Centre

General Info

Regional Map
Conseil Régional
Tourism: Loire Valley Tourisme
Capital: Orléans
Departments: Cher, Eure-et-Loir, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, and Loiret
Arrondissements-20, Cantons-198, Communes-1,842
Population: 2,549,074 (2010 est.)
France Centre Region Departments Map

Overview

Centre Chartres Cathedral
The Centre region is best known for the beautiful Loire Valley which also extends into the Pays-de-la-Loire region and is called Le Jardin de la France. The 634 mile (1020 km) Loire river is the country's longest and most regal, and cuts a wide, flat valley through beautiful countryside. It starts from the Massif Central part of France going through Bourgogne, historic regions of Orléanais, Blésois, Touraine, and Anjou then into the Atlantic.

Near the center of the northern Eure-et-Loir departement is Chartres Cathédrale, the crowning glory of the countryside built in 1250. Its two spires which are Romanesque and Flamboyant-Gothic are a landmark in the surrounding countryside and can be seen from many miles away.

The greatest number of châteaux are concentrated in the Centre region. From the Middle Ages to the 17th-century this region was used as a playground by Royalty who expended their fortunes to create extravagant châteaux as a show of power and wealth. The earliest châteaux were 9th-century defensive fortresses built to withstand the Vikings and later provided the foundation for french Royalty to build their castle-like masterpieces. After the victory for the French troops led by Jean d'Arc (Joan of Arc), Charles VII regained his crown and made the Loire Valley the new centre for French court life starting in Loches. At the end of the 15th-century, architectural innovations were brought from Italy providing for Renaissance-style decorations and embellishments characteristic of today's châteaux. The geographic center of France is in the town of Saulzais-le-Poitier with a two-meter marker and nearby Bruère-Allichamps and Vesdun also claim the same honour.

