All the advantages of a city... and quality of life in the bargain!
Orléans – a former royal city and regional capital – is a comfortably sized town with all the ingredients of a major city, to charm and surprise you. Just follow your guide...
Why you must go there?
Perhaps you have already heard people say, 'Orléans?... We've passed by but never stopped.'
Yet, with all due respect, let me tell you that it is high time you all took the time to take a closer look at Orléans, over a lovely little weekend!
Shall I tell you why? First of all, because Orléans has, over recent years, engaged in major conservation projects aimed at once more revealing all its former splendour. And what splendour!... Not only have these projects unveiled old half-timbering that had disappeared under roughcast façades, but they have also been revamped to don their original colours. The old town, for a long time rather gloomy, has literally been metamorphosed: into a spruce, sparkling and lively place... Did you say terrace?
Secondly, to come and see for yourself that the finest success story in this vast renovation programme was the rediscovery of the charms of the River Loire and its banks: Orléans was born and bred amidst the bustling activity of the Loire quaysides (in the 18th century it was the leading port supplying Paris). However, with the advent of rail transport, the town's activity moved away from the river, only to recently return there. Today, miles and miles of quayside welcome walkers, cyclists and events. Thirdly, because Orléans is the perfect base for you to set off and discover the entire Loire Valley and its famous châteaux - Chambord, Blois, Sully-sur-Loire (to name but a few!) are less than an hour from the town. To the west - Orléans Forest; to the south - Sologne... and between them - the Loire, Loiret and the Orléans canal. The town has more than one string to its bow to attract and charm nature lovers!
Bords de Loire à Orléans © Ludovic Letot
Jardin de la Charpenterie © Ludovic Letot
Bords de Loire à Orléans © Ludovic Letot
La Loire à Orléans © Christophe Mouton
La Loire à Orléans © Comfute Steeve Harpon
Make sure you don't miss...
Joan of Arc!
You'll have trouble missing her: here in Orléans, Joan of Arc is simply everywhere! Why? On the 8th of May 1429, she played a decisive role in the liberation of the town, at the time occupied by the English. You can admire her proudly perched on her horse on the beautiful Place du Martroi square. You will also bump into her in the cathedral and in the Hôtel de Ville (town council) rooms. And you can also catch a fleeting glance of her, engraved on the nails that outline the pedestrian crossings, or painted on coffee and cotignac boxes...
Yet Joan's most striking performance here – and this time in the flesh – is early May, over the Fêtes Johanniques which pay tribute to her every year.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross
13th – 18th centuries
One curiosity should catch your gaze: the rose windows in the transept. They were commissioned by Louis XIV. To thank him, a sun - in its rising and setting colours - has been added to the stained glass windows. Outside, the king himself comes to thumb his nose at you under his modest motto, 'Nec pluribus impar' (above all). Have fun trying to spot his tiny little royal face in the centre of the two rose windows!
This fine Renaissance hotel was transformed and has housed the town council since the French Revolution. It was once the 'king's guest house'. One of its illustrious guests even passed away here: see if you can find out which one...
Coffered ceilings, walls covered with painted and enamelled canvas, moulded panelling, sumptuously sculpted furniture covered with Cuir de Cordoue (gold leather), Aubusson tapestries, etc. Nothing was too fine for Jacques Groslot, one of the French King François II's advisers, who paid a great interest in modernism!
Free unaccompanied tours, with the exception of official ceremonies.
Orléans: the old town
From the cathedral to the River Loire, on either side of the Rue de Bourgogne, take a stroll through the pedestrian walkways and admire the many stone-built of half-timbered Renaissance houses.
The Musée des Beaux-arts (fine art museum), Maison de Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc's house), the FRAC (Regional Contemporary Art Collection), to name but a few.
The Parc Floral de la Source, 35 hectares located around the Loiret's source (access by tramway, 30 minutes from the town centre). The gardens of the Hôtel Groslot and the Charpenterie: gardens 'with a view', where you can even enjoy a picnic.
To discover the town
The Tourist Office organises tours throughout the year: city discovery tour, 11th century crypts, the cathedral heights, etc... but also boat trips along the Loire aboard a traditional boat.
What to bring home?
Vinegar of course! It has been Orléans' speciality since the Middle Ages. Of the original 200 vinegar-makers, only one remains - Martin-Pouret, who also produces mustard.
Orléans is also home to fine wines: 'Orléans' and 'Orléans Cléry' red, white or rosé.
Cotignac: quince jelly presented in small, round boxes bearing the effigy of Joan of Arc.
Poire d'Olivet: brandy made of Williams pears with a whole pear inside the bottle.
How to get here?
- by car: A10, A71, N20, N60
- by train: allow 1 hour to 1 hour and a half from the Gare d'Austerlitz station in Paris.
Please note that there are two railway stations in Orléans: Orléans Centre and Orléans-Les Aubrais (tram link to the town centre)
You can also choose to discover the town on foot: you can meander your way through the centre, without encountering a single car!
Several underground car parks in the town centre.
Good idea: park in one of the town's outskirts car parks and travel to the centre by tram.
Cycle hire: cycle parks at the railway station and in the town centre.
Accommodation – information and booking:
Orléans Val de Loire Tourist Office: 0033 (0)2 38 24 05 05
Loiret Tourist Board: 0033 (0)2 38 78 04 04