11 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Blois
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Nestled on two hills above the right bank of the Loire River, this enchanting town is distinguished by its refined elegance. The architecture of Blois reflects the grandeur of past residents. Dominating the cityscape are the magnificent Château Royal de Blois (once home to France's kings) and the Cathédrale Saint-Louis, which both overlook the spectacular Loire Valley.
Blois rose to prominence in the 15th century, and the Renaissance spirit is felt throughout the city. Hôtels particuliers (noblemen's townhouses) of the Counts of Blois, impressive aristocratic mansions, and quaint half-timbered burghers' houses give the historic district a special ambience.
With its alluring old-world charm, regal heritage, and peaceful bucolic setting, Blois is one of the best places to visit in the Loire Valley to take in the region's cultural heritage.
Learn about the best places to visit and things to do with our list of the top attractions in Blois.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Château Royal de Blois
One of the top tourist attractions in the Loire Valley, the majestic Château Royal de Blois has an illustrious history. Renowned inhabitants have included the Dukes of Orléans, seven kings of France, the prince/poet Charles d'Orléans, and several Counts of Blois who led the Crusades.
Built between the 13th and 17th centuries, the castle is a marvel of Renaissance architecture with ornate loggias, galleries, and oriel windows.
Visitors enter through the Louis XII wing (built from 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 a richly decorated octagonal staircase.
In the Galerie Charles d'Orléans is the Late Gothic Chapelle Saint-Calais with a terrace affording gorgeous views of the town. The château also houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which showcases a collection of artworks from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Highlights include the masterpieces by Marco d'Oggiono, Bourdon, Ingres, and Boucher.
Visitors should save some time to explore the Jardins du Roy surrounding the château. Created by King Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, the original Renaissance gardens are now landscaped in contemporary style with vibrant flowers planted beneath shady centuries-old trees. Throughout the year, the gardens become a magical venue for concerts, theater, and other cultural performances.
The château is open to the public (for an entrance fee) every day of the year except for December 25th and January 1st. Every evening during spring and summer, the château presents a sensational 45-minute show featuring special lighting and sound effects, Son & Lumière du Château, that recounts important events in the castle's history.
Gourmands should note that across from the royal castle in a 15th-century house is a renowned restaurant, L'Orangerie du Château, which serves modern French cuisine.
Address: 6 Place du Château, 41000 Blois
Official site: http://www.chateaudeblois.fr/?lang=en
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Blois
2. Vieux Blois (Old Town)
The historic center of Blois has a distinctive old-world atmosphere. Vieux Blois is characterized by its handsome half-timbered burghers' houses, narrow pedestrian 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).
The adjoining gardens, the Jardins de l'Évêché, are classified as Jardins Remarquables (Remarkable Gardens). Created in the 17th century, the expansive green space includes a Rose Garden (Roseraie) with a wonderful variety of blooms and a terrace with splendid views of the Loire Valley landscape. A snack bar offers refreshments and light meals during summertime.
To truly get a feel for the town, visitors should spend time exploring the medieval cobblestone streets. The Rue Pierre de Blois alley and the steps of the Rue Denis Papin are especially beautiful. The Rue du Puits Châtel traverses the Old Town and includes pedestrian staircases with scenic 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, an exceptional hôtel particulier (mansion) that is classified as a "historic monument" and is open to the public.
3. Maison de la Magie (House of Magic)
In the Maison Massé, across from the Château Royal, this unique museum is the only museum in Europe entirely devoted to magic as a performing art. The museum immerses visitors into the fantastical world of magic while offering an entertaining experience that is full of surprises.
Visitors are amazed by the museum's creative presentation, including a fire-breathing dragon that appears every half hour.
In the 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 explain the history of the magical arts and other areas that display a variety of optical illusions.
Throughout the year, the museum presents magic shows featuring award-winning performers and other talented magicians.
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 distinctive old houses. Formerly a Benedictine abbey church, the building dates to the 12th century but was damaged during the Wars of Religion and rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Gothic elements define the architectural style, but further examination reveals Romanesque features such as the finely carved capitals. 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-de-Paul
In the center of Blois near the Château de Blois, this 17th-century church exemplifies Baroque style with its graceful proportions. The Church of Saint Vincent de Paul was constructed over many years and was finally completed thanks to donations from Gaston d'Orléans.
Typical of a Jesuit church, the facade features 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 displays many fine sculptures, including two commemorative monuments. Surrounding the church are overgrown gardens that offer a sense of tranquility.
Tourists may visit the church year-round. Admission is free of charge.
Address: Place Victor Hugo, 41000 Blois
6. Cathédrale Saint-Louis
The Cathedral of Saint-Louis 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, 16th, and 17th centuries. However, the crypt dates from the original church of the 10th century.
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.
The cathedral is open to the public for visits. Free guided tours are available in French for those interested in learning more about the cathedral and its stained-glass windows.
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. 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 Religion; it was damaged in 1568 and then restored later in the 16th century.
Open to the public for self-guided visits, the church interior dazzles visitors with its breathtaking rib-vaulted Gothic nave. Not to be missed are the 16th-century Chapel Saint Pierre and the aître, which are listed as National Historic Monuments.
Other noteworthy architectural and artistic elements are the hexagonal staircase, vibrant stained-glass windows, fine paintings, and statues.
Address: 13 Rue Munier, Blois
8. Jardin de Plantes Médicinales
A surprising oasis of calm in Vieux Blois (the Old Town), this fetching garden is enclosed within ancient walls behind the cathedral. The lush green space flourishes with vibrant flowers and leafy trees, which attract many chirping birds.
The garden, also known as the "Jardin des Cinq Sens" (Garden of the Five Senses), is distinguished by its variety of aromatic herbs and medicinal plants.
A glorious sensory experience of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste awaits. Visitors can admire the colorful flowers, listen to the calming birdsong, discern the fragrance of the herbs, feel the textures of the plants, and even taste some of the edible herbs.
The garden is open year-round Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:30pm. Entry is free.
Address: Place Saint-Louis, Blois
During summertime (June until September), the city of Blois organizes a lively festival called "Des Lyres d'été," a series of over 300 events: music concerts, cinema, dance performances, street theater, storytelling, and fireworks. The events take place at public squares and outdoor spaces in Blois, as well as in neighboring villages.
Another amusing festival, the Carnaval de Blois in March celebrates the end of winter with a marching-band parade and street theater. The jubilant procession winds through the city from the Place du Royal Château all the way to the Place de la République. In keeping with the festive spirit, the event concludes with a highly anticipated performance at the Halle aux Grains (2 Place Jean Jaurès).
10. Fondation du Doute: Museum of Contemporary Art
The Fondation du Doute is a daring museum of contemporary art focused on the period of 1960 to 1970. The collection displays the work of more than 50 artists, including about 300 pieces in total.
The 1,500-square-meter gallery space represents a diverse array of works, which allows for an in-depth appreciation of contemporary art. The foundation encourages visitors to discuss, question, and challenge their perception of art.
Bringing the world of art to visitors' lunch break, the museum has a trendy casual restaurant, the Café le Fluxus, which serves snacks and pastries in a creative setting. Occasionally the café is open in the evenings for concerts and other events.
The museum also has a boutique, which sells books and other products with a contemporary art theme.
Address: 14 Rue de la Paix, Blois
11. Music Concerts & Cultural Performances
Blois boasts a wealth of cultural offerings, from classical music and traditional theater to pop music and avant-garde circus acts. The Maison de Bégon (Rue Pierre et Marie Curie) presents cultural performances throughout the year in a wide range of disciplines and genres, from poetry readings and comedy to dance performances and music concerts.
Chato'do (113 Avenue de Vendôme) is an immense venue used for music concerts, including rock, reggae, electronica, punk, blues, soul, and hip hop performances. This venue regularly hosts famous French and international artists.
The city's historic grain warehouse Halle aux Grains (2 Place Jean Jaurès) has been transformed into a space used for cultural performances. The Halle aux Grains offers an eclectic schedule of events: theater and dance performances; classical, rock, and world music concerts; and circus acts.