Centre Departmental Information

Notable Towns and Sights in the Centre Region

Amboise (Indre-et-Loire) overlooks the Loire River and is known for the Château d'Amboise which dominates the town and is where many French royalty lived. Louis XI lived here, Charles VIII was born and died here, and François I and Catherine de Medici's ten children grew up here. The town is also known for the Clos Lucé manor house where Leonardo da Vinci lived and died and it now has models made from his drawings of his inventions. Château d'Amboise France Centre Château d'Amboise
Blois (Loir-et-Cher) (pronounced blwah) is picturesquely situated on two steep hills above the right bank of the Loire. It is dominated by its famous Renaissance Château, once occupied by Queen Catherine de Medici, and the Late-Gothic Cathédral Saint-Louis. The ornate Château has four distinct wings around a central courtyard each of which is constructed in the style at the time it was built: medieval (13th-century), Flamboyant-Gothic (1498-1503), early Renaissance (1515-1524), and classical. The former bishop's palace which is now the Hôtel de Ville, has the Jardins de l'Évêché (gardens) with good views over the city and river. Also here is the Maison de la Magie (magic shows), interactive exhibits, and clock displays. Across from the cathedral is the Maison des Acrobates, named because the building timbers are decorated with characters from medieval farces. Blois-Pays de Chambord France Centre Blois bridge over the Loire
Bourges (Cher) is located on the Yèvre river and is known as a cultural mecca. The main sight here, in the medieval quarter, is the 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-Etienne which is the widest cathedral in France. Surrounding the cathedral are the Archeveche Gardens providing a pastoral setting around gothic masterpiece. Also here is the Palais Jacques Coeur, a Gothic jewel and memorial to the man whom was financier and foreign minister to Charles VII. Les Printemps de Bourges is an annual contemporary music festival taking place during the Easter holidays. Tourisme France Centre Bourges Saint Etienne
Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) is built on the left bank of the Eure River on a hill crowned by its famous cathedral. The two spires, Romanesque and Flamboyant-Gothic, are a landmark in the surrounding countryside and can be seen from many miles away. Begun in 1020, the original Romanesque cathedral was partially destroyed, then rebuilt by the local people and there have been few major alterations since 1250. Over 150 unique stained-glass windows depict biblical stories and daily life from the 13th-century. The 13th-century labyrinth, inlaid in the nave floor, has always been a destination for pilgrims seeking penance. Other sights in Chartres include the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the former episcopal palace, Le Grenier de l'Histoire Musée, a history museum specializing in military uniforms; Le Centre International du Vitrail, a workshop-museum and center devoted to stained glass art; Muséum de sciences naturelles et de la préhistoire, for natural science and prehistory. Tourisme France Centre Chartres Cathedral rose window
Château d'Azay-le-Rideau (Indre-et-Loire) was built from 1518 to 1527 and is one of the earliest French Renaissance châteaux. It is built on an island in the Indre River and its foundations rise straight out of the water. The long low proportions and the sculptural decorations of Azay are Italianate, but the bastion corners capped by pointed cones, the vertical stacks of grouped windows, and the steep-sloped slate roofs are all unquestionably French. France Centre Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
Château de Chambord (Loir-et-Cher) was the brainchild of King François I and is easily recognizable by its French Renaissance architecture on such a large scale. It is the largest castle in the Loire Valley and began as a hunting lodge which was razed in 1519 after which the present-day château was begun. The castle is surrounded by a wooded park with the nearby river Cosson, a tributary of the Loire. Among many interesting architectural features, there is a Grand staircase supposedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci which is a double-helix with two staircases spiraling around one another and never meeting. It has 450 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 70 staircases. France Centre Château de Chambord
Château de Chenonceau (Indre-et-Loire) was built on the site of an old mill and stretches across the languid Cher River standing on arches. It was created by many aristocratic women and each left their architectural mark here. They include Catherine Briçonnet, wife of the first owner; Henri II's mistress, Diane de Poitiers whom added the formal gardens; and Catherine de Medici. As Regent of France, Catherine spent a fortune on the château and on spectacular nighttime parties. In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display seen in France took place during the celebrations marking the rise to the throne of Catherine's son François II. Upon Catherine's death in 1589 the château went to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, wife of King Henri III. Chenonceau was bought by the Duke of Bourbon in 1720. Little by little, he sold off all of the castle's contents and many of the fine statues ended up at Versailles. France Centre Château de Chenonceau

