The Loire Valley is a popular region of France, steeped in history and shaped categorically through war and renaissance. The region formed following its conquest by Julius Caesar in 52BC, and it was under Roman rule when the first vines were introduced to the valley - now a thriving industry.
Over the course of centuries, the Loire Valley would develop immensely, offering grandeur architecture with majestic châteaux, lavish castles and surrounding vineyards. The opulence of the area attracted Renaissance artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, who vacated the Loire Valley for a number of years. Comparatively, the region is also home to troglodyte villages – the closest we have to cave living.
Its history, from renaissance to revolution, has left a stunning and interesting destination for students to explore. Here are a number of must-see historical sites in the region.
Château de Chenonceau
One of the most famous châteaux in the Loire Valley, Château de Chenonceau is situated on the north bank of the River Cher. Described as the 'lady’s château', the fortress was restored by three passionate French women throughout its history, who heavily influenced its now elegant appearance. It was Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, who extended the galerie de bal across the river, which has given the château its iconic appearance.
Students can explore the rooms and gardens, which have been restored in their original style to reflect the richness, affluence and splendour during that period. Wander around the spectacular building and view the castle's rare selection of Flanders tapestries and other collections from the 16th Century. A perfect opportunity for pupils to practise their French listening skills, an audio tour available in both English and French talks you through its history, beauty and reveals the castle's secrets.
Château du Clos Lucé
This stunning château, with its vibrant pink brick, was the home of Leonardo da Vinci during the last three years of his life. On visits to this small château, you can discover the artist’s outstanding inventions, which are displayed in a nearby park: a swing bridge, aircraft, automobile and many more. Eight audio stops around the park mean students can improve their French skills while learning about one of the world’s most famous artists. In ‘Leonardo’s Garden’ - an open air museum – you can stroll through a naturally preserved area filled with plants, botanicals and springs, where pupils can draw reference to some of his work.
Caves at Savonnières
Originally quarries of the middle ages, the caves at Savonnières produced soft limestone often used for building the valley's stunning castles. Centuries later, the quarries filled with water and created outstanding concretions and pathways. A popular attraction with school groups, students can observe amazing rock formations including stalagmites and stalactites, as well as a selection of colours and sparkling natural palettes deep underground.
Rochemenier troglodyte village
In France, well into the 1930s, many people still lived in houses carved out of stone. A popular tourist hotspot, Rochemenier troglodyte village has been part-restored as a museum to reflect the lifestyle and living conditions of the period. The tour includes a 30-minute guided presentation in French or English, with time afterwards for pupils to discover the caves, including fascinating rooms, farms and an amazing underground chapel – all shaped out of rock.
The Loire Valley is an interesting and beautiful destination for students to visit. For French language trips, the region offers an opportunity for pupils to improve their vocabulary through French audio tours, trips to these beautiful sites and exploration of the country’s culture and lifestyle.
Interested in this destination? Find out more about French language trips to the Loire Valley.