The Loire Valley of France is dripping with chateaux – chateaux and wine. With over 40 chateaux in the area it can be near impossible to see them all, but if you’re willing to give it a go Amboise is a charming place to start.
Nestled between Orleans and Tours, just a 2 hour train ride from Paris, Amboise is the heart of Loire Valley. Its walkable streets and classic French ambience attracts visitors from around the world, but it still feels undiscovered. The town is so fantastic that one of the most famous men in all history, Leonardo Da Vinci, decided to spend his final years here. And, despite all the great places he had seen, he requested to be buried at the Chateau d’Amboise. Visitors today can see Leo’s final resting place and as well as his own chateau – Clos Luce.
A rental car, bus, or train out of Amboise can take you to several other chateaux of the Loire Valley, but if you’re not picky about size you can see most of them without ever leaving the city. Just follow our tracks to the Parc des Mini-Chateaux at the outskirts of town.
At the Mini-Chateaux, in all of it cheesy glory, you will find 41 of best chateaux of Loire valley all painstakingly built in 1/25th scale. Included in the 14 Euro entrance price are children’s costume rentals (sorry, no Godzilla costumes) as well as mechanical horse and car rides. If you understand French, costumed performers in the park tell stories of the history of the Loire Valley. We easily spent 2 ½ hours walking around the park, examining each chateau, getting lost in the miniature labyrinth, and, of course, riding the horses.
In all seriousness, though, Amboise is a lovely place to use as a base for your visit to the Loire Valley, and a trip to the Parc des Mini-Chateaux can give you an idea of which chateaux you really want to visit in your limited time. Each miniature chateau at the park includes information about how far it is from Amboise, and many include information about visiting the actual chateau. We will be heading to Villandry and Chenonceaux. What chateaux are on your list?