Angers was once the capital of the ancient county of Anjou, France. Today it’s a pleasant, very green city with many parks and gardens on the banks of the Maine River which feeds the Loire Valley. Angers ticks all the boxes with good places to stay, fun restaurants and museums, and attractions which include the stunning Tapestry of the Apocalypse, and in contrast, a modern version of the end of the world, created in the 1950s.
An Intriguing History
Angers and Anjou have significant historic ties to England. The powerful Counts of Anjou, based in Angers, reigned over the surrounding countryside from the end of the 9th century to the mid 12th century. At this time they changed their name to Plantagenet, a branch of the family founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou. He married William the Conqueror’s granddaughter, Matilda, who inherited both Normandy and England. Geoffrey’s son, Henry II, King of England, married Eleanor of Aquitaine whose copious wealth helped swell the English coffers.
At its peak, the Angevin Empire stretched from the Pyrenees to Ireland and up to the Scottish borders. From 1154 to 1485, fifteen Plantagenet monarchs ruled England. Politics between England and France being complicated, the two countries were intertwined, fought battles, and influenced each other’s culture.
- Maine-et-Loire Department (49)
- In the western section of the Loire Valley
- 155,700 inhabitants (270,000 including the suburbs)
- 38,000 college students
- Tourist Office: 7 place Kennedy
- Getting there: Angers is 262 kilometers (163 miles) from Paris.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of good hotels in this vibrant city. Try the charming Hotel du Mail at 8, rue des Ursules.
Or go for the rather grand 19th-century atmosphere of the Best Western Hotel d'Anjou, 1 Boulevard Marechal Foch.
The 4-Star Mercure Centre (1 place Pierre Mendes France) is easy to find as it's above the Convention Centre. Ask for a room overlooking the pretty public gardens at the back. Breakfast here is very good.
Food, Wine, and Restaurants
Anjou cooking is known for its Loire Valley river fish and sweet dishes and, courtesy of its long history, dishes based on medieval and Renaissance recipes. Fish are prepared traditionally as in pike in white butter sauce, perch with prunes, and fish stews. The region’s meat is just as famous, particularly Maine Anjou beef and dishes like veal à l’Angevine which comes with onion purée. Anjou is known for its rillettes, sausages, and white puddings which you'll find in both restaurants and in upmarket charcuteries. Fruit and vegetables include chouées (boiled cabbage with melted butter), while Belle-Angevine pears are usually cooked in red wine.
Eat like the locals and take your cheese with salad and walnut oil. Sweet specialties include fouée; (a pancake made from dough covered with fresh butter), and cremet d'Anjou, a local dessert made with cow's milk cheese, whisked egg whites, and whipped cream.
Wines have been produced around Angers for centuries and were drunk in the English courts during the long reign of the Plantagenet monarchs. There is a huge range of wines made in the region, from dry to very sweet, from sparkling to rosés which are well known abroad, and particularly in the U.K.
Restaurants in Angers are excellent and include two one-star Michelin restaurants (Une Ile and Le Loft Culinaire, in the excellent Hotel 21 Foch), plus many good value brasseries/bistros.
In particular, try Chez Rémi, 5 rue des 2 Haies, a bustling, hugely welcoming bistro. The walls are covered in pictures; odd objects sit on ledges; tables spill onto the pavement. The cooking is contemporary and very good; vegetables are from their own garden, and they have an excellent and adventurous wine list.
There are a number of places well worth visiting in Angers, but dominating the whole of the town is the impressive chateau. Circular towers loom impressively over the town and the massive medieval fortress reminds visitors of the power of past rulers. Open to the public, the major reason to visit is the Apocalypse Tapestry.
You can compare the medieval vision with a modern version of the same bleak outlook for mankind at the old Hospital of St-Jean. The tapestry, Le Chant du Monde (The Song of the World) was designed and produced between 1957 and 1966.
Angers is known for its gardens and plants. There are parks within the city, like the 200-hundred-year-old Jardin des plantes, a large hilly expanse just behind the Congress Center and the Hotel Mercure Centre, and the central, neoclassical Jardin du Mail opposite the town hall with its fountain and formal flower beds. The former moat of the castle is planted with formal parterres, and there is a delightful physic garden within the walls of the castle.
Outside Angers, Terra Botanica is a giant garden theme park with rides and attractions as well as plants and walks. It's a great place for all the family, even if your kids are distinctly not of the green-fingered persuasion.
- Maison Jouis (49 rue Jules-Guitton,) is an excellent charcuterie, locally famous for the rillettes which have won them numerous medals over the years. Stock up here on pates, hams, and saucissons if you're planning a picnic.
- If you want to know more about the excellent local wines, stop off at Maison des Vin Anjou-Saumur (5 bis place Kennedy) just opposite the entrance to the château. Specializing in wines from Anjou and Saumur, the knowledgeable staff are happy to help with advice.
- The best chocolates, pralines and exotic varieties beautifully boxed or packaged are found at Maison du Quernon (22 rue des Lices). But their particular specialty is Le Quernon d'Ardoise, the Angevin treat of nougat and chocolate the color of blue, reflecting the schist quarried in Anjou.
- Don't miss the daily fruit, vegetable and flower market in central Angers. On Saturday the side streets are taken up with a flea market where you can pick up some good bargains.