The lush scenery of France’s central region is a joy to behold. With its dense forests, sparkling tributaries and rolling meadows, it’s a picture of the rural Gallic charm the country’s famous for. How better to explore this magical land than on a road trip?
Pack up and get behind the wheel to explore the intriguing attractions this region has in store. Here’s what to do and where to go.
Be charmed by Bourges
First on our list of sights is Bourges, France – an entrancing little town you just shouldn’t skip. This medieval gem is excellently preserved, with a maze of winding narrow streets to explore on foot. Marvel at the beautiful old town, set around Bourbonnoux Street, and pop into the quaint old book shops, antique dealers and violin makers still operating from within its half-timbered houses.
Before you move on, be sure to visit the town’s wonderful parks – there are over 50 square metres of park per resident in this charming corner of the Centre.
Explore the dazzling Château Chambord
Château de Chambord is the so-called ‘jewel of the Loire’, the largest and most popular of the world-famous Loire châteaux. The fairy tale design is a triumph of French Renaissance architecture, which Henry James described as ‘more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building.’
We recommend taking a tour of the interior – the château has a mind-boggling 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces and 84 staircases. It stands surrounded by nature in an 800-acre forest that’s home to deer and boar, with areas of pine, moorland, oak groves and swamp. Don’t miss the breathtaking view from the top of the keep.
Get lost in Loire-Anjou-Touraine
Loire-Anjou-Touraine park is a sprawling wonderland of castles and vineyards, sparkling with unusual flora and fauna. The park is approximately 100km wide and is crossed by the Loire, the last wild river in Europe.
Give yourself space to breathe with a visit to this nature reserve – from cycling to spotting birds of prey, you’ll find plenty of invigorating experiences across meadows, orchards and prairies. We especially love the troglodyte caves and the scenic views across the river.
Stay over in Tours
At the eastern frontier of Loire-Anjou-Touraine lies Tours, a lively and vivacious university town and UNESCO World Heritage site known as ‘the garden of France’.
It has a charming medieval quarter and is home to the striking Saint-Gatien Cathedral – an impressive, flamboyant Gothic monument standing nearly 70m tall. The interior features painstakingly decorated stained glass windows, a 16th century organ and tombs of Italian marble. It was the setting for several of Balzac’s famously atmospheric stories, such as Maître Cornélius and Le Curé de Tours. At night, the impressive façade is beautifully lit with coloured lights.
A place to rest
Scenic Tours makes the ideal spot for an overnight stay. The Clarion Hotel Chateau Belmont is a stately place to put your feet up, located in a wooded park a short distance from the cathedral. There’s an indoor pool, a sauna and bike rentals – ideal for exploring Loire-Anjou-Touraine after all that driving.
Be sure to tuck into the local cuisine; you’ll find Sainte Maure goat’s cheese, Vouvray white wine and Cormery macarons in the hotel’s restaurant.