Château de Cheverny (Loir-et-Cher) was built between 1624-1630 and is a good example of the Louis XIII classical style, distinguished by an extraordinarily-symmetrical design. During the next 150 years, ownership passed to many owners, and in 1768 a major interior renovation was undertaken. In 1914, the owner opened the château to the public and the family still operates it. It is renowned for magnificent interiors and its collection of furniture, tapestries, and objets d'art. France Centre Château de Cheverny
Château de Langeais (Indre-et-Loire) was originally built as a fortress in the 10th-century by Foulques Nerra of Anjou. King Louis XI (1461-1483) rebuilt it into what is one of the best known examples of late-medieval architecture. It is especially noted for its monumental and highly decorated chimneys. The chateau was rebuilt about 1465 during the reign of King Louis XI after almost being totally destroyed during the Hundred Years' War. It is positioned on a cliff overlooking the Loire River and appears dark and ominous, but the interior rooms are richly decorated with intricate designs on the tiled floors as well as 15th-16th century Flemish and Aubusson tapestries. France Centre Château de Langeais
Château de Villandry (Indre-et-Loire) was the last great Renaissance château built in the Loire Valley. In 1906, Dr. Joachim Carvallo, whose grandson continues the work, purchased the property and put in an enormous amount of time, money and devotion into repairing the castle and restoring the beautiful Renaissance gardens. These famous gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. The gardens are laid out on three levels in formal patterns created with low box hedges and represents the four faces of love on one side and the love of music on the other. France Centre Château de Villandry
Château d'Ussé (Indre-et-Loire) is an 11th-century stronghold first fortified by the Norman lord of Ussé, then was rebuilt in the 15th-century employing Rennaissance motifs. This fairytale-looking castle overlooks the Indre river valley and is surrounded by meadows next to the Chinon forest. This is the Château that inspired Charles Perrault's Sleeping Beauty and sel-guided tours are possible. France Centre Château d'Ussé
Châteauroux (Indre) derives its name from a castle built toward the end of the 10th-century by Raoul le Large, prince of Déols. The present Château Raoul, occupied by the prefecture, dates from the 15th century. Sights include the Musée-Hôtel Bertrand from the 18th-century (General Bertrand) has Napoleonic collections and good examples of 17th-century Flemish painting, and 19-20th of the sculptor, Ernest Nivet. Tourisme France Centre Châteauroux Château Raoul
Chinon (Indre-et-Loire) lies on the right bank of the Vienne, just before it joins the royal Loire. Its ruined castle from 954 A.D. overlooks the town on a steep plateau which was already fortified in Roman times. Chinon was the meeting between Charles VII and Joan of Arc on March 9, 1429 which marked the beginning of the reclaiming of French territory from the English. In recent years, Chinon wines have come to be recognized as some of the best produced in France. Carved into the banks of the Vienne River, and open to public visits, are the caves, or wine cellars, for Chinon's famous Cabernet-Franc based red wines. France Centre Chinon Château
Dreux (Eure-et-Loir) is situated west of Paris in the valley of the Blaise. Sights include the Gothic Saint-Pierre Church which was built at the start of the 13th-century, but has undergone various changes in style. Inside, the church has exceptional 15th-16th century stained glass and a polychromed organ case (1614) with the mechanism by the famous Cavaillé-Coll (1845). The town's Belfry from 1512, is a former town hall and is the symbol of liberty acquired by the bourgeois of Dreux during the reign of Louis VI le Gros (1108 to 1137). It houses various departments of the Town hall, a museum, the Library and the Caisse d'Epargne. During the 16th century, the façade and the two towers were built one of which has curiously remained incomplete. . The Neo-Romanesque chapel of the royal house of Orléans is now occupied by the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire Marcel-Dessal. Office de Tourisme France Centre Dreux Belfry
Loches (Indre-et-Loire) is a small picturesque medieval village of about 6500 on the left bank of the Indre river. It developed around a monastery founded about year 500 by Saint Ours (photo 1, photo 2) that belonged to the Counts of Anjou. Loches lies at the foot of a rocky hill above which stands the Château de Loches (photo), the castle of the Anjou family. There are many sights here including the Eglise de St. Antoine (photo) and the Logis Royal (royal lodge), built by Charles VII of France which contains the tomb of Agnès Sorel and the oratory of Anne of Brittany. In May 1429, Jean d'Arc or Joan of Arc arrived in Loches from her historic victory at Orléans to meet with King Charles VII and pleaded to go to Reims to be crowned.
Loches.com and Ville-Loches
France Centre Loches Collegiale St. Ours
