The heart of France - a short guide

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The heart of France 

From Paris to the Loire and Burgundy

The heart of France in more detail Visiting Paris  The Centre region
The western Loire Burgundy guide 

ParisThe area historically considered as the heart of France is generally taken to stretch from the Paris area in the north, the "Ile de France", to the Loire basin and Burgundy in the south. It stretches from the Atlantic coast almost to the Swiss border and includes four regions, Pays de la Loire, Centre, Ile de France (Paris area) and Burgundy.
   The Paris region and the Loire valley, lying a hundred miles south-west, are by far the most popular regions with American tourists, and generally speaking with visitors from Japan, China and other distant parts of the world. Paris, which is less than three hours by train from London, or two hours from Brussels, is also the most popular destination for British tourists.

  Southwest of Paris lies Versailles, easily accessible for an afternoon trip or a day trip. And beyond Versailles, in the direction of the Loire, lies a region called the Beauce, France's breadbasket, an area where vast wheat fields stretch out towards the horizon . In the middle of the Beauce lies Chartres, home to one of the most magnificent of France's great mediaeval cathedrals and some of the finest mediaeval stained glass windows in the world.
    A large choice of day trips from Paris to the classic sights of central France, including Loire Chateaux (1 or 2-day trips), Chartres, Versailles and Champagne are available and can be booked online from Paris City vision .

The mighty Loire     The Loire - the longest river in France - flows into the sea near Saint Nazaire, on France's Atlantic coast west of Nantes. To the north and the south of the mouth of the Loire lie a part of the historic province of Brittany, now part of the Loire Atlantique department, and the historic area of Vendée, a  fairly flat coastal plain area that was once famous for its resistance to the French Revolution. The Vendée coastline has some well-known seaside resorts, with large sandy beaches, including Les Sables d'Olonne. The lower Loire basin is currently part of the Pays de la Loire region, a land with soft contours, slowly flowing rivers, forests, fields and villages.
Chateau de Chenonceaux    Further inland, the central Loire Valley is famous for its "Châteaux", such as Chenonceaux (photo above); but not so many tourists venture to discover the byways of this attractive region. Known as "the garden of France", this region is famous for its mild climate, its castles, and its vineyards. As the historic French heartland, the region is rich in history and culture. The countryside is gentle, with undulating hills and quietly flowing rivers - an ideal region for those who just want to be lazy, or to enjoy eating out, fishing or just exploring the countryside. The "Sologne" area, south of the Loire, contains the remaining parts of a once huge forest, rich with wildlife, that originally encouraged the kings and princes of France to build
Burgundy wine trail
There are plenty of wine routes to discover in Central France - in Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire valley
their castles in this region. For more information visit the guide to the Centre region of France.

   In the eastern part of this area lies the Burgundy region, famous for its wines; but in fact the wine-growing region of Burgundy is quite small, lying mostly in a ribbon along the western edge of the Saone plain, south of Dijon. This part of Burgundy is rich in places to visit, including Dijon and Beaune (the wine capital). In the north of Burgundy, the Morvan hills are the last outcrop of the uplands of central France.
    The Saône plain is a fairly flat region, with lots of lakes (la Bresse) and slow flowing rivers. This region is very popular with anglers and bird watchers.
Most of the rest of Burgundy is a hilly region (the Morvan), with small towns and villages many of them rich in history. The hills are higher than those further west, and the valleys deeper; the Morvan is hill country, and there are good hiking paths; but it is not mountain country. 

Main cities:
Nantes, Tours, Angers, Orléans, Dijon. Paris.
Going further: (more detailed information, including major tourist attractions)

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in the heart of France
other places to stay
in Paris
Hotels in Burgundy
Hotels in the Loire valley
Small hotels in central France
Gites in the Loire valley
Bed & Breakfast in central France

Map of France
Getting to Paris & central France :
By car:
There are direct motorway or trunk road connections from all the Channel ports.
By rail from the UK: Eurostar non-stop from London to Paris, or from Ashford (with parking facilities).
By air : from the UK there are flights to Paris and Tours; From the USA: flights from most major US airports to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport
For more details see the Travel to France page.

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Beyond Paris, a guide to the French regions and their tourist attractions.
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