10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Blois
With its refined elegance and pleasant setting, Blois is the most enchanting town of the Loire Valley. The town lies in a picturesque location on two hills above the right bank of the Loire River, which gives it a peaceful ambience. Blois rose to prominence in the 15th century, and the Renaissance spirit is felt throughout the city. Hôtel particuliers (nobles' houses) of the Counts of Blois and impressive mansions sprinkle the historic district. Wandering around the charming old town, visitors can discover alluring narrow streets, scenic staircases, and quaint half-timbered burghers' houses. The architecture of the city reflects the grandeur of its past residents. Blois is dominated by its famous Château de Blois and cathedral, and both are must-see tourist attractions. Blois is also well known as a destination for gourmands.
1 Château Royal de Blois
The majestic Château Royal de Blois stands in the center of the city overlooking the expansive Place Victor-Hugo and the Pavillon d'Anne de Bretagne. It is a marvel of Renaissance architecture, with its loggias, galleries, and oriel windows. Originally built in the 9th century and altered between the 13th and 17th centuries, the château has an illustrious history. Renowned inhabitants included the Dukes of Orléans, the kings and queens of France, the prince/poet Charles d'Orléans, and several Counts of Blois who led the Crusades. In 1429, Joan of Arc visited the château to have her banner blessed. The building is laid out around a large central courtyard and is entered through the Louis XII wing (built between 1498 to 1503). Over the doorways appears the crowned porcupine, the emblem of Louis XII. The Salle des Etats is a remnant of the 13th-century castle, and the Francis I wing features the famous richly decorated octagonal staircase. In the Galerie Charles d'Orléans is the Late Gothic Chapelle Saint-Calais. In front of the chapel is terrace that offers a lovely outlook onto the town.
The château houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the six grand rooms of the Louis XII wing. The museum presents an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, and works of art from the 16th through the 19th century. Highlights include the masterpieces of Marco d'Oggiono, Bourdon, Ingres, and Boucher. Visitors should save some time to explore the Jardins du Roy. These beautiful gardens are filled with fragrant plants and flowers, and many areas offer sensational views.
2 Vieux Blois (Old Town)
The historic area of Blois has a distinctive Old World Charm. The old town is characterized by its handsome half-timbered burghers' houses, narrow ancient streets, and picturesque staircases. Immediately east of the Saint-Louis Cathedral is the 18th-century Ancien Evêché, the former Bishop's Palace, now the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). There are fine views from the adjoining gardens. The Jardin de l' Evêché, created in the 17th century, features a delightful rose garden on the lower terrace with a wonderful variety of blooms. To truly get a flavor of the town's ambience, visitors should spend time exploring the quaint historic streets. The Rue Pierre de Bois alley and steps of the Rue Denis Papin are especially lovely. The Rue Puits-Châtel traverses the Old Town and includes staircases with charming views. There are also many elegant Renaissance houses throughout the town including the fanciful Maison des Acrobates with carved details of nimble acrobats on the facade; the Hôtel de Condé on the Rue de Juifs (in the former Jewish Ghetto); and the grand Hôtel Sardini, a stately building and historic monument.
3 Maison de la Magie (House of Magic)
In the Maison Massé, across from the château, this unique museum immerses visitors into the fantastical world of magic. This is the only museum in Europe entirely devoted to magic as a performing art. Visitors are amazed by the museum's creative presentation, with a fire-breathing dragon that appears every half hour. In the museum's 2,000 square meters of exhibition space, a large section is dedicated to the famous magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin who was born in Blois. Several rooms present the life and work of Houdin. There are also exhibitions that show the history of magic and other areas that display a variety of optical illusions. This museum of magical arts offers an entertaining experience that is full of surprises.
Address: Maison de la Magie, 1 Place du Château, 41000 Blois
4 Eglise Saint-Nicolas
The Eglise Saint-Nicolas stands in the shadow of the Château de Blois in the historic district of Blois, where the narrow streets are lined with charming old houses. Formerly a Benedictine abbey church, the building was constructed between the 12th and 13th century. The Church of Saint-Nicolas has characteristics of early Gothic art including fine capitals. The sumptuous facade features three portals topped by a harmonious gallery of arches. An exquisite rose window allows light to filter into the sanctuary. One unusual detail is the monumental gargoyle above the rose window. Inside the church, visitors are awed by the bright sanctuary, which is illuminated by artistic stained-glass windows. Many of the windows are contemporary, which creates an unexpected contrast to the ancient structure.
