11 must-see things to do in Orléans

Orleans

On vacation in Centre-Val de Loire? Stop off in the Loiret region and discover the must-see things to do in Orléans!

Prefecture of the Centre-Val de Loire region, Orléans is best known for Joan of Arc and her liberation from English siege in 1429.

In recent years, the city has been given a facelift, with beautiful half-timbered houses in the colors of yesteryear. Orléans comes alive on the banks of the Loire, where walkers and cyclists escape into the heart of nature.

For a weekend away or an extended vacation, discover the must-sees in Orléans.

1. Holy Cross Cathedral

Cathédrale Sainte Croix

Photo credit: Shutterstock – milosk50

Come and visit Orléans and its cathedral, towering above the city. Listed as a Historic Monument, the Sainte-Croix Cathedral opens its doors and presents its history.

It took almost six centuries to build this architectural gem. Work began in 1287 and was officially completed in 1829. The time of its construction has left its mark. The building reflects the styles of each century and each royal succession.

The cathedral’s history is extremely rich. Joan of Arc, Henri IV and Louis XIV all passed through here. Inside, you’ll discover stained glass windows recounting the story of the Pucelle d’Orléans, as well as eleven chapels dating back to the 13th century.

Today, Sainte-Croix cathedral is one of France’s largest Gothic cathedrals, measuring 140 meters in length, 53 meters in width and with a 106-meter spire.

2. Parc floral de la source

Parc floral La Source

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Amy Corti

Located in the Source district, the floral park bearing the same name is one of the most visited sites in the Loiret region. The park has been awarded the Jardin Remarquable label by the French Ministry of Culture. It’s definitely one of the must-sees in Orléans.

The Loiret River rises in the heart of the park. Its two resurgences, the Abîme and the Bouillon, enhance and sublimate the garden.

You’ll be seduced by the diversity of the flora in this green space: irises, dahlias, roses, admirable trees and more. Each season brings a different color to the park.

And to discover the wildlife, a zoological park awaits you. More than 350 animals are present. You can discover pink flamingos, exotic birds and mammals. The butterfly hothouse features a variety of species, recreating tropical climatic conditions.

For a complete tour, take the mini-train or hire a pedal car and explore every corner of La Source floral park.

3. Hôtel Groslot

Hotel Groslot

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Kamel15

Dating back to the 16th century, the Hôtel Groslot is an architectural treasure trove. The magnificent brick facade conceals a wealth of treasures inside, including coffered ceilings, painted canvas walls, Aubusson tapestries and molded paneling.

This historic monument has gone by many names: Grande Maison de l’Étape, Maison du Gouverneur or Intendance. In opposition to Jérôme Groslot (supporter of the Protestant reform), King François II and his court settled here.

He was followed by Charles IX and his mother, Catherine de Médicis, who stayed for just five months. After the departure of the court, the hotel reverted to the Groslot family. It then became Protestant headquarters.

Today, it’s a venue for wedding celebrations. After the French Revolution, the building also served as Orléans town hall.

To learn more about the history of the Hôtel Groslot, download the Géomotif app, which reveals the secret of the building’s various motifs.

4. Joan of Arc House

Maison Jeanne d'Arc

Photo credit: Wikipedia – lienyuan lee

What can you visit in Orléans to discover its history? Visit Joan of Arc’s house. This is where she stayed during the siege of Orléans and her heroic participation in the liberation of the city. To pay tribute to her, a historical museum was inaugurated in 1974.

This is a medieval-style house, with its half-timbered brickwork and traditional half-timbering. At the time, it was the residence of Jacques Boucher, then Treasurer General to the Duke of Orleans, who welcomed Joan of Arc. The former residence was restored in the 1960s.

Today, the house houses a multimedia room retracing the history of Joan of Arc. Using a variety of media (interactive terminals, maps and timelines, panoramic animated films), you can follow in Joan of Arc’s footsteps through the centuries.

Upstairs, a documentation and research center houses over 37,000 documents dedicated to the Pucelle d’Orléans.

5. Place du Martroi

Place Orléans

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Leonid Andronov

A visit to Orléans means discovering its central square, the Place du Martroi. Here stands an equestrian statue of Joan of Arc.

The place is steeped in history. In Gallo-Roman times, the square was the site of a cemetery. In the Middle Ages, condemned prisoners were executed here. In Latin, Martroy comes from the word martyrium, in reference to these executions. Later, the square was used as a wheat market in the natural Beauce region. The market was renamed Le Martroi au blé.

Today, the square is home to numerous bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink and sample local specialties.

6. Museum of Fine Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Croquant

The Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans boasts an impressive collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and objets d’art dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Italian, Flemish, Dutch and, of course, French paintings are all represented.

On the mezzanine floor, a panorama from Neoclassicism to Romanticism unfolds before you, with several 19th-century collections.

On the second floor, French paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries feature masterpieces of religion, mythology and history.

In the pastel cabinet, you’ll discover major works such as Chardin’s self-portrait with bezicles and Maurice Quentin de la Tour’s portrait of a young black man. The cabinet des pastels d’Orléans is the second most impressive in France, after that of the Louvre. So it’s one of the must-see places in Orléans.

