Discover some incredible chateaux in Western Loire - from the fortress at Angers, to the fairytale chateau in Saumur, or the palatial former home and seat of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes. You can explore the caves created by the mining of tuffeau stone for many of the chateaux, where dwellings, and even churches, have been carved out of the stone.
Today, the caves are often used to mature wines (and grow mushrooms) so be sure to try the rosé wines of Anjou and the Muscadet from the area around Nantes. Also, a trip to see Le Mans, home of the 24 hour race, is not complete without trying it's famous pâté-style dish, rillettes.
Top 10 attractions in Western Loire
1. Machines d'Ile
All aboard the elephant! Machines d'Ile is an incredible arts project that combines the imagination of Jules Verne with the ingenuity of Leonardo De Vinci to create amazing mechanical creatures. These include an elephant that you can ride in which walks up and down the quayside - and sprays passers-by with water from it's trunk!
Find out more » Machines d'Ile
2. Château d'Angers
This imposing military fortress has 17 towers with outer walls nearly 10 feet thick. Built in the 13th century it is the most recognisable sight in Angers and makes a change from all the beautiful palatial chateaux in the region as a castle that was built for the purpose of defence not beauty. It is also the home of the famous Apocalypse Tapestry.
Find out more » Château d'Angers
3. Château de Saumur
A fairytale chateau sat on the banks of the Loire, the Château de Saumur has a long history and has been used for various different purposes over the years from the residence of dukes to a Napoleonic prison. Today, it is home to several interesting museums and has been meticulously restored to its former glory.
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4. Cadre Noir
The National Riding School in Saumur is the home of the Cadre Noir. One of the most famous equestrian display teams in the world, the Cadre Noir are renowned for their excellent horsemanship and, if you're lucky, you'll be able to catch a performance at the National Riding School.
Find out more » Cadre Noir
5. Village Troglodyte
Visit the unusual village of Rochemenier, a group of cave dwellings hewn from the rock centuries ago. Carved out of the soft white tuffeau stone that was used to build many of the region's grand chateaux and palaces, there is also an underground chapel and modernised troglodyte house.
Find out more » Village Troglodyte
6. Le Mans race museum
Le Mans is famous for it's annual 24 hour race and this museum celebrates the best of the cars, teams and races that have gone before. Take a look at 120 cars from past races from the likes of Bugatti, Porsche and Ferrari and explore the world of the 24 hour race with lots of educational models, a workshop of engineers and more.
Find out more » Le Mans race museum
7. Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
Nantes was formerly part of Brittany and the Dukes of Brittany made the city their home. This majestic white palace was built to protect Brittany from the Kingdom of France and is both a defensive work of architecture as well as being designed as a palatial residence. The Nantes History Museum is now housed inside the building.
Find out more » Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
8. Maison d'Adam
Found in the heart of Angers, the Maison d'Adam is one of the oldest buildings in France and is an outstanding example of the half-timber buildings of medieval times. The house's beautifully sculptured supports and beams are covered with carvings of religious and secular designs including angels, centaurs and griffins.
Find out more » Maison d'Adam
9. La Baule beach
One of the most stunning beaches in the region, the beach at La Baule is a wonderful 9km stretch of golden sand that runs in a crescent along the Cote d'Amour, the coast of love. The beach is popular with families and is great for all sorts of watersports, such as kitesurfing or yachting, as well as being perfect for some old-fashioned buckets and spades fun!
Find out more » La Baule beach
10. Bateau l'Hirondelle
Kick back and relax on a peaceful cruise along the river Mayenne. You can admire the beautiful scenery and spot the wildlife on a short mini cruise or spend some more time on board and enjoy a wonderful dinner cruise with a meal and drinks included. Head up onto the panoramic terrace for the best views.
Find out more » Bateau l'Hirondelle