Where to Stay in Blois for Sightseeing
The most convenient hotels in Blois are found in the historic center near Vieux Blois. This atmospheric area, with its medieval cobblestone lanes and stately old mansions, gives overnight visitors a true feel for the city's old-world ambience. The more affordable hotels are generally outside the city center, for instance in the area around the train station. For those seeking a more leisurely experience, the countryside outside of Blois has several charming properties and offers easy access to begin exploring the Loire Valley region.
- Overlooking a tree-lined path along the Loire River, the Mercure Blois Centre Hotel is ideally located near Vieux Blois (just a five-minute walk away). This four-star hotel has a restaurant, spa, sauna, indoor swimming pool, hot tub, fitness center, and a paid parking lot. The guest rooms are decorated in a minimalistic modern style. A breakfast buffet is available for an additional cost.
- La Maison d'à Côté is tucked away in the peaceful Loire Valley countryside in the small village of Montlivault (12 kilometers outside of Blois). This three-star boutique hotel is a good base for exploring Blois and the Loire Valley châteaux. Gourmands appreciate this hotel for its haute cuisine restaurant, with two Michelin stars, and its convivial bistro. The restaurant's Michelin-starred chef also offers cooking classes at the hotel from September through April. The guest rooms are simple and minimalistic in style but feature modern refinements.
- In the heart of the Loire Valley (35 kilometers away from Blois) is Le Manoir Saint-Thomas in Amboise. This four-star boutique hotel occupies a historic manor house renovated in keeping with its heritage. Guest rooms are decorated in traditional French style, and a breakfast buffet is served in a beautiful dining room which echoes the hotel's old-world elegance. The property includes a romantic garden with tall leafy trees and an outdoor swimming pool.
- Housed in a stately ivy-clad building, the Hôtel Anne de Bretagne is a quaint lodging in the historic city center of Blois near the Château Royal. The three-star hotel's interior features an inviting lounge area decorated in old-fashioned style, while the guest rooms are more minimalistic and modern. A generous continental breakfast buffet is served in a lovely dining space with a garden terrace.
- The three-star Hôtel Le Monarque is well situated in the historic center of Blois, a short walk away from the Cathédrale Saint-Louis and within a 10-minute stroll of the Château Royal. This small boutique hotel is especially appreciated for its traditional restaurant, which serves authentic regional cuisine. The guest rooms are small but are decorated in an appealing, simple style. For an additional charge, a typical French breakfast buffet is available.
- The ibis Styles Blois Centre Gare is located near the Blois train station, about a 10-minute walk to the Château Royal and a 15-minute walk to Vieux Blois. This three-star hotel offers simple contemporary-style guest rooms, a restaurant, and parking lot. The accommodations include a breakfast buffet. Families may choose to book adjoining rooms, and children are sure to enjoy the hotel's playground.
- Another affordable lodging option near the train station and a short walk away from the Château Royal is the two-star Hôtel Louise de Savoie. This excellent-value hotel has a cozy feel. The guest rooms are small but stylish considering the price. The hotel offers a generous buffet-style breakfast with good coffee, fruit juice, fresh baguettes, and croissants.
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Awe-Inspiring Castles: Blois is an ideal starting point to discover the Loire Valley. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this idyllic pastoral region is renowned for its magnificent Renaissance châteaux created by French Kings in the 15th and 16th centuries. For those who adore fairy-tale castles, Fougères (about a three-hour drive) in the picturesque Brittany region is a worthwhile detour. The fabulous Palace of Versailles (a two-hour drive outside of Paris) is an absolutely splendid castle, which outshines the rest.
Nearby Historic Towns and Charming Villages: About a 2.5-hour drive from Paris, France's capital city, Blois is an excellent addition to a Paris vacation. Many wonderful Paris day-trip destinations are within easy reach of Blois as well, such as the lovely village of Chartres (less than a two-hour drive) and its glorious cathedral. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fascinating walled medieval town of Provins is a 2.5-hour drive from Blois. In the Burgundy region, the riverside town of Auxerre delights visitors with its old-world charm and amazing ancient churches.