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One of the lesser known regionsFranceabroad,Pays de la Loirein western France offers an incredible variety of landscapes and a rich heritage. From the Loire Valley to the Atlantic Ocean, explore historic towns, charming villages, fairytale castles, natural parks and 450 km of stunning coastline.
An ideal destination for those looking for a breath of fresh air, the Pays de la Loire region is highly regarded by families and cycling enthusiasts. Here we are never far from water: the Atlantic Ocean and the Loire River with its tributaries (18,000 km of waterways in the region) and picturesque canals and marshes.
People looking for a cultural escape will find plenty of extraordinary places: the cities of Nantes, Angers, Le Mans, Saumur, but also impressive Renaissance castles and the royal abbey of Fontevraud.
The Pays de la Loire region is not one of the historical regions of France, but a recently created one. Indeed, the capital of the region,Nantes, was once the capital of Brittany–to which it no longer belongs. The region consists of five departments:Loire Atlantique, Vendée, Mayenne, Sarthe, iMaine and Loire.
Haven't visited this beautiful French region yet? Read on for the best things to do in the Pays de la Loire.
BY PLANE:if you want to fly to Pays de la Loire,Zracna luka Nantes Atlantique (NTE)is your best option. Nantes is definitely not one of the busiestinternational airports in France but has regular and seasonal international flights to many European countries, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey (seasonal flights) and Montréal, Canada (seasonal flights).
BY TRAIN:A journey withinFrance by trainis simple. Cities like Nantes, Le Mans or Angers are very easy to reach from Paris by fast TGV trains. From these cities you can use the TER (regional trains) train network, which is sometimes completed by buses.
For longer trips in the Pays de la Loire region, the best way to get around is by car. This region is a great place to rememberFrench road trips. With a car, some good tunes and the best company, you are ready for one of the best adventures of your life.Driving in Franceis very easy, and with a car you can go off the beaten track and visit small villages and lesser-known places.
Recommended road trips in the Pays de la Loire:
- Pays de la Loire trip from Nantes
If you don't have your own car, we recommend booking in advance through platforms likeRentalCars. This site takes all the major rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, etc., and compares the prices for you. Check out ourstop tips for renting a car in France.
What to do in the Pays de la Loire
Let's explore the best things to do in the Pays de la Loire. The list of tourist attractions in the Pays de la Loire includes lively cities, stunning landscapes, fairytale castles and history.
1. Visit Angers
Located along the Maine River,Angersis a beautiful medieval town to explore, with unique Gothic buildings, half-timbered houses and an impressive castle.
Visit in the heart of the cityAngers Castle, a massive building of slate and limestone built from 1230 onwards. The Dukes of Anjou held court here during the 14th and 15th centuries.
In this impressive castle is locatedTapestry of the Apocalypse(14th century). 103 meters long and 4.5 meters high, it contains 71 scenes of the Apocalypse and is the largest series of medieval tapestries in the world.
2. Fontevraud Royal Abbey
This Gothic abbey, unique in many aspects, was founded in 1101 as a mixed-sex monastery under female leadership.
The abbey found favor in the eyes of God and men, including the Counts of Anjou and, especially, Henry II of Plantagenet and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. She made Fontevraud a royal cemetery for the Plantagenets.
One of the main attractions of the Pays de la Loire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, Fontevraud is now home to a contemporary art center, an elegant hotel and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Don't miss the multicolored tombs of the Plantagenets: King Henry II, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of Angouleme and King Richard the Lionheart.
MAKE IT SPECIAL: sleep in Fontevraud Abbey for a unique experience!
3. Island machines in Nantes
Nantes, the capital of the region, is a great destination for a cultural escape near Paris. The main attraction of Nantes isMachines from the island, a unique project by a group of artists and machinists consisting of an ensemble of unusual machines built in the former naval workshops of the Ile de Nantes.
Among these machines inNantesstands outA giant elephant, who likes to wander the Ile de Nantes. This cheeky elephant can carry up to 50 passengers on its back, and it likes to splash people with its trunk!
There is also a giantCarousel of sea worlds(almost 25m high), an amazing mechanical aquarium of disturbing sea creatures.
We can't wait to see the company's latest project, theWood heron. When it's finished, people will be able to wander through the branches of this giant metal and plant tree and meet the various creatures that live on it.
4. Relaxing days on Iles d'Ye and Noirmoutier
Separate yourself from the worldIslands of Yeu and Noimoutier, located on the Atlantic coast in the Vendée department. Enjoy their typical landscapes, endless sandy beaches and numerous outdoor activities for the whole family.
Are you hungry? The island of Noirmoutier is famous for its clams and oysters, with their delicate meat. Taste the island gastronomy, with delicious fish dishes–mainly pollack, sea bream and mullet, but also sea bream and sea bass.
5. Pays de la Loire biciklom
Pays de la Loire's geography (mostly flat) and varied landscapes make it ideal for day trips or longer cycling trips.
It is world famous thereLoire by bikea route that attracts more than a million cyclists every year. This 900 km itinerary connects the village of Cuffy in the regionCentre-Val-de-Loire, Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, on the Atlantic coastPays de la Loire. Picturesque villages, magnificent castles and excellent regional food and wines await you along the way.
La Vélo Francetteis a lesser-known cycling route that also passes throughPays de la Loire. This 600 km cycle route from Ouistreham in Normandy to La Rochelle in Nouvelle Aquitaine passes through the departments of Mayenne and Maine-et-Loire in the Pays de la Loire. What's more, part of the Angers-St-Mathurin section is shared with the Loire à Velo itinerary, so you can always say you've tried both cycling routes 🙂
6. Marais Poitevin
Marais Poitevinis a natural area of wetlands that divides the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Pays de la Loire regions. This is the second largest wetland in France after the Camargue, covering an area of approximately 100,000 hectares.
This artificial landscape developed in the 11th century to mitigate the effects of seasonal variations in rainfall consists of three large groups related to its hydraulic operation: sea marshes, dry marshes and wet marshes. Wet swamp, nicknamegreen Venice, is the owner of the labelGreat place of France.
The best way to explore the Marais Poitevin is by sailing the canals on a traditional boat or kayak. You can also explore the area by bicycle.
7. Clisson (and other picturesque villages)
The Pays de la Loire is dotted with numerous picturesque villages, all of which are worth visiting.
Get goingClissonin Loire-Atlantique for a bit of Tuscany in France! This romantic little town with a medieval castle was transformed into a city in the 19th centuryItalian style, with architecture inspired by Tuscan cities.
In the same department there is alsoLe Croisic,with its picturesque harbor and unique villas built at the beginning of sea tourism in this area. OrPiriac-sur-Mer, a former fishing port, marina and famous summer resort that has retained its Breton identity through its heritage and its typical granite architecture.
Have you beenPornic? Visit the port, once famous for its salt, tile and wine trade, and explore the city's steep streets, sweet shops and fortified remains.
For something different, head inland to the villageSainte-Suzanne(Mayenne). Set on a rocky peak overlooking the Herve Valley, this medieval village is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, with double walled enclosures and a rich heritage.
8. Briere Regional Nature Park
Briere National Park, in the Loire-Atlantique department, is a large wetland area, excellent for bird watching. Indeed, Brière is a popular stopover for birds migrating between northern Europe and Africa.
In the past, Brière was a center for peat digging and cane picking. Today it is a great place for a relaxing getaway, with many outdoor activities such as horse riding, hiking or cycling.
You can also explore the canals and islands of the park on athe disorder, a typical flat-bottomed boat in the region. These guided tours usually last 2 hours and are a great way to learn more about the area and experience nature.
Don't miss the villageKerhinet, a well-preserved hamlet of thatched houses (namedcottages) typical for this area, where visitors can see how the locals used to live and what clothes they wore.
ADVICE:some traditional chaumières in the area offer bed and breakfast for a unique stay in Brière.Escape to Brièrein Saint-Lyphard always has excellent reviews.
9. Gérande salt marshes
TheGueranda salt marshesare a vast wetland between the confluence of the Loire and Vilaine rivers.
Salt has been harvested here since 868! Solani (so-calledpaludiers) harvesting Guéranda salt daily with the tides. They use the same techniques as their ancestors, without machines, obtaining salt 100% natural, unwashed and without additives.
Guérande salt is very rich in magnesium and trace elements. In 2012, it received the PGI (Protected Designation of Geographical Origin), which guarantees the origin and quality of salt from Guérande. This is the first time in Europe that this award is given for salt!
If you want to visit the beautiful salt marshes, head toland of salt. With their tour (also available in English), you will learn how the famous Guérande salt is made and see how the water cycle works.
10. Fishing huts on the Atlantic coast
Traditional fishermen's huts along the Atlantic coast are a sight straight from a postcard. These huts are built on pontoons that jut out into the sea and are used for net fishing.
In France, the technique offlounder fishingpracticed in the Loire, Charente and Gironde estuaries. For this method of fishing, a square submersible net of several square meters is used, stretched over a flat frame and lowered horizontally using a winch from a pontoon. After waiting a few minutes, in order to remove the disturbance caused by the descent, the net is raised quite quickly, trapping the fish between it and the surface.
In the Vendée and Loire-Atlantique departments, these structures are namedfishingand there are many to see! You can see pêcheries in Saint-Nazaire, Corsept, La Plaine-sur-Mer, Saint-Brevin, Préfailles and Pornic.
11. The fortified city of Guérande
Guerandeis one of the best preservedmedieval cities in France. Explore the fortified ramparts of Guérande (12th to 15th century) and linger in its quaint restaurants and craft shops. If you are more interested in a cultural visit, don't miss the Porte Saint-Michel museum, the collegiate church of Saint-Aubin and the church of Notre-Dame-la-Blanche.
