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Centre-Val de Loire - complete guide

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May 16, 2024

Immerse yourself in the heart of the Centre-Val de Loire, a region in the center of France, which stretches along the banks of the Loire, the longest river in the country. This region is a true treasure trove of diversity, offering a diverse range of landscapes, cultures and activities to charm every traveller. History buffs, nature lovers, gourmets or in search of relaxation, the Centre-Val de Loire has something for everyone.

This article guides you through the must-see activities and sites in this UNESCO World Heritage region. From the majestic castles of the Loire, reflections of the historical and artistic richness, to the lesser-known but equally bewitching corners, such as the regional natural parks, gardens, picturesque villages and dense vineyards. You will also explore the rich gastronomy and viticulture, key elements of the identity of the Centre-Val de Loire.

Discover the Centre-Val de Loire, an invitation to wonder and surprise, by following us in this unique exploration!

The must-sees: Castles and historical heritage

The Centre-Val de Loire is renowned for its castles, living emblems of the history of France and the Renaissance period. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these majestic architectural buildings house precious art collections and are surrounded by gardens of exceptional beauty.

Discover below a selection of must-see castles to visit during your stay in the region.

The castles of the Loire: a dive into the Renaissance

Spread along the Loire River and its tributaries, there are more than three hundred castles built or renovated from the tenth to the eighteenth century, reaching their peak during the Renaissance. The kings and great lords of the time called on the most eminent artists and craftsmen for their construction, including figures of the Italian Renaissance such as Leonardo da Vinci. Among the most renowned are:

  • The Château de Chambord, the largest and most impressive, with 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces, built by François I. Originally designed as a hunting residence, it is famous for its double-spiral staircase and offers panoramic views from its terraces.
  • The Château de Chenonceau, known for its elegance and grace, spans the Cher River and has been embellished by figures such as Catherine de Medici. Its gallery on the bridge, which served as a hospital during the First World War, is a remarkable feature.
  • The majestic Château d’Amboise overlooks the city and the river. A former royal residence, it has a rich history, having hosted many royal figures and houses the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci in the Saint-Hubert chapel.

Chartres Cathedral and its famous labyrinth

A symbol of Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame de Chartres cathedral was erected between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is renowned for its stained glass windows of exceptional iconographic richness and for its labyrinth, the embodiment of the Christian spiritual path.

Orléans: in the footsteps of Joan of Arc

Capital of the Centre-Val de Loire, Orléans is a city steeped in history. It is famous for the liberation of the city by Joan of Arc in 1429, marking a key episode in the Hundred Years War. Every year, Orléans pays tribute to this historical figure during the Johannine festivals. The city is also famous for its Sainte-Croix cathedral, the Place du Martroi with its statue of Joan of Arc, and the birthplace of the Maid, open to visitors.

Nature and relaxation activities

The Centre-Val de Loire region is famous for its invitation to relaxation and well-being. Whether you are looking for a quiet, cool, green or sensational place, you will discover a wide variety of natural and relaxation activities adapted to your desires.

Explore some of the must-see experiences during your visit.

The gardens of Chaumont-sur-Loire: when art meets nature

The gardens of Chaumont-sur-Loire are a fascinating space where art and nature merge. Every year, the estate hosts the International Garden Festival, a meeting of international designers who design temporary gardens around a specific theme. For 2024, the theme chosen is \”Garden source of life\”.

Admire more than 20 unique gardens, which will make you travel and dream thanks to their original, poetic, playful or eco-responsible aspect. The Chaumont-sur-Loire estate also presents permanent plant collections with perennial gardens with various influences – Asian, Mediterranean and English. The estate’s castle also offers contemporary art exhibitions throughout the year.

The Loire by bike: discovering the Loire landscapes

The Loire à vélo is an exceptional 900 km cycle tour, along the Loire from Cuffy to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins. This route offers an eco-friendly and original way to immerse yourself in the UNESCO World Heritage landscapes. Riding on dedicated tracks or shared lanes, you’ll discover picturesque towns and villages, famous vineyards, forests, meadows, and river islands.

The route is punctuated by cultural stops to explore castles, museums, churches and abbeys. Suitable for all profiles, whether you are travelling with family, friends or alone, the Loire à vélo offers services and accommodation with the \”Accueil vélo\” label to guarantee your comfort.

Regional Natural Parks: for lovers of biodiversity

Centre-Val de Loire is home to three Regional Natural Parks, areas with a delicate balance and a precious and vulnerable natural and cultural heritage. They are havens for wildlife and offer a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, and fishing.

The three Regional Natural Parks are:

  • The Brenne Regional Nature Park, also known as the land of 1000 ponds, is home to fabulous biodiversity, including birds, orchids and pond turtles.
  • The Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park, covering both banks of the Loire, offers a diversity of landscapes, ranging from forests and bocages to moors, valleys and sandy shores.
  • The Perche Regional Nature Park, located on the borders of the region, has an exceptional natural and cultural heritage, characterised by its hills, forests, manor houses, churches and picturesque villages.

Gastronomy and viticulture

The Centre-Val de Loire region is a paradise for lovers of good food and wine. It is distinguished by its local products, culinary specialties and exceptional wines, offering a range of authentic and varied flavors.

Let’s discover together some of the gastronomic and wine treasures that this region has to offer.

On the Loire Valley wine route

Occupying the third place of the largest vineyards in France, the Loire Valley, which stretches for 800 km from Sancerre to Nantes along the Loire and its tributaries, is proud of its more than 50 appellations of controlled origin (AOC) and its 4000 wine estates. Its diversity is remarkable, sheltering white, red, rosé, dry, sweet, sparkling or still wines, thanks to a variety of grape varieties such as Sauvignon, Chenin, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir or Melon de Bourgogne. The Loire Valley Wine Route is an adventure not to be missed to visit the cellars, meet the winemakers and taste their creations. It is also an opportunity to admire the wine-growing landscapes, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tarte Tatin: a sweet not to be missed

Emblematic of pastry in Centre-Val de Loire, the tarte Tatin, discovered by accident by the Tatin sisters in Lamotte-Beuvron, is an upside-down apple pie prepared with caramelized apples in butter and sugar, topped with shortcrust or puff pastry. To be enjoyed warm or cold, it is ideally accompanied by crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream to the delight of gourmets of all ages.

Local markets and crafts: the flavours of the region in the spotlight

The Centre-Val de Loire celebrates its local products and crafts through its many markets, bringing cities and villages to life such as Orléans, Tours, Blois, Loches, Chinon or Vendôme. These markets offer a wide variety of products: seasonal fruits and vegetables, well-known goat cheeses, traditional charcuterie, honey, jams, biscuits, craft beers and natural cosmetics. They are also the scene of the exhibition of artisanal know-how with woodworking, leather, ceramics, glass, textiles and basketry. Friendly and colourful spaces, the markets are an opportunity for enriching exchanges with producers and craftsmen, imbued with the warm atmosphere of the region.


Centre-Val de Loire promises you a memorable experience, based on its impressive cultural heritage, its green landscapes, its culinary specialties and its wine reputation. Whatever your interest – culture, relaxation, gastronomy or adventure – this region, honored with the title of World Heritage by UNESCO, will meet all your expectations. You will have the opportunity to explore the famous castles of the Loire, living witnesses to the history of France and the Renaissance period, to admire the majestic cathedral of Chartres and its unique labyrinth, to follow in the footsteps of Joan of Arc in Orléans, to marvel at the gardens of Chaumont-sur-Loire, to embark on the adventure of the “Loire by bike” route, explore the Regional Natural Parks, enjoy an authentic tarte Tatin, travel through the Loire Valley wine route, and much more.

Don’t wait any longer, organise your getaway to Centre-Val de Loire now, a destination that has many surprises and wonders in store for you.


What are the departments of Centre-Val de Loire?

Centre-Val de Loire is made up of six departments: Cher (18), Eure-et-Loir (28), Indre (36), Indre-et-Loire (37), Loir-et-Cher (41) and Loiret (45). This information is confirmed by INSEE and various other sources.

What is the main city in Centre-Val de Loire?

Orléans is the main city of the Centre-Val de Loire, serving as the prefecture for both the region and the Loiret department. With about 116,000 inhabitants, the city is located on the banks of the Loire River.

What are the inhabitants of Centre-Val de Loire called?

The inhabitants of Centre-Val de Loire are called Centrais, a term derived from the name of the region that encompasses six departments around the Loire.

Where is the Loire Valley located?

The Loire Valley, a natural region of France, extends into the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire. This area crosses four departments: Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire and Maine-et-Loire.