Loire Valley Information
Loire Valley Information
The Loire Valley (Centre Val de Loire) is known as the Valley of the Kings because this was the playground for French Royals from the 15th -18th centuries. It was chosen by royalty for its proximity to Paris, mild climate and pleasing landscape of pastoral countryside. Today it remains one of France's most popular regions, and except for Paris has more historic sights per square mile than any other French locale. There are over 1000 historic châteaux here, with approximately 120 of them open to the public. Fortunately for the tourist, there is a limited number that are truly outstanding and worth the time to visit. Additional stops will wear on you unless you are a French historian.
Layout of the Land
The best châteaux in our opinion are located within the 70 mile stretch between Orléans and Tours, with the very best lying between Blois and Amboise. We recommend that you use one of these cities, or a nearby sleepy medieval village as your base in the Loire. While you could easily enjoy a week in the region, one full day will allow you to visit the two best châteaux, and another day will allow for even more, plus time to explore some of the towns.
Towns of the Loire
Orléans- Closest to Paris in our 70 mile stretch of the Loire is Orléans. The highlights in town include the Cathédrale Ste-Croix, the Maison de Jeanne d'Arc and the Musée des Baux-Arts. The twin-towered cathedral built from the 13th to 19th centuries features stained glass windows depicting the life of Joan of Arc. The house of Joan of Arc is a reconstruction of the 15th century home where Joan briefly lived. It is now a museum. Finally the Fine Arts Museum features 15th-20th century European art, much of which came from the famous châteaux in the region.
Blois- Next in our stretch of the best is Blois, which served as the 2nd location for the royal court of France, after Paris. The highlights include the Château de Blois, the Maison de la Magic, the Masion des Acrobates and the Jardin de l' Evêché. The House of Magic offers fun for the whole family with live magic shows and interactive displays. The House of Acrobats is a 15th century house with timbers decorated with paintings of jesters. Finally the Bishop's Palace Garden is a park offering wonderful views of the town and the Loire River.
Amboise- After Blois you will find Amboise with its dominating hilltop Château d' Amboise. Also noteworthy is Le Clos-Lucé, which is a brick manor house where artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci lived out his last three years. The museum has restored rooms, a garden and models of his inventions. As a side note, Leonardo traveled from Italy to the Loire Valley on donkey carrying one of his paintings, the Mona Lisa!
Tours- The final town in our best of stretch is Tours. This cosmopolitan city has a large student population. Highlights of the city include avenues dating from the 18th century, public gardens and a variety of museums focusing on art, traditional crafts and stained glass. This town offers many large modern hotels and is most popular for tour bus guests.
While Chartres is technically in the Centre Val de Loire we have included it in our section Paris - Day Trips. Enough about towns, you should visit the Loire Valley to see the châteaux.
Food and Wine
The Loire Valley is known for its crisp white wines including Sancerre, Vouvray and Pouilly-Fumé, often served at the many restaurants that are popular in the region. On a typical menu you will find a variety of local game from the deep forests of nearby Sologne, and salmon or trout from the region's rivers. To top your meal, the Loire is renowned for its tarte Tatin, an upside-down apple pie!
Car- The best way to explore the Loire Valley is by car. If you would like to get to the Loire by train, we suggest taking the TGV from Paris to Tours where you can pick up a rental car. Once you are in the Loire the driving is very easy on mostly two lane roads.
Please also visit our page about the Best Loire Valley Chateaux.
Day Trip from Paris- Join an organized day trip from Paris to visit the Loire Valley. More
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