Last Updated on 13th March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Located in the Loire Valley, Amboise is a stunning town that’s full of medieval history and timber-framed buildings. Best visited in the springtime when the sun is shining and the cherry blossoms are blooming, here’s your guide to the best things to do in Amboise, as well as what to know before visiting.
The picturesque Amboise feels like something straight out of a fairytale; crooked little lanes form a maze around a towering French Château that looks like it’s been plucked straight from a storybook.
You could easily spend hours meandering amongst the historic architecture and exploring the town’s three châteaux which are open to the public.
What’s more is that Amboise has pretty intense ties with none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, the famous Italian painter, sculptor and innovator spent the last few years in Amboise, residing in the Château du Clos Lucé, which is open to the public today. For more inspiration, check out our Loire Valley itinerary.
Best things to do in Amboise
Musee de l’Hôtel de Ville
Situated against the backdrop of the former mansion Pierre Morin which was constructed at the turn of the 16th-century, the town’s main museum is the Musée de l’Hôtel de Ville, which is located close to the River Loire.
For those wishing to learn more about the history of Amboise and the wider Loire Valley, this is a great place to start thanks to the number of exhibitions featuring the town and beyond. The museum is free. However, please note that the museum has very limited opening hours. Find them here.
Walk around Amboise town
Truth be told, one of the biggest delights of the Loire Valley is wandering its many medieval towns, many of which have retained their historic charm.
Amboise is no different: French bistros spill out onto the pavements, crooked rooftops are abound and there’s something quirky to see around almost every corner.
Tour de l’Horloge
One of the most distinctive buildings in Amboise (château aside) is the clock tower, which dates back to the 15th-century. Now listed as a historic monument (since 1933 to be precise), the clock tower was actually built atop of the site of an old city gate (la porte d’Amasse). Vestiges of the old door can still be found to the base of the 1445 tower.
Château Royal d’Amboise
The number one attraction in Amboise is the Château Royal d’Amboise, which presides high above the rest of the town, overlooking the Loire river. Constructed by the French monarchy during the 15th-century, the historic building has seen plenty of events over the course of its lifetime.
The origins of the Château d’Amboise actually began during the Roman era when a Gallic Iron Age settlement was constructed in the area (some ruins can still be seen today in the outskirts of Amboise).
A Château was eventually built on the strategic point which was confiscated by the monarchy during the 15th-century when the owner, Louis d’Amboise, was convicted of plotting against the King (a conviction which was later overturned).
Nevertheless, the French Monarchy kept the château for themselves. In 1515, Leonardo da Vinci came to Amboise for the first time. He lived in the nearby Château du Close Lucé, which was connected to the Château d’Amboise via an underground passage.
Upon his death, Da Vinci was interred in the Chapel of St Florentin, which was located close to the Château, Unfortunately, the chapel was so damaged during the French Revoltuion that the decision was taken to raze it to the ground completely.
Today, there are several commemorative pieces to Leonardo da Vinci across the Château of Amboise and in its surrounds. Elsewhere in the grounds of Château d’Amboise there is a beautiful formal gardens to explore (which you can picnic in) and that boasts a surprisingly amazing collection of box bushes. Purchase your ticket here in advance.
Château du Clos Lucé
The place where Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked for the three years leading up to his death was Château du Clos Lucé, which is a small French Château that’s a short walk away from Amboise town centre.
The château is sometimes referred to simply as Clos Lucé and was built in the latter half of the 15th-century. Today, the Château and beautiful gardens are accessible to the public for a fee. In order to see the château and its surrounding grounds, you’ll need to set aside a few hours. Purchase your tickets in advance here.
There is yet another Château in Amboise, although a little less-known than the other two. Please note that there are several Châteaux by the name of Gaillard in France, including one in the region of Normandy.
Château Gaillard is located a short walk away from Clos Lucé and was constructed at the end of the 15th-century to serve as a Royal residence for Charles VIII. Today, visitors can explore the restored old castle, as well as its surrounding gardens.
One of the most important things to know before visiting the Loire Valley is that it is home to a great wine producing region. As such, one of the greatest attractions of Amboise and its surrounds are the number of wine tastings on offer.
One of the easiest places to reach from Amboise is the Caves Ambacia, which is around a fifteen minute walk from the town centre. Visitors should note that this winery does not have a vineyard but is instead the place where wine is stored.
The cellars where the wine is stored date back to over 500 years, and were carved by hand directly out of the cliff face. Today, you can visit the wine cellars and see where the wine is stored. You can do a self-guided visit for free or alternatively pay €18 per person for a tour and tasting. Buy your ticket here.
There is a terrace at the front where you can enjoy views of the Loire River (see cherry blossoms during spring), and sample the wine. They also serve a variety of hot and cold beverages, as well as food.
Enjoy the view from Île d’or
Those who wish to get one of the best views of the Château d’Amboise and the rest of the town bordering the River Loire should be sure to head across the bridge Pont du Maréchal Leclerc to reach the L’Île d’Or (Gold Island).
Widely regarded to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Amboise, the island lies in the River Loire and boasts a few cafés and bars as well as some residential building.
Truth be told, the best thing to do on the Île d’Or is to admire the view onto the Château d’Amboise from next to the Leonardo da Vinci statue. It’s a great spot to snap some souvenir photos of your trip!
Church of Saint Florentin
if you’re arriving in Amboise via car, then one of the first historic buildings you’ll likely see is the church of Saint Florentine, which is located on the fringes of the old town and close to the base of the Château.
The Amboise church dates back to the middle ages and is free to visit. Occasionally small exhibitions are held within the ecclesiastical building.
Where to eat in Amboise
Around the world, France is known for its culinary scene, and the Loire Valley is no exception. There are several restaurants of note in the town and its surrounds, many of which are in the French bistro style.
Located just outside of the historic old town, L’Ecluse is one of the best reviewed places to eat in town. There are several set menus at different price points (and depending on how hungry you are!) and much of the produce served is sourced locally. This Amboise eatery is exceptionally popular (especially the terrace during the summer months) so be sure to book ahead of time.
La Pause du Temps
Run by a husband-wife duo, La Pause du Temps is a typical French restaurant which serves up all the classics, all the while being beautifully presented. On the menu you’ll also find a number of local Loire Valley wines.
Where to stay in Amboise
If you’re looking to enjoy the best of the Loire Valley, then the town of Amboise is a great place to base yourself thanks to its many charms, as well as ease of access to the wider Loire Valley.
The town also boasts a number of eateries (from cafés to chic restaurants) and a number of accommodation options which range from budget hostels to luxury retreats and I personally think its much cuter than the nearby town of Tours.
Hôtel Le Manoir Les Minimes: For an über luxe stay in the Loire, the Hôtel Le Manoir Les Minimes is a five-star hotel which is less than a ten-minute walk from main town attractions like the Royal Château and the tourist office. Check prices and availability here.
Hôtel Restaurant Le Clos d’Amboise: This four-star establishment is located in the heart of Amboise and is set against the backdrop of a 17th-century mansion house. Boasting amenities such as an outdoor pool and a sauna, this is true luxury in the Loire Valley. Check prices and availability here.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.