Orléans is one of the oldest cities in France, brimming with historic buildings and surrounded by enchanting Loire Valley chateaux. Its ancient centre is well worth a stroll around, with a large pedestrian zone, Renaissance palaces and half-timbered houses.
Orléans city centre is filled with reminders of its close association with Joan of Arc. Known as the ‘Maid of Orléans’, the heroine led the French army to a famous victory against the English in 1429, denting Henry VI’s plans to conquer France. Learn more about the soldier-turned-saint at the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc, a reconstruction of a small house she stayed in during the Siege of Orléans. It was during this siege that Joan of Arc attended mass at the beautiful Orléans Cathedral. Today, you can admire its wonderful stained-glass windows that depict key events in Joan’s life.
Many tourists use Orléans as a base for exploring some of the most beautiful chateaux of the Loire Valley. Located along the banks of the river is the Château de Chambord, arguably the most famous castle in the region due to its roof sprinkled with cupolas and chimneys. Inside, you’ll find the famous double-spiral staircase said to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci, while the exterior features formal gardens and over 5,000 hectares of pine forests. Other popular stops within this cluster of castles include Château de Chamerolles, Château de Sully-sur-Loire and Château de Gien.