11 Things to Do in Angers, Loire Valley That Will (Ironically, I Know) Make You Very Happy
Don’t let the name fool you: there are so many wonderful things to do in Angers that you’ll (almost) wonder why the Loire Valley’s stunning castles garner it all the attention.
Savvy travellers know that while the castles are justifiably famous, there are also a few oft-overlooked cities in the region that are definitely worth a visit.
Chief among them is Angers, located in the Maine et Loire department of the valley’s west side, whose residents are among the happiest in all of France (a fact whose irony is not lost on those of us who understand what the city’s name means in English!).
Neither too large nor too small, it boasts just the right amount of history, culture, good food and fine wine (it’s the third largest wine making area in France). Plus, it’s just an hour and a half from Paris by high speed train, making it an ideal starting point for an exploration of the Loire Valley.
A Brief Introduction to Angers
Angers has a unique heritage dating back to the beginnings of Christianity and continuing through the great dynasty of the Counts of Anjou and the French Revolution. All have left their mark on its landscape and architecture.
It is also the birthplace of the famous Cointreau liqueur and one of France’s greenest cities, boasting many parks, gardens and rivers.
A Few of Our Favourite Things to Do in Angers
Place du Ralliement
Located in the heart of the old town, this beautiful square with a central majestic fountain is a meeting place with many brasseries and terraces, where locals like to stop and sip a coffee or a glass of wine.
It is surrounded by historical buildings, including the impressive 18thC theatre. Stroll through the surrounding medieval streets and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time.
This castle is the emblem of the city and is instantly recognizable with its duotone towers. Overlooking the river Maine, this ancient fortress, built on a rocky promontory, has kept its distinctive look since its construction by Louis IX in the early 13th century.
It is home to the Apocalypse Tapestry, a large medieval French set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, and produced between 1377 and 1382, which depict the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation by Saint John the Divine in colourful images, spread over a number of sections that originally totalled 90 scenes (460 feet long by 20 feet high). The oldest French medieval tapestry to have survived, it’s considered one of the masterpieces of French Cultural heritage.
The Garden of France
On our Loire Valley Biking trip, we roll out the red carpet for you in the playground of French Kings and Queens past. Bike through the stunning countryside and take in the regal chateaux, ancient monuments and, of course, miles of vines. In the Garden of France, a bounty awaits.DETAILED ITINERARY
Quartier de la Doutre
This is a bit of a secret corner of Angers. Located across the river Maine, this neighbourhood is a quiet residential area where locals and students go to eat and drink on the buzzy Place de la Laiterie. This is also home to the Chant du Monde, an impressive contemporary tapestry by modern master Jean Lurçat. The 10 tapestries are set in the 12th-century Hospital of St. John.
Take the tram to this theme park entirely devoted to plants. Wander through flower tree lanes and float through rose gardens by boat, or opt to soar above it all – you can also see it from above with a hot air balloon!
David d’Angers Gallery
Dating from the 13th century, this former Toussaint abbey church was restored in 1984. It is now covered with a glass roof, an audacious feature of modern architecture, and houses the works of sculptor Pierre-Jean David, known as David d’Angers (1788-1856).
After five years of extensive renovations, improvements and extensions (1999-2004), the new look Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Angers reopened its doors to the public in June 2004.
Architect Antoine Stinco, who specializes in museum interior design, was entrusted with the task of transforming the museum’s spaces to marry the collections on display to the diversity of the architectural spaces.
Located in the historic centre of Angers, on an ancient and medieval site, the museum is made up of several buildings from different époques, constructed at various stages down through the centuries: the Logis barrault, built between 1486 and 1493, the vaulted hall and the refectory built in the late 15th century, and the refectory of the great seminary, which was built in the late 17th century.
Saint Nicolas Park
This park boasts 37 hectares of green space with a large pond and crossed by the Brionneau creek. There are different little parks within it, many with walking trails where you can often witness the local fauna, including deer and goats.
The first building to present the characteristics of the Anjou Gothic style, the cathedral of St. Maurice (12th-13th century) offers an opportunity to admire its vaulted ceiling with diagonal ribs and a beautiful collection of stained glass from the 12th, 13th and 15th centuries.
The Maine River
This is 12-km river, a tributary of the Loire, was formed by the confluence of the Sarthe & Mayenne Rivers north of Angers. It makes for great hiking or biking as you set out of the centre of Angers and follow the marked route across the river Maine via the Pont de la Basse Chaîne. The rest of the route follows the path of the river, then winds along the banks of the Maine lake, affording great views of Angers at a distance.
La Maison d’Adam
In the heart of Angers, the Maison d’Adam is a classic Angevine half-timber house where you can discover up to 80 craftspeople, wood sculptors, hatters, artistic jewelers, ceramists and more. This is an ideal place for buying unique items or to simply discover original handmade crafts.
There is a market every day in Angers but if you’re seeking organic produce, one of the best is the Marché Bio, which only has 10 producers but is 100% organic. It takes place every Saturday on Place Molière from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One the largest markets takes place every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the Rue Saint Laud and Place Imbach. It’s an open-air market that spreads into the surrounding streets during the summer, selling everything under the sun.
For flea market lovers, check out the market that happens on the first Sunday of every month on the corner of Rue Toussaint and Place Kennedy.