What to see in the Loire: cities and attractions not to be missed

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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The Loire region, also known as the "Garden of France", occupies the territory that extends from the Loire Valley to the Atlantic Ocean, where the river linked to its name flows into it. The area included in the central part of the river was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considering the peculiarity of the landscapes and fairytale villages.

A trip to the Loire is a total immersion in beauty, visible in the marvelous Renaissance-style buildings, in the suggestive villages frozen in time, in the historical monuments, in the rural landscapes and in the many elegant and sumptuous castles scattered throughout the region. Here what to see in the Loire: cities and attractions not to be missed!


  1. Nantes
  2. Montsoreau
  3. Orleans
  4. The Castle of Chambord
  5. Amboise
  6. Angers
  7. The vineyards of Sancerre
  8. Bourges
  9. The Castle of Valençay
  10. La Brenne Natural Park
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Nantes

The capital Nantes overlooks the banks of the Loire River and is a historical jewel to get lost in all year round. In the city you can visit the beautiful white Cathedral dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, whose construction lasted 457 years.

In the immediate vicinity, not to be missed, also because it is located in the historic center, is the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, built between the 8,00th and th centuries in the Italian Renaissance and medieval Gothic style. The Castle is located on the water, on which it reflects its beautiful walls and inside it houses the Museum of Urban History of Nantes. To visit it you need to pay a ticket of € .

As for museums, the Nantes Arts Museum, located in the center, is certainly worth a visit, not only because it was built in 1801, by the will of Napoleon Bonaparte, but also because it is a place where art never stops reproducing: the works, in fact, start from the historical period from the thirteenth century to the present day, following a process of continuous updating (ticket cost € 8,00).

2 - Montsoreau

The commune of Montsoreau has about 500 inhabitants and is located in the department of Maine and Loire. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France, a list of 154 French countries considered to be among the most fascinating. The municipality is also part of the area declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The main attraction is without a doubt the Montsoreau Castle, built in Gothic and Renaissance style in the mid-400th century, the only one to be found on a river bed.
For some years the castle has housed the Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest collection of works of the Art & Language movement, focused on conceptual art (cost € 10,20).

The village does lets visit entirely on foot, offering visitors its always flowery streets, and among the significant monuments there are the Church of Saint-Pierre, in the old quarter near the river, the Dolmen Pierrelée, or a prehistoric megalithic construction of uncertain origin and the Mill of La Tranchée, an ancient windmill surrounded by greenery.

3 - Orleans

Located in the Center-Loire Valley area, Orleans is the capital of the Loiret department, 120 km from Paris and was founded by the Romans.
Orleans, despite being one of the few cities in the region not to have a castle, is a truly fascinating place. rich in history and art.

The history of the city is indissolubly linked to Joan of Arc, who freed it from the English in 1429. You will find many symbols and places dedicated to her around the city. One of the most beautiful buildings is undoubtedly the cathedral of Sainte-Croix, 140 meters high and composed of 5 naves, entirely in Gothic style, inside there is a pedestal dedicated to Joan of Arc. From a historical point of view, worthy of note is Piazza Martroi, where once the condemned to death were executed and where today stands the famous equestrian statue of Joan of Arc.

Finally, for a little relaxation you can stroll in the Parc Floral de la Source, where the source of the Loiret rises, among immense thematic gardens (entrance fee € 6,00).

4 - The Chambord Castle

The Chambord Castle definitely is among the most opulent in France. Built in 1515, it has more than 400 rooms, is 156 meters wide and 56 meters high: it represents the perfect match between the typical medieval layout of the fortresses, with four towers and the surrounding walls, and the refined and precise architecture, typical of the Italian Renaissance. The cost for the visit is € 8,50.

The most curious point for tourists is located in the central axis, where one branches off double helix staircase, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. Walking along this double staircase, two visitors can continue to see each other without ever meeting, a real game of logic and architecture like masters.

Around the Castle there is a park of considerable size: 5.440 hectares, which can be traveled on horseback or on foot. In addition, for some years now it has been possible to reconstruct the French-style gardens that must have been part of the palace, designed by Louis XIV; today there are more than 600 trees, among endless rose gardens and plants of different species.

5 - Amboise

Located in the Center-Val de Loire, Amboise is the refined city, overlooking the Loire River, where the last years of their lives famous people, like Charles VIII and Leonardo da Vinci.
In fact, in the center it is possible to visit the home of the genius da Vinci, the Chateau du Clos Lucé, where visitors can discover and admire some of the projects conceived by the master and carried out in more recent times (€ 17,00).

