introduction to the Centre of France
The plains north and
south of the Loire are the breadbasket of France
While it does – just
– include the point which is the
geometric "centre" of continental France, the region of France known as
"Centre Val-de-Loire" does not generally coincide with the middle of the country.
It could more aptly be described as being the centre section
northern France. It is an area stretching from a latitude slightly
north of Paris, down to the north of the Limousin and Auvergne regions,
and is bordered to the west by Normandy,
de la Loire region and Poitou, and to the east
by the Paris region (Ile de France) and Burgundy.
Its regional capital is the city of Orléans.
Unlike many other
regions, the Centre
Val-de-Loire region is not
a historic province; it is, as its name perhaps implies, the heart of
historic France, the area between the Paris region and the Loire valley
that was for many centuries the centre of the kingdom of France
at times when the territory which is today known as France was
divided among the kingdoms or duchies of Normandy, Burgundy, Aquitaine,
Anjou and others less important. In this respect, the regions of the
Centre and the Ile de France are
The region is composed of six
departments, the Eure et
(28), the Loiret
(45), the Loir
et Cher (41), the Cher
(18), the Indre et Loire
(37) and the Indre
In the north of the region lies the area
known as la Beauce,
one of the two historic breadbaskets of France. This is a gently
undulating plateau where vast wheat fields stretch as far as they eye
The area's main city, Chartres,
is famous for its magnificent cathedral, one of the earliest and finest
gothic cathedrals in France. The middle of this region is
characterised by the low-lying valleys of the river Loire and its
tributaries. This area was very popular with the kings of France and
their dukes in the Middle
Ages and Renaissance,
and is rich with
magnificent châteaux - notably the most famous of the "Chateaux de la Loire"
such as Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau, Blois or Chenonceaux.
Orleans, Blois and Vierzon lies a vast area of forest and
heathland known as La Sologne,
once the favoured hunting grounds of the nobility, and today popular
with hunters, nature-lovers and hikers. The Loire valley is also
characterised by a number of vineyards, producing mainly white wines,
including the sparkling whites of Touraine and Vouvray. Among other
famous vineyard areas are Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre
Classically French - gardens "à la française" at
In the south and south-east, covering
departments of the Cher and the Indre, the Centre region rises gently
towards the hills of the Limousin and the Auvergne; this area, known as
is a deeply agricultural area, with mixed farming. Its capital is the
city of Bourges, with
a fine historic centre.
Finally, to the south-west of the town of Chateauroux lies
an area known as La Brenne,
the "area of a thousand lakes", and one of the most important wetlands
in France. As for the exact "centre" of France, it is
accepted as being close to the little town of Saint Amand Montrond,
south of Bourges.
The northern half of the Centre region
economically, from its proximity to Paris, and by excellent transport
links to the capital. Tours
is served by TGV, and Orleans
by fast express trains; all the major cities in the region also have
direct motorway access to Paris. The The cities of the Loire valley
have become important centres for the pharmaceutical and high-tech
industries, and the north of the region is also a centre for the French
As for the exact location of the
"centre" of France, several communes in the south of the Centre region
- and a some in the north of the Auvergne - are rivals for this title -
depending on the criteria used. But according to various criteria, the
centre of France lies at some spot in the commune of
Saint-Armand-Montrond, in the very south of the Cher department.
(TGV) from Paris Gare Montparnasse, Gare d'Austerlitz, or gare de
Bercy. Access by road
from the UK, via any of the Channel ports, then via Paris or Rouen. The
Centre region is crossed by the main motorways between Paris and
western / southwestern France, the A10 (Paris-Tours-Bordeaux), the A11
(Paris-Chartres-Rennes), the A71( [Paris] -
Orleans -Clermont-Ferrand) , the A77 (Paris-Nevers) and the
A20 ( [Paris]
access is easiest via Paris Orly
airport, or Tours.
the Loir and the Loire are two different rivers. The Loir is a
tributary of the Loire.... confusing !
tourist attractions in
the Centre of France
Amboise, on the River Loire Photo
Chartres cathedral - statues on west portal - Photo
Chateau de Chambord, near Blois - Photo
further: Official Centre
region tourism site
(37 / 41 / 45 ) The wide slow-moving Loire is one of Europe's great
rivers. The river, excellent for fishing, is bordered by many
attractive small towns, and the flat land is good for cycling. There
are also many vineyards in the area of Tours.
Châteaux de la Loire (37, 41, 45, 18)
castles of the Loire. Many of these are actually on tributaries of the
Loire. The most famous are Chambord,
Chenonceau, Villandry (with its famous gardens) and Azay le Rideau. But
there are many others, including Langeais, Cheverny, Rigny-Ussé,
The Loire valley and its châteaux are classed as a UNESCO world
Sologne: great wooded area, south and southwest of
Orleans; formerly favoured as hunting
grounds by kings and nobles. It includes many châteaux, most notably
Cher area (18)
(18): Attractive historic centre, with great gothic cathedral, later
than that of Chartres; fine mediaeval sculptures and stained glass;
the famous Renaissance town residence of Jacques Coeur.
(18) Picturesque village, with the home of 19th century novelist George
(18) Abbaye de Noirlac, one of the Best preserved Cistercian
monasteries in Europe, founded on the banks of the river Cher in the
Indre area (36)
Brenne (36). Area of 1000 lakes, major wetland renowned
for its birds.
(36). A fine Loire château that is rather further from the Loire than
Indre et Loire area (37)
(37): largest city in the region, Tours boasts an attractive historic
centre with old half-timbered houses, St Gatien's cathedral,
also a castle.
(37) Attractive small town, dominated by its large mediaeval castle,
built by King Henry II of England, who was also Duke of Anjou. Henry is
buried in nearby Fontevraud Abbey, in the Pays
de la Loire region
(36) Small town guilt around a fine mediaeval fortress and
Renaissance castle. Old city gates, and narrow cobbled streets.
Eure et Loir area (28)
(28) - One of the most famous gothic cathedrals in France, famous in
particular for its magnificent mediaeval stained-glass windows.
- Illiers-Combray A village near Chartres Marcel Proust depicted life in Illiers in his novel ,
arguably the greatest French novel of the 20th century. Illiers was the
model for Proust"s Combray, and today has a Proust museum in "la Maison
de Tante Léonie". Illiers changed its name to Illiers-Combray in 1971,
on the centenary of Proust's birth.
Loiret area (45)
(45), Regional capital, a historic city on the banks of the Loire.
centre has many historic buildings, and a cathedral that was rebuilt in
the seventeenth century.
Loir et Cher area (41)
(41) . Historic town on the
northern bank of the Loire, with a magnificent Renaissance castle.
near Montrichard. Unique subterranean village, sculpted into the soft
local stone. Not old, but very interesting.
(41) : site of the Briare aqueduct over the Loire, until
2003 the longest canal bridge in the world. Built 1896.
Bordes (41) : in the Sologne, reputed to be the finest
golf course in France.
Parc de Beauval,
(41) in the Loire valley area. Over 4000 animals, including koalas
& orang-utangs. the largest wildlife collection in France.