Sitting at the very heart of the Loire Valley (External link) , the town of Blois (External link) is not only home to one of its most iconic châteaux (read more here), but a recognised Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) with surprises of its own. Wander along the lively little lanes of the old town and seek out the hidden courtyards and paved squares on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage: the perfect way to sink gently back into the life of Blois of past centuries. Don’t miss the mysteries of the Maison de la Magie (External link) in the Place du Château, which reveals all the art of conjuring through a series of exhibitions and shows. Two religious buildings are also worth a detour: the Gothic Saint-Louis cathedral with its tall Renaissance-style tower, and the church of Saint Nicolas, which blends Romanesque and Gothic styles.

The town has a growing university and higher education hub and is home to almost 4,000 students. There’s also a great number of sports facilities in Blois to satisfy all needs and ability levels: athletics stadiums, football and rugby pitches, gymnasiums, tennis courts, two swimming pools and an equestrian centre. The heart of Blois beats to the rhythm of a lively calendar of events including the Halle aux Grains Scène Nationale with music, theatre and dance, and the Chato'Do, showcasing young talent on the contemporary music scene. The Rendez-Vous de l'Histoire, bd Boum, Mix'terres, Lyres d'Été (Summer Festival) and Lyres d'Hiver (Winter Festival) are other highlights of Blois’ cultural life.