55 PM||5.10 PM|
|ONZAIN||TRAIN STATION||3.05 PM||5.20 PM|
|BLOIS||CASTLE||3.52 PM||5.48 PM|
|BLOIS||TRAIN STATION*||3.35 PM||5.50 PM|
*Azalys bus stop opposite the station
** Parking lot at top entrance to castle
A Few Distances in the Loire (km)
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