Best Loire Towns to Ride Through
Given France’s size and diversity, there are certainly plenty of destinations within for visitors to choose from. But if it’s an authentic experience you seek, the Loire Valley embodies all of the charm and magic that one could envision about France. From imposing castles to quaint, friendly villages to sprawling vineyards which produce some of the most exquisite wines in the world, once you arrive you’ll never want to leave. Sometimes referred to as the “Garden of France”, the area is known for its incredible natural beauty and rich history and culture. The Loire region is made up of several historic towns – the following three top the list of “must-visit” places.
Located along the lower reaches of the Loire River, Tours is the largest city in central France. This charming old town has a long, rich history and was made famous by the Battle of Tours that took place there in the year 732. There are plenty of present-day testaments to the area’s past, including the Tours Cathedral, which was constructed between 1170 and 1547 and boasts incredible towers to the west that stand at 87 meters high over the city. Today the Cathedral, since renamed the “Saint Gatien Cathedral”, provides visitors with a fascinating glimpse back in time. Tours is also home to the splendid Jardin Botanique de Tours, an amazing botanical garden that spans 5 hectares. Finally, if you’re visiting at the right time, you may even get to witness the famed Paris-Tours cycling race, held there each year in October.
Situated between the Thouet and Loire Rivers, this historic town has come to be known for the delectable wine produced there as well as the locally grown mushrooms. The area’s chalky soil, called tuffeau, is ideal for wine makers who build caves into the ground to house their wine as it ages. In fact, many of the town’s buildings have been constructed using tuffeau stone. Visitors can enjoy a trip to the famous Chateau de Saumur, a 10th century castle that has become one of France’s most popular historical monuments. There is also an ancient church, Notre Dame de Nantilly, the oldest in the town which houses an impressive collection of tapestry in its Romanesque nave.
The banks of the beautiful Loire River are the home of this lovely little town, which is as rich with history and culture as any other in France. Amboise was once the locations of the royal court, home to infamous leaders like King Francois I, Charles VIII and Louis XII and is also the location of Clos Luce, the manor house where Leonardo de Vinci spent the last days of his life. One of the more popular spots for visitors today is the Chateau d’Amboise, a favorite castle of many French kings which was built in the 11th century and has undergone a number of renovations over the centuries. Visitors can also attend the weekly market held there each Friday and Saturday in front of Max Ernst’s famous turtle fountain.
Ask anyone who has visited France what their favorite place was and you’ll undoubtedly get a dozen different answers. The truth is, the country is home to some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. But if one were to choose just one region that provided a truly authentic French experience, the Loire Valley would top the list. Rich with history, overflowing with culture and boasting some of the most breathtaking beauty on earth, Loire is everything you could ask for in a French excursion. If a trip to this lovely region is on your travel itinerary, be sure it includes stops in each of these three towns for a truly memorable experience.