The Loire Valley is a synonym of excellent wine and gourmet cuisine, French splendour and beautiful architecture.
It is among the most beautiful regions of France with plenty of quaint towns and historic castles.
The region is extensive, strategically located between northern and southern France. The Loire Valley is just a short ride from Paris.
A UNESCO Heritage Site, the Loire Valley is known for the charismatic, historic cities of Orléans, Angers, Samour, Tours, Chinon and Blois, Amboise and Montsoreau. It features beautiful villages surrounded by vineyards and some fabulous châteaux boasting cupolas and towers, as well as impressive banquet halls.
How to reach the Loire Valley?
Since the Loire Valley is among the most visited areas of France, it can be easily accessed from Paris through the excellent road and rail network of the country. The Loire Valley is approximately 1 hour by train and 2 hours’ drive south of Paris. The area is also covered by domestic and international flights to the city of Tours and can also be easily accessible from most places in Europe.
A fantastic way to tour the Loire Valley is by bicycle. Many shops offer bicycle hire by the day plus suggested destinations, bike itineraries, cycling trails and maps.
The Garden of France
Situated in central France in the middle stretch of the Loire River – the longest in France, the valley is often referred to as the Garden of France as it was once the hunting playground of kings. It has also been called the Cradle of the French due to the abundance of fruit orchards and vineyards, numerous cherry trees, fields of asparagus and artichoke that line the river banks. There are also fields of sunflowers and dense forests.
The Loire Valley wine region is among the most famous areas in the world for its wine production. It comprises of several wine regions – Muscadet, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume to name a few. The wines from the Loire Valley are known for their crisp and fruity flavour.
In addition to being a wonderful area for wine tasting, the Loire Valley is also a delightful place for cultural sightseeing. This Valley boasts architectural elements from the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance. The notable architectural heritage of the Valley began with the French kings who constructed castles here. They were followed by the nobility that wanted to be near the seat of power. As a consequence, the fertile valley started attracting some of the best architects and landscape designers. The chateaux were all very detailed and included churches on their grounds.
Found in the valley are lovely towns and romantic villages, breathtaking architectural heritage and chateaux. Also, to be seen in the area are the Chateau de Montsoreau-Contemporary Art Museum, the Frac Centre Orleans and the Domaine Regional de Chaumont sur Loire, which combine Renaissance architecture and contemporary art.
The Loire Valley Castles
Once in the Loire Valley, there are many sightseeing tours from which to choose, including guided tours to the Loire Valley Castles – Châteaux Amboise, Château de Montsoreau, Château du Pin and Château de Villandry, Azay-LE-Rideau, Chenonceau and Chambord. Other castles that deserve attention include Château de Villandry and Château du Rivau, Château de Chinon and Château d’Ussé. Most of the Loire Castles date back to the 15th – 17th centuries.
A tour of the Loire Valley châteaux
Chambord is the castle of Francois I and is a perfect example of French Renaissance architecture. Everything began as a dream on a hunting weekend in 1519 and resulted in the most ambitious project ever done by a French monarch. The castle was finished more than 30 years later, since it was halted by military and financial setbacks, and offers 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, as well as 84 staircases. It is believed that the castle’s double-helix staircase was designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself.
Another great Renaissance castle is Chenonceau, renowned for its beautiful surroundings. Its rival is the lovely Cheverny castle, which has preserved its original architecture. The castle Langeais has been built on a fortress from the 1460’s and has kept its drawbridge and battlements.
Châteaux Amboise used to be a weekend getaway for several French monarchs. Château d’Ussé with its white towers is believed to have been an inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and the Disney magical kingdom logo.
The impressive fortress, Château de Chinon is not well preserved, while Château de Beauregard has an interesting portrait gallery and nicely landscaped gardens.
Château de Villandry is not only an architectural gem but a castle with water gardens and vineyards, a maze and an ornamental garden. The delightful Châteaux Azay-LE-Rideau is beautifully positioned and nicely decorated with turrets, geometric windows and special stonework. It is surrounded by a delightfully landscaped park.
Loire Valley towns, cathedrals, and villages
In addition to the castles, the Loire Valley has some fascinating historical towns and romantic villages, as well as two large cathedrals in the towns of Chartres and Bourges. Arguably, the most interesting towns in the Loire Valley are Loches and Tours. The countryside and the scenery around the Loire River can be explored by bicycle or on foot.
A great highlight of a visit to the Loire Valley is the local wineries and little restaurants. The region is believed to produce some of the finest wines in the world. Once there be sure to try the fruity, well-rounded white and sparkling wines from the Amboise and Saumur regions.
The Loire Valley has large wine companies and small independent wineries that offer tours and wine tasting. Tastings are usually free and you can buy a bottle or two directly from the winery. The region is also known for the wine festivals during the summer.
Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.
Categories: Travel Advice
Tags: Chambord, Chateau d'Usse, Chateau de Beauregard, Chateau de Chinon, Chateaux Amboise, Chateaux Azay-Le-Rideau, Chayeau de Villandry, Chenonceau Castle, Cheverny Castle, france, Langeais Castle, Loire Valley