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The Loire Valley – one large UNESCO World Heritage Site – is known for its outstanding wines and lively, sophisticated cities.

The region has a rich history, which can be seen in the chateaux and the villages and vineyards which surround them. Visit Azay le Rideau, which is considered to be one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture, or the castle of Chenonceau, which has a fascinating history.

Chinon is well known for its wine, castle and historic town – it played an important and strategic role during the Middle Ages. Tours is a university town and a traditional gateway for exploring the region. Major landmarks here include the Cathedral, whose Gothic facade is flanked by towers with 12th century bases and Renaissance tops.

Visitors may enjoy a trip to the Clos Luce – a small chateau in Amboise, famous for being the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci towards the end of his life. Further castles worth exploring are located at Blois and Chambord. Despite its location, the town of Orleans has an extensive historic centre which largely avoided damage during the second world war – visitors here can follow in the footsteps of Joan of Arc.