France

Highlights



Château & Domaine de Chambord

The greatest of all the Loire Valley chateaux, created with a royal hunting estate the size of Paris by François I, continues to stun all who see it. The genius behind its design remains a mystery – could it have been the King’s protegé Leonardo da Vinci?

Puces de Montsoreau

Hunt for a bargain with a real French Country flavour at this monthly Sunday antique and flea market held in an incomparable setting on the banks of the Loire. It’s the real thing, prices are reasonable and afterwards you can cool off with a refreshing drink in a nearby bar terrace.



Festival International des Parcs et Jardins

Each summer the estate of Château de Chaumont set high above the Loire hosts an unmissable event revealing the talents of contemporary designers from all over the world. On summer evenings the chateau (open to visitors) is transformed by candlelight and the show gardens are illuminated.
 
Château de Cheverny

One of the most elegant of all the great Renaissance country chateaux, Cheverny is still lived in by the descendants of the family for whom it was built. As a result, the sumptuous interiors are perfectly preserved and the historic hunting estate which surrounds this showpiece of the Sologne retains its natural splendour.
 


Son et lumière

When dusk falls, great chateaux like Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord and Chenonceau undergo a miraculous transformation, courtesy of state-of-the-art sound and lighting effects. Add to this the dazzling reflections which sparkle and flash from the surrounding waters and you have a spectacular summer experience you’ll never forget.
 
Château Royal de Blois

Several French kings resided and indulged their passions for art, and much more, right here. The lovingly restored medieval jewel box interiors will dazzle you, and there’s no better introduction to the architecture of the Loire Valley than the chateau itself. And don’t miss the historic town at its feet.
 
Château et Jardins de Villandry

It takes a lot to upstage this sensitively restored Renaissance chateau, but its vast formal gardens have no problem doing just that. Finally seeing for yourself their exquisitely maintained parterres, avenues and ornamental lake is something you’ll never forget. 



Teinture de l’Apocalypse

The mighty fortress-like Château d’Angers guards one of the Loire Valley’s most precious treasures: the legendary Apocalypse Tapestry, created over six centuries ago by order of Louis I. In the dimly lit, hushed stillness of its specially constructed gallery the startling imagery of 74 huge, hand-stitched panels will leave you awestruck.

A hot-air balloon ride

Lose the crowds by heading up and away. The great chateaux and their surrounding landscapes look even more magical when seen from above, in the cool of early morning or while the evening sun sinks and shadows lengthen.

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The truly remarkable story of the Loire’s greatest port is told in the vast and beautifully restored 15th-century Renaissance chateau built by François II and Anne de Bretagne. The very best modern multimedia techniques are sure to entertain visitors of all ages.



Pont-Canal, Briare

Gaze in wonderment as canal boats following the 17th-century Canal de Briare, one of France’s oldest waterways, are carried high above the Loire on a spectacular 700-m-long belle époque aqueduct opened in 1876. You can walk or cycle across, too.

Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud

Since it was built during the 12th century, France’s largest and most perfectly preserved medieval abbey has also served as a nunnery, leper colony and even a prison. It was a favoured haunt of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who lies buried here alongside her husband Henry II.
 


Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The beauty of its setting, amid the waters of the river Indre, provides the perfect complement for the measured elegance of this world-famous Renaissance jewel.

La Cave des Roches, Bourré

Here’s where the finest pale tuffeau limestone, used to build the great chateaux of the Loire, actually originated. Visit the underground quarries and see for yourself how the stone was extracted by hand by generations of quarrymen.

Machines de l’Ile

The spirit of Jules Verne is reborn in his birthplace of Nantes, whose former naval dockyard workshops now construct fantastic mechanical creatures. See things differently while riding the giant elephant which is attracting visitors from all over the world.
 
Château de La Ferté-St-Aubin

While this chateau and its estate undergo long and patient restoration, the interiors remain frozen in time. But that’s not all; nearby you’ll discover a steam locomotive and a set of Orient Express carriages.
 
A river cruise

Take the road less travelled – by taking to the river. Sections of the Loire and Cher are still navigable, and offer cruises from places like Amboise, Angers, Champtoceaux, Candes St-Martin and Montsoreau. It’s a great way to see wildlife, too.



Château de Chenonceau

Audacious in its ambition, the exquisite chateau of Catherine de’ Medici began beside the River Cher, and then continued across to the opposite bank. It then added not one but two huge Renaissance gardens.
 
Clos Lucé

When François I encountered Leonardo da Vinci he invited the great artist, inventor and military engineer to live as his guest in this elegant manor house, close to the royal court in the Château d’Amboise. See his rooms, his beloved gardens, models of his designs and much more.

Montrésor

La Belle France as you’ve always imagined it: wander along the streets of one of the most beautiful villages in France (yes, it’s official), visit the historic chateau which overlooks it and then select the perfect picnic spot along a peaceful riverside walk.  

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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