7. Plant garden

visiter Orléans - Jardin des plantes Orléans

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Calips

What can you do in Orléans for a breath of fresh air? The city’s 3.5-hectare Jardin des Plantes awaits you. This botanical garden was created in 1640 with the aim of cultivating medicinal plants. Gradually, the park became a place of acclimatization for rare plants from faraway lands. Warm greenhouses and an orangery were built to allow exotic plants to thrive.

From the end of the 19th century onwards, the Jardin des Plantes became more of a tourist attraction, as it sought to create ever more impressive floral displays. Scientific studies continued, and the park’s gardeners experimented with new, environmentally-friendly flowering techniques.

In the park, discover the Impressionist corner with the massive, colorful shrub inspired by chemist Michel-Eugène Chevreul. Find the four remarkable trees hiding in the garden (an Araucaria araucana, a Ginkgo biloba, a liriodendron tulipifera aureomarginatum and a sequoia sempervirens). The plant garden is also home to an apiary, designed to raise children’s awareness of the life of bees.

8. A bike ride along the Loire River

visiter Orléans - Loire Orléans

Photo credit: Shutterstock – RossHelen

The Loire à vélo is a 900-kilometer cycling trail. The route links the towns of Cuffy to Saint-Brévin les pins, via Orléans. During your visit to the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region, hop on your bike or rent one for a few kilometers of cycling along the banks of the Loire.

Orléans is an essential stop on this legendary route. Composed mainly of greenways, the sections around Orléans are closed to motorized vehicles. So you’ll have peace of mind throughout your ride.

On the banks of the Loire – a UNESCO World Heritage site – you’ll discover a wealth of treasures. If you’d like to visit Orléans while admiring them, don’t hesitate to take this stroll.

9. Orleans forest

visiter Orléans - Forêt Orléans

Photo credit: Wikipedia – personal work

Come and visit Orléans and its green spaces through one of France’s largest state forests. Located between the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region and Gien, the forest is surrounded by three massifs. In all, 35,000 hectares of trees and 1,200 kilometers of forest paths await you for a walk in the heart of nature.

On foot, by bike or on horseback, the forest offers a multitude of itineraries, each more beautiful than the last. Pay close attention to the wildlife around you: deer, pheasants and thousands of birds inhabit the forest.

10. Loire Valley castles

visiter Orléans - Clos Lucé

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Cezary Wojtkowski

What to do in and around Orléans? The Loire Valley is famous for its sumptuous châteaux. Now’s the time to discover them.

Among the best known are the following buildings:

  • Château de Chambord: this Renaissance landmark is less than an hour from the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region. You’ll discover 500 years of history as you enter the gates of this edifice. All around, 5,440 hectares of forest surround the château, making it the largest enclosed park in Europe.
  • Or the Château de Blois: immerse yourself in royalty here, as the château was the favorite residence of the successive kings of France during the Renaissance.
  • Also the Château d’Amboise: this former medieval fortress was transformed into a royal residence under the reigns of Charles VIII and François I.
  • Château du Clos Lucé: this is where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last three years. Enter the artist’s private world and explore his workshops, bedroom and kitchen.

11. Culinary specialities

visiter Orléans - Vinaigre Orléans

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Croquant

Visiting Orléans also means sampling the region’s culinary specialties. Try local dishes with Orléans vinegar, used by many French chefs. Originally, Orléans vinegar was actually a Loire wine. As this was undrinkable, the Orléans inhabitants transformed the indigestible wine into a vinegar with a thousand flavors.

Another local specialty is Olivet pear brandy. Thanks to a unique production method (the fruit grows directly in the bottle from the tree), this spirit promises exquisite taste. And for those with a sweet tooth, try the delicious fruit macaroons made from 100% local produce.

How do I get to Orléans?

There are several ways to get around Orléans.

By car

From Paris, you’ll need 1h40 if you take the A10 freeway to one of the exits leading to the center of Orléans. For those wishing to avoid this motorway route, the N20 national road will take you to the town of Joan of Arc in just over 2 hours.

If you’re coming from the south of France, the A20 freeway from Toulouse will take you to the capital of the Centre-Val-de-Loire region. This will take 5h30. Alternatively, from Montpellier, take the A75 freeway to Clermont-Ferrand, then the A71. Estimated journey time is 6 hours.

By train

Orléans station has the advantage of being served by a number of cities. You can travel from Paris, Nantes, Tours, Bourges or even Limoges to the capital of the Loiret region. You’ll arrive close to the city center, so you can start your tour as soon as you arrive.

Where to stay in Orléans?

There’s no shortage of places to stay in Orléans and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Orléans, you can find it in the city center, the Burgundy district or the Source district. From youth hostels and Airbnb apartments to luxury hotels, there’s something for everyone.

To find the solution that suits you best, don’t hesitate to use a hotel comparator. You’ll be sure to make the right choice.

Now that you know what you can’t miss in Orléans, pack your bags to discover the city!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Orléans,fr