Home to one of the world’s most incredible rivers, the Loire valley boasts a well-deserved reputation as one of the best tourist destinations in Europe. The whole valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because really, how could anyone choose just one attraction from the numerous castles, palaces and mansions dotted across the region? Enjoy the very best of central France with breath-taking views, a slow pace of life and some of the best food and drink in the country and use our guide to making the most out of your time in the Loire Valley.
When to Go
Though the climate isn’t quite as favourable as it is in the south of the country, the weather is pleasant for much of the year, with the river often acting as an intermediary between the climates of the north and south. Temperatures are cooler during the springtime and the wine harvesting seasons bring rain, while the summer months are hot and punctuated with an Atlantic breeze.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of things to see and do around the Loire Valley, and where you stay really does depend on what you’re looking for from your time away. The area’s major towns include Angers, Le Mans, Nantes and Orléans, with the former being famous for its lively nightlife and the latter for its impressive cathedral. Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll find hotels and private accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. For a true taste of luxury, see properties here.
Eating and Drinking
The French take a lot of pride in their fantastic food and drink, but who can blame them? You will be spoiled for choice from the sheer number of restaurants available here, and there are far too many to list, but if you’re searching for a real foodie getaway, you’ll want to head straight to the region’s heartland – Touraine. Boasting a long-standing reputation as “the garden of France”, you’ll find one of the finest châteaux here as well as a wealth of regal history and some fantastic wine and goat’s cheese.
What to See
If exploring the region’s famous châteaux is top of your agenda, the picturesque towns of Blois and Amboise should be your first port of call. Both are also fantastic bases for visiting the area upstream of Tours. The wooden country just south and east of Blois is also home to Chambord. For more information on the châteaux, visit the official tourism website of the Loire Valley.
The river that lends its name to the region is also an impressive sight, though its glory days as a commercial traffic area were brought to an end with the introduction of the railway system. These days it’s a tranquil and beautiful area ideal for bird spotting.
If you’re around for the International Garden Festival, be sure not to miss out! Held annually at Chaumont-sur-Loire, the event is one of the highlights of the French garden calendar and takes place through summer from the last week of April all the way through to the end of October. Much more eccentric than the Chelsea Flower Show, humour and fantasy are key elements here and each year brings a different theme. It’s a real must for any green-fingered visitor.