Be sure to swing by the outstanding Loire Valley on your next vacation to France for castles, nature and plenty of wine!
When you think of France your mind probably goes to the leafy boulevards of Paris or the glittering coastline of the French Riviera. It might even go to the vineyards of Bordeaux. But, there is a beautiful, unassuming part of the country that also deserves your attention and recognition: The Loire Valley.
The Loire Valley is just northwest of the centre of France and is named such for its location along the Loire River. This region is indescribably picturesque with its quaint bridges that stretch over the water and abundance of medieval and Renaissance castles. The landscape, too, is stunning, with green as far as the eye can see. Indeed, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Loire Valley was referred to as ‘France’s garden’.
Travellers need no excuse to add this scenic part of France to their itinerary but if you were looking for reasons to visit, we have a few to offer.
Family walking through a vineyard in the Loire Valley - © France.fr
1. The Delicious Wines
French wine has dominated the global wine scene for time immemorial. This is largely thanks to regions like the Loire Valley. The history of wine in the Loire Valley goes all the way back to the Romans in the 1st century.
Since then, wine production has increased both in quality and quantity. Nowadays it is the pride and joy of the region. Be sure to take some time to explore the vineyards whilst in the Loire Valley and treat yourself to a wine tasting tour, and a glass or two of red, white or sparkling wine.
2. The Loire à Velo Cycling Route
The phenomenal Loire à Velo cycle path runs for a staggering 800km across six of France’s départements. Of course, you probably won’t want to cycle the whole length of it on your holiday, but plucking out a section of the path that winds through the Loire Valley is an incredible experience.
The path allows cyclists to see the gorgeous scenery of the Loire Valley, away from the roads and cars. The whole while you will have the mighty Loire River coursing alongside you.
Bikes along the Loire à Velo Trail in the Loire Valley - © Château Royal de Blois
3. The Fontevraud Abbey
History buffs and architecture lovers, brace yourselves. The Fontevraud Abbey might just be one of the most impressive buildings you have ever seen. The Abbey was originally founded in the 12th century and has had various restorations over time.
Steeped in history, this magnificent abbey is famed for being the final resting place of a number of important historical figures, including Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In the 19th century, Napoleon converted the building into one of the toughest prisons in France before it later became an Abbey once again.
4. The Château de Villandry
As we mentioned above, the Loire Valley was dubbed France’s Garden and nowhere showcases this better than the Château de Villandry. This magnificent castle sits amid outstanding and perfectly landscaped gardens. When the weather is good, nothing beats wandering through the gardens and taking in the sights and a myriad of smells. If the Château de Villandry peaks your interest, there are plenty of other gardens to admire in the Loire Valley, such as Le Rivau, Saint-Cosme, and La Bourdaisière.
The beautiful gardens at the Château de Villandry - © Wikimedia Commons
5. To Get an Authentic Taste of France
Not known as being one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, the Loire Valley has retained much of its traditional French character. If you want to try regional French cuisine or browse local produce in a market, this is the place to do it. Unlike Paris, a bubbling pot of diversity and international influences, the Loire Valley is about as French as you can get. Here you can sip a glass of wine, enjoy the scenery, and forget about the grind of daily life.