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Centre Travel Guide
Chenonceau Castle, Indre-et-Loire (© SOMATUSCANI | iStockphoto.com)
Chenonceau Castle, Indre-et-Loire.

Introduction

The Centre is an administrative region formed from the historical provinces of Orléanais, Touraine, Berry and parts of Anjou, in the central section of the Loire Valley. The Orléanais is the historical core of the royal domain with Paris, and the three other provinces were the first territorial expansions of Crown in the late Middle Ages. Away from the troubles of Parisian life, the French Kings built most of their castles in the Loire Valley in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The local gastronomy is delicate and refined, matching freshwater fish (notably pike) with the exceptional local white wines (Chinon, Bourgueil, Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, Vouvray) and making a generous use of butter. Local specialities include Rillettes de Tours, Andouillette de Jargeau, Noisettes de Porc aux Pruneaux, and for dessert Tarte Tatin or Pithiviers. Try also the region's goat cheese: Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Valençay, and Crottin de Chavignol.

Most of France's perfumes and cosmetics are produced in the so-called Cosmetic Valley, located mostly in the départements of Eure-et-Loir (Chartres) and Loiret (Orléans).

Many locals still use the names of the old provinces, instead of talking about the confusingly named Centre Region. The Orléanais used to cover the Loiret, and parts of the Loir-et-Cher, Eure-et-Loir and Yonne (in present-day Bourgogne). The Touraine was divided between the départements of Indre-et-Loire, the southwest of Loir-et-Cher and the northwest of Indre. The Berry corresponds to the départements of Cher, Indre, and parts of Vienne.

Famous people from the Centre include (chronologically): the humanist and writer François Rabelais, the philosopher René Descartes, the writer Honoré de Balzac, the author Alain-Fournier, and the actor Gérard Depardieu.

Attractions

Département d'Eure-et-Loire

Chartres
Chartres, Centre
outstanding Nicknamed the granary of France, Chartres is worth a detour for its cathedral, deemed the most complete and best preserved of all Gothic churches, and among the first buildings to be listed by the UNESCO.

Other attractions

very good Anet Castle
very good Châteaudun Castle
very good Dreux
very good Frazé Castle
good La Ferté-Vidame Castle (ruins)
very good Maintenon Castle
very good Montigny-le-Gannelon Castle
very good Saint-Jean de Nogent-le-Rotrou Castle
very good Vaux Castle

Département d'Indre-et-Loire

Tours
Tours, Centre
outstanding Traditional capital of the Tourraine, Tours is the largest city in the Centre region of France and the main hub for exploring the Loire Valley castles.
Chenonceau Castle
Chenonceau Castle, Centre
must-see Built over a bridge spanning the Cher River, Chenonceau Castle is like no other in France, and probably like no other in the world. This exquisite Renaissance château is the most visited heritage site in France still in private hands.
Amboise
Amboise Castle, Centre
outstanding The small market town of Amboise (pop. 12,000) grew in the Frankish period as one of the seats of the Counts of Anjou, then of the powerful House of Amboise. The town is famous for its castle, a royal residence that played a pioneering role in the development of French Renaissance architecture.
Azay-le-Rideau Castle
Azay-le-Rideau Castle, Centre
outstanding Azay-le-Rideau is one of the earliest French Renaissance châteaux and one of the most charming.
Ussé Castle
Ussé Castle, Centre
outstanding Property of the Duke of Blacas to this day, the château d'Ussé is a perfect, pretty, turreted fairy tale castle.
Villandry Castle
Villandry Castle, Centre
outstanding Blending Renaissance and Neoclassicism, the Villandry is one of the most popular châteaux of the Loire Valley thanks to its breathtaking landscaped gardens.

Other attractions

very good Candé Castle
good Cinq-Mars-la-Pile Castle (ruins)
very good Chinon
very good Langeais Castle
very good Le Grand-Pressigny Castle (Prehistory Museum)
very good Les Réaux Castle
very good Loches
very good Montpoupon Castle
very good Montrésor Castle
very good Nitray Castle
good Plessis-lez-Tours Castle
very good Rivau Castle

Département de l'Indre

Valençay Castle
Valençay Castle, Centre
outstanding Former property of the Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord, Valençay Castle was praised as "one of the most beautiful on earth" by George Sand.
Azay-le-Ferron Castle
Azay-le-Ferron Castle, Centre (photo by Guillaume - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
outstanding Azay-le-Ferron Castle.

Other attractions

very good Argy Castle
very good Bouges Castle
very good Brenne Regional Natural Park
good Châteauroux
very good Saint-Benoît-du-Sault
good Sarzay Castle

Département du Loiret

Sully-sur-Loire Castle
Sully-sur-Loire Castle, Centre
outstanding Sully-sur-Loire is a 14th-century medieval castle converted into a residential château between 1602 and 1607 by Maximilien de Béthune (1559-1641), Duke of Sully, known as the Grand Sully.

Other attractions

good Beaugency Castle (ruins)
good Bellegarde Castle
good Chamerolles Castle
good Gien Castle
very good La Bussière Castle
very good La Ferté-St-Aubain Castle
very good Malesherbes Castle
very good Meung-sur-Loire Castle
very good Orléans
very good Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire Abbey
very good Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire Castle
good Trousse-Barrière Castle

Département de Loir-et-Cher

Chambord Castle
Chambord Castle, Centre
must-see Chambord is the largest château of the Loire Valley and one of the most sumptuous. Jewel of the Renaissance built by Francis I, Chambord also boasts the largest enclosed park in Europe (50 km²).
Blois
Blois Castle, Centre
outstanding The picturesque town of Blois attracts visitors for its royal castle, reconstructed by King Louis XII in the Renaissance style and occupied by other great kings like Francis I and Henry IV.
Chaumont-sur-Loire Castle
Chaumont-sur-Loire Castle, Centre
outstanding The 15th-century Chaumont Castle is considered by some to be the handsomest of France's medieval castles.
Cheverny Castle
Cheverny Castle, Centre
outstanding Cheverny is one of France's great 17th-century classical castles, famous for being the source of inspiration for Hergé's Marlinspike Hall (château de Moulinsart in the original French) in The Adventures of Tintin.
Beauregard Castle
Beauregard Castle, Centre
outstanding Located a few kilometres south of Blois, the Renaissance Château de Beauregard encloses an exceptional portrait gallery depicting 327 European monarchs, ministers, clergymen, marshals, diplomats and other notables who lived between the reign of Philip VI (r. 1328) and the death of Louis XIII (1643).

Other attractions

outstanding Lavardin
very good Chémery Castle
very good Chissay Castle
very good Fougères-sur-Bièvre Castle
very good Gué-Péan Castle
very good Menars Castle
very good Talcy Castle
very good Troussay Castle
very good Villesavin Castle

Département du Cher

Bourges
Bourges, Centre
outstanding Bourges is the capital of the old province of Berry and is renowned for its Gothic cathedral, listed as a World Heritage Site.
Meillant Castle
Meillant Castle, Centre
outstanding Meillant is a Late Medieval castle located in the old province of Berry. It is characterised by its Late Gothic (Flamboyant) style.

Other attractions

very good Maupas Castle
outstanding Menetou-Salon Castle
very good Noirlac Abbey


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