Experience The Loire Valley’s Highlights in 5 days

September 21, 2022

Highlights:

  • Castles. Unlimited castles!
  • Cruising along the Loire river through beautiful nature
  • The interesting Guild museum in Tours
  • Quaint old cities, such as Saumur, Chinon, Blois and Orleans
  • Stunning cathedrals
  • Excellent vineyards and Michelin-rated restaurants
  • Sunflowers, endless fields of it, provided you visit early summer
  • Chambord and Chenonceau, two of the most beautiful castles in the world
  • Hotel suggestions

Getting there:

From Angers to Orleans avoid the autoroutes and stick to smaller roads, often running parallel to the Loire or its tributaries. As there’s so much to do, see, taste, and smell, I have focused on the highlights you really should not miss.

By plane: there are airports in Tours and Nantes with good connections in France, and some flights (incl Ryanair) to other European destinations.

Paris Orly airport is larger, and has excellent connections to European cities, and the drive to Angers is around 3 hours. From Orleans back to Orly is around 1,5 hours.

If you fly intercontinentally, you will most likely arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. It is 3,5 hours from Angers, and a 2-hour drive from Orleans.

But make sure to avoid rush hour, as the traffic in and around Paris can get very congested during these times!

Day 1 – Angers to Saumur

The drive from Angers to Saumur is around one hour.

Start your exploration of the Loire Valley in beautiful Angers, and make sure not to miss the fortress and the cathedral. The fortress was built between the 9th and 13th century, and is protected by 17 massive towers.

Angers

If you approach from the southeast side, you can view some of them towering over the beautiful castle gardens.

Try to visit the Apocalypse Tapestry, housed within the fortress. This medieval set of tapestries was cut up and partly destroyed during the French Revolution, but subsequently re-collected, restored and can now be admired in Angers.

Angers

The Angers Cathedral is a mix of Roman and Gothic architecture, and really has a distinct feel from other cathedrals in France. Admire the stained-glass windows, some of which date from the 12th century!

Suggested hotels in Saumur :

Splurge: Hotel Chateau de Verrières (EUR 300)

Boutique: Le Petit Hureau (EUR 98)

Medium: Hotel St.Pierre (EUR 120)

Budget: Campanile (EUR 50)

Day 2 – Saumur to Chinon

In Saumur, take your time to wander around the old town, with its timbered houses, and climb up to the chateau. Do venture in some of the shops, buy some pastry, and sip a glass of vin blanc on one of the many streetside terraces.

Saumur

The chateau’s superb architecture can be captured really well on photographs – especially when the sky is completely blue! Saumur has excellent restaurants, but do make reservations!

If you are traveling in the right season (late spring, early summer), you will encounter endless fields of beautiful sunflowers in the French Campagne. Stop and take some pictures, but make sure to not trample on the roots of the flowers!

Suggested hotels in Chinon :

Splurge: La Douce France Trianon (EUR 350)

Boutique: Les Destinées (EUR 105)

Medium: Ibis Styles Chinon (EUR 90)

Budget: Belle Epoque (EUR 68)

Day 3 – Chinon to Tours

The Chateau de Chinon towers over the medieval streets of the town. The castle is mainly known as the site for the meeting between King Charles VII and a peasant girl who went on to command the armies of France against the English. Her name? Joan of Arc.

Chinon

Later, the chateau served as a prison, holding a.o. Knights Templar, when they fell out of favor with the French king.

Chinon

In Tours, walk around the beautiful old town, with its half-timbered houses, the stunning Hotel-de-Ville (town hall) and the cathedral.

Take an hour to visit the Musée du Compagnonnage, dedicated to the French trade guilds. It is a small museum, but gives a very interesting overview of the different trades conducted in Tours.

Suggested hotels in Tours :

Splurge: Le Manoir les Minimes (EUR 177)

Boutique: Le Clos du Roc (EUR 115)

Medium:Hilton Garden Inn (EUR 117)

Budget: Ibis Budget Tours Centre (EUR 50)

Day 4 – Tours to Blois

The Chateau d’Amboise guards over the Loire river valley and the town beneath. Approaching from Tours on the D952, it even felt to me like Gondor from the Lord of the Rings.

This was a long-favored residence by the kings of France. And even Leonardo da Vinci lived here during the last years of his life, and might even be buried in the nearby chapel (no one knows for sure).

The Chateau de Chenonceau is one of the best-known chateaux among the Loire river, and for good reason. It was built in the early 16th century on the foundation of a mill, and was later extended to span across the Cher river flowing below it.

Chenonceau

Its location is simply unrivaled, and the views from the gardens over the river and the castle spanning it are stunning.

Suggested hotels in Blois :

Splurge: Chateau des Grotteaux (EUR 290)

Boutique: Moulin de Vineuil (EUR 95)

Medium: Hotel Anne de Bretagne (EUR 78)

Budget: Premiere Classe Blois Nord (EUR 46)

Day 5 – Blois to Orleans

The Chateau de Chambord was constructed by King Francis I during the early 17th century, in a very distinctive French Renaissance style. Although the building was never finished, it is by far the largest chateau in the Loire valley, and an absolute highlight to visit.

Chambord

The sheer amount of towers and decorative details is overwhelming, and more than compensates for the somewhat underwhelming interior.

Chambord

Orleans will always be connected to Joan of Arc. Her army lifted defeated the English laying siege to Orleans, forming a watershed moment during the Hundred Years’ War. The old city is very elegant, and walking down the Rue de Jeanne d’Arc towards the cathedral is a mesmerizing experience.

The cathedral, which Joan of Arc visited frequently, now depicts her story on its stained-glass windows.

Looking for a place to eat? No worries, you’re in France! There are many excellent restaurants in the Loire Valley, some of which have Michelin stars. Click here for an overview of all the Michelin-starred restaurants. Above your budget? No worries, seek out a non-touristy area, and just enter a random restaurant. You will not be disappointed.

Hope you found this post useful!

Sincerely,

Arjen

Arjen aims to visit every country in the world (currently at around 85).  His wife thinks he is a walking GPS! As an avid traveler, Arjen has successfully arranged tours for family and friends around Europe, Morocco, China and Pakistan.  When he’s not wrestling with world affairs he loves diving, traveling and reading in no particular order.

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