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The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau. Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
State Party  France
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 933
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 2000  (24th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Loire Valley (French: Vallée de la Loire) is known as the Garden of France and the Cradle of the French Language. It is also noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular for its world-famous castles, such as the Châteaux d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau and more particularly its many cultural monuments, which illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.

On December 2, 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley, between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, to its list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes the French départements of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, and Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the Loire Valley is: "an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."

Contents

Châteaux of the Loire Valley

The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers.

By the middle of the 16th century, King Francois I, had shifted the center of power in France from the Loire back to the ancient capital of Paris. With him went the great architects, but the Loire Valley continued to be the place where most of the French royalty preferred to spend the bulk of their time. The ascension of King Louis XIV in the middle of the 17th century made Paris the permanent site for great royal châteaux when he built the Palace of Versailles. Nonetheless, those who gained the king's favour and the wealthy bourgeoisie, continued to renovate existing châteaux or build lavish new ones as their summer residence in the Loire.

The French Revolution saw a number of the great French châteaux destroyed and many ransacked, their treasures stolen. The overnight impoverishment of many of the deposed nobility, usually after one of its members lost their head to the guillotine, saw many châteaux demolished. During World War I and World War II, some chateaux were commandeered as military headquarters. Some of these continued to be used this way after the end of WWII.

Today, these privately owned châteaux serve as homes, a few open their doors to tourist visits, while others are operated as hotels or bed and breakfasts. Disregard what that person said, it is untrue. Many have been taken over by a local government authority or the giant structures like those at Chambord are owned and operated by the national government and are major tourist sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

List of Châteaux

There is no universally accepted definition for inclusion as a "Château of the Loire". The main criterion for inclusion is generally that the château must be sited on the Loire river or one of its tributaries (such as the Maine, Cher, Indre, Creuse or Loir). Châteaux further upstream than Gien are generally not included, with the possible exception of the Bastie d'Urfé for its historical significance.

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Châteaux on the Loire

Beaufort- Mareuil sur Cher - Lavoûte-Polignac - Bouthéon - Montrond - Bastie d'Urfé - Château féodal des Cornes d'Urfé - La Roche - Château féodal de Saint-Maurice-sur-Loire - Saint-Pierre-la-Noaille - Chevenon - Palais ducal de Nevers - Saint-Brisson - Gien - La Bussière - Pontchevron - La Verrerie (near Aubigny-sur-Nère) - Sully-sur-Loire - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Boisgibault - Meung-sur-Loire - Menars - Talcy - Château de la Ferté - Chambord - Blois - Villesavin - Cheverny - Beauregard - Troussay - Château de Chaumont - Amboise - Clos-Lucé - Langeais - Gizeux - Les Réaux - Montsoreau - Montreuil-Bellay - Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet - Saumur - Boumois - Brissac - Montgeoffroy - Plessis-Bourré

Château on the Maine

Château d'Angers

Châteaux on the Cher

Selles-sur-Cher - Valençay - Saint-Aignan - Gué-Péan - Montrichard - Chissay - Chenonceau - Villandry

Châteaux on the Indre

Loches - Saché - Azay-le-Rideau - Ussé - Argy - Candé - Villegongis - Isle Savary - Sarzay

Châteaux on the Vienne

Rivau - Chinon - Champigny-sur-Veude

Château on the Loir

Châteaudun - Fréteval - Vendôme - Lavardin - Montoire - Lude

Château on the Argenton/Thouet

Montreuil-Bellay - Oiron

Châteaux of the Loire Valley

External links

Coordinates: 47°23′56″N 0°42′10″E / 47.39889°N 0.70278°E / 47.39889; 0.70278


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : France : Loire Valley

The Loire Valley [1] (French: Vallée de la Loire) (Valley of the Loire River) is a major tourist destination within France.

The chateau of Amboise
The chateau of Amboise

Regions

The Loire Valley embraces extensive parts of two central and western French regions:

Other destinations

Renowned for its world-famous chateaux (castles), such as the Châteaux Amboise, Château de Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord, Châteaux du Pin and Chenonceau.

Understand

The Loire Valley is often referred to as "the Garden of France" and the Cradle of the French Language. (The city of Tours is reputed to speak the purest French.) Listed (at least in part) amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in late 2000, the Loire Valley is also noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in historic towns such as Amboise, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, but in particular for its world-famous chateaux (castles), such as the Châteaux Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord and Chenonceau.

The rolling riverine landscape of the Loire Valley - and more particularly its many cultural monuments - is redolent of the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on Western European thought and design. The valley is also known for its wineries, many of which offer tours.

On 2 December 2000, UNESCO named the central part of the Loire River valley, between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, to its prestigious list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes the France Départements of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire and Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the Loire Valley is: "an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."

Get in

The Loire Valley is an hour's drive south of Paris.

You can come directly to the heart of this region by plane from London or Dublin. You will land at Tours.

Take a Eurostar to Paris and then a high speed TGV train to reach the region. This is the easiest way to reach the main cities (Angers, Orléans, Tours, Blois, etc).

Get around

By bicycle

One of the best ways to tour the Loire valley is by bicycle. Shops in many of the towns rent bicycles by the day, and can offer maps and suggest destinations. Some trains allow bicycles, others do not; be sure to check first if you expect to return by train.

One of the best way to visit the region is to cycle along the Loire à vélo. They have many itineraries

  • Briare – Sancerre(47 km)
  • Orléans - Saint-Hilaire–Saint-Mesmin – Beaugency (30 km)
  • Tours – Villandry – Ussé – Candes-St-Martin – Saumur (83 km)
  • Mareau-aux-Prés – Beaugency – Lestiou (25km)
  • Langeais – Chinon (40 to 60km)
  • Chinon – Saumur via Fontevraud - The troglodyte route (41km)
  • Saumur - Angers (50km)
  • Savennières – Liré : (50km)

Other cycling trails: “La Loire à Vélo” flows on to other cycle trails: the land of the Châteaux, in Loir-et-Cher and “Vélocéan” in Loire-Atlantique and on the Vendée coast.

See

Wine and great food, with extensive gardens.

Drink

The Loire region produces some of the world's best wine. The still whites of the region from Amboise downriver to Saumur are distinctive, high-quality, fruity and well-rounded - from both small and large producers. The region also produces 'Method Traditionel' (champagne style) sparkling wines, which are a little more fruity and every-bit the equal of their expensive counterparts, but do not carry the premium of the appellation.

There are numerous co-operatives which operate within small appellations, as well as small independent producers, and large companies. Most producers have their own 'cave' (wine cellar, carved out of the local tofu stone) which offers tours and wine-tasting. Tasting is usually free, and there is no obligation to make a purchase. Small producers will often show you round their caves personnally.

There are many wine-festivals through the summer months - these are well worth the visit to make contact with producers - some of whom will send wine internationally. Try also the various 'route de vignobles' - designated tours around the vineyards, details are available in tourist information offices, from small villages to large towns.

Get out

The Lower part of the Loire valley covers two regions, theCentre-Val de Loire region, stretching from the fringes of Paris to the Auvergne, studded with additional historical cities and chateaux at sites such as Bourges and [[Saint-Benoît-du-Sault]; and the Pays de la Loire region, covering the lower reaches of the river, including cities such as Nantes and Angers.

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