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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 23 June, 2023
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.

Amboise Food Market

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

View down a street with market stalls in Amboise

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+

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Le Saut aux Loups mushroom farm

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

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

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+

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Le Vazerau

La Roche-Clermault, Centre de la Loire, France

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

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+

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Les Caves de La Genevraie

Louresse-Rochemenier, Pays de la Loire, France

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

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+

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Les Halles de Tour

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Interior of a modern grocery store

Smack bang in the middle of Tours this wonderful covered market houses 38 stalls piled high with the best of the region’s produce. You can sign up for cooking demonstrations too and learn how to make the regional classics.

Best for ages 13+

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Loire Valley Wine Region

Loire Valley, France

Bucket List Experience
A vineyard in foreground, a picturesque small chateau in background

A vast, yet easily explored wine region with 7,000+ winegrowers producing all types of wine, and curious troglodyte wine cellars.

Min age 18

Best for ages 18+

Max Vauche Chocolatier

Bracieux, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Close up of selection of luxury chocolates

A fabulous specialist chocolate manufacturer offering guided tours of its workshop and chocolate-making lessons, plus a bar entirely dedicated to chocolate drinks and cakes.

Best for ages 8+

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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.

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Loire Valley

Loire Valley, France

Exterior of the front of the chateau, with a tree-lined driveway in foreground

Northern France’s beautiful UNESCO-listed valley, home to heart-stoppingly beautiful historic chateaux, authentic village life, world-class wines and fascinating troglodytes.