Montargis (Loiret) Montargis is the second largest city in this department after Orléans. It is near a large forest, and contains some industry (rubber) and farming, including saffron. Having numerous canals and bridges, Montargis refers to itself as the "Venice of the Gâtinais." It is a modern city, but retains a medieval charm in its downtown area. Pralines, the crunchy confection made from almonds in disolved sugar, were first confected in Montargis during the time of Louis XIII and are said to be named after the French soldier, diplomat, and sugar industrialist, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin. They were originally sold from a shop (Maison de la Praline) that is still in business. France Centre Montargis Canal
Orléans (Loiret) is 60 miles (100 km) from Paris and is where Joan of Arc saved France from the English in 1429- the city remembers her every April and May with a pageant and blessing at the cathedral which has stained glass depictions of her. Place du Martroi, in the old quarter, has an equestrian statue of her and nearby is the rebuilt Maison de Jeanne d'Arc. Other sights here include the sturdy-looking 13th-century Cathédrale Sainte-Croix which was rebuilt in neogothic style after being destroyed by the Hugenots in 1568. The Musée des Beaux-Arts has european art from the 16-20th centuries. Tourisme France Centre Orléans
Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire (Loiret) is along the Loire river, southeast of Orléans, and is home to the Abbaye de Fleury, also known as the Abbaye de Saint Benoît (Saint Benedict Abbey). The monastery was founded around 660 A.D. for Saint Benedict, patron saint of Europe and the remains and relics of Saint Benedict of Nursia (Italy) were transferred to Saint Benoît from Monte Cassino. The building is one of the oldest and finest Romanesque abbeys in France and dates from around 1067. The monastery was pillaged and damaged multiple times over the course of history, including during the Norman conquests and the French Revolution. A community of approximately 40 monks currently resides in the monastery. France Centre Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire
Tours (Indre-et-Loire) is built on the site of a Roman town and is one of the best cities in the Loire to visit due to its resident's prosperity, university, and fine restoration planning. In 1461, Louis XI made Tours the French capital. The city was heavily attacked by the Prussians and bombed during WWII, then rejuvenated starting in 1958. Notable sights here include the spectacular Flamboyant-Gothic Cathédrale dedicated to Saint-Gatien and begun in 1170 to replace the former and burned cathedral which was just-under construction. Not to be missed are the medieval stained-glass windows here. Also, Place Plumereau is in the city's medieval quarter and has an abundance of cafés, stores, and art galleries. The Musée des Beaux Arts is located in the former archbishop's palace and overlooks gardens. It has the works Christ in the Garden of Olives and the Resurrection by Mantegna. The Musée du Compagnonnage displays hundreds of small works by master craftsmen. Tours is an ideal base from which to explore the extraordinary Châteaux of the Loire Valley. France Centre Tours Cathedral
Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher) is surrounded by the tranquil Loire river and was once an important stop for pilgrims going to Compostela in Spain. Most notable here is the 1034 abbey church of La Trinité which has its original Romanesque belltower and a portal with incredible Flamboyant-Gothic tracery. Also here is the Tour St-Martin (15th-16th century), a relic of a Renaissance church which was pulled down in 1857. On a rocky spur above the town are the ruins of a 13th-century château which was built by the counts of Vendôme and only a number of towers and extensive remains of walls survive. France Centre Vendôme La Trinité
Vouvray (Indre-et-Loire) is 6 miles (10 km) east of Tours at the confluence of the Loire and Cisse rivers and is known for the famous dry white wine. Vouvray wine from the famous Gaston Huet vineyard is unique in that the vines are hand-weeded, have only natural fertilizers, and the wine aged in chestnut barrels during aging. Sights here include the Château de Moncontour where monks planted grape vines in the 4th-century and which has a museum in the 10th-century cellars within the tufa rock. Vin Vouvray France Centre Vouvray Chenin Blanc grape vine

Les Plus Beaux Villages in the Centre Region

Natural Parks in the Centre Region

Additional Resources for the Centre Region

Cher

Aubigny-sur-Nère
Aubigny (non-officiel)
Aéro-Club Aubigny-sur-Nère
Vierzon

Eure-et-Loir

Maintenon (Château)

Indre

Indre Nature
Musée d'Argentomagus (archeology)

Indre-et-Loire

Val d'Amboise Tourisme
Joué-lès-Tours
Lochorama (Loches) Virtual Tour
Pays de Chinon Tourisme
Pays Azay-le-Rideau Tourisme

Loir-et-Cher

Romorantin-Lanthenay

Loiret

Gien (Château)
Beaugency (Château)
Fleury-les-Aubrais
Ville de Sully-sur-Loire (Château)

Other

Average Monthly Temperatures in the Centre Region

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