When one considers different regions in France, the Loire Valley is clearly the perfect destination for a road trip, not only because of the fascinating architecture, but also because of the various culinary specialities in the region.
Are you hoping to have a unique holiday experience? Plan a trip through the Loire Valley with Auto Europe! The region is known as the garden of France, and offers visitors vineyards, fruit gardens, asparagus fields, an exquisite restaurant scene, historic towns and wonderful castles. There is something for every traveller! Our driving information page has more information about driving in France.
Below you will find a comprehensive four-day trip guide through the Loire Valley, from Nantes to Tours, with great tips on where to make stops in between. Whether you are hoping to do some wine tasting in the best vineyards of the region or to explore the ancient ruins, you can use this page as a guideline and plan an unforgettable trip with car hire in France! If you would like some extra guidance with your car hire booking, you can visit our informative pages on fuel policy and excess protection.
There is hardly any other region that allows you to experience so many different facets of French culture as the Loire Valley. When you book a car hire in Nantes, you have access to many tourist attractions and historic locations. If you are looking for an interesting museum, we would recommend the Jules Verne Museum, where you can learn more about the author known for his many books, including "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". You will get to know many fascinating anecdotes about Verne's life, purchase great souvenirs, and get to enjoy a spectacular view over the Nantes harbour. The city also houses numerous romantic castles, forts and cathedrals, such as St. Peter's Cathedral and Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne.
Visitors are also well catered for in the centre of the city with different shops and boutiques, delicious dishes, and historic sights. The most well-known destination is probably Place du Bouffay, a pedestrian zone famous for its medieval architecture and abundance of bars and restaurants, located between Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne and St. Peter's Cathedral.
France is known for its exquisite cuisine, and for good reason - the French have been culinary innovators since the beginning of Western European civilization. The restaurant scene in Nantes offers you various alternatives. Particularly excellent is La Cigale, praised by many as the most beautiful brasserie in France. The restaurant is known for its wonderful décor and its open kitchen, where patrons can see the chef preparing fresh seafood dishes and hors d'oeuvres
Night life in Nantes consists of a variety of bars, clubs and cocktail lounges, which are spread throughout the city. The Bouffay Quarter with its historic architecture is known as the top night life destination. You should also try some of Nantes's classic beverages when there. Especially popular is kir Bréton - a bitter apple wine with fruit liqueur. Nantes is also known for the regional wine, called Muscadet, a surprisingly affordable cuvée that goes well with seafood dishes.
Are you hoping to add some more flavour to your road trip to Nantes by staying at a fantastic hotel? Radisson Blu Hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Nantes, and located very conveniently in the middle of the city, close to many tourist attractions, restaurants and bars. The interior design throughout the hotel is truly worth seeing, as each room is individually designed by the famous French designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, complete with numerous iconic designer pieces. If you are looking for a more casual stay, worry not - there is something for every taste in Nantes.
There are many routes leading from Nantes to Tours. The fastest are often also the busiest, and do not offer much to see on the way. So instead of driving along a busy, dull motorway like the A11, avoid the largest roads and try the D723, for example. This road will take you along the Loire river and offers beautiful vistas over the changing landscape, the many wineries and charming villages.
Congratulations, you have made it from Nantes to Angers! This signifies the start of the second part of your amazing road trip through the Loire Valley. Angers is historically significant and full of art, architecture and delicious French cuisine. The lovely city of Rennes is also only an hour and 45 minutes away by car.
In comparison with other relatively small French cities, Angers offers you some great museums to explore, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Pincé Museum and the David d'Angers Gallery, all with collections including pieces from the classical period, sculptures and historical artefacts. Angers Castle is the prime architectural point of interest in Angers. The massive medieval fort has 17 towers and houses a one of a kind tapestry depicting the apocalypse, which is one of the best preserved tapestries from the Middle Ages.
In contrast to the various seafood dishes in Nantes, the restaurants in Angers offer a plethora of traditional culinary styles. Delicious masterfully prepared dishes await you, as well as wine menus that have no rival. Locals love Une Ile, a homely restaurant run by the top chef Gerard Bosse and his wife, who is known as a wine expert. The restaurant has been awarded one Michelin star and is a great example of the contemporary restaurant scene. Speciality dishes include grilled goose liver and poached turbot. Night life in Angers is very relaxed and peaceful, although there are some Irish and British pubs dotted around the town. As in other parts of France, there are also some night clubs.
After a long road trip to Angers, some culinary highlights and drinks afterwards, you will be in need of a nice hotel with a comfortable bed. For a small town, Angers offers visitors a surprisingly large choice of hotels and lodgings. We especially recommend Mercure Angers Centre. The hotel is opposite the Angers Convention Centre and surrounded by Jardin des Plantes, a four-hectare park and botanical garden with more than 2,000 different kinds of plants. The hotel is also located in the centre of the town.
