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It's easy to feel like French aristocracy in the Loire Valley, home to over 42 stunning châteaux straight from a fairytale. Just a few hours from Paris by car, train, or bus, the Loire Valley is made for relaxation and joie de vivre. Renowned wine, locally-sourced cuisine, and French renaissance architecture awaits! We toured the valley to bring you our top 3 must-see châteaux.

1. Château de Chenonceau

The most unique and enchanting chateau in the valley is the only one built over a river, with a grand gallery that will leave you speechless.

  • It was first built in 1430, then expanded over the river by Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Francis I.

  • After the king’s death, his widow, Catherine de Medici, took the chateau from Diane and made it her favorite residence, even holding the first firework display in France there in 1560.

  • In the 1700s as the salon of Louise Dupin, it hosted Enlightenment leaders such as Voltaire.

  • During WW2, it was used to escape the Nazi-occupied bank to the “free” zone on the opposite bank.

  • Learn more about visiting here.

2. Château de Chambord

The largest château in the valley built by King Francis I as a sprawling hunting lodge.

  • It was built over 27 years as a hunting lodge for King Francis I, but he only visited 4 times in his life.

  • The King’s first visit was to show off his new status symbol to his rival, Emperor Charles V.

  • The chateau and grounds are truly massive, featuring 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases, one of which is thought to have been designed by Da Vinci.

  • The chateau sat unfurnished and unoccupied unless the King visited, which means all furnishings for 440 rooms and food for 2000+ people had to be brought in before every visit. No wonder he only stayed here a handful of times!

  • Learn more about visiting here.

3. Château des Arpentis

The last château is also one that you can spend the night in for less than $200/night! Learn more here.

  • The château dates back to 1410, although it was extensively renovated in 2008 to receive visitors as a boutique hotel.

  • The moat dates back to the 17th c, as does the extensive terrace surrounding the property.

Getting there + getting around

The best way to explore the Loire Valley is by car from Paris for maximum comfort in a 1 or 2-day trip. Parking is plentiful at the châteaux and you'll have the freedom to explore many of the towns in the valley for a meal or sightseeing!

Chateau eza bar terrace
View From Chateau Èza Bar Terrace

Dubbed the Eagle's Nest and sitting on a cliff 1,400 feet above the sea, Èze has commanded admiration for thousands of years. First settled by ancient explorers in 2000BC, it was also the home and muse of Swedish Princes and celebrated philosophers. Today, Èze is a portal to another world of romantic Medieval alleys, Michelin-Star terraced restaurants, and one of the most stunning views in the world. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in a variety of bucket-list experiences that are sure to be the highlight of any trip on the French Riviera. Perched on a cliff between Monaco and Nice, Èze is an exceptional day trip or overnight stay during your time in the South of France.

Èze, France History

Its rich history begins as the site of a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis built by the Phoenicians, a sea-faring Mediterranean civilization founded in 1500BC. The ancient temple was also its' namesake - it was known throughout history as Isie, Isia, Esa, and now Èze.

Its strategically advantageous position led to centuries of conquest and conflict, Èze was at one point controlled by the Romans, the Moors, the House of Savoy, the Republic of Genoa, and the Turks before voting to become a part of France in 1860.

The village was built into a fortified stronghold in 1388 by the House of Savoy before being conquered by the Turks in 1543. The greatest damage dealt to Èze during conquest was at the hands of Louis XIV in 1706, when the medieval walls surrounding the village were destroyed during the was of the Spanish Succession.

One of the most fascinating illustrations of Èze's history lies within the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix. Built in 1306, the church was a meeting place for the White Penitents, an order dedicating their life to helping victims of the plague. The church holds several religious relics as well as a small monument to their Egyptian roots, a rare inclusion of an ankh (Egyptian cross) on the walls of the church. It also holds a beautiful relief of their coat of arms, a phoenix perched on a bone with the inscription, "In death I am reborn."

During the past century, Èze has been the home of royalty, musicians, and artists, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Swedish Prince Guillaume, and Yugoslav violinist Zlatko Balokovic.

What To Do In Èze, France

Le Jardin Exotique (Exotic Garden)

Some of the best views in Èze can be seen from the top of the Exotic Garden, planted on the site of an ancient fortress. Cacti, succulents, and native Mediterranean plants are nestled on the terraces between statues by Jean-Phillipe Richard and 360* views of the coast. In the summer it can get very hot and busy in the garden very fast, so the best times to visit is before 11am and after 5pm, although you'll get the best light in the morning for photos.

Chateau Èza

Stay, Eat, and Drink

An exemplary celebration of history, beauty, and extravagance and the best restaurant + bar terrace on the Riviera. What started as a dozen terraced homes built on the cliffside on Èze over 400 years ago was transformed into the royal residence of the Prince of Sweden in the 20th century before being renovated into a luxury hotel. The attention to detail in the no-expenses-barred renovation is evident in every room, a Medieval castle fit for royalty with all the modern luxuries.

