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Blois in the Loire Valley

Visit the town of Bloir in the heart of the Loire Valley

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blois

Blois in the Loire Valley

© Léonard de Serres

Why Visit Blois

Blois, only one hour 22 minutes from Paris by train and roughly half way between Orleans and Tours in the Loire Valley, makes a perfect center for exploring the gorgeous towns with their impressive chateaux (castles) along the river valley. It’s a delightful city, with its old streets clustered around the Chateau de Blois in the center of the town. Blois makes a perfect short break as it's compact and easy to walk around. There's good public transport to some of the chateaux nearby and good train connections to many other French cities.

Fast Facts

  • In the Loir-et-Cher region (41)
  • 48,500 inhabitants
  • Tourist Office 23 place du Chateau
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 54 90 41 41
    Tourist Website

How to get to Blois

  • By car
    The distance from central Paris to Blois is around 159km (99 miles) and the journey takes around two hours depending on your speed.
  • By train
    There is a good train service from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz to Blois station.
    Guide to travel from Paris to Blois
  • By Bike
    Blois is on the main bicycle route in the Val de Loire, which offers 550 km of paths, trails and back roads specially marked out for cyclists. You can pick a part of the route, and there’s a very good section, Chateaux by Bike, that takes you past some of the castles. You'll find suggestions of accommodation, places which are friendly to bikers, places to eat and more in the local tourist offices which also have a very good free map.
    More information on the tourist website

A Little History of Blois

The town started as the fortified residence of the Counts of Blois in the 10th century. With such a powerful family protecting the town, it inevitably prospered, and grew along the river and around the bridge that was built in the 11th century.

The town was a natural trading post on the road from Chartres to Poitou, and the move by the French kings to live in Blois ensured its prominence. Convents and churches followed and the city expanded along the Loire. In 1716 what was known as the Great Ice break destroyed the old bridge and a new one was built. It’s a handsome structure linking the two banks and was followed by quays along the riverside.

The French Revolution did away with 15 churches; the Industrial Revolution brought further expansion particularly around the train station. In 1940 an air raid destroyed nearly 500 buildings; reconstruction took place between 1946 and 1950 and the result is a distinctive old quarter and new buildings that more or less fit into the cityscape.

Today Blois is a thriving city; the natural heart of the Loire Valley with good connections east and west. It makes a perfect base for exploring the Loire river, the chateaux along its banks and the numerous gardens in the area.

Where to Stay and Eat in Blois

Blois is a major center, so there’s plenty of choice from modest hotels to chic bed and breakfasts and from top-end Michelin-starred dining to friendly casual bistros down by the river.

Compare prices on Blois hotels

Guide to accommodation and restaurants in Blois

For quick snacks and drinks there are plenty of places along the main roads and in the square in front of the Chateau. I particularly recommend:
Les Forges du Chateau
21 place du Chateau
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 54 78
Just opposite the chateau, this is a good place for a drink and a snack in the small walled garden. There’s a comprehensive wine selection to buy in the cellar underneath the house and good regional products as well.

Attractions in Blois

  • Chateau of Blois
    Visiting the glorious chateau at Blois is the main reason most people visit the city. Dominating the town and the river, it has everything: a history of royalty and intrigue, of romance and dark deeds; spectacular architecture which takes in four centuries and four very different styles; an interior full of fine art and furniture; some wonderful events in the summer, and a truly remarkable son-et-lumiere (sound and light) show on summer evenings.
    Read more about the Chateau of Blois
  • The House of Magic (Maison de la Magie)
    1 place du Chateau
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 54 90 33 33
    Website
    You can’t miss this extraordinary museum housed in an old red brick house opposite the chateau entrance. If you can, catch the first show every half hour when the windows open and the heads of six dragons snake out. And don’t think this is just for children; magic of this kind is for every age. The museum is devoted to Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. Born in Blois in 1805, he made clocks and automates, many of which you’ll see in the museum as you make your way from illusion to illusion on its five levels. There are shows on selected days in the underground theater and special events.

  • The Old Town
    The old part of Blois stretches out from the Chateau and the Place St-Louis around the cathedral, built during the reign of Louis XIV in 1697. The story goes that the Bishop had wanted the church of St-Nicolas for his cathedral, but as the church was higher than the Chateau (its three spires form a great landmark), the King refused. Instead Louis offered the site of the former Saint Solenne’s church which had just been hugely damaged by a hurricane. The Bishop had to accept and the church became Saint Louis Cathedral. Today, it’s mainly notable for a set of stained glass windows added in 2000.

  • Walking around the Old Town
    The Tourist Office has a good map detailing four walks, all around two kilometers long and starting in the town center. With the map the walks are well signposted with different bronze dials embedded in the pavements.
    The Porcupine route (emblem of Louis XII) takes you along the old streets around the Chateau and into the Chateau’s now public gardens.
    The Fleur de Lys takes you on a circuit to the Puits Chatel district, full of Renaissance town houses.
    The Saint-Nicolas Steeples is a trail around the western part of the city surrounding what was once an old abbey.
    The Sailing Boat walk is around the left bank area which takes you across the river. It gives you a great view of Blois and the chateau and takes you into Saint-Saturnin Church, once a major pilgrimage destination.

Shopping

The rue du Commerce and its surrounding streets offer the best shops in Blois, which historically is known for chocolate making through its trading position on the Loire. The chocolate maker Auguste Poulain opened his first shop in Blois in 1847 and rapidly became the great moderniser, establishing his own brand and mechanizing his production. Bought in the 1990s, today you'll see mass-produced (but still very good) Poulain chocolates in every supermarket in France.

  • Eric Saguez 74 rue du Commerce
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 54 78 20 73
    Irresistible cakes, patisseries and chocolates at the shop run by this meilleur ouvrier de France (best in any particular skill) and former chef at the Ritz, Paris. Chocolate or fruit cakes are a speciality; you can also eat them in the salon de the.

  • Patissier-chocolatier Stephan Buret
    20 rue du Commerce
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 54 78 02 96
    More fantastic creations here, including the Saint-Michel (confection of meringues with Grand Marnier butter between them).

  • Markets
    Daily markets
    Tuesday morning: Place Louis XII
    Wednesday morning: rue Pierre et Marie Curie
    Wednesday afternoon: quartier Begon-Coty
    Thursday morning: Place Louis XII and rue Chateaubriand
    Friday: Quai Amedee Contant, bio market from 5pm to 9pm
    Saturday morning: Place Louis XII
    Saturday afternoon: Quartier Republique
    Sunday morning: Avenue de l'Europe

  • Brocante market on the Mail St Jean rue Jeanne d’Arc, second Sunday in each month

Outside Blois

From Blois, a local coach company runs buses to Chambord, Cheverny and Beauregard Chateaus and back to Blois daily.
Guide to buses from Blois.

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