Loire Valley commonly known as Vallée de la Loire, is the centre most region of France that lies just 213,3 kilometers south west of Paris. The region lies around the mid region of the Loire river, which is France's longest river. It is famous for its beautiful fairy-tale like castles (Chateaux) that line the beautiful river, as well as their gastronomic delicacies such as Tarte Tatin which are caramelized apples and their unique goat cheese. The Vallée de la Loire also has a population of 2, 499 000 people which is 4,1% of France's population. The region exhibits breathtaking examples of roman gothic architecture in its little villages and towns that in turn create a time capsule, allowing visitors to experience the rich history the Loire Valley has to offer. It is believed that the kings of the time planned France's rebirth or Renaissance whilst residing in the region, causing it to become the foundation of many historical events that occurred in France.
Things to See & Places to visit in Loire Valley, France
1. Château de Chenonceau
As one of the most famous châteaux of the entire Loire Valley, Château de Chenonceau is definitely a must see when you visit the region. The Château is also known as the 'ladies' château' as it was majorly under the ladies' influence who inhabited it making it what it is today. The castle displays fine examples of renaissance furniture, especially in the ladies' bed chambers. It is also home to a few 16th and 17th century art pieces from artists such as Rubens, Rigaud, Le Primatice, Le Tintoret and Nattier. The Château de Chenonceau also has its very own quaint chapel with beautiful stain glass windows. It was here that the village people could attend mass whilst the royals remained in the gallery. Naturally, the castle also played a prominent role in both world wars. It is believed that during the First World War it was used as a hospital to treat wounded soldiers, whilst in the second world war it was used as a passage way by the resistance. The castle also features a stunning landscaped Catherine de Medicis garden which can be viewed the best from the balconies of the Château de Chenonceau.
The castle is open every day for viewing with the opening times depending on the time of year. Cost of admission of adults is 13€, and for children or students it is 10€.
2. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours
Found in the enriched city of Tours of Loire Valley is the beautiful Musée de Beaux-arts (Museum of fine arts). It is housed in what was once the former palace of the bishop and was established in 1795. It is home to a variety of France's masterpieces including the historical, stuffed elephant that is situated in its foyer. A sum total of 12 000 pieces are housed in the museum but only 1000 are on display to the public.
The museum is open every day except for Mondays, from 9am to 12h45 pm and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm. The cost of admission is 6€ for adults, 3€ for children aged 12-18. However admission is free every first Sunday of the month and for children under the age of 12.
3. Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Tours
The Tours Natural History museum is an interesting place to visit whilst touring Loire Valley, especially if you are interested in animals and natural phenomena. It is situated in the city of Tours and was established in 1780. It exhibits stuffed mammals, live reptiles and fossils to the public. Currently it has two permanent exhibitions, "Touraine yesterday and today" and "Animals of the world". This is a great destination if you have children as it is not only enjoyable but highly educational!
The museum is closed on Mondays but is open from 10 am to 12pm and then again 2pm to 6pm, on Tuesdays-Fridays, and 2pm to 6pm on the weekends. Admission cost is only 4€ for adults and 2€ for children aged 12-18. Children under the age of 12 enter free of charge.
4. Le Château Clos Lucé
Delve into the life of Leonardo Da Vinci by experiencing the manor where he lived and worked up until his death in 1519. At the Château Close Lucé you will be able to embrace the ambiance Leonardo did, whilst working on his innovations that he is so famously known for today. With a guided tour of the castle you will be able to see where he slept and the rooms in which he worked in. There is also the magnificent Leonardo Da Vinci park and Leonardo's garden where you are able to experience the natural influence that inspired and nurtured his brilliant mind. After an intriguing tour of the castle, you can enjoy a relaxing picnic in the gardens. Le Château Clos Lucé and the gardens are open to the public every day. The opening times differ according to the time of year that you visit. Cost of admission is 15€ per adult and 11€ per child (aged 7-18 years), between March and November whilst it is 13€ per adult and 10€ per child (aged 7-18 years) between November and February.
How Do I Get Here From Paris?
Getting to Vallée de la Loire from Paris is made extremely simple due to the TGV high speed train system. It can get you to Tours from Paris in less than 40 minutes at a cost of 34€ only. There are other options however such as renting a car or taking the bus which would obviously give you the time to view the scenery at a more leisurely pace. In a car the average trip from Paris will take about 2-3 hours depending on your pace and will cost more than if you took the train, it also offers you the convenience of being able to drive from destination to destination once in Loire Valley. The average cost of a basic rental car for 3 days in France ranges between 200€ to 600€. Your mode of transport obviously depends on your preferences and budget.