If you would like to drive your car hire from Angers so that you avoid the busy motorways, we recommend the less hectic D952. It is a good idea to make lots of stops on your trip and to visit the chateaus of the Loire Valley, especially Chateau de Saumur. The breathtaking view of the river is reason enough to make a detour via the D952 on your way to Saumur.
Welcome to the little town of Saumur! Although Saumur is home to many historic sites and other culturally significant buildings, the town is often overlooked by travellers to the region. Also known as the heart of the Loire Valley, Saumur is of course mostly known for its world famous wines and immaculately preserved castle, which dates back to the 10th century. Chateau de Saumur offers a wonderful view of the river Loire. Thanks to the eventful history of the region, the castle is also connected to other forts and monasteries. During your road trip to Saumur you should also pay a visit to Monsoreau Chateau and Abbaye de Fontrevraud, as well as the graves of the historical figures Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I and Henry II.
In the summer months Saumur has lots to offer visitors, as many music and culinary festivals take place. You can also visit various markets to try excellent wines and fresh produce, such as tasty mushrooms from the region. No matter what season you are travelling to Saumur, a wine tasting should definitely be on your to do list.
One of the benefits of visiting a small French town like Saumur is that there are ample restaurants to choose from, that will offer you high quality dishes. The prices, however, are lower than in larger and more well-known cities. The gastronomy industry here is mostly a combination of local specialities and the region's fantastic wines. And it's not for nothing that Saumur is unofficially known as the "wine capital of the Loire Valley". Especially worth a recommendation is Le Tire Bouchon, known for its fusion cooking, and the popular creperie Le Bigoudan, which offers a large selection of different ciders.
Saumur may well have the most peaceful night life out of all the towns in the Loire valley. You can find some bars, pubs and cocktail lounges along the main street, but the locals are mainly interested in wine. Instead of a wild night out you can enjoy a relaxed evening with a glass of wine and see the evening light reflected on the Loire.
The hotels in Saumur fit perfectly into the small town atmosphere and offer rooms you can feel at home in. Bed and breakfasts are available all year round, as long as you book your room in advance. For some added comfort and luxury, try Mercure Bords De Loire Saumur. This wonderful hotel offers a view of the banks of the Loire and leaves no wish unfulfilled. In just five minutes you can reach centre of the town.
When you leave with your car hire from Saumur and head towards Tours, you should stay on the D952. The drive may take a bit longer than it would on the E60 motorway, but the various vistas of the picturesque landscape make the lost time well worth it. The Loire is the largest river in France, and does not only bring water to the surrounding vineyards, but the region's villages too. A drive along the banks of the river offers you a great view of France, one that might as well be found on a postcard!
This may be the last day of your road trip through the Loire valley, but that doesn't mean the fun and adventure is over. With a car hire in Tours you can discover this bastion of French culture and end your fantastic trip in style! Tours is full of impressive architecture from past centuries, lovely wine bars and great shopping opportunities. One of the main sights in the city is the Tours Cathedral, a Catholic church built between 1170 and 1547, complete with masterful stained-glass windows, a renovated organ from the 16th century, and impressive tombs of past kings. Other attractions include the Basilica of St. Martin, the botanical garden, and the Tours Museum of Natural History.
As already established, the Loire Valley is a well-known wine region, and therefore, also Tours offers many exquisite wines for you to try. East of Tours you can find the municipality of Vouvray, which is known especially for its Chenin Blanc, sweet dessert wines, and dry sparkling wines.
Travellers hoping to try some of the speciality wines from Vouvray should in any case visit the Domaine Huet vineyard, where the Huet family has been producing some of the most popular wines in the region for almost 100 years.
Restaurant-wise Tours is quite traditional. Many small brasseries and bistros are waiting to spoil you with classic French dishes and accompanying wines. Night life in Tours is, as in other small French towns, very peaceful. Of course the usual clubs are still on offer, but the mood is generally quite low key. After all, Tours is a town more focused on good wine and food than partying until the morning light.
Why not make the last day of your road trip to Tours truly unforgettable with a great hotel stay? The luxury hotel Chateau D'Artigny is the perfect choice for this, because after seeing all the wonderful castles in the Loire valley, now you can stay in one yourself! Enjoy all the amenities on offer at Chateau d'Artigny and feel like a king or queen for a night. The hotel offers a swimming pool, spa, tennis court, mini golf, and gym. The palatial mansion has been furnished with classic antique furniture and the hotel impresses guests with its unique old world charm. There are many other options for accommodation also available in Tours, and whichever you choose, we are sure Tours will make you feel welcome.
Now you will need to decide where you would like to continue your trip from Tours. Depending on your timetable, you could make a trip to Paris. Via the A10 motorway you can reach Paris in two and a half hours. Also Orleans is within easy reach, and offers a great destination for a day trip. Whether you are heading back home, to Paris, Orleans, or perhaps the French Riviera, we hope that you have had a lovely and relaxing holiday!
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