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Saumur is in the department of Maine-et-Loire, Loire Valley, western France. Home to museums, a beautiful medieval castle with stunning views over the River Loire. It’s also where you’ll find the National Riding School, where the famous Cadre Noir display team put on wonderful equestrian shows.

It’s perfectly located for touring the western side of the Loire Valley and close to several legendary locations.

What to see in Saumur

It’s a very pretty, flowery sort of a town, the cream coloured 17th century buildings mingle with medieval houses in cobbled streets lined with restaurants and shops. Wander on foot to discover it’s secrets. It’s rumoured that Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger is a fan of the town and we’re not surprised. Laid back, historic, mellow but with loads to do, it’s quintessentially French.

Saumur is home to the third most important military school in France – it’s huge and takes up around a fifth of the entire town’s footprint. There’s also an important equestrian school, the Ecole Nationale d’Equitation which puts on a famous annual show.

The Musée des Blindés has an impressive collection of battle tanks from the First World War to present day.

There’s a huge chapel in the town (now a school) which became a pilgrimage site of major importance and spawned a rosary making industry in Saumur, in fact they still make them here.

You’ll discover the remains of the ancient walls of the city, and plenty of surprises. Head to the Belvedere Hotel and push a button on a gate to enter a pretty courtyard, walk down “the streets of hell” and into Place St Pierre, lined with beautiful buildings some of which go back to the 15th century. Here you will find plenty of cafés and places to while away the hours while you enjoy the local wine and produce. We like the friendly Bistrot de Place where the tables spill out onto the pedestrianised square on a sunny day.

The famous Chateau of Saumur

Don’t miss Saumur Chateau built in the 12th century, you can see it from miles around on its elevated position looking over the town and the River Loire. Under Louis XIV it became a prison and later a military barracks. All that chopping and changing took its toll on the castle’s famous good looks. However, it has been partially restored after architect Jean Drapeau found a picture by chance in a chapel in Paris showing it as a fairy-tale looking castle in 1410. The painting was once in the collection of the Duc de Berry and shows the castle with golden finials on beautiful pointy turrets. Drapeau restored the towers and gold details of this quite enormous building. You won’t find much furniture inside, there’s a small collection but go for the view over the town and the river – it is stunning. In July and August there are free shows in the gardens (details on the Saumur Tourist Office website, below).

What to see and do near Saumur

Abbey Fontevraud: A few kilometres from Saumur, you’ll find the biggest abbey in Europe

Chateau Azay le Rideaux: One of the most enchanting castles in the world - Azay le Rideau looms like a fairy tale out of the waters of the River Indre in the Loire Valley.

Angers, a city with a multi-era legacy of stunning architecture; a history that saw it as the pre-Revolution capital of Anjou province, and a modern-day trade in Anjou wines and liqueurs, notably Cointreau and Menthe Pastille. Don’t miss seeing the famous tapestries of Angers. At the chateau of Angers is one of the oldest tapestries in France to have survived since the 14th century. Not far away in the Hopital Saint-Jean is a modern masterpiece, a series of tapestries by Jean Lurcat – utterly stunning.

Chinon: Chinon nestles in the heart of the Val de Loire resting by the banks of the majestic Vienne river in the Indre-et-Loire department. The medieval town has a colourful past and is dominated by the Chateau de Chinon, an ancient fortress which is steeped in history.

La Fleche: Situated half way between Angers and Le Mans in the Sarthe department, La Fleche is a colourful and buzzing little town that nestles on the banks of the River Loir in the Vallée du Loir (which translates as the Valley of the Dormouse). The Sunday morning market is wonderful and there are loads of great restaurants, boulangeries and cafés. Nearby is a zoo and the wonderful Chateau du Lude.

Practical information:

Discover loads more things to do in the Loire at www.valdeloire-france.com; www.ot-saumur.fr; www.coeur-val-de-loire.com

We love to help make your holiday dreams come true and have loads of fabulous holiday rentals we have in and around Saumur – Bons Vacances!