In the city other very charming structures are the Eglise st. Florentin, a church built in the 400th century, and the Eglise st. Denise, dating from the th century and built in the Romanesque style.
Located on the Loire River and in a position overlooking Amboise, that's it rise the magnificent Castle, built in the th century in the Renaissance style. Here many sumptuous events, parties but also conspiracies were organized and, during the reign of Francis I, it became an active center of painters and artists. Right here, in the chapel of Saint-Hubert, there is the tomb of da Vinci. The visit costs € 11,20.

6 - Angers

Angers is historic city and capital of Maine and Loire the city of the famous counts of Anjou, washed by the River Maine.

The city, with its elegant streets and half-timbered houses, has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and among the beautiful sites to visit the castle-fortress certainly stands out, dating back to the thirteenth century and built on already existing Roman walls. The imposing structure consists of 17 stone towers 50 meters high and is famous because inside there is the Tapestry of the Apocalypse, the tapestry made in medieval times 103 meters long and depicting the fall of Babylon: a work very communicative art and of inestimable value. The visit to the castle costs € 9,00.

Others noteworthy buildings in the city are the cathedral of Sainte-Maurice, in Gothic style, the complex of the Abbey of Saint-Aubin and the newer district of La Doutre, located on the left bank of the river, where you can stroll in an ancient and modern atmosphere at the same time.

7 - The vineyards of Sancerre

Sancerre is located in the Cher department, in the Center-Val de Loire. Famous for its wine tradition, the town offers truly unique rural landscapes, with its immense and colorful vineyards.

One of the highest points from which admire the view is the Tour des Fiefs, the only tower left standing of the castle that was part of the city (the cost to go up is € 2,50).

Around this small village there are several fascinating places, just think of the Maupas Castle, surrounded by splendid French gardens and located on a wooded hill, and the medieval Boucard Castle, with its fairytale architecture. Then, the Jardins Artistiques de Drulon are wonderful, or the gardens where you can follow paths immersed in nature in which to discover, surprisingly, beautiful contemporary works of art.

8 - Bourges

The splendid city of Bourges is the capital of the Cher department, of very ancient origins, in the Middle Ages became famous for its alchemists, of which several traces remain today.

The main attraction of the city is undoubtedly the imposing Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, made even more fascinating by its colorful windows, which create spectacular plays of light inside the building.

Not far from the cathedral there is a small museum that is worth discovering: the Musee des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, where the importance of manual work is celebrated, with finely crafted objects in the past. Do not miss a visit to the elegant Jacques Cœur Palace, in Flamboyant Gothic style, built in the 400th century, costing € 8,00, and located in the center of the city. In the surroundings, dedicate yourself to bucolic walks in the Marais, the inevitable French gardens, well-kept and full of flowers by the river.

9 - The Castle of Valençay

The imposing castle is located near the city of Valençay, located in the Center-Valley of the Loire.
Its construction began in the th century, is in the Renaissance style with classical influences and is surrounded by large and well-kept French gardens, with fountains, lawns and even a labyrinth.

The interior of the building is stunning, with luxuriously furnished rooms and large elegantly designed spaces, there are hundreds of rooms that make up 25 apartments.
Part of the large outdoor area was used as a zoological garden, with an English park. The cost for the visit is € 12,50.

10 - La Brenne Natural Park

Not only castles, in the Loire, exactly in the Indre department, there is the La Brenne Natural Park, with its 160,000 hectares of uncontaminated nature. The landscapes are dominated by more than 2000 ponds, together with prairies, moors, forests, valleys and many other natural habitats for a large number of animals and plants, which reign here free and without obstacles.

The Park is consisting of many paths, just follow them carefully to have a direct and close contact with nature. You will surely be amazed in front of the Mer Rouge, the 160 hectare large pond.

Also worth visiting House of Nature and the Reserve in Saint-Michel-en-Brenne, where the natural heritage of the Brenne is celebrated. While a really pretty town not to be missed in the park's bucolic surroundings is Le Blenc, washed by the Creuse River.

Travel informed: useful information and necessary documents

  • Inhabitants: 3.787.00
  • Capital: Nantes
  • Languages: French
  • Local currency: euro (€)
  • Weather: temperate of oceanic tico, with dry aesthetes and humid winters. Average winter temperatures 6 °, summer ones 19,5 °
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Where it is

    The Loire region is located in the northern part of France, its territories border on Brittany to the north-west, Normandy to the north, the Center-Loire Valley to the east and New Aquitaine to the south-east. To the west, however, the coasts are washed by the Atlantic Ocean.

    Tours and excursions in the Loire

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