The Michelin-star restaurant offers a variety of cozy terraces overlooking the coast and delicious traditional French dishes. Reservations are required, and booked for months in advance. If you're feeling lucky and still want to experience Chateau Èza without any reservations, head to their bar terrace. The bar terrace has the same views as the restaurant, but without any possibility to make a reservation, your best bet is to arrive at minimum an hour before sunset to grab a table.

Rooms start at ~€380, Restaurant lunch/dinner starts at €60/person/€100/person, bar drinks and snacks start at €20.

Explore The Streets

The magic of staying overnight in Èze truly comes to light the morning after, when the village is empty, save for a few musicians and the residents. Walking the Medieval cobblestone streets just as the shops, art galleries, and cafes are opening to the sound of distant music truly transports you to a different time.

Nietzsche Path

A rocky walking path down from Èze Village to the sea boasting coastal vistas and surrounded by rosemary, rose blossoms, and olive trees. The trails takes about 40 minutes to descend and at least an hour to return. The bottom of the path opens up into a beach, but there is also a hidden waterfall you can reach by taking a small trail marked by two square reservoirs that look like ruins.

Fragonard Perfume Factory Laboratory

Explore the creation of legendary perfume through the entire process of distilling oils, composing a scent, and manufacturing cosmetics. A lovely visit behind the scenes to learn how perfume is composed and see the tools of the trade in person.

How To Get To Èze + Parking

You can get to Èze from Nice by Bus, Bus + Train, Uber, or car. When staying overnight in Èze, both Chateau Èza and Chevre d'Or offer complimentary parking. If you're lucky and arrive either late or early in the day, you can grab a parking spot in the only parking available, across the street from La Villa d'Eze.



Video Walkthroughs Can Be Viewed on:

What's the best pairing with coffee? Some say a pain du chocolat, some say a donut. I say - why not have both, while enjoying some beautiful art? Now I know that's not what coffee table books are really used as. They've become a home decor accessory to stack or arrange to brighten up a room, or perhaps a pedestal for that NEST candle? But that's not all they can be, they don't have to sit open gathering dust when you can actually be (gasp) reading them. Or at least, looking at all the beautiful art while you sip your coffee and eat a pastry. I've compiled some of my favorite coffee table books you'll want to read, although they look darn good up on the shelf too.

Jose Parlá: The Street Graffiti Artist That's Now In The ONE World Trade Center

Not many artists have literally been able to bring the streets into the most prestigious art galleries in the world. When I say that, I mean he actually brought scaffolding with graffiti into galleries as his medium, and it's hard not to fall in love. Parlá's work is bright, full of energy and light, and this book is a wonderful illustration of his journey as the son of Cuban immigrant parents in Miami to creating a 15ft x 90ft massive mural for the One World Trade Center.

Andrew Kuo: The (Hilarious) Artist That Will Make You Re-Evaluate Your Whole Life

I've never seen more elegant, or introspective, pie charts. It's a simple idea - divide up your day and thoughts, organize it, graph it. But the intensity of Kuo's comedic self reflection and often veiled criticism stands out as a never-ending trove of amusement. In the end, this visually-stunning book is a fascinating glimpse into Kuo's daily life that will have you wondering what's real and what's embellished. Pick this up when you want to smile, and sometimes laugh so hard you spit out your coffee.

Buy Andrew Kuo's What Me Worry Here! << THIS IS ON SALE FOR $13 SO GET IT NOW

Shiraga & Motonaga: How To Make Friends and Influence People Using Your Feet

What do feet, smoke, and water have in common? Not much until artists from the Gutai Art Association started using all three to make stunning art. Shiraga and Motonaga, among others in the movement, used these unorthodox methods to create multi-dimensional works. Most Gutai artists didn't receive international recognition until after their deaths, and in the early 21st century their works were rediscovered by collectors as masterpieces. I have to admit - Shiraga is one of my favorite artists so I may be biased, but this book is a must have for those that love engaging compositions and discovering new artists. If you really insist, you may use it as a conversation-starting décor piece, just make sure to read the summary when speaking with an art lover.

Tyler Shields: Hollywood Elite and Burning Cars Seducing You Through a Book

A lot of glamour, champagne, explosions, and fake blood. What else to expect from "Hollywood's Favorite Photographer"? Shields has had a storied career full of controversy, and this book covers all of it. It will make you fall in love, be disgusted, a little confused, and a whole lotta satisfied in 320 pages. It features Hollywood starlets flying, falling, almost burning their tongue. Past that, it's as action-packed as a coffee table book can be, featuring a large variety of Shield's works. Disclosure: I had the pleasure of interviewing him here, so I am a big fan.

Art: If You Just Want To Cover It ALL

This is the exact opposite of my previous choices: it covers thousands of years of art in one book in lieu of one artist or one movement. If you're new to the whole art thing, and want to gain a broad view of art throughout the ages with some visual stimuli, buy this. It will give you a grand overview of art history, as well as concise artist biographies, techniques, intent, media, and composition. It's an art class in a book and a lot of fun to leaf through when you forget about Boucher's booty. As one reviewer said, and I agree, "Art History can be FUN!"

If you think there is a really great coffee table book I missed, please let me know! Email me at ekaterina.i.kouznetsova (@)

I included some books that almost made my top 5 below:

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