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The Essential Guide to the Loire Valley

So exceptional is the Loire Valley, with its enchanting châteaus, religious landmarks, and award-winning wineries, that the entire 310-square-mile region, located between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Lined with vineyards, orchards, and artichoke fields, it’s known as the Garden of France, but the region is about so much more than agriculture. Come here to sleep in a troglodyte cave, learn more about Joan of Arc, ride a mechanical elephant, and, of course, sample the local Sancerre.
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Place Sainte-Croix, 45000 Orléans, France
The Cathédrale Ste-Croix, where Joan of Arc attended Mass on May 2, 1429, during the Battle of Orléans, is most famous for its 10 stained glass windows illustrating scenes from her life. However, the neo-Gothic cathedral—built...
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3 Place du Général de Gaulle, 45000 Orléans, France
Joan of Arc’s historical significance lies not only in the fact that she played a pivotal role in leading the French army to victory during the Hundred Years’ War against the English, but also that she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV...
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Route de Sancerre, 18300 Sury-en-Vaux, France
Sébastien Riffault, son of winemaker Étienne Riffault, started his own label in 2002 with a strong belief in biodiversity, biodynamic principles, and natural winemaking. On his almost five acres of vineyards near Sury-en-Vaux, he...
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31 Place Nouvelle Place, 18300 Sancerre, France
At the Michelin-starred Restaurant La Tour on Sancerre’s main square, chef Baptiste Fournier forgoes today’s culinary trends for simple, sophisticated French fare. He offers just three starters (langoustines, salmon, and mussels) and...
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18 Place François Sicard, 37000 Tours, France
Housed in the former archbishop’s palace, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tours features one of France’s most extensive art collections, with works by everyone from Rubens, Rembrandt, and Rodin to Monet and Degas. Outside, the...
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37420 Rigny-Ussé, France
Only a 40-minute drive from Saumur, the Château d’Ussé is so magical that it served as the inspiration for the castle in Charles Perrault’s The Sleeping Beauty. Originally built as a stronghold in the Middle Ages, it...
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2 Rue des Lilas, 49400 Saumur, France
Around since 1851, Bouvet Ladubay in Saumur produces 20 different types of sparkling wine. Try them all during a visit to the award-winning winery—just don’t expect a typical tasting experience. Here, guests can learn about the...
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Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau, 44200 Nantes, France
There’s no shortage of boat tours on the Loire River, but for an even more Instagrammable experience, ride a 40-foot mechanical elephant along the water at Les Machines de l’Île in Nantes. Open since 2007 in the town’s old...
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20 Passage Pommeraye, 44000 Nantes, France
If you’re going to shop for Hermès, you might as well do it in an architecturally stunning building. Inaugurated in 1843, Nantes’s Passage Pommeraye features impressive statues, a glass ceiling, and three floors connected by a...