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Loire Valley see + do

Littered with châteaux and traversed by numerous rivers, the Loire Valley owes its extraordinary architectural heritage to its abundance of game. The Plantagenet and Valois monarchs built themselves imposing castles here, and even after they acceded to the throne in Paris, the gentry still preferred to spend time in their favorite hunting territory. Soon everyone who was anyone had to have a château there, built from the sparkling white limestone of the Loire river banks. However, there's more to the Loire than just châteaux: Medieval churches, troglodyte villages, and vineyards dot the countryside. Since 2000, a 174-mile stretch of the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire in the east and Chalonnes in the west has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its unique combination of natural and cultural landmarks. The increasingly popular bike route La Loire à Vélo traces much of that area.

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Wine routes, Loire Valley

Wines are said to have been cultivated in the Loire since before Roman times, but it was fourth-century Saint Martin of Tours who took time out from...more

Editors' Pick
Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival, Chaumont-sur-Loire

The Chaumont Garden Festival stands out from other garden festivals, in that it is as much for design buffs as garden ones. Each year, more than 25...more

Editors' Pick
Château Royal de Blois, Blois

All six kings of the 16th century spent time at Blois. In the early 17th century, the castle was given to Louis XIII's brother to keep him away from Paris....more

Editors' Pick
Château de Villandry, Villandry

Even if fancy gardens aren't your thing, the grounds of this 16th-century château in tiny Villandry are well worth a visit. When Spanish-American couple...more

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Château de Chenonceaux, Chenonceaux

Stretching across the Cher River, 21 miles southeast of Tours, the Château de Chenonceaux is indisputably the most beautiful and the most photographed of...more

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Château de Chambord, Chambord

François I's 440-room "hunting lodge" is the largest of the Loire châteaux and one of the most extravagant commissions of its age. From the outset of...more

Editors' Pick
Château d'Azay-Le-Rideau, Azay-le-Rideau

The exquisite exterior—pure, turreted Renaissance—is one of the loveliest in the region. Built between 1518 and 1527 by financier Gilles Berthelot and...more

Editors' Pick
Angers, Angers

The cradle of the Plantagenet kings and former capital of the counts of Anjou is perhaps the most agreeable of the main Loire cities. It is dominated by its...more

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Amboise, Amboise

Amboise is, above all, a spectacular site. The immense château royal looms above the river right in the center of town, with its tiny Gothic chapel...more

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Abbaye de Fontevraud, Fontevraud l'Abbaye

This important Romanesque abbey, founded in 1101 under the patronage of the Plantagenets, was ruled by a series of royal abbesses. After an interlude as a...more

Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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