Valley of the Kings

Playground of the kings of France for many centuries, the Loire Valley's chief glory lies in the many magnificent chateaus studding the banks of the river and its tributaries.These sumptuous palaces, castles and their noble gardens are among the country's main attractions. The Beauce, north of the Loire, is made of vast wheatfields. South of the river, the Sologne is known for its majestic lakes and its forests, historically a favored royal hunting ground. Farther south lie the rolling hills of the Berry, one of the most deeply rural parts of France.

Touraine and Blésois: center of the French Renaissance

The area around the city of Tours (known as Touraine), is the heart of the vallée, and home to many of its most interesting chateaus. Dating to the Renaissance, they were designed to pamper the soul and pander to the physical pleasures of the queens, the kings, and the multitudes of royal mistresses. Tours makes for a great base to explore some of the area's most beautiful castles: Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon, Chenonceau, Langeais and Loches, as well as some of the of the Loire's best wine producers in Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire.

Blois is the center of the region known as Blésois, and is as rich in monuments as Touraine is. No trip to the Loire valley would be complete without a visit to the stunning chateau of Chambord, arguably the region's most spectacular piece of architecture. The vast domain surrounding the castle has biking and hiking trails, making it a favorite spot where one can mix outdoor activities with cultural pursuits. 16 Km to the west is the medieval city of Blois. Seat of the descendents of France's Capetian kings, it was the hub of court intrigue, from the 15th to the 17th century, . During the 16th century, it was considered as France's second capital, and some of French history's most dramatic events took place in the amazing Chateau of Blois. Within a 20 km radius, stand the chateaus of Beauregard, Chaumont and Cheverny.

Orléanais: Gateway to the Loire Valley

An ancient Roman city, Orléans is the region's capital, and historically one of France's major centers of learning. Its place in history was secured in 1429, when a peasant girl by the name of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), stormed the city, smashed the British forces who had laid siege to it for seven months, and marched Charles VII north to the city of Reims to be crowned King of France. This was a turning point in the Hundred Years war, that was fought until 1453 between the English and the Capetian kings.

Northeast of the city lie the foret d'Orléans a 38,000 hectares (74,000 acres) elk-rich forest, that is a hiker's paradise. Southeast is the town of Sancerre, where one of the region's most famous white wines is produced.

Berry:

South of the Loire Valley, lies the historic town of Bourges, with its cobbled streets and many architectural treasures. Its Saint-Etienne cathedral is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Gothic architecture in all of France.

Centre includes six départements:

  • Cher (18)
  • Eure-et-Loir (28)
  • Indre (36)
  • Indre-et-Loire (37)
  • Loir-et-Cher (41)
  • Loiret (45)

Main cities:

  • Chartres
  • Orleans
  • Tours
  • Blois
  • Bourges