Nestled in the far end of the Loire Valley is the town of Angers (pronounced "On-Jay"). Angers is the ancient home of the Plantagenet dynasty and was the capital of the Ajou region (the lower Loire valley).
Now a thriving an vibrant town, Angers is a great place to use a base for exploring the lower Loire valley. But, with a great selection of restaurants and bars, and some amazing buildings and a few other surprises Angers also makes a nice change from Paris for a day or two
What to see
One of the main structures in Angers is its 'chateau'. Normally a chateau is more of a manor house or palace, but the chateau at Angers can rightly be called a castle. Built for defense and for ruling Anjou in the 13th century, the chateau is unique for its grey round stone towers with their distinctive white rings. The inside of the castle appears quite different from the outside with a formal French garden, a chapel, vineyards, and a mini-chateau for royal living. The chateau is open to the public. Admission costs 8.50 Euro and the audio guide (which is worth taking) is another 4.50 Euro.
The other major attraction in Angers is housed within the chateau: the Apocalypse Tapestry. The tapestry is one of the oldest and largest French tapestries in existence. It depicts the book of Revelation (the last book in the New Testament of the Bible) in a number of large images. The tapestry is massive and must be seen to be believed. The entrance into the tapestry is included in the fee for the chateau and the audio guide for the chateau provides good commentary on each piece of the tapestry. There are also guided tours of the tapestry in French, although some are run in English if you book with the Angers tourism office of Angers.
The Angers tourism office provides maps of Angers with a suggested historic walk around the old city which takes in many of the city's ancient sites. These include the Cathedral of Saint-Maurice, the 12th century tower of Saint-Aubin, and the well preserved medieval half-timber 'Adam's House' (Maison d'Adam). The medieval buildings and small streets to the west of the main entrance to the castle (Rue Saint-Aignin, Rue Donadieu de Puycharic, and Rue du Vollier) are fun to explore.
The Place Saint Croix, behind the cathedral and in front of Adam's House (where Rue Saint-Aubin and Rue Corneille intersect with Rue Toussaint) is a nice place to stop for something to drink, especially on a warm summers evening. There is also breakfast and lunch served there during the day.
There are a number of restaurants on Place du Ralliement. Some of these can be a little bland though - also have a look on Rue des 2 Haies for something a little more interesting.
For some ideas further afield, there is a park within a 5 - 10 minute biking distance from the city which makes for a good picnic spot on the banks of la Maine river (city Velib's can be rented in front of the main train station). There are also a number of chateaux which are close to Angers which could be biked to as well. Chateau de Brissac (20km, 12.5mi south) which is the tallest chateau in France, the Chateau de Serrant (15km/ 9.3mi west) with its extensive library and the unused bedroom for Napoleon, or the Chateau de Plessis-Bourre (16k/10mi north) with its four working drawbridges and original 15th century exterior are all options for a day biking. Bikes can be rented from the tourist office or several other bike shops around town - book in advance. There are also some small towns that are nice to visit by bike. For example, Savennières can be biked to and back in an afternoon and is home to the 10th century church of Sainte Pierre.
The Angers tourist office has a brochure of around 66 chateaux and other historical sites close to Angers. Eight of them are on the Angers tourist office website.
Things to do
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Angers is by TGV. Because it is the TGV you will need to purchase your tickets beforehand as the TGV is reserved seating only. This can be done online at the SNCF website (only in French but easy to figure out what is going on) or at any SNCF agency. These are at every major train station and there are several around Paris as well.
Trains for Angers leave from Montparnasse Station and will cost around 45 - 53 Euro per person each way. Most trains to Angers are direct.
When you arrive at Angers you will arrive in to the "Angers Saint Laud" station. To get to the centre town exit the station onto Place de la Gare (also known as Rue Denis Papin). Head straight out of the station and through Place de la Gare and walk down Rue de la Gare. At the first roundabout take the 3rd exit on your left - this is Rue Hoche. This will bring you to the Church (eglise) Saint Laud. Turn right and walk straight towards the state and you will find the castle. Through the carpark, and on your right (on the corner of Rue Toussaint) is the tourist office. It is approximately 600m/0.37mi and should take 8 - 10 minutes to walk.
Approximate Distance from Paris: 300km/186mi
Time to get there: about 1 hour 40 minutes.
Transport Method: Train - TGV from Montparnasse 1 & 2
Approximate Price: Transport is approximately 52 Euro per person
Worth: Can be done in 1 day, enough to fill in 2.
(available in English)
Here is our trip report on our day trip to Angers.