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Pont Wilson-Brücke in Tours, Bild: Leonid Andronov / shutterstock

Centre-Val de Loire – Enchanting towns and castles on the Loire

Right in the heart of France, south of the capital Paris, the Centre-Val de Loire region unfolds. Thanks to the Loire, its banks and castles and the natural region that surrounds them, it offers an attractive contrast to the French capital. Orléans, Tours, Chartres – there are also a pronounced number of historic cities here, which makes for a region that is aimed at a wide variety of tourist target groups. And right in the centre runs the Loire with its enchanting castles – from the magnificent Renaissance castle of Chambord near Blois to the historic moated castle of Chenonceau to the majestic walls of Villandry Castle near Tours. Romantic holiday flair spreads on the striking shores of the Loire Valley. Excellent reasons to travel to the Centre-Val de Loire.

Orléans, Tours and co. – Must-visit conurbations in the region

Bourges Cathedral
Bourges Cathedral, Image: Joaquin Ossorio Castillo / shutterstock

There are no megacities in the Centre-Val de Loire, but the proximity to Paris underlines the central location of the region. The most populous cities include Tours with about 135,000 inhabitants, Orléans with its almost 115,000 inhabitants, as well as Bourges (about 65,000) and Blois (about 45,000). The scenic Loire Valley and the beautiful rural regions around it are the natural highlight of the region. With Tours and Orléans, important historical cities are also unfolding here. Both are located in the heart of the region and are crossed by the Loire, which allows visitors a comfortable excursion route along the river valley.

Tours on the Loire was already settled in ancient times by the Celtic Turons, in today’s city region there was already a settlement called Caesarodunum, the Caesar Hill, in Roman times. In the heart of the city, you can discover numerous historical buildings that remind us of the long history of Tours. One of the most magnificent buildings is the Gothic cathedral of Tours, which was built in the early 13th century. The city on the Loire is known for its museums – including the Musée de beaux-arts de Tours with paintings from the late Middle Ages to the present day. Also known for its wine-growing region, Orléans is one of the most important cities in the region. Closely linked to prominent history from the Merovingians to Joan of Arc, numerous historic buildings await you in today’s centre. From Orléans Cathedral to the Musée de Beaux-Arts to green spaces such as the Parc floral de la Source – Orléans provides the best reasons for a tourist stop.

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The romantic castles of the Centre-Val de Loire

Loire Castle Amboise
Loire Castle Amboise, Image: Ralf Gosch / shutterstock

When the name Leonardo da Vinci is mentioned, associations with the Florentine Renaissance are awakened. However, art and history fans know that the world-famous creator of the Mona Lisa spent the last years of his life in a Loire castle in the Centre-Val de Loire. Less than a kilometre from the Loire castle of Amboise, lies the magnificent historic residence of Le Clos Lucé, a highlight of the region. This is also because Leonardo returned here in the early 16th century with three of his works – Anna Selbdritt (1503–1519), John the Baptist (1513–1516) and the world-famous Mona Lisa (1503–1506) for his last creative period.

The Loire Valley of the Centre-Val de Loire is full of such historic castles. As mentioned: Only about 500 meters from Leonardo’s former accommodation rests the gigantic Amboise Castle, which is one of the historical monuments of the Loire Valley in the city of the same name. At the top of the list of the most famous castles in the region is the Château de Chambord, which was built in the 16th century as a hunting lodge for King Francis I – and is now considered by many to be perhaps the most beautiful of the Loire castles with its magnificent Renaissance architecture. The local Loire Valley is also home to the moated castle of Chenonceau, which is one of the most beautiful and impressive moated castles in the world.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists are drawn to this complex every year alone, which was nicknamed the Château des Dames – Castle of the Ladies – thanks in part to the influential historical owners such as the Duchess Diane de Poitiers and the French Queen Catherine de Medici. Near Tours, no less interesting, is the Château de Villandry, one of the late Renaissance buildings on the Loire. Particularly striking are the magnificent historic ornamental and vegetable gardens, which provide a special aesthetic flair and underline: The Centre-Val de Loire is a paradise for those who are interested in historic castles in France.

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Nature, history and culinary delights in the Centre-Val de Loire

Once upon a time, the three historic landscape regions of Orléanais, Berry and Touraine existed in today’s Centre-Val de Loire. The culture of the region is correspondingly heterogeneous, with numerous tourist facets to show. Long known only as the Centre, the Centre-Val de Loire has only been officially recognised under its current name since 2015. The beautiful Loire Valley characterises the nature of the region, which provides the best reasons for a tourist stay due to its mix of green river landscapes and historic architecture. Because the Loire Valley is without a doubt one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in France – it is not for nothing that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 with its cultural landscapes. From historic gardens to scenic hiking routes to the castles – boring holiday trips are hardly to be expected here. This is also ensured by the culinary highlights of the region. Numerous vineyards unfold along the river valley, which are home to an exquisite wine region – with wines made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Fresh vegetables, mushrooms and meat from regional game: the cuisine of the Loire Valley is as close to nature as the local geography. Sightseeing, hiking tours, cycling tours or culinary tours – the Centre-Val de Loire promises a cultural holiday close to nature in the heart of France.