According to UNESCO, the Loire Valley "has an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments, vineyards, and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself". It is also considered by many to be the cradle of the French Language.
Visitors will delight in the quality of its architectural heritage located both in its historic towns such as Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, and in its world-famous country castles, such as the Châteaux d'Amboise, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau.
The landscape of the Loire Valley, and more particularly its many cultural monuments, illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design.
The Châteaux of the Loire Valley:
When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley with its moderate climate, 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 château 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 opening their doors to tourist visits, while others are operated as hotels or bed and breakfasts. 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.
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|NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL PARIS
Jump start your vacation tour with
a visit to the spectacular 12 Century Cathedral on
the Ile de la Cite in the Heart of Paris.
is the world's largest palace and
museum and a triumph of French architecture.
|SAINT CHAPELLE PARIS
Built in 1246 by Crusader King
Louis IX (Saint Louis) on the Ile de la Cite, in the
middle of Paris' Seine river, to house the relics of
the Crusades, including the Crown of Thorns.
|EIFFEL TOWER PARIS
Built for the 1889 Paris Exhibition;
the Eiffel Tower is the largest and most
recognizable landmarks in the world. Take the
elevator or climb to the 2nd level to take the
scary ride straight up its narrow neck in a glass
|OPERA GARNIER PARIS
Its underground waterway the
fabled setting for the Leroux's "Phantom of the
Opera" its a classy place to see French Ballet and
Opera. Its facade is adorned with marble and
|ARC DE TRIOMPHE PARIS
Suggestive of an ancient
Roman arch its the biggest triumphal arch in the
world commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.
|MOULIN ROUGE CABARET PARIS
Evocative of wild
Paris between WW I and II, the place and
Parisian shows were immortalized by painter
|SACRE COEUR PARIS
(Sacred Heart): glows
like a white cake atop the nearby hill of
Montmartre overlooking Paris.
|HOTEL DE VILLE PARIS
One of the most
stunningly beautiful buildings you will see in
Paris. Parisians and even some Tourists seem to
pay little attention to it since it stunning interior is
|NAPOLEAN'S TOMB PARIS
Prepare to be amazed, a
gargantuan sarcophagus on a granite base sunk in
a huge circular basin under a magnificent dome
in the center of a Parisian Cathedral.
|MUSEE ORSAY PARIS
in a splendid former Paris
railway station built in 1900, is the Musée
d'Orsay offering a wealth of artistic treasures
produced between 1848 and 1914.
Chenonceau, Cheverny, Amboise and more.
01 Paris: Louvre Museum - Notre dame Cathedral - Banks of the River Seine - Chatelet Tower - Place Vendome - Le Palais Royal - Le Louvre - L'orangerie - Pont Neuf - Pont de La Concorde - Le quartier Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois - Pont-Neuf aux Tuileries
02 Paris: Paris Stock Exchange - Textile district - L'Opera Garnier - La Concorde et les Tuileries - Place Vendome - Bourse - La Tour Jean-sans-Peur
03 Paris: Picasso museum - Centre Georges Pompidou - Republique - Conservatoire des Arts et Metier
04 Paris: Old Marais district - Modern Art museum - City Hall - Ile de La Cite; - La place des Vosges - L'Hotel de Ville - Notre Dame de Paris - La Conciergerie - La crypte archeologique - La Maison de Victor Hugo - La Sainte Chapelle - Pont de Sully
05 Paris: Pantheon - Botanical Gardens - Saint-Germain-des-Pres - Notre dame de Paris - Eglise de Saint Germain - Saint Michel - La mosquee de Paris - L'ile de la Cite; - L'Ile Saint-Louis - Bibliotheque Sainte Genevieve - La crypte archeologique - La Sainte Chapelle - La Conciergerie - Les Arenes Lutece - Jardin des Plantes - Pont Neuf - Pont d'Austerlitz - Pont de Sully
06 Paris: Saint Germain des Pres - Latin Quarter - Luxembourg Gardens - La Tour Montparnasse - Musee d'Orsay - Palais / Jardin du Luxembourg - Cimetiere du Montparnasse - Observatoir de Paris
07 Paris: Eiffel Tower - Marais - Orsay Museum - Invalides (Napoleon's resting place) - Champs de Mars - L'UNESCO - Ecole Militaire - Pont de La Concorde - Pont des Invalides - Pont de L'Alma
08 Paris: Champs Elysees - Arc of Triumph - Elysees Palace - La Concorde et les Tuileries - Place Vendome - L'Opera Garnier - Le quartier de la defense - L'eglise Russe - L'orangerie - Place de La Madeleine - Boulevard Haussmann - Pont de La Concorde - Pont des Invalides
09 Paris: Opera House - Saint Lazare Train Station La butte Montmartre - Moulin Rouge - Galeries Lafayette - Musee de la Vie Romantique - Le quartier de la Nouvelle Athenes - Gare Saint Lazare
10 Paris: Est Train Station - Nord Train Station - Saint Martin canal - Place de la Republique
11 Paris: Republique Plaza - Leather district - La place des Vosges - Bastille - Cimetiere Pere Lachaise - Boulevard Belleville
12 Paris: New Opera House - Nation Plaza - Vincennes Park - Gare de Lyon - Le Viaduc des Arts - Le Parc de Bercy - Bibliotheque Francois Mitterrand - Pont National - Pont de Tolbiac - Pont de Bercy - Pont Charles de Gaulle - Pont d'Austerlitz
13 Paris: French National Library - Chinatown - Croulebarbe aux Gobelins - Bibliotheque Francois Mitterrand - Orly - Le quartier de la Butte-aux-Cailles - Pont National - Pont de Tolbiac - Pont de Bercy - Pont Charles de Gaulle - Parc de Montsouris - Observatoire de Paris
14 Paris: Montparnasse Train Station - Observatory - Cimetiere du Montparnasse - Parc de Montsouris
15 Paris: Vaugirard Street - Beaugrenelle Antiques Area - La Tour Montparnasse - Paris Expo / Porte de Versailles - Ecole Militaire - Pont Mirabeau - Pont du Gariglialo - Parc Andre Citroen - Cimetierre de Grenelle - Cimetiere du Montparnasse
16 Paris: Trocadero Plaza - Boulogne Park - Parc des Princes - Stade Roland Garros - Champs de Mars - Palais des Congres / Porte Maillot - Promenade Hector Guimard et l'Art Nouveau - Le quartier de la defense - Auteuil - Musee d'art Moderne - Palais Chaillot - Bois de Boulogne - Pont de L'Alma - Pont de Grenelle - Pont Mirabeau - Pont du Gariglialo - Parc Andre Citroen - Cimetiere de Grenelle
17 Paris: Wagram - Ternes - Jacquemin Museum - Le quartier de la Defense - Sacre-Coeur - Palais des Congres / Porte Maillot
18 Paris: Montmartre Hill (home of Amelie Poulain) - Church of the Sacred Heart - Moulin Rouge - Stade de France - La Basilique Saint-Denis - Gare du Nord - Roissy Charle de Gaulle
19 Paris: Villette Techno Park - Buttes Chaumont Park - Geode - Zenith - Roissy Charle de Gaulle - Boulevard Belleville
20 Paris: Pere Lachaise Cemetery (Jim Morrison's resting place) - Place de La Nation - Roissy Charle de Gaulle - Boulevard Belleville
92 Paris: Parc des Expositions - Parc de Sceaux - Issy-les-Moulineaux - Roland Garros - La Defense
93 Paris: Eurodisney Park