You don’t have to queue around the block for Paris’ galleries to get your French culture hit. Here’s why you should consider the Loire Valley for your next trip…
There’s a good reason why year after year France is ranked as the most visited country in the world. And no, it’s not just the food.
We’re talking about the beautiful architecture, gorgeous countryside and thriving gastronomic scene. And if you’re looking to avoid the tourist traps next time you visit France, one region that has it all is the Loire Valley.
Famous for its rich history, magnificent castles and postcard-pretty villages, the area is a must-see destination for cultured travellers.
There’s also never been a better time to go, as the region is getting ready to host hundreds of events to celebrate 500 years of the Renaissance.
Better still, instead of rushing around the internet to plan your trip via those 23 questionable tabs, you can cut out the hassle and book your flights, accommodation and activities with Expedia.
Here’s why the Loire Valley makes the ideal cultural getaway…
1. The castles
If a breathtaking chateau tickles your fancy, the Loire Valley is home to over 300 of them.
Each one has its own fascinating history, lavish gardens and impressive architecture to explore.
Try the Chateau de Blois, one of France’s most important Renaissance buildings where numerous kings and queens resided, or the magnificent Chateau de Chambord, a symbol of the Renaissance dreamed up by Francis I and Leonardo da Vinci. It also has a park as big as Paris (well, nearly), which more than satisfies our city-dwelling yearning for a garden.
Perhaps the most remarkable of all the castles is Chateau de Chenonceau, which dates back to the 12th century and sits on the Cher river.
Also known as the Chateau des Dames (or Ladies’ Castle), its construction, design, history and restoration has been heavily influenced by a succession of fascinating women.
If a day trip isn’t enough to satisfy your thirst for chateaux. why not treat yourself to a stay in the four-star Domaine des Hauts de Loire? The luxurious hotel is nestled in the forest close to Chateau Chaumont.
Or, if it’s a riverside stay in the grounds of Chateau Chambord you’re after, opt for the plush Relais de Chambord.
2. The historic towns
As well as the Loire Valley’s stunning castles, the thriving towns and cities each possess their own spirit and charm as well.
The capital of the region, Orleans, is a must-visit. Best-known for being liberated by Joan of Arc in the 15th century, you can walk in the footsteps of the legendary feminist figure.
Check out the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc (a museum where you can learn about the siege), or take in the artistic impressions of Joan of Arc in stained glass windows at the imposing Gothic Sainte-Croix Cathedral, where she once prayed.
Don’t miss exploring Tours, too. The historic town is a great base for exploring the region’s chateaux and museums, but is beautiful in its own right thanks to its magical gardens, charming cobbled streets and magnificent Saint-Gatien Cathedral.
To make the most of Tours check in at the 4-star Hôtel Oceania L’Univers, which is a 15-minute stroll from the town centre.
3. The food
France is synonymous with fine wine and innovative gastronomy, and the Loire Valley is the place to sample French fare firsthand.
Eating and drinking in the region isn’t just a matter of picking dishes from a menu in a fancy restaurant, but of tasting in a more hands-on manner.
Whether it’s sipping wine in picturesque vineyards or tasting cheese in its bustling food markets, the Loire Valley will have you eating and drinking like a local.
Often referred to as the Garden of France, the region is well-known for its fresh, great-quality produce.
For an active wine-tasting adventure, the Loire Valley’s meandering wine route stretches for 500 miles, with countless vineyards and every kind of wine imaginable to sample.
Take the time to cycle through the rolling hills and chocolate box village, then get involved with a wine walk or tasting in a grand cellar.
Better than choosing between the two bottles of pinot grigio your local supermarket has to offer, right?
4. The festivals
Whether you’re into jazz, photography, art or architecture, there’s always a wealth of events and festivals in the Loire Valley.
Next year will see a flurry of Renaissance-themed cultural events across the region’s chateaux, from photographic exhibitions and music festivals to virtual reality shows that bring the spirit of the Renaissance to the 21st century.
You can take your pick from over 500 events taking place throughout the year, but particular highlights include sound and light shows at the stunning Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau, an exhibition of contemporary artists who have been inspired by the Renaissance at the Chateau du Rivau, and the European Festival of Renaissance Music at the Chateau du Clos Lucé.
And for a slice of Italy in France, there’s also the chance to see Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper tapestry outside Italy for the first time ever, also in the grand setting of the Chateau du Clos Lucé.
Book your trip to the Loire Valley with Expedia now.