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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke

Many restaurants in the ‘garden of France’ make the most of the exceptional fresh local produce, including asparagus, strawberries, pears, apples and mushrooms cultivated in tufa caves.

You’ll also discover popular local dishes with freshwater fish, seasonal wild game, Geline hen and excellent Maine-Anjou beef – both rare breeds that have been recently revived.

The world-class Loire Valley Wine Region produces all types of wine, from sweet white Coteaux de Layon, dry white Savennieres and sparkling Vouvray, to hearty red Borgueil, Saumur and Chinon. Loire wines tend to exhibit a characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavours.

What to try

Look out for savoury dishes cooked in wine, such as coq au chinon (pheasant) and chaudree vendeene (fish and potato casserole). Terrines are abundant too, including pate de lapin (rabbit paté) and rillettes de tours (potted pork). Large, galipette mushrooms grown in troglodyte farms are stuffed with cheese and rillettes, then cooked in wood-fired ovens and served with Fouaces, puffy circular bread.

Dessert-wise, expect traditional delicacies like tarte tatin (the legendary caramelised apple tart invented by the Tatin sisters), pastry-topped tarte aux prunes (plum pie) and cremet d’Anjou (sweet, vanilla mousse).

Most meals start with soupe angevine, a cocktail made from local sparkling wine, lemon and Cointreau, which is produced just outside of Angers.

The region is also home to France’s best goats’ cheeses, such as Sainte-Maure, Valencay, Crottin de Chavignol and Selles-sur-Cher.

Also see Anna’s round-up of traditional French foods you must try in France.

The dining scene

Restaurant options vary from grand gourmet establishments in historic chateaux to simple café-brasseries, rustic bistros and ethnic restaurants.

One regional speciality is the guinguette, traditional restaurants set along the Loire River, where simple dishes are served outdoor and sometimes to live music.

There are also numerous troglodyte eateries, serving home-cooked food in the region’s white tufa caves.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Getting there & doing it

The main towns of Blois, Tours, Saumur, Amboise and Angers are restaurant hubs, with everything from atmospheric bistros and brasseries to classic cafés. As the largest city, Tours is a foodie hotspot, especially along Rue Colbert, where old half-timbered buildings house a variety of restaurants.

For quirky dining, try the open-air guinguettes along the Loire River in villages like Montjean-sur-Loire and Bouzille. Or head into the cave eateries in Saumur and Montsoreau.

Or if you’re looking for nightlife, you’ll find lively bars and taverns in the larger towns of Angers and Tours, where large student populations keep things going until late.

View down a street with market stalls in Amboise

Amboise Food Market

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Set along the edge of the Loire River, in the shadow of the Chateau d’Amboise, this famous outdoor Sunday food market hawks local goats cheese, meats, fish and wine, plus fresh fruit and vegetables from farms around the region.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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External view of the troglodyte mushroom farm, built into a hillside

Le Saut aux Loups mushroom farm

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

This series of cool, dank caverns in Montsoreau is said to have once been inhabited by loups (wolves), then exploited as quarries, before being turned into a champignonnière (mushroom farm). Button, oyster and shitake mushrooms are cultivated here today.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Close up of a cheese collection, soft goat French cheese with mold crottin de Chavignol produced in Loire Valle

Le Vazerau

La Roche-Clermault, Centre de la Loire, France

Just south of Chinon, this small specialist manufacturer of goats’ cheese offers guided tours of their farm, explaining their traditional manufacturing process, followed by tastings paired with Chinon wine.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Overview >
Interior of a lighted cave housing a tables and chairs of a restaurant

Les Caves de La Genevraie

Louresse-Rochemenier, Pays de la Loire, France

This troglodyte restaurant serves delicious traditional fouaces, circular flatbreads, filled with mushrooms and cheese, and served in caves used as refuges during the 16th-century Wars of Religion.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Overview >

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Chateau de Beauvois

Saint-Etienne-de-Chigny, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Stately chateau hotel in a magical woodland setting where Louis XIII once came hunting.

Official star rating:

Chateau de Marcay

Marcay, France

Picturesque 15th-century château hotel made for gourmets, with its own vineyards and an excellent restaurant.

Official star rating:

Domaine de la Tortiniere

Veigne, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Relaxed, stylish family-run chateau hotel, well located in the heart of the Loire Valley.

Official star rating:

Le Clos d’Amboise

Amboise, Centre-Val de Loire, France

An attractive family-friendly hotel, with great staff and a perfect small-town location for exploring the Loire.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience