Off the beaten path: Angers, France
Just a quick 90-minