20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley invites visitors to step into the scene of a fairy tale, complete with stunning castles and an enchanting countryside. Known as the "Garden of France," the entire area of the Loire Valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of its beauty, the Loire Valley was frequently visited by the French kings. The region has been strategically important since the Middle Ages and Hundred Years' War, but the Loire really came to life during the Renaissance.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the French Kings dreamed up a vision of luxury and opulence and built extravagant country retreats amid the Loire's woodlands and rivers. These lavish royal castles became legendary, and rich nobles followed suit by creating their own grand homes in the area. The sumptuous Renaissance châteaux were designed purely for enjoyment and entertaining, an extension of court life outside Paris. The grandiose Chambord is the most magnificent château, while Chenonceau is the most elegant.
1 Château de Chambord
In a majestic location on the left bank of the Loire River, the UNESCO-listed Château of Chambord is a must-see tourist attraction. This grandiose château provided inspiration for the building of Versailles. The estate was created in the early 16th century for King Francis I who spared no expense. Francis even had the Loire River diverted to enhance the effect of the château. The building was constructed on a scale of immense proportions, measuring 117 meters by 156 meters. With turreted towers, vaulted ceilings, 440 rooms, and a gigantic double staircase at the entry hall, the Château de Chambord is definitely fit for royalty. Louis XIV frequently stayed here and Molière wrote a few of his comedies while staying in the château.
The extensive property of Chambord is surrounded by a 32-kilometer wall (the longest in France) with six gates that allow access to the grounds. The estate encompasses 5,500 hectares of parkland of which four-fifths is forest. The gardens feature an Italianate terrace, which was a central feature of court life when the king was in residence. Chambord is about two hours' drive away from Paris. Tourists can take a one-hour-and-30-minute train ride from Paris Austerlitz station to the Blois station, which is 15 kilometers away from the château.
Address: Château, 41250 Chambord
2 Château de Chenonceau
An elegant château with a distinctive feminine touch, Chenonceau was strongly influenced by the famous women who have lived here. The château was founded in 1513 on the site of an earlier building by King Charles VII's treasurer. In 1547, King Henry II presented the château to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Henry's widow Catherine de Médicis later forced Diane de Poitiers to abandon the royal residence and instead live at Chaumont. To arrive at the château, visitors approach an avenue of plane trees and then enter a drawbridge that opens onto the entrance. The most unique feature of the château is the Corps de Logis gallery created for Catherine de Médicis. Built over a graceful arched bridge that crosses the Cher River, the gallery displays exquisite paintings and antique tapestries. The gallery was designed to impress visitors, while the château's stately reception halls were once the scene of refined entertaining. The château has lovely gardens laid out by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis. The property features a walking path, decorative pools, and many roses. The château also has a gourmet restaurant, a tea house for afternoon tea, and a pleasant picnic area with tables and benches. The Château de Chenonceau is accessible by TGV train (one-hour ride) from Paris Montparnasse station to Tours station.
Address: Château de Chenonceau, 37150 Chenonceaux
3 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres
Chartres is an attractive hilltop top about 100 kilometers southwest of Paris. The pride of Chartres is the UNESCO-listed Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, a glorious example of French architecture. Standing in an elevated position in the center of town, the 12th-13th-century cathedral is one of the finest and best preserved Gothic buildings in France. The Clocher Vieux (south tower) displays the pure Gothic style of 1170; the Clocher Neuf (north tower) has a spire that was added in 1507-1513. Between the towers is the richly decorated Portail Royal (Royal Doorway), with statues, which became models for the further development of Gothic sculpture. The cathedral is most renowned for its marvelous abundance of medieval stained-glass windows (more than 2,000 square meters); most of the windows date from 1210 to 1260, an exceptional rarity in existence. Particularly beautiful are the three immense rose windows. Other notable features in the cathedral are the Late Gothic choir screens with scenes from the life of the Virgin and the Gospels, and the terrace with a panoramic view of the lower town. During summer, the cathedral hosts an International Organ Festival.
Address: 16 Cloître Notre Dame, 28000 Chartres
Boasting many old palaces and burghers' houses, the old ducal city of Bourges enjoys a picturesque setting on the Yèvre and Aveyron Rivers in the historic province of Berry. The town's top attraction, the UNESCO-listed Cathédrale Saint-Etienne ranks among the most splendid of French cathedrals built in the 12th-13th centuries. The ornate west front, flanked by massive towers, has five doorways with rich sculptural decoration and an exquisite 14th-century rose window. The cathedral is entered through the Romanesque south doorway, over which is a figure of Christ in Majesty, surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists. The interior stuns visitors with its gorgeous sanctuary illuminated by 13th-century stained-glass windows. In a chapel near the choir are interesting 15th-century kneeling figures of the Duc Jean de Berry and his wife. Tourists can also climb to the top of the north tower to take in spectacular views. Another noteworthy building is the Palais Jacques Côur, a palace built in 1443-1453 by the royal treasurer Jacques Côur, exemplifying secular Gothic architecture. About a 30 minutes' drive southwest of Bourges is the 12th-century Cistercian Abbey of Noirlac, a fantastic example of Cistercian architecture with an arcaded cloister dating from the 13th and 14th centuries.
5 Château de Cheverny
Surrounded by idyllic countryside, the Château of Cheverny was built in the classical style of the 17th century. Created for Henri Hurault, the Governor of Blois, this elegant fortified manor house is one of the great tourist attractions of the Loire Valley. The château has preserved its original decoration and furnishings, which give visitors an insight into noble life centuries ago. The Château of Cheverny features grand halls and an elaborately designed stairway. The main rooms are adorned with exquisite Louis XIII boiseries (intricately carved paneling). For those more interested in French popular culture, the château features an exposition of the famous Tintin comic strips. One of the highlight of a visit to Cheverny is a stroll through the château's tranquil gardens, a seemingly endless expanse of green lawns and lush cedar trees. The more adventurous can rent an electric car to explore the property or an electric boat to discover the lake. For those in need of refreshments, the Café de l'Orangerie offers fancy pastries, delicious homemade ice cream, snacks, and beverages in the 18th-century Orangery building or outside on the terrace. Another option for a sunny day is to enjoy a picnic in the château's open-air picnic area.
The chateau lies in Cour-Cheverny, a pleasant village with plenty of green space and an 18-hole golf course. Southeast of Cour-Cheverny village is the vast Cheverny Forest, a pristine woodland with many lakes.
Address: 1 Avenue Château, 41700 Cheverny
Azay-le-Rideau is renowned for its magnificent Renaissance château, a dreamy fairy-tale-like building that is surrounded by a moat and lovely gardens. The Château d'Azay-le-Rideau was built in the 16th century by a wealthy financier. The design of this stately château was greatly influenced by Italian architecture. The most notable features on the ground floor are the rib-vaulted kitchen and the dining room with a richly decorated chimney and numerous tapestries. Sumptuous Renaissance furniture and paintings decorate the reception rooms. In the town of Azay-le-Rideau, there is an interesting church, the Eglise Saint-Symphorien, that blends Romanesque and Gothic styles. The facade of the south aisle reveals remains of Carolingian reliefs. In the nearby Château of Saché, the famous author Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) wrote some of his novels. The room where Balzac worked has been preserved as it was.
Only ten kilometers away from Azay-le-Rideau is another spectacular château: Château de Langeais, one of the fastest-built châteaux in the Loire Valley. The château was constructed by King Louis XI in only four years from 1465 to 1469. This striking landmark has remained unchanged for centuries; the medieval rooms with their original decorations and wall-hangings are particularly worth seeing. King Charles VIII was married here to Anne de Bretagne in 1491.
7 Château de Valençay
Set in a large park, the Château de Valençay was built in 1540 by Philibert Delorme, architect of the Château de Fontainebleau outside of Paris. In 1805, the château was acquired by Talleyrand, Napoleon's foreign minister. The building shows a variety of styles: the main wing is influenced by the Italian Renaissance, while the two-story side wing is Baroque. The side wing contains a gallery of portraits of Talleyrand's ancestors, Empire furniture, a small collection of fine porcelain, and a Talleyrand Museum. The château's vast grounds feature splendid formal gardens, which once made the château more of a royal court than a country manor.
Address: Château de Valençay, 2 Rue de Blois, 36600 Valençay
The largest town in the Loire Valley after Tours, Orléans is a designated UNESCO World Heritage City and a good base to begin exploring the region. The city of Orléans is inseparably bound with the history of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans. The city has a small museum devoted to Joan of Arc in a restored 15th-century house. Another tourist attraction is the Cathédrale Sainte-Croix, founded in 1278 on the site of an earlier 10th-century church. The cathedral's monumental exterior features twin towers (81 meters high), five doorways, and elaborate Baroque decoration. The sheer size of the interior leaves a lasting impression. The cathedral's chapels date from the late 13th century to the 14th century. The cathedral also boasts a fine 17th-century organ. The treasury includes Byzantine fabrics and enamelwork. Orlean's Musée des Beaux-Arts contains an extensive collection of art works from the 15th to the 19th century including pieces by Gauguin, Soutine, Kupka, Mathieu, and Dufy. About 27 kilometers away from Orléans is a delightful tourist attraction, the Château de Meung sur Loire, which is one of the largest and oldest castles in the Loire Valley. This stunning medieval château is nestled in seven hectares of enchanting parkland.
About 25 kilometers east of Tours, the picturesque town of Amboise is another UNESCO World Heritage City. The town stands on the left bank of the Loire River and is bordered by a large area of forest. The city's most well-known tourist attraction is the Amboise Royal Château. The building is supported by massive buttresses, above which rises the richly articulated facade of the château with its ironwork balcony and imposing round towers. Another royal site in Amboise is the Chapelle Saint-Hubert, which was built around 1491 for King Charles VIII and his wife Anne de Bretagne who was the Duchess of Brittany. The Chapelle is a fine example of Gothic architecture. On the doorway is a relief representation of the legend of Saint Hubert, and in the tympanum is a 19th-century figure of the Virgin flanked by Charles and Anne. Also worth visiting is the Château du Clos Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. The château allows visitors to discover more about the life of the great Renaissance man. The property includes Leonardo's Garden, which abounds with flourishing plant species that inspired Leonardo da Vinci's interest in botany.
In a picturesque location on two hills above the Loire River, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Blois is dominated by its monumental château and cathedral. In 1397 the town became a royal residence for King Louis of Orléans, and during the reigns of King Louis XII and King Francis I played a similar role to that of the Château de Versailles for Louis XIV. The Château Royal de Blois was built in stages between the 13th and the 17th century and reflects changing architectural styles. The Francis I wing is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture with a famous octagonal staircase. To the south of the château is the former Benedictine Church of Saint-Nicolas, built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cathedral of Saint-Louis stands on high ground in the old town, and nearby are a number of handsome burghers' houses.
About 18 kilometers away from Blois is the UNESCO-listed Château de Chaumont. This fortress-like castle was founded in the year 1000 and rebuilt by King Louis XI around 1465. Catherine de Médicis acquired the château in 1550. Both the château, with its historic tapestries and works of art, and its English-style gardens are open to the public for visits. The château hosts the "Festival des Jardins" during the summer when the gardens are transformed by light and art installations.
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This charming, ancient town is a pleasure to discover. A walk through the streets between the Loire, Place Plumereau, and the Place du Grand-Marché will give an impression of the character of the old town. Around the Place Plumereau, there are numerous half-timbered houses. The Tour Charlemagne in Place de Châteauneuf and the Tour de l'Horloge in Rue des Halles are all that remain of the great abbey church of Saint-Martin built in the 11th-13th centuries. The twin-towered Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Gatien is dedicated to the first bishop of Tours and exemplifies a blend of Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance. To the north of the cathedral is the medieval Château Royal, which displays exhibitions about the history of Tours. Near the Rue Nationale is the former Abbey Church of Saint-Julien, built from the 10th to the 13th century. A little way west of Saint-Julien Church is the Hôtel Gouin, an Italian-style mansion built around 1510, which now houses the collections of the Archeological Society of Touraine.
Once capital of the county of Anjou, the UNESCO World Heritage City of Angers is dominated by the Château d'Angers that stands majestically on a 32-meter-high crag above the Maine River. The castle is surrounded by stout defensive walls with 17 round towers. Built in the 13th century for Foulques Nerra, the château was renovated by Louis IX later in the 13th century. During the 16th century wars of religion, King Henry III ordered the towers to be pulled down, but only the tops were destroyed. From the walls (along considerable stretches it is possible to walk), there are exceptional panoramic views. The château boasts a Gothic chapel and fine tapestries of the 14th to 18th centuries. In the old town of Angers, the Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Maurice (built in the 12th-13th centuries) awes visitors with its ornately sculpted exterior and spacious Gothic interior illuminated by medieval stained-glass windows. The windows depict scenes from the life of the Virgin and the martyrdoms of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Vincent. The most impressive private mansion in Angers is the Hôtel Pincé (1523-1530), which houses the Musée Pincé. The museum has an excellent collection of decorative objects especially Greek, Egyptian, and Roman antiquities.
13 Chinon and Château d'Ussé
With its ruined castle looming from above on a steep ridge of a hill, the town of Chinon has a romantic ambience. The old town lies between the fortress and the Vienne River. The Forteresse Royale de Chinon dates back to the 10th century and is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Joan of Arc had an important meeting with the Dauphin Charles here in 1429. The Rue Voltaire, with its 15th and 16th century houses, and the 12th-century Church of Saint-Maurice are particularly worth seeing. The most important event in the history of Chinon was the meeting between Charles VII and Joan of Arc on March 9, 1429, which marked the beginning of the reconquest of French territory from the English. Another spectacular chateau close by (eight kilometers from Chinon) is the Château du Coudray, an elegant 18th-century hotel surrounded by marvelous formal French gardens. This château has a superb restaurant and the venue is often used for conferences and weddings.
About 12 kilometers from Chinon, the Château of Ussé, is the most fanciful of all the Loire Valley castles. It is said that this château gave Charles Perrault, the 17th-century author of fairy tales, the inspiration for the castle in his Sleeping Beauty story. The château (which is in private ownership) was built in stages between the 15th and 17th centuries and shows a mingling of Late Gothic and Renaissance features. The rooms contain period furniture, tapestries, and weapons. In the park is a chapel designed in pure Renaissance style, built between 1520 and 1583.
14 Le Mans and the Cathédrale Saint-Julien
Although most famous today for its car race, Le Mans was an important Roman town and a medieval capital. The city boasts a picturesque hilltop riverside setting and the remains of the ancient Gallo-Roman walls. The main street in the old town is the Grande Rue with a Renaissance house of 1525, the Maison d'Adam et d'Eve (No. 71). Be sure to visit the Abbey Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture, built in the 10th century and renovated in the 13th and 14th centuries. The church contains gorgeous tapestries and paintings, including Elijah's Dream by Philippe de Champaigne. The Musée de Tessé has an excellent collection of fine arts (paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects) as well as Egyptian antiquities. On the right bank of the Sarthe River is the former Abbey Church of Notre-Dame-du-Pré, an exceptional 11th and 12th-century Romanesque building with an impressive crypt.
The top tourist attraction in Le Mans is the Cathédrale Saint-Julien. To find the cathedral, stroll along the charming cobblestone street Rue de la Reine Bérengère until reaching the north end of the street. Spend some time admiring the cathedral's remarkable facade. On the south side, the Porche du Chevalier (porch) features fabulously detailed sculpting, and the 12th-century doorway is decorated with statues reminiscent of the Royal Doorway at Chartres Cathedral in the Loire Valley. Enter the sanctuary to experience the serenity of the impressive Romanesque nave, dating from the 11th-12th centuries. The interior has a lovely 13th-century Gothic choir, spectacular 13th-14th-century stained-glass windows, and delicate 15th-16th-century tapestries. In the apse, the Chapelle de la Vierge (Chapel of the Virgin) is adorned with exquisite 14th-century frescoes. The cathedral also possesses a noteworthy terra cotta Entombment sculpture and the 13th-century tomb of Berengaria, the wife of Richard Coeur-de-Lion (Richard the Lion Heart).
The medieval town of Saumur, halfway between Angers and Tours, lies on the left bank of the Loire River amid the countryside of Anjou. This area is an important mushroom-growing center: three-quarters of all the "champignons de Paris" (mushrooms) produced in France come from the cellars of this region. Saumur has one of the finest of the Loire Châteaux, built in the 14th century on a hill high above the Loire. King René called his Château de Saumur the "castle of love." At the end of the 16th century, the château was converted by its Protestant owners into a fortress, and it still retains its defensive character. Designed around an open courtyard, the château is entered through a large and imposing doorway. Opposite the entrance is a Late Gothic tower housing a spiral staircase. The Tour du Guet, which towers over the southwest wing of the château, can be climbed by way of a series of spiral staircases and passages, and offers sweeping views of the rooftops of Saumur and the landscape of the Loire Valley. The château contains the Musée de Saumur, which has a collection of antiquities, 15th and 16th-century tapestries, and 20th-century works of art.
16 Château de Montreuil-Bellay
This impressive medieval château was founded in the 11th century as a citadel and has a fascinating history. The fortress earned its reputation as impregnable because it withstood a siege by the Count of Anjou in the 12th century. In the 14th century, during the Hundred Years War, people took refuge in the castle moat and neighboring monasteries. Later, when the Wars of Religion broke out, both the Catholics and Protestants turned to this location to refuel weapons and ammunition. During the French Revolution, the Lord of Montreuil-Bellay remained loyal to King Louis XVI. An interesting example of an austere fortress that evolved into a luxurious palace, the Château de Montreuil-Bellay features 650 meters of ramparts, 13 defense towers, a perfectly preserved medieval kitchen, exquisite furnishings, and splendid gardens. The castle is surrounded by a verdant landscape of shady trees and lovely roses. Also on the property is the 15th-century Collégiale Notre-Dame church.
Address: Château de Montreuil-Bellay, 49260 Montreuil-Bellay
17 Château de Villandry
The majestic 16th-century Château Villandry is renowned for its gorgeous Renaissance gardens. The French-style formal gardens were first laid out in the 16th century. In the 19th century, the gardens were altered to the English style, which were then fashionable. From the upper floor of the château a flight of steps leads down to the gardens, which cover an expansive area of five hectares. To the left are the ornamental gardens, with the "Garden of Love" in the foreground. Beyond are the vegetable gardens laid out in ornamental form. The state apartments of the château contain 18th-century furniture and tapestries, along with paintings by Italian and Spanish masters of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Particularly noteworthy is the Hispano-Mauresque wooden ceiling, originally from a 13th-century mosque, which was bought by the owner of the château at an auction and then fitted together again in its new position, a task which took more than 15 years.
