Chinon, France; a beautiful village in the Loire Valley

Photo of Chinon

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Visit Chinon

Chinon is a picturesque Loire Valley town situated in the historical region of Anjou, with its castle spread widely across the hill behind a row of attractive house that front the river. Sitting high on a plateau, the huge Chateau de Chinon dominates the town.

Explore Chinon

After visiting Chinon castle, see also the lovely old town squeezed between the River Vienne and the buttresses of the castle. Chinon was one of our favourite places along the Loire Valley and, whilst small, would make an excellent base for visiting the surrounding castles.

The narrow streets are full of beautiful buildings and in ‘Rue Voltaire’ and ‘Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau’  in particular there are lovely mansions and churches from the Middle Ages that are very well conserved. The houses are a charming mix of stone and half-timber buildings with lots of decorative features amongst them.

Palais du Balliage

Particularly noteworthy are the Hotel du Gouverneur (XVII century), very scenic with its portal, arches and stairs; the States General Palace (XV century) which houses the Museum of Local History; the ‘Red House’ (XIII century); and the ‘Palais du Bailliage’ [Palace of the Bailiff].

The governors of the town were once housed in the castle but this became quite run down in the 17th century and they refurbished and moved into the Hôtel du Gouverneur. The house has a lovely double staircase and wrought iron balustrade leading from a small courtyard which was the entrance for carriages to the property.

The 15th century house in the photo above was once joined to the Palais du Bailliage which served as law court and council meeting place for the town. It no longer exists.

Among the churches, those worthy of note are the Church of St. Etienne (fifteenth century, of Gothic style); the Collegiate Church of St. Mexme (eleventh century) and the Saint Radegonde Chapel, (thirteenth century) of Romanesque style. There is a lovely fresco of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her son King John of England in the Chapel of Saint Radegonde.

According to tradition, Queen Radegonde (520-586), the wife of King Clotaire I (died 561), turned to a hermit, Saint John, who lived here to seek guidance on the construction of the monastery of Sainte Croix at Poitiers. The hermit's cell was later converted into a chapel.

Fortress of Chinon

As well as the lovely streets and buildings of Chinon it is its riverside setting and the sight of the fortress stretching along the top of the hill above the town that add to its charm. The fortress is made up of 3 castles which are in various states of disrepair though still worth a visit and the views from the castle are fabulous.

You could conclude your visit at the famous ‘caves’ i.e. the ‘Cellar’ made famous by Rabelais, and today managed by local vine-cultivators. The wine production is important locally and the vineyards stretch themselves out as far as the eye can see on the banks of the River Vienne, producing the famous ‘Cabernet’, which goes well with meat (hare and wild boar) and cheeses.

Rabelais, the great French author, physician, monk and humanist that wrote 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' about the adventures of two giants, is thought to have been born near to Chinon in 1494.

Places to visit nearby

The Chateau d'Ussé and the Chateau d'Azay le Rideau are both much more romantic in style than the fortress-castle of Chinon and make for a nice contrast for a visit. Chinon makes a good base for visiting the Loire but if you are looking for something bigger the nearby town of Saumur is also very nice.

See also:

Map of Chinon and places to visit

Places to visit near Chinon

Chateau de Chinon

Chateau de Chinon

The Chateau de Chinon retains more of its medieval characteristics than many of the other Loire chateaux which were redesigned in the Renaissance period.

Chateau de Chinon

Chateau d'Ussé

Chateau d'Ussé

The Chateau d'Ussé is a very pretty chateau said to be the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.

Chateau d'Ussé

Candes-Saint-Martin

Candes-Saint-Martin

Candes-Saint-Martin is a pretty village on the confluent of the rivers Loire and Vienne.

Candes-Saint-Martin

Montsoreau

Montsoreau

Montsoreau is a beautiful village with a castle, art gallery and mushroom caves to visit.

Montsoreau

Azay-le-Rideau

Azay-le-Rideau

Azay-le-Rideau is a very pretty little town which has grown up around the impressive Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau

Azay-le-Rideau

Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau

Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau

The Chateau d'Azay le Rideau sits surrounded by water on two sides giving it a very romantic appearance.

Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau

Chateau de Langeais

Chateau de Langeais

The Chateau de Langeais has some fine 15 and 16th century tapisteries and furniture.

Chateau de Langeais

Langeais

Langeais

Langeais is best known for its castle, the Chateau de Langeais but it has an attractive town centre.

Langeais