Visit Centre, France
Many of the most famous chateaux in France are in the Loire Valley, and for many that is reason enough to visit - but it is not the only reason! There is attractive countryside, interesting towns to explore, and the River Loire itself is beautiful and unspoiled (and a listed World Heritage Site) - all very good reasons to pass time exploring this popular region.
Four random places to explore: discover somewhere new in the Loire Valley!
Loire Valley: an introduction and highlights
The Loire Valley region is found in northern-central France. The official region name - Centre - is little known outside France (and little loved within), but it is better known as one of the most popular regions of France for visitors - the Loire Valley.
The 'Centre' region of France includes three historical regions of France - Orleans (northern part) including the city of Orleans, Berry (south-east) and Touraine (south-west of the Centre region). The departments in the modern Centre region are: Eure-et-Loir (to the north), Indre-et-Loire (west), Loir-et-Cher in the middle, Loiret (to the east), and Indre and Cher (to the south-west and south east respectively).
Loire Valley Chateaux
The big attraction of the Loire Valley is of course the large number of prestigious chateaux, and no visit would be complete without taking in a couple of the more important castles along the Loire - indeed, many visitors base their entire trip around their visits to the castles.
You can see the positions of these castles on a map at 'Loire Valley Chateaux'
Heading broadly from east to west the most popular and visited chateaux in the region include:
Three other well known Loire chateaux slightly further to the west - those at Angers, Brissac, and Saumur, are covered in the travel guide for Pays de la Loire
More places to visit in the Loire Valley
The countryside of the Loire Valley provides the perfect setting for the chateaux, but even without these famous landmarks the region would be attractive to visitors.
Cathedrals and monuments
These include Chartres Cathedral, one of the finest gothic architecture buildings in France (Chartres is to the north of the region, and closer to Paris than to many of the renowned chateaux); and Bourges Cathedral, now a UNESCO world heritage site (to the south-east of the region) found, not surprisingly, at Bourges.
See also Mehun-sur-Yevre and castle the north-west of Bourges the Abbey at St-Benoit-sur-Loire, and also another abbey at Vendome. The cluster of monuments in the southern Cher is also interesting, including the castles at Culan, Meillant and Ainay-le-Vieil and the abbey at Noirlac.
Apart from the scenery and activities on the Loire River itself, there are several important tributaries that pass quietly through the landscape of fields and woodlands, fruit orchards and vineyards and provide an alternative view of the region and opportunities to enjoy the Loire valley a little way from the crowds.
The most important are the rivers Cher, Indre and Vienne - each has its own distinct charm, leisure opportunities and highlights.
Towns and villages
There are several classified 'Most Beautiful villages of France' dotted around the the Loire countryside to discover and explore.
These include Lavardin (Loir-et-Cher); Candes-Saint-Martin (10 km SE of Saumur); Apremont-sur-Allier (15 km SW of Nevers); Montresor (20 km E of Loches); St-Benoit-du-Sault (20 km SW of Argenton-sur-Creuse); yevre-le-Chatel (40 km NE of Orleans); Gargilesse-Dampierre (10 km SE of Argenton-sur-Creuse) and Crissay-sur-Manse (30 km SW of Tours)
Food and specialities
The regions of the Loire Valley and central France pack a culinary punch – from wild game to fresh fruit they offer an unforgettable experience for the lover of fine food. Sample some of the best goats cheese to be found in France, or try the famous cherries, as is, or in Guignolet liqueur.
More Information & feature articles
- Explore the Loire Valley by department: Eure-et-Loir (northern Loire), Indre-et-Loire (west), Loir-et-Cher (central loire valley), Loiret (east), Indre and Cher (south-west and south-east Loire).
- See an overview of the Loire Valley as a world heritage site
- Find more attractions in the region at Loire valley tourist information, with more towns, national monuments, national parks, towns in bloom etc across the Loire Valley
- Explore within the boundaries of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Natural Regional parc
- Visit our dedicated site at Loire Valley
Map of Centre
French version: Centre (Francais)