The Loire Valley is full of countless acres of beautiful woods, vineyards and farmland that produce some of France’s revered ingredients and delicacies, and a wealth of history and beautiful architecture that demands and rewards exploration. Whether you’re heading off with the family, friends, or both, our fantastic portfolio of Loire Valley villas, chateaux and holiday homes means you’ll find fantastic, comfortable and quirky accommodation no matter your preferences.

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels


Why Visit?

The Loire Valley is a region so well endowed with storybook chateaux that UNESCO gave the whole area listed status. But it’s not just the litter of fine mansions and regal estates that draw visitors here. People come to revel in life’s simple, and some would say most satisfying pleasures: to admire gorgeous scenery (from bucolic farming villages with babbling brooks to dense pine forests and fields of sunflowers), to soak up the sun and – last but certainly not least – to drink superb wine.


The Typical Sights

  • Chartres Cathedral – Inspect the exquisite stained-glass.
  • Chateau Villandry – Wander the immaculately kept gardens.
  • Chateau d’Angers – Check out the giant Apocalypse Tapestry.
  • Abbaye de Fontevraud – Explore this expansive ecclesiastical complex.
  • Cité Royale de Loches – Head to the keep of this hilltop citadel for incredible valley vistas.

 

Loire Valley travel guide

When to Visit?

If you want to see the royal chateaux of the Loire Valley cast in the golden glow of sunlight, spring and summer are your best options. Warm temperatures during this period also allow for picnics, cycling, hiking and all manner of other outdoor delights. From June through to the end of August (and in some cases from as early as April to as late as September), the region’s chateaux amp up the enchantment levels as they host seasonal sound and light (son-et-lumière) shows in the evening.

Not that the chillier months are without appeal. Crowds thin in autumn and winter, leaving only the locals and a few hardy travellers to enjoy the peace and quiet. Most of the major chateaux remain open for visitors who want to explore.


Getting Around

  • Airports: You can fly from the UK straight in the heart of the region to Tours Val de Loire Airport, however the only airline that serves this destination is Ryanair. For other airlines flights are available to NantesParis Charles de GaulleAngers or La Rochelle. 
  • Public transport: An invaluable train line runs alongside the Loire River from Orléans to Angers, with options to connect to key valley destinations such as Blois, Tours and Saumur. Local bus services are less frequent and – as they are intended to primarily serve school children – can be fairly irregular in summer. If you don’t want to rent a car, you’ll have to forgo visits to some of the more off-the-beaten-path chateaux or be prepared to supplement public transport with taxis and bike journeys.
  • By Bike: Loire is a two-wheeler’s dream, thanks in no small part to the signposted 800-kilometre Loire à vélo route, which runs through the valley. Also of note for cyclists is the 300-kilometre Les Châteaux à Vélo network. Download the handy Loire à vélo app to help you plan your biking adventure.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available and can be found at taxi ranks in most town centres as well as outside rail stations.
  • Hiring a car: Hiring a car in the Loire Valley is smart thinking. That way, you can give into your whims and stop at any roadside chateau or truckstop that takes your fancy. And when you feel chateau-fatigue kicking in, you won’t have to wait around for the next bus; you can leave at your will. Avis and Hertz both offer rentals direct from Val de Loire airport.

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels


Hidden Gems

  • With 80 plus appellations, Loire Valley’s wine scene can be daunting for the uninitiated, which is why the Maisons des Vins de Loire wine centres – found in Nantes, Angers, Saumur and Tours – are a godsend for casual drinkers. Chatting with the experts while sampling different vintages will help you get to grips with the valley’s main varietals.
  • Though less heralded and perhaps a little more crumbling than its grander neighbours in the region, Chateau de Meung sur Loire has a little-known ace up its sleeve – dungeons. Visitors can descend to the cold, murky depths to see the prison cells and medieval torture instruments of yore.
  • Most visitors pass through the slumbering little village of La Borne, but those who find time to stay will discover a pottery scene unrivalled in the region. Tour the pottery museum and travel between various ceramic studios checking out their wares.
  • It’s not as grand or imposing as some of the other chateaux in the region, nor does it attract large crowds, but the modest Chateau de Beauregard harbours a remarkable secret: It holds one of the best portrait collections in France. One gallery displays historical portraits of people; the other gallery is, rather unexpectedly, devoted to dogs.
  • The houses in Troo are markedly different, though just as fascinating, as the region’s sumptuous chateaux. Known as troglodyte homes, these residences are essentially domesticated cave dwellings, which enterprising locals moved into after quarry workers sourcing stone for the royal chateaux left hollowed-out chambers in the rock.

Untitled-12

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels - Best Family Activities

The forests, slow-flowing rivers and gently contoured fields provide plenty of wide open space for little limbs to explore. And there is a generous smattering of tourist-oriented amusement parks and zoos, which have the same pull on underage visitors as the wineries do on their parents.

So pick a family-friendly chateau and stoke your children’s imaginations with some castle-based fictional tales and then augment your itinerary with a few of our fun-packed suggestions.


Fantastic Family Activities

  • Like many areas of France, the Loire Valley is steeped in history and provides loads of interesting things for curious kids to enjoy – be that castle visits, grand mansions or archeological wonders.
    • The Loire Valley’s Natural History Museum is a great day out, and kids will be fascinated by both the live animals on show and their lifelike stuffed counterparts.
  • And speaking of creatures, one way of exploring the byways of country lanes of the Loire Valley is on horseback, and you don’t have to have ridden a horse before to enjoy a gentle trot!
    • For younger kids, you won’t do better than donkey trekking at A Dos D’Ane in Tour-en-Sologne, where you can wander around a forest with a friendly donkey to carry the kids (and your picnic).
  • The castles andchateau that dot the Loire Valley’s landscape are ripe for exploration, and many more historic examples have a more hands-on attitude to keep kids entertained.
    • Forteresse Du Faucnm on Noir is particularly exciting for kids, featuring costumed actors to help create a medieval atmosphere and a host of unusual activities such as candlemaking, coin minting and even sword fighting!
  • If you’ve got kids who are really up for an adventure and want to given them an experience they’ll never forget, how about seeing the Loire Valley’s beauty from a whole new perspective? A hot air balloon flight is guaranteed to delight the whole family, and it’s an experience not soon forgotten.
    • Balloon Revolution is based in the Loire Valley and arranges fantastic balloon flights across the region.

Want more family tips? visit our blog on the best things to do with kids in Loire Valley


Best Cycling Routes for Biking with Kids

The main cycling route through the region is the Loire à Vélo, which is some 800km in length and runs from Cuffy to St Brévin-les-Pins. Obviously, the whole 800km might be a bit of a stretch, so we’ve picked three shorter routes that are great for a family ride!

  • Head from Tours to Le Grand Moulin – it’s less than 10km, takes in some lovely countryside and you’ll end up at a working windmill.
  • The small section of the route between Savonnieres and Villandry is fantastic for smaller kids – it’s only 3.5km long and you can stop in the caves of Savonnières on the way.

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels
The Loire Valley is a place to indulge in the finer things. And while fine wine, amazing food and a stunning setting are well and good, sharing them with people your love makes them all the more enjoyable. So whether it’s a romantic wedding, a milestone birthday celebration or just a plain old holiday, gather together a group of close friends and family, and whisk them away to the Loire Valley for a taste of the good life.

If you pick one of the splendid and stylish chateaux from our portfolio of rental properties, you probably won’t have much cause to leave, particularly if you’ve got somewhere with your own private park, exclusive pool and fabulous river views (ideal for a picnic in summer). But with group activities like these on offer, it would be a shame not to get out and see more of the area. On the off chance cabin fever does happen to strike, nip it in the bud with one of these fun-filled group activities.

 

Adrenaline-Fuelled Activities to Enjoy with Your Friends

  • Of course, it doesn’t exactly have to be adrenaline-fuelled, but hiring a bike and taking a trip around the Loire Valley’s beautiful countryside is well worth doing if the weather’s on your side. Whether that’s a peaceful ramble or challenging yourself on one of the region’s tougher routes is up to you!
  • One particularly unique group activity on offer in the Loire Valley is AviaSim. Found in the city of Tours, it’s a flight simulator for your whole group where you can pit your piloting skills against your friends!

