Why visit Orléans?
Orléans in central France is a perfect central starting point for trips around the Loire Valley, with its famous châteaux, gardens and historic attractions. The Loire Valley is one of the most visited parts of France, particularly easy to reach from Paris. Orléans is also a city worth staying in, with an attractive old quarter centering around 18th- and 19th-century streets with arcaded galleries that evoke a gracious and prosperous history.
How to get there
Orléans is 119 km (74 miles) south west of Paris, and 72 km (45 miles) south east of Chartres.
- Orléans stands in the Loire Valley on a great bend of the Loire River, lying between the rich arable cornfields of the gentle Beauce to the north and the dense forests of the Sologne to the south.
- In the past, the Loire was a major highway, and Orleans was the natural stop to continue the coach ride to Paris.
- Population of central Orléans is around 113,000; greater Orléans is around 264,000
2 place de L’Etape
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 24 05 05
The history of Orléans is inextricably mixed with Joan of Arc who during the Hundred Years War between the English and the French (1339-1453), inspired the French army to victory after a week-long siege. You can see the celebration of Joan and her liberation of the city all over the town, particularly in the stained glass in the cathedral.
Real devotees should visit the Maison de Jeanne-d'Arc (3 pl du General-de-Gaulle, tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 52 99 89; website). This half-timbered building is a reconstruction of the house of the Treasurer of Orléans, Jacques Boucher, where Joan stayed in 1429. An audiovisual exhibit tells the story of the lifting of the siege by Joan on May 8th, 1429.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 77 87 50
For a superb view, approach the city from the other side of the Loire and you see the cathedral standing out onthe skyline. The place where Joan celebrated her victory, the cathedral has a chequered history and you see a building that has been massively altered during the centuries. While the cathedral may not have the impact of Chartres, its stained glass is interesting, particularly the windows telling the story of the Maid of Orleans. Also look out for the 17th-century organ and the 18th-century woodwork.
Open May to September daily 9.15am-6pm
October to April daily 9.15am-noon & 2-6pm
Musee des Beaux-Arts
Tel.:00 33 (0)2 38 79 21 55
Good collection of French artists from the Le Nain to Picasso. Also has paintings from the 15th to the 20th century including Tintoretto, Correggio, Van Dyck and a large collection of French pastels.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-6pm
Admission: Main galleries adult 4 euros; mail galleries and temporary exhibitions adults 5 euros
Free for under 18 year olds and for all visitors first Sunday of each month.
Place de l’Etape
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 79 22 30
A huge Renaissance house begun in 1550, the Hotel was the home of Francois II who married Mary, Queen of Scots.
The mansion was also used as a residence by the French Kings Charles IX, Henri III, and Henri IV. You can see the interior and the garden.
Open July to September Mon-Fri & Sun 9am-6pm; Sat 5-8pm
October to June Mon-Fri & Sun 10am-noon & 2-6pm, Sat 5-7pm
Le Parc Floral de la Source Large public park around the source of the Loiret with plenty to do including free croquet and badminton among the different gardens. The small, 212 km long Loiret, like many rivers in the area, runs into the Loire as it makes its way towards the Atlantic coast. Don't miss the dahlia and iris gardens that fill the place with color. And as vegetable gardens go, the one here is delightful.
Where to Stay
Hotel de l’Abeille
64 rue Alsace-Lorraine
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 53 54 87
Charming hotel in a city not overburdened with good hotels, the Hotel de l’Abeille is still owned by the family who started it in 1903.
Comfortable, old-fashioned décor with antique furniture and old prints and paintings and with a roof terrace for summer days. Good for Joan of Arc fans; there are plenty of artefacts on the lady decorating the rooms.
Rooms 79 to 139 euros. Breakfast 11.50 euros. No restaurant but bar/patisserie.
Hotel des Cedres
17 rue du Marechal-Foch
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 62 22 92
Website In the center, but quiet and peaceful with a glassed-in conservatory for breakfast looking onto the garden. Rooms are comfortable and decent sized.
Rooms 67 to 124 euros. Breakfast 9 euros. No restaurant.
14 pl du Vieux Marche
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 53 74 32
In central Orléans, this is a reliable hotel continuously being updated. No particular frills, but comfortable and friendly with good sized family rooms.
Rooms 69 to 115 euros. Breakfast 7 euros per person. No restaurant.
Where to Eat
Le Lievre Gourmand
28 quai du Chatelet
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 53 66 14
19th-century house with a predominantly white décor is the setting for some serious cooking in dishes such as truffle risotto, top beef with polenta and enticing desserts.
Menus 35 to 70 euros.
La Veille Auberge
2 rue du Faubourg St-Vincent
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 53 55 81
Traditional cooking using local ingredients in this pretty restaurant. There’s a garden for summer dining or eat in the antique-filled dining room.
Menus 25 to 49 euros.
Loire Valley Wines
The Loire Valley produces some of France's best wines, with over 20 different appellations. So take advantage when you are in Orleans of sampling the wines in the restaurants, but also taking side trips to the vineyards. To the east, you can discover Sancerre with its white wines produced froom the Sauvignon grape. To the west, the area around Nantes produces Muscadet.
Loire Valley Food
The Loire Valley is known for its game, hunted in the nearby forest of the Sologne. As Orleans is on the banks of the Loire, fish is also a good bet, while mushrooms come from the caves near Saumur.
What to see outside Orléans
From Orléans you can visit Sully-sur-Loire chateau and the Chateau and Park of Chateauneuf-sur-Loire to the east and at Meung-sur-Loire to the west, one of my favorite gardens, the Jardins du Roquelin.
Loire à Velo
For those with energy, you can hire a bicycle and make your way along some of the 800 km (500 mile) cycle route that takes you from Cuffy in the Cher to the Atlantic coast. Part of the route passes through the Loire Valley, and there are various separate cycle routes taking you past the different chateaux which you can visit.
It's all extremely well organised, with hotels and guest houses specially geared up to deal with cyclists. Get the Loire Valley route on this link.