Some towns are just picture perfect, without being touristy. Blois (pronounced Blo-wah) is a bit like this. Not too many tourists, and many of the tourists that are there are French.
Nestled in the heart of the Loire Valley and close to many of the chateux in the Loire Valley, Blois might be just the town you are looking for.
What to see
One of the primary things about Blois is just the town itself. It has a great feel to it, the people are (on the whole) friendly, and it is nice just to wander around (even on those days when the weather is not so nice outside.
On the list of things to do and places to see are the following: The Chateau Royal, The Houdin Magic Museum, the Saint Nicholas church, the old town and the market.
One of the most famous buildings is the Chateau Royal. Full of beautiful colors and home to French royalty throughout the ages, the Chateau de Blois was originally built in the 13th Century but had buildings continually added to the complex through to the 17th Century. It was home to, among others, Louis III who was murdered in the chateau, and also Marie de Midici. It is now available for visits. The chateau is open year round (except 25 December and 1 January). Hours vary depending on the season, normally it is open from between 9 till 5:30 or 6pm. Entry costs 9.50 Euro. There is a sound and light show in the chateau between 7 April and 25 September (on Wednesday's it is in English).
The city of Blois was also the birth place of one of the founding figures of modern magic: Robert Houdin. In Blois there is a magic museum dedicated to Robert Houdin and combines both a museum of magic and conjuring and also a place for magic performances. The museum is opposite the Chateau Royal de Blois, and is recognisable because of the golden dragons in the windows (when it is open). The museum is open 7 April - 23 September and 27 October - 11 November. Opening times vary - on weekends it is 10 - 12:30 and 2:00 - 6:30pm. On weekdays, sometimes the museum is only open in the afternoon. Entrance costs 8 Euro. A combined ticket with the Chateau and the Museum is available.
Blois is home to a number of interesting churches. The 13th Century Saint Nicholas church is a prominant landmark and can be seen from many places around the town and worth a visit.
Iconic of Blois is the bridge across the Loire river. Built in the 18th Century, the bridge and the river make for great scenic photography.
Blois has a large number of parks and gardens which are great for strolling around on a nice day.
The old part of Blois, below the Chateau makes for great exploring. It isn't large, but it has some nice 'places' with cafe's and is home to the life of the town. On Saturday mornings there is a market around the old town with all sorts of local products by locals and for locals. The market is a great place to explore and get lost in.
Finally, Blois is nestled in one of the most beautiful valleys in France with the Loire river, and amazing countryside. There are a number of bike rental shops and the local tourist office has maps of the area, including dedicated cycle ways. It is possible to bike along the river, or take an inland route through some small villages. Start early enough during summer and you can make it to Chateau de Chambord (or one of the other many chateau surrounding Blois) and back in the day.
Things to do
How to get there
There are several options to get to Blois. There are some direct Intercites trains that leave from Gare Austerlitz. More likely, you will need to change somewhere, however if you buy your tickets from the yellow machines at the station it will give you the most convenient routing. Most common routing is through Orleans.
Be careful when booking your tickets because there can be vast difference in terms of travel time.
The direct train takes about 1 hour 20 minutes and costs 27.20 Euro per person each way. There are other options which take 1 hour 50 minutes and cost 27.40 Euro per person each way. Be careful of the TGV link, which is more expensive because of the TGV but will take about 2 hours and costs 51.40 Euro per person each way.
Approximate Distance from Paris: 174km/108mi
Time to get there: 1 hour 20 minutes - 2 hours 20 minutes
Transport Method: Intercites Train from Paris Austerlitz
Some trains change in Orelans or other cities.
Approximate Price: Train price is around 27.40 Euro
Worth: A full day
Website: http://www.blois.fr/ (available in English).