 

More Laid-Back Activities

  • Taking a tour is a grand way to see everything the Loire Valley has to offer, and the best thing is you can always find a tour that’s right for your interests, whether you’re off to learn more aboutthe regions history and culture or just where the top-rated vineyards are.
    • Or you can even do both with a tour from Loire Valley Tours, where you can take in castles and wineries in equal measure!
  • And it’s not just castles that are set in the tranquil countryside – you can find loads of parks and green spaces throughout the Loire Valley that are ripe for exploration, and make for a great walk to relax your body and mind!
    • As its name might suggest, the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier is a Japanese-style garden that’s as relaxing as it is beautiful – and in summer, it even stays open late for balmy evening walks.
  • And it’s not just the Seine and the Dordogne that are worth investigating when it comes to France’s waterways. The Loire has a character and a beauty all its own, and whether you’re into watersports, fishing or just a gentle cruise there’s bound to be something to tempt you onto the water.
    • You could start off with a wonderful riverboat trip from Naviloire.

If you want to gather more suggestions, check out our blog on the best group activities in Loire Valley.

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels

Loire Valley Travel Guide by Oliver's Travels - Best Foodie Experiences
Few wine regions rival the Loire Valley for diversity. Some Loire whites need no introduction – Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, for instance, are already household names – while others, such as Quincy or Savennières, may be unfamiliar. Then there are the reds, among them Bourgueil and Chinon, as well as sparkling pours including Crémant de Loire. Put simply, the Loire has a wine style for every taste and occasion.

The Loire’s wines are highly regarded, but the food of this region doesn’t get quite as much attention. Why? Probably because the cuisine here isn’t based on a particular regional style of cooking but is driven instead by an abundance of fresh produce. Want to know where many of Paris’s finest restaurants source their ingredients? It’s here in the Loire Valley. Cheese, in particular goat’s cheese, is a highlight, as are the cave-cultivated button mushrooms, Sologne asparagus, rich game meats (boar, deer, pheasant, duck, hare etc.) and charcuterie. Fresh-from-the-Loire seafood, including salmon, pike and eel, is another gastronomic staple of the region. Wondering where and what to eat and drink while on holiday in the Loire? Wonder no more – we’ve got some recommendations.


Best Restaurants in Loire Valley

  • Restaurant La Maison d’à Côté in Montlivault prides itself on the way the seasons are reflected in their menu, which changes so the freshest local produce is utilised in the most delicious way possible. – and it must week, seeing as the food has earned them a Michelin star.
  • Looking for hearty and traditional French fare? Restaurant La Parenthèse, which is found in Orléans, serves up fine French fare without skimping on the portions – just make sure you book in advance, as it’s so notoriously busy you’ll never get a table if you just turn up.
  • Head to Chenonceaux to sample the delights of L’Orangerie, which is found in Chateau de Chenonceau. It’s not only the food that’s brilliant too – the view over the chateau grounds will make your meal even more memorable.
  • If you fancy some fine dining but left your top hat and tails at home, head to Restaurant Chateau de Pray in Amboise. It’s got a Michelin star but enjoys a more relaxed atmosphere.

If you’re craving more delicious ideas, why not have a read of the best foodie experiences in Loire Valley.


Don’t Miss These Dishes…

  • If you think you know goat’s cheese, think again. The Loire Valley’s celebrated Sainte Maure du Touraine is a firm, aged goat’s cheese with a very distinct flavour, a world away from the soft, crumbly stuff you’re used to in salads.
  • It might not be in a dish in an of itself, but it can certainly star in one! The region’s white asparagus is rightly prized by gourmands of all stripes, so if you see it on a menu, make sure it ends up on your plate.
  • Now found on dessert menus throughout the world, the famous Tart Tatin has its origins around the Loire, so be sure to try a slice of this sweet staple.

 

Best Foodie and Wine Experiences

  • While you’re in the Loire Valley you’ll definitely want to investigate the region’s wines, so do it in style at Chateau de Petit Thouars. This 15 hectare estate offers a variety of tastings, and even a boat tour if you fancy sipping in more sedate surroundings!
  • How about taking some of that fine Loire Valley gastronomy back home with you? RiverLoire offers culinary masterclasses in a variety of locations, and of course you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour at the end of the lesson!
  • And no matter your cooking skill, you’re bound to find something interesting to take home with you at one of the Loire Valley’s many markets. Les Halles de Tours (unsurprisingly found in Tours!) has a whole host of tempting treats on offer, from ingredients to wines, snacks, cheeses and more.

Untitled-1-Recovered

Featured Villas: Chateau Saint JeanChateau Le Brun Chateau De La ChanceChateau CendrillonChateau Anais, Chateau Saint Jean, Chateau Gombardy

Liked that? Follow, like or share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.