You now gaze wonderingly at the Château de Chambord, ordered up by King Francis I as a sixteenth century hunting lodge, today often regarded as the single most spectacular of the 300+ castles in France’s Loire Valley. The France tourist will find the château’s 440 rooms (and 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases) on a 13,000 acre park and game reserve, between bustling Thoury (population 423) and Huisseau-sur-Cosson (population 2,297).
In short: in the French middle-of-nowhere. Many travel bloggers suggest touring the Loire’s castles by car. I see their point, but managed to visit Chambord by transit without having to hitchhike back to my hotel, and can offer practical tips on how other car-free tourists may do the same.
(I have more to share about playing tourist in France without a car, but will save the rest for a separate post. Château de Chambord was much tougher to visit by transit than any other France attraction seen to date, and rates its own entry.)
(♦) First things first: thank you, Detour Effect, for writing Visiting Castles in the Loire Valley Without a Car. I started with you. You inspired me!
(♦) The official Chambord site links to an out-of-date bus schedule. The web page you want is:
It’s French-only, confusing, won’t inspire confident warm-fuzzies in potential tourists … but, bottom-line: these are the folks who operate the bus you’ll take. What they say goes.
(♦) Study the page long enough, and you will see that in 2022:
- You can visit other castles aboard this bus, as described by Detour Effect. I rode it only to Chambord.
- The bus operates only on some days, marked in blue. I visited on May 25. See the little blue square?
- The bus departs the Blois-Chambord train station for the castle at 9:15 on all days except Saturday.
- Your return bus from Château de Chambord depends on your day of travel. I boarded at 14:20, returned to the Blois-Chambord station at 15:25.
(♦) Expect no meaningful signage to guide you at the Blois-Chambord station, and expect to meet no English speakers at the station’s SNCF office. You’re in the sticks.
(♦) While descending from the rail platform, I had admired a roundy-round bicycle-pedestrian bridge (described elsewhere online in French and in English.) The Chambord castle bus stop is immediately north of this passerelle. If castle-bound, a separate bus stop on Boulevard Daniel Dupuis is a red herring.
(♦) I remember no taxis at the station (in case you were hoping to ignore everything else in this post, and ride a cab to the castle). Sorry.
(♦) The plush castle bus arrived on schedule, and dropped us off in a bus parking lot on the Chambord castle grounds. Several fellow passengers spoke both French and English, and could confirm So-how-do-we-get-back-to-Blois? particulars with the driver.
(♦) The Chambord castle grounds include cafés, restaurants, hiking trails and, of course, the 440 rooms (and 282 fireplaces, and 84 staircases) of the castle itself. There’s a lot to see! … a good thing, as the Rémi bus schedule promised that I wouldn’t be able to board a return bus for the next four and a half hours. The limited travel schedule is the main drawback to visiting the castle by transit.
(♦) The return bus did not motor directly back to Gare Blois-Chambord, but instead first traveled to the stops for two other château: Cheverny and Beauregard. So: thirty-five minutes on the bus to get to the castle in the morning, but an hour and five minutes to return to Gare Blois-Chambord in the afternoon.
In May, 2022, much of the castle exterior was swaddled in that arch-enemy of amateur dSLR wielders the world over: construction scaffolding. I took few exterior shots. For other photos, please see the photo directory.
(Lead photo credit: Krzysztof Golik, CC-BY-SA 4.0)