Guérande is also an excellent base for exploring other tourist attractions in the Pays de la Loire, such as the salt marshes or the Brière Regional Nature Park. You will also find many prehistoric remains in the region, such as thirteen dolmens, five menhirs and several petroglyphs.
And there you have it, the best things to do in Pays de la Loire, France. We hope you enjoyed these Pays-de-la-Loire attractions. If you want to know more about other regions, go herearticle about the regions of France, where we summarized the highlights of each region.
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Wine, music, literature, art, sailing, and food are also part of this legacy. Many famous Loire castles are in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, including the castle of Angers, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, the castles of Saumur, Brézé or Ancenis.What is Pays de la Loire France famous for? ›
Wine, music, literature, art, sailing, and food are also part of this legacy. Many famous Loire castles are in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, including the castle of Angers, the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, the castles of Saumur, Brézé or Ancenis.What cities are interesting in Pays de la Loire? ›
People looking for a cultural getaway will find an abundance of extraordinary sites: the cities of Nantes, Angers, Le Mans, Saumur, but also impressive Renaissance châteaux and the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. The region of Pays de la Loire is not one of France's historic regions but a recent creation.How many days should you spend in Loire Valley? ›
TIP: To get the most out of the Loire Valley, we recommend a minimum of 3 full days, but ideally 5-6 days.How many days do you need in Loire? ›
Best visited over the course of few days so as to enjoy all of the impressive architecture, medieval towns, and fairytale châteaux, here's the perfect 3 days in the Loire Valley itinerary.What food is Pays de la Loire known for? ›
The best-known specialties of the region are beurre blanc, rillettes du Mans, rillons, diableries, Loué poultry, muscatel sausages, rillauds d'Anjou, mogettes de Vendée, tourangelle soup. Desserts here are also delicious: macaroons, jams, dries apples and pears, shortbreads.What is the most visited chateau in Loire Valley? ›
Château de Chambord
Kicking off our list of Loire best castles is the largest and most visited—The Château de Chambord. With its gobsmacking display of intricate masonry, towering spires, and iconic double-helix staircase (attributed to Leonardo DaVinci), Chambord Castle is pure Renaissance architectural brilliance.
Many travelers who visit the Loire Valley stay in Blois or Orléans, but we don't recommend these towns are they are not central enough if you're planning to tour the whole region. If you want to see the region's most famous castles, Amboise or Cheverny will be the best places to stay in the Loire Valley.What celebrities are from the Pays de la Loire? ›
Famous people from the Pays de la Loire include (chronologically): Napoleon's Minister of Police Joseph Fouché, WWI Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, novelist Jules Verne, painter Henri Rousseau, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Aristide Briand, fashion designer Coco Chanel, and Prime Minister Jean-Marc ...Why is the Loire Valley so popular with tourists? ›
In western France, this region blends history, nature and the French art de vivre (way of life) like no other. Crossed by the Loire, the last wild river in Europe, the area is a Unesco World Heritage Site for its landscapes and the richness of its monuments.
Château de Chambord is the most famous Loire Valley castle (and the most visited one). If you have time for one chateau only, choose this! It is the most impressive castle in French Renaissance style in the Val de Loire. François I built the estate in 1519 with the intention of using it as a hunting lodge.What is the best time of year to visit the Loire Valley? ›
If you're visiting the castles of the Loire Valley (a must-see!) traveling between April and June or September and October will mean you avoid the largest tourist crowds. You're also likely to see the castle gardens at their most beautiful.Does it rain a lot in Pays de la Loire? ›
Summer: 45.2 mm, Winter: 77.2 mm. Equivalent to 788.5 mm per year (Nantes).
However, many visitors rely on rental cars to get around, which can be costly and stressful, especially for those who are not accustomed to driving on French roads. But fear not, because there are plenty of alternative ways to experience the beauty and history of the Loire Valley without a car.Is Loire Valley walkable? ›
There are some 6,800km of hiking trails around Tours, and five GR routes (Grande Randonnée – long distance walking routes through Europe) that pass through the Loire Valley. A walking vacation will allow to experience the little wonders you might miss by bike or by car.How much money do you need for 4 days in France? ›
A budget traveler in France can expect to spend around $50 to $70 per day, while a mid-range traveler can expect to spend around $100 to $150 per day. It's important to plan ahead and research activities and costs to create a budget that works for you.What is the history of Pays de la Loire? ›
After displacing the powerful Cenomanni and Carnute tribes during the Iron Age, the Romans occupied what is now Pays de la Loire in 52 BC. They created the towns of Angers and Le Mans as well as many agricultural estates.What is the meaning of Pays de la Loire? ›
Pays de la Loire (French pronunciation: [pe. i d(ə) la lwaʁ]; lit. 'Lands of the Loire') is one of the eighteen regions of France, located on the country's Atlantic coast.