Address: Parvis Saint-Nicolas, 41000 Blois
5 Eglise Saint-Vincent
This spectacular Baroque church lies in the center of Blois on the Place Victor-Hugo near the Château de Blois. Built in the 17th century, the Church of Saint-Vincent was designed in the Jesuit style. The church was built slowly and was completed thanks to donations from Gaston d'Orléans. The facade is typical of a Jesuit church façade, with three levels of Doric and Corinthian columns. The ornately decorated interior has a sense of drama with its carved red marble columns and opulently adorned chapels. The church features many fine sculptures including two commemorative monuments. Surrounding the church are overgrown gardens that offer a sense of tranquility.
Address: 19 Rue Gallois, 41000 Blois
6 Cathédrale Saint-Louis
The Cathedral of Saint-Louis in Blois stands on high ground in the old town, northeast of the Château de Blois. There was a church on this site in early Christian times, which was rebuilt and altered in the 12th, 15th, and 16th centuries. However, the crypt dates from the original church of the 10th and 11th centuries. The church was destroyed by a hurricane in 1678. Apart from the apse, the tower and the west front, the cathedral was entirely rebuilt. The finely vaulted Gothic interior stuns visitors with its spaciousness. The cathedral features contemporary stained-glass windows by the artist Jan Dibbets. For those interested in learning more about the stained-glass windows, the cathedral offers guided tours during late spring and summer on Sundays at 3pm and 5:30pm.
Address: Place Saint-Louis, 41000 Blois
7 Eglise Saint-Saturnin
One of the oldest churches in Blois, the Church of Saint-Saturnin was built on the foundation of a pre-Romanesque chapel dating to the 10th century. The present church was rebuilt in the 13th-15th centuries. Anne de Bretagne provided donations that allowed enough funds to reconstruct the building in the 16th century. Unfortunately, the church fell victim to the Wars of Religions; it was burned in 1568 by the Protestant church and then restored later in the 16th century. Visitors can admire the beauty of the Gothic nave with its ribbed vaulting. Other noteworthy features are the hexagonal stairs, lovely stained-glass windows, fine paintings, and statues.
Address: 13 Rue Munier, Blois
8 Fondation du Doute: Museum of Contemporary Art
The Fondation du Doute is a daring museum of contemporary art. The museum focuses on the period of 1960-1970 and presents the work of more than 40 artists, including about 300 pieces in total. Much of the artwork displayed comes from private collections. This innovative museum presents amazing pieces and shows a diverse array of works, which allows for an appreciation of contemporary art. The foundation encourages visitors to discuss, question, and challenge their perception of art. The museum hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Bringing the world of art to the dining room, the museum has a trendy casual restaurant, the Café le Fluxus, that offers snacks and pastries with a creative flair.
Address: 14 Rue de la Paix, Blois (museum); 6 Rue Franciade, Blois (café)
During summer, the city of Blois organizes a lively festival called the "Festival Des Lyres." A wonderful summertime cultural diversion in July and August, the festival offers free entertainment and varied programs that appeal to a broad audience. The festival features outdoor concerts, street theater, storytelling, circus acts, magic tricks, and fencing demonstrations. There are even relaxation sessions. The events are held at beautiful public squares throughout the city center and at the Creusille Port along the Loire River. The program includes more than 200 events and performances. There are also fireworks and a free concert on the opening night. Another interesting festival, the "Carnival de Blois," takes place in March. An event of much fanfare, it is held at the Halle aux Grains (2 Place Jean Jaurès) and celebrates the end of winter.
10 Musical Concerts & Cultural Performances
Blois has a wealth of cultural offerings, from classical music and traditional theater to pop music and avant-garde circus acts. La Maison de Bégon (Rue Pierre et Marie Curie) presents performances throughout the year in a wide range of disciplines and genres including circus acts, dance, and music concerts. Chato'do (113 Avenue de Vendôme) is an immense venue used for music concerts, including rock, reggae, electronica, and hip hop performances. There are two auditoriums; one has 150 seats and the other 630 seats. This venue regularly hosts famous French and international artists. La Halle aux Grains (2 Place Jean Jaurès) was formerly used as a grain warehouse and is now a theater for a wide range of cultural performances. The event schedule features theater, dance, classical music, rock music, world music, circus acts, and even puppet shows.