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Centre-Val de Loire

In addition to parts of Perche and Bourbonnais, the Centre-Val de Loire region in central-west France comprises three historical provinces: Berry, Orléanais, and Touraine. Covering approximately 39,151 square kilometers, it is the 7th-largest region and is home to 2.58 million people, making up 4% of the French national population. With a population density of 66 inhabitants per square kilometer, it is sparsely populated, with the exception of the Loire River's coast, where half of the population resides. The region consists of six departments, with Tours and Orléans being the only cities with over 100,000 inhabitants.[2] In terms of local history, early human presence in Centre-Val de Loire is evidenced by archaeological finds dating back to the Mousterian period, including tools and lithic artifacts. Mesolithic artifacts were also discovered, along with funerary and cult monuments from the Neolithic and Bronze Age.[1] The region's capital city, Orleans, situated in the northern part of the Centre-Val de Loire, lies positioned along the Loire River in the Loire Valley. The town bears considerable historical significance from the Merovingian era and played a role in the Hundred Years' War.[3] In the region's central part, the Loire Valley is a landscape protected by UNESCO due to its natural and historical heritage. The area encompasses ancient towns and villages, architectural landmarks, including the Chambord Chateau, and cultivated territories shaped over centuries through the interplay between inhabitants and the natural surroundings, predominantly the Loire River.[10]

What Centre-Val de Loire is known for

The capital city of Centre-Val de Loire, Orléans, is found in the northern part of the region, historically entangled with Joan of Arc. Orléans reportedly offers a blend of culture, history, and natural destination, with specific local attractions including the Orléans Cathedral, which showcases Joan's story through stained glass; Parc Floral de la Source, a botanical garden and adventure park; and Île Charlemagne, a leisure park on the Loire River. Annual events in the city encompass the Joan of Arc festival, while museums such as Musée des Beaux-Arts and Maison de Jeanne d'Arc offer insights into the story of Joan of Arc. Visitors can explore the city's architectural heritage, including Hôtel Groslot and Collégiale Saint-Aignan, making Orléans a considerable destination.[7] 

However, other tourist attractions can be found beyond Orléans. Bourges, situated in the Loire Valley region, showcases the Bourges Cathedral, which UNESCO protects as a World Heritage Site. The cathedral features intricate Gothic architecture and sculptures. Nearby, the medieval palaces of Jacques Coeur Palace and Lallemant Palace exhibit Gothic and Renaissance styles. Visitors can also explore the ancient Gallo-Roman walls and stroll through the marshes, home to the National Pelargonium Conservatory.[8] The other of the two cities is Tours, considered the capital of the Loire Valley. The city center, protected by UNESCO, comprises old quarters with cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and the Saint-Gatien Cathedral. Architectural spots include the Fine Arts Museum and Tours Castle. Furthermore, one can explore nearby attractions such as St. Cosme Priory and Vouvray wineries by bike.[9]

The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes is a landscape in the heart of France, encompassing historic towns, grand châteaux, and cultivated lands influenced by centuries of human interaction with the Loire River. The region's history dates back to Roman times, serving as a trade route. Its architecture, including tufa and slate buildings and troglodyte dwellings, reflects this heritage. Additionally, the valley played a role in the development of garden art during the 15th and 16th centuries.[10] Today, the Loire Valley is known as a wine region encompassing various French wine areas along the Loire River, from Muscadet near Nantes to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé near Orléans. Critical areas of the local wine production include Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray. While Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne grapes dominate white wine production, Cabernet Franc is prominent in reds, especially in Chinon. Known for their fruity flavors, Loire wines have a history dating back to Roman times, reaching their peak in the Middle Ages when they surpassed Bordeaux wines in reputation.[12] Apart from wine, Loire Valley also offers considerable historical and cultural attractions. One such example is Chambord Chateau, which has been listed as a historic monument in France since 1840 and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981. The chateau showcases Renaissance architecture that attracts visitors to this day. Its silhouette, with chimneys and turrets standing out against the landscape, is said to resemble a Sleeping Beauty Castle. The visit offers a journey through 500 years of history, from Renaissance architecture influenced by Leonardo da Vinci to furnished apartments and French gardens.[11] 


