The Loire Valley, in central France’s Loire River, is known for its abundant produce, famed wine industry, vibrant culture and stunning châteaux. Here are ten ways to make the most of a trip to the Loire Valley.
Perhaps the most famous of the many castles in the region, Chenonceau is a sight to behold. Spanning— literally— the River Cher, this attractive mix of late Gothic and early Renaissance architectural styles is best known for being the residence of Queen Catherine de Medici. The endless rooms and halls are decorated sumptuously, and feature historical info to boot.
Stroll through the gardens at the Château de Villandry
On a sunny day, skip the interior of this castle and instead make your way through the gardens, which are renowned for their beauty. With a labyrinth, fruit and vegetable patches, grapevines, a grass court for tennis, and of course a multitude of flower gardens and fountains and paths to explore, it’s impossible to be bored.
For an extensive guided tour of one of France’s best producers of sparkling wine, look no further than this winery. It possesses no fewer than 10 miles of wine cellars— with a tasting at the end of the tour. Worried about walking so many subterranean miles? Fear not; the winery offers cycling tours.
Take in the art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours
This delightful art museum, housed in the bishop’s former palace, is located in the peaceful heart of Tours’ old town. It features one of France’s most extensive collections of art, with artists including Rubens, Monet, and more. Don’t miss the sculpture collection, which includes ancient classical Roman and Greek pieces, as well as sculptures of historic French monarchs.
For a differen way to explore the charming town of Amboise, its château, and environs, how about a hot-air balloon tour with Ballon Plaisir? The well-versed tour guides are happy to point out noteworthy sights, and the entire experience, including the incredible views, is certainly memorable.
This famous Gothic cathedral (full name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres) attracts pilgrims and tourists alike from across the globe. Join the ranks and visit this stunning cathedral, which has gorgeous stained glass and workmanship. In the summertime, stay until the evening for a light show which is projected on the exterior of the cathedral when night falls.
Learn about Leonardo da Vinci at the Château du Close Lucé
This little château in Amboise served as the official residence of legendary artist, inventor, and scientist Leonardo da Vinci for the last three years of his life, until his death in 1519. Today, visitors can tour the museum to learn about the region’s history as well as look at models of many of da Vinci’s invented machines and a replica of the Mona Lisa, as well as pay respects to da Vinci’s tomb itself.
Check out the second floor of this family-owned museum to see an array of live displays of iguanas, lizards, turtles, insects, and more creatures. Of course don’t miss the mammoth exhibition on the ground floor. The museum is fun for all ages— kids will enjoy the library and games on the third floor.
Summertime in the city of Tours means one thing: the ‘Tours-sur-Loire’ guinguette cafe which is set up in the town center along the banks of the Loire river every April to September. With food, drinks, outdoor seating, concerts and outdoor cinema every day or night, this summer tradition makes an excellent meeting spot for a meal, relaxing evening, or cultural experience.
Cycle around Orléans on the Loire à Vélo Cycle Path
Traverse the city and its nearby countryside by bike, passing through adorable towns, copious historical sites, and more. Register online, grab some wheels, and then explore the various scenic paths and routes— just make sure to return the bicycle when finished to a station in town.