Best time to go to the Loire Valley

People are a little like white wine: we flourish in the Loire Valley climate.
The Loire Valley really feels its seasons. It sits right in the center of France, dividing north and south, so it gets relatively hot in summer (July average high of 25°C) and cold in winter (it has an average high of 7°C degrees in January). The Loire River and an Atlantic breeze keep the climate perfect for viticulture. Expect more rain and cooler temperatures in winter – and some chateaux only partially open whilst they do some renovations. In the summer it can get hot and busy – climate change means it is getting noticeably hotter every year. Meanwhile spring and autumn are lovely, temperate times of year, and perfect for walking and cycling.

The Loire Valley, month by month

Chateaux have plenty of crannies and alcoves for Easter Egg treasure hunts in March and April. Spring is a lovely time of year. There will be tulips in the gardens and blossom on the fruit trees. The Chateau de Chaumont’s garden festival lasts from April until November every year. There’s usually something beautiful in flower – from tulips in spring to autumn dahlias. Tour operators tend run their cycling and walking vacations between the months of May and October only, closing for the winter period. In summer, many chateaux do lights and music projections to extend visiting hours into the evenings. Look out for ‘son et lumiere’ shows at Blois, Tours, Orleans, Chartres and more. In June, look out for Vouvray’s wine fairs. The ‘Foire aux Vins Vouvray’ is a great opportunity to sample some of the regions famous sparkling whites. The famous gardens of Villandry are bathed in candlelight on special evenings throughout summer. Look out for these ‘Nights of a Thousand Lights’ in July and August. August and July are the months when much of France is away on vacation and there are public vacations on 14th July (Bastille Day) and 15th August (Assomption). The Loire can be very dry and hot in this time – thanks to climate change there’s been recent drought, too. This is the busiest time for the biggest chateaux, which play host to tourists by the coachload in the summer vacations. In September the grape harvest begins, and can last until mid-November. Good god, that’s a lot of gourds: there are autumn festivals at some chateaux between September, October and November. Snow is unusual in winter. Some chateaux – like Chenonceau – deck the halls for the season in December and through to January. Whilst lots of chateaux are open through the year, others might use the quieter winter period to do a few renovations, so check ahead. In winter and early spring the Loire gets a lot of rain, so January and February are quiet in the valley. Occasionally the river bursts its banks, making some walking routes less viable.

Tours Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

Responsible Travel recommends

Harvey Downard, from our specialist cycling company, Cycling for Softies, on the best time to visit: In France everyone basically takes their vacation in July and August – even hoteliers and restaurant owners – which is quite challenging for us! I would advise against traveling in these months. At this time of year you do have an overtourism problem particularly with some of the big chateaux – Villandry for example. It’s normally low 30s in most of France at this time, which is still a bit warm, really. For cycling you don’t want it to be too hot. June is probably the best balance and September too is quite nice – and there are our most popular times to go. And I wouldn’t recommend cycling in winter, it can get very cold.

Our top Loire Valley Vacation

Loire Valley self catering farm cottage, France

Loire Valley self catering farm cottage, France

Perfect Loire Valley country cottage for two

From 560 to750 per cottage per week (sleeps 2-4)
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Festivals and events in the Loire Valley

Wine festivals

Every autumn, when the grapes are harvested, many towns in the Loire Valley hold wine festivals. It’s a time for guided vineyards walks, wine tastings and plenty of indulgence. The best thing about tasting wine might be the local nibbles you get served alongside your glass – and you don’t have to use the spittoon. Look in Saumur for Festivini in September, which culminates in banqueting at Fontevraud Abbey.

Things to do in the Loire Valley

Things to do in the Loire Valley

Son et lumiere shows bring the stories of historic monuments to life. Using projections, plus a lot of actors in chainmail, you’ll get a thoroughly educational romp through the Loire Valley’s medieval history. If you want to watch Amboise being built, or Joan of Arc marching through Blois, settle in for a show. Visit caves - The yellowy tuffeau rock in the Loire Valley is riddled with secret spaces and sometimes whole towns are built into the cliffs, like the troglodyte dwellings at Cave des Roches. Some caves are natural, some were made when stone was quarried for the surrounding chateaux. Look out for signs to ‘trogos’, as the word ‘cave’ in French actually means ‘wine cellar’. Explore the tributaries - Many tributary rivers feed into the Loire: the Cher, Indre and Vienne all trickle in from the south. They’re very pretty indeed and good for swimming and kayaking. You might also find some Michelin-starred restaurants nearby – there’s one at Le Petit Pressigny, a few kilometres from the River Vienne.

Things not  to do in the Loire Valley

Eat tartare de boeuf comme un Rossini - It sounds like a mouthful, and it is: a steak tartare finished with a slab of foie gras is a very indulgent dish in the region. There’s a cruel process behind it: caged geese are force-fed until their livers become engorged in order to produce foie gras, literally ‘fat liver’. Sorry, liver lovers, we say no to animal cruelty, so we say no to this dish.
Pick mushrooms – or, at least, don’t go about picking mushrooms on your own unless you really know what you’re doing. Saumur produces 50% of France’s total button mushroom crop. It’s traditional to grow these fantastic fungi in cool caves, as local people have done for centuries. Visit La Cave des Roches, a 120-kilometre cave network: there’s lots of room for ‘shrooms here.
Only see chateaux - There are several cathedral cities in the area. The cathedral at Orleans has a backstory involving Joan of Arc, Chartres Cathedral has incredible (and original) medieval stained glass. Other religious buildings are equally impressive. Fontevraud Abbey was directed by powerful abbesses for centuries.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Daniel Jolivet] [Top box: Suavemarimangno] [RT recommends: Guillaume Baviere] [Things to do/not do: Ben Paulos]