Touraine, the heart of Loire castle country
The landscape here is dominated by these majestic silhouettes: concentrated over an area of less than 100 km, Touraine is home to some of the Loire Valley's grandest castles.
Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Villandry, Clos Lucé, Chinon, Langeais, Loches… these places are steeped in the memory of Leonardo da Vinci and inseparable from the history of France and its kings; evoking the troubled Middle Ages and the lavish Renaissance period.
In addition to the major sites, there are around fifty castles to explore. While they all share a common trait, the "tuffeau" (tufa stone), a soft limestone from the banks of the Loire, each castle has its own individual character. Touraine is certainly not lacking in beautiful places to see.
The Loire and its banks, a World Heritage site
The Loire is a unique river, capricious and majestic, with an ever-changing winding course. Contrasting light and shade, the islands and sandbanks - symbols of the river's freedom - play tricks on the eyes, revealing the river's renewed glory, day after day.
On a canoe, on the Loire à Vélo trail, or on the deck of one the traditional boats dotting the river with their white sails, visitors will no doubt taste the freedom in the air.
The migratory birds and the beavers who have made their home in the river channels certainly attest to this. In all its wild glory, the river also contributes to the bounty of Mother Earth, as the banks of the Loire and its tributaries are home to a fertile and diverse garden landscape.
Welcome to the "Garden of France"
The tradition of gardens in the Loire Valley was established during the Renaissance. When peacetime finally returned, the castles opened up to the outside world, extending out into genuine green havens.
After a tour of the prestigious Villandry estate that ranks among the most famous gardens in the world, discover the romanticism of la Chatonnière, the creativity of Rivau, the elegance of the gardens at Azay-le-Rideau, Amboise or Chenonceau, the 600 varieties of tomatoes at la Bourdaisière, or the Saint Cosme rose garden.
Visitors looking for a nature experience will find plenty to do in the great outdoors at the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park. Spanning 270,000 hectares, this park encompasses the vast forests of Amboise, Langeais and Chinon, the highly prize hunting grounds of French kings.
With the vineyards as a showcase, the food is their creed!
Touraine is located in the heart of the Loire Valley vineyard stretching from the Sancerre area all the way to the ocean. The local wine list includes ten AOCs, red wines (chinon, bourgueil...), white wines (vouvray, montlouis-sur-loire...), sparkling wines and sweet white wines.
The wine route and estates bearing the "Caves Touristiques" label provide excellent opportunities to learn more about them.
Touraine is also the "Garden of France" where fruits and vegetables of all kinds are grown. The region is also known for saffron, truffles, rillettes and goat cheese. Be sure to check out the markets where fresh produce and great atmospheres are always on the menu!
If you would rather not cook, head to the restaurants where chefs will be more than happy to prepare these local products for you.
Typical cities and villages
Expect a warm welcome to the cities of Touraine, whether you stop for a market, a coffee break or a guided tour! Tours is also a university city of course, with many hidden treasures in the historic neighbourhoods and at "Plum'" square. Restaurants, cafés, boutiques, city parks, exhibitions... the capital of Touraine shouldn't be missed!
Amboise is another must-see, with its exceptional Renaissance heritage, it has the most Italian flair of any town in Touraine.
Take a stroll along the pedestrian streets in Chinon and Loches, cities of art and history, and discover their unspoiled medieval town centres nestled below their fortresses.
These towns are also the gateway to the authentic, lively villages of Touraine.
Touraine, the art of living and romance
Touraine genuinely represents the essence of the French art of living - this peaceful area has always been a source of inspiration for artists, and is the perfect setting for a very romantic holiday.
There are many romantic settings to choose from in Touraine: castle-hotels, elegant restaurants, or with a wine glass in hand, the unspoiled beaches on the banks of the Loire... let your hearts beat as one! Touraine is the perfect place for proposals, honeymoons and vow renewals!
- Vitiloire, a celebration of Loire wines
Sancerre, Vouvray, Muscadet, Chinon… 150 wine-growers from all around the Loire Valley turn the streets of Tours into a spring celebration for the duration of a weekend - the perfect opportunity to taste their best vintages. This event is open to all, in the spirit of discovery, indulgence and hospitality. The event is also a great opportunity to get acquainted with the amazing diversity of Loire Valley vineyard.
- Summer Sound & Light Shows
Each summer, the major Loire Valley castles come to life with lights for a spectacular experience! These evening performances, or historical depictions known as "sons & lumières", are scheduled at Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Clos-Lucé, Chenonceau…. These events provide insight into surprising aspects of these famous monuments, in a spectacular manner. A great idea for families with children.
- Noël aux châteaux (Christmas at the castles)
December magic is coming to some of the major Loire castles. Decked in golds and reds, these castles keep fires crackling in the hearths to keep away the ice and snow covering the gardens outside. Chenonceau features floral compositions. At the Amboise castle, nativity scenes illustrate Christmas traditions over the ages. A unique sight, in a very peaceful setting.
- Airport Tours Val de Loire – Direct connections from London Stansted, Manchester, Southampton & Dublin airports.
- TGV train : Saint Pierre des Corps – Tours station (55 mn ride from Paris Montparnasse)
- A85/ A10/A28 Motorway