The Centre-Val de Loire region stretches across a diverse natural landscape shaped by its geology and hydrography. Geologically, it spans various terrains from the Paleozoic to the Quaternary periods, comprising plains, plateaus, and cuestas. Notable features include Quaternary fluvial alluvium along the Loire, its tributaries, and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks in areas such as Beauce and Sologne. Topographically, the region features limestone plateaus, clayey plateaus, and undulating plains covered by forests, ponds, limestone lawns, and moors. The Loire River, France's longest river, traverses the region, subjecting it to various types of floods. Notably, the Orleans forest covers over 35,000 hectares. Wetlands, particularly in Brenne and Sologne, support diverse wildlife, including mammals, including red deer and roe deer, and bird species, such as the European nightjar and osprey. Floristically varying, the region hosts a range of plant species, with the Loiret department alone accounting for nearly a third of France's flora. Additionally, the area houses three regional natural parks: Brenne, Loire-Anjou-Touraine, and Perche.[2]

In the southernmost part of the Centre-Val de Loire region stretches the Brenne Regional Natural Park, providing habitat for diverse flora, with approximately 1,599 species, including 46 types of orchids. Wetlands, particularly ponds, contribute to the region's flora, hosting nearly a quarter of the different plant species. The region's landscape also includes moors, with wet heaths dominating the terrain, along with dry heaths featuring Hoary Heather and other plant species. Limestone lawns are another distinctive landscape in the Brenne Regional Natural Park, harboring specialized plants, for instance, orchids and Astragalus with Wisteria leaves. Moreover, Brenne encompasses marshes, meadows, and sandstone outcrops, each supporting distinct vegetation. Sandstone outcrops shelter pioneer vegetation, while forests in the region primarily consist of pedunculate oak, occasionally accompanied by sessile oak and hornbeam.[4] In terms of wildlife, the Brenne Regional Natural Park is home to over 2,300 animal species. Large mammals, such as deer and roe deer, inhabit the park, along with 27 other protected species identified so far, including bats, genets, dormice, and sheaf voles. Birds are also documented in the park, with nesting species such as the Black-necked Grebe and wintering species including ducks and teals. Notably, three-fourths of France's protected bird species can be found in the Brenne area. Furthermore, the European pond turtle is an emblem of the park, with tens of thousands inhabiting the region.[5]

Regarding Centre-Val de Loire's climate, the months of May, June, and September provide average temperatures ranging between 20°C and 26°C. The warmest month in Orléans is usually August, with an average maximum temperature of 27°C, making it the warmest month of the year. On the other hand, February is typically the coldest month, with an average maximum temperature of 9°C. May tends to be the wettest month in Orléans, with 72 millimeters of rainfall. Conversely, September is the driest month, with 53 millimeters of precipitation on average.[6]


Archaeological studies have revealed early human habitation in the Centre-Val de Loire region. In Triguères, located in the region's eastern part, a collection of artifacts dating back to the Mousterian period was discovered in 1922. These artifacts include tools from the Mousterian of Acheulean tradition. Moreover, in the department of Indre, archaeologists uncovered lithic tools primarily composed of bifaces, a scraper, and a polished ax made of dolerite, indicating human activity during the Paleolithic era. Additionally, evidence of the Mesolithic period has been found in the form of numerous lithic artifacts in the departments of Indre. Furthermore, various locations in the Berry region have yielded burial and religious monuments dating back to the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age, including tumuli, megalithic structures, and dolmens discovered in the late 19th century.[1]

Concerning more recent history, the Centre-Val de Loire region consisted of three central provinces: Orléanais, Berry, and Touraine. These provinces became part of the royal domain early on and contributed to its formation, as evidenced by the considerable number of castles along the Loire River. The fire that occurred on June 20, 1723, in Châteaudun, impacted the town's history, destroying a portion of it. The extensive damage prompted royal aid for the city's reconstruction, with architect Jules Hardouin overseeing the redesign of the city center with stone buildings to mitigate fire risks. Despite efforts, some buildings remained unfinished for several years.[2]

However, the city of Orléans presently bears the title of the capital city of the Centre-Val de Loire region. As a river trade hub, Orléans attracted merchants from across the region, establishing itself as a center of commerce along the Loire. During the Merovingian era, it served as the capital of the Kingdom of France, highlighting its political significance. Orléans later played a role in the Hundred Years' War, remembered for Joan of Arc's heroic efforts during the siege. To honor her legacy, the city commemorates the "Maid of Orléans" annually during the Johannic Holidays, a tradition dating back to 1432 and recognized as part of France's intangible cultural heritage. Additionally, Orléans houses one of Europe's oldest universities, founded in 1306 by Pope Clement V. Today, this institution accommodates over 20,000 students, contributing to the city's academic atmosphere.[3]

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Top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in Centre-Val de Loire, France

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