Do you know your Chambord from your Chenonceau, or your Blois from your Brissac? These jewels of French architecture are just waiting to be explored.
The ABC of chateaux
This designated ‘Ville d’Art et d’Histoire’ is a maze of hidden courtyards and paved squares – and its chateaux is where four architectural styles spectacularly collide.
There’s plenty to see in one of France’s oldest towns, whose history revolves around Joan of Arc and whose soaring Gothic cathedral is beautifully illuminated at nightfall.
Watch a mesmerising dressage show at France’s National Riding School, or explore the network of troglodyte dwellings carved into the limestone rock.
Glorious gardens abound in the Loire Valley: soak up the sunshine in its grand formal spaces, greenhouses, landscaped parks and romantic rose gardens.
Vibrant Angers is a tangle of architecture, gardens and vineyards – but perhaps its most famous visual asset is the ancient tapestry secreted within the chateau.
Imaginations have run wild with the Machines de L’Île – they must be seen to be believed – and the summertime ‘Voyage à Nantes’ trail weaves together all the other city must-sees.
Nantes, capital of Pays de la Loire
Gorgeous Loches occupies a dramatic position straddling the Loire – but look more closely and you’ll find a military citadel and one of Europe’s most imposing dungeons.
France’s gateway to the Loire Valley, Tours is stuffed with beautiful medieval architecture and some wow-factor landmarks. Our favourite place for people-watching is Place Plumereau.
Wading birds, beavers and insects share the Loire riverbanks, while deer and birds of prey live in the forests of Sologne and Orléans… so pack binoculars.
Nature and wildlife
One of Europe’s greatest monastic sites, spectacular Fontevraud is an abbey-turned-cultural centre that champions exhibitions, regularly hosting artists in residence.
Can you spot the prehistoric markings left by former sea beds, or miniature sculptures made by ancient civilisations within the Loire Valley’s network of caves?