Address: Château de Villandry, 37510 Villandry
The historic town of Loches lies above the Indre River, a left-bank tributary of the Loire. On the hill above the town is the Cité Médiévale surrounded by a circuit of walls two kilometers long. This town within a town is entered through the 14th-15th century Porte Royale, a fortified gate, which was once approached by a drawbridge. Within the Cité Médiévale is the Church of Saint-Ours, originally founded in 962 but mostly dating in its present form from the 12th century. The main features of interest in the lower town are the 16th-century watchtower, the Tour Saint-Antoine, and the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). The Château de Loches dates from the 15th-16th centuries and was once the residence of King Charles VII. The château has a richly decorated interior and its most notable features are the Salle Charles VII, the Salle Jeanne d'Arc (which contains a small collection of weapons and a number of tapestries), the Chapelle d'Anne de Bretagne, and a room containing the alabaster tomb of Charles VII's mistress Agnès Sorel. In the adjoining little town of Beaulieu are the ruins of a Romanesque Abbey founded around the year 1000, which has been well preserved.
19 Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud
Only 15 kilometers away from Chinon and Saumur, the great abbey of Fontevraud was founded in 1099 by a preacher named Robert d'Arbrissel. It was occupied by monks and nuns who lived under the strict rule of the Benedictine order. The abbey was dissolved during the French Revolution, and from 1804 to 1963 served as a prison. The abbey is now open to the public as a tourist attraction. The Abbey Church dates from the first half of the 12th century; it contains the tombs of King Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard Coeur-de-Lion. On the south side of the church is the Cloître Sainte-Marie which opens to the Chapter House; both were rebuilt in the 16th century in typical Renaissance style. Adjoining is the Cloître Saint-Benoît, an inspiring and serene space. The abbey has an interesting kitchen, with its striking conical roof and spacious refectory. The abbey's garden features a fantastic collection of herbs used in medieval times for medicine and other purposes. The abbey also has two restaurants and a luxurious 4-star hotel on the property.
Address: Abbaye de Fontevraud, BP 24 49590 Fontevraud l'Abbaye
20 Château de Beauregard
In the heart of the Loire Valley, just five kilometers from Blois and 15 kilometers from Chambord, the Château de Beauregard is the old hunting lodge of King Louis I. This magnificent building reflects the grandeur of the French heritage. The most noteworthy feature of the interior is the portrait gallery, which is a historical work of art representing 350 years of France's history. The gallery features 327 portraits of kings and important political figures. The château stands in gorgeous 40-hectare parkland and boasts unusual gardens. The 17th-century "portrait garden" has 12 plots representing the reigns of different kings. The garden delights visitors with charming areas of shady trees and flowering plants, including an array of 400 species of roses. While discovering the château grounds, tourists can find the ruins of an old chapel that was a stop on the medieval pilgrimage trail to Santiago de la Compostela. Also on the property are Renaissance cottages that are available to rent for overnight accommodation.
Other Notable Attractions
On the right bank of the Loire River, the little town of Beaugency has many historic buildings and a distinct Old-World charm. Noteworthy sights include the 12th-century Church of Notre-Dame, the Maison des Templiers, 17th-century Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and the Tour de l'Horloge. The Château Dunois, was built in the 15th century by the Comte de Dunois, Jean, known as the "Bâtard d'Orléans" (the "Bastard of Orléans"). He was a comrade in arms with Joan of Arc and became the Count of Dunois through his marriage to Marie d'Harcourt, the Lady of Beaugency. The château was founded on the site of a medieval fortress and the building was renovated in the Renaissance style.
Château de Brissac
Surrounded by parklands, the Château de Brissac has the distinction of being the tallest château in the Loire Valley. This striking château features a majestic facade and Romantic-style gardens. The building has immense towers and a fortified foundation that are vestiges of the feudal period. The château has been the residence to more than twenty generations of the same family since the time of René de Cossé, the first Lord of the castle in the early 16th century. The château has a sumptuous interior including its own opulently decorated opera house.
Château de Rochecotte
The former residence of the Prince de Talleyrand and the Duchesse de Dino, this graceful château is now a luxurious 4-star hotel with lavish accommodations and elegant dining rooms. The château's gastronomic restaurant offers innovative regional cuisine made with local ingredients. The cuisine is highly regarded by locals throughout the region. Surrounding the château are gorgeous gardens, including an Italian terrace, 20 hectares of wooded parkland, a heated swimming pool, and children's play area.
Château de Sully sur Loire
An important historic monument, this medieval château is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Typical of a medieval fortress, the château has imposing high towers and is surrounded by wide moats that are still filled with water. The building reflects the allure of a bygone era. Especially noteworthy are the apartments of the Duke of Sully and his wife, and the Hall of Honour family portrait gallery. The château is surrounded by a large park, offering a peaceful retreat in nature. It also hosts different exhibitions and activities throughout the year.
Château de Villesavin
The Château de Villesavin was built for the finance secretary of King Francis I and later was the residence of noble families including Jean Phélippeaux, advisor to King Henry IV, and a few Earls and Marquis. The château is surrounded by 27 acres of tranquil parkland and pristine forests filled with many animals. Visitors can often see deer, rabbits, and squirrels. There is also a mini farm with chickens, sheep, goats, and rabbits.
In spite of heavy destruction during the Second World War, Giens is an attractive town worthy of a visit. The town boasts a 15th-century château and the Church of Sainte-Jeanne d'Arc that was rebuilt in the 19th-century after the Second World War. Northeast of Gien is the moated Château of La Bussière that dates back to the 13th century.
One of the most beautiful villages in France (Plus Beaux Villages), Lavardin nestles in a serene natural environment surrounded by the cliffs of the Loire Valley. The village has a romantic charm thanks to the ruins of its old château. This castle withstood an attack by Richard the Lion Heart but was overtaken by King Henri IV's troops. The village features a mix of architectural styles and periods, from Gothic to Renaissance. From the site of the château ruins, there is a scenic walking trail that lead to the old caves where women once washed their clothes.
This picturesque town is another of France's most beautiful villages (Plus Beaux Villages), about 50 kilometres southeast of Tours. Montrésor stands on the banks of the Indrois River and has an impressive medieval château built in the 11th century by Foulques Nerra, the Count of Anjou. The castle stands at an impressive height overlooking the pleasant Indrois Valley. The town has a noteworthy church, the Collégiale Saint Jean-Baptiste, that was built in the 16th century and is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
Dominated by its château, the old town of Châteaudun has several interesting sights: the Church of the Madeleine and a number of old houses, mainly on Rue Saint-Lubin and Rue des Huiteries. The Château de Châteaudun is known for is stained-glass windows and its Gothic architecture. Most of the structure was built during the 12th and 13th centuries. The interior features two impressive staircases and a 15th-century chapel, which is richly decorated with sculptures and wall paintings. There are fine views from the château's terrace.
Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire is famed for its great Benedictine abbey, the origins of which go back to the 7th century. The large Romanesque church, one of the finest in France, was built between 1067 and 1218. Originally, the towers were higher than they are now. The outstanding feature of the church is the porch tower with its ornately carved capitals. The interior is bright and beautifully proportioned. The 12th-century crypt features the same floor plan as the apse and contains the relics of Saint Benedict, brought here from the Abbey of Monte Cassino in the late 7th century.
On the banks of the Loire River, this elegant historic town was an important medieval pilgrimage destination. An impressive Romanesque church, Abbaye de la Trinité, was first built here in the 11th century. In the 13th century, the Abbey was rebuilt in grand Gothic style as a pilgrimage destination. The abbey gained a reputation as a stopover, close to Saint Martin's tomb in Tours, along the famous pilgrims' road to Santiago de Compostela. The abbey church features an opulent facade, an inspiring vaulted nave, and Flamboyant Gothic windows. At the center of Vendôme is the Place Saint-Martin and nearby is the Tour Saint-Martin, a relic of a Renaissance church. Other noteworthy churches in Vendôme include the Chapelle du Lycée built in 1452 and the Eglise de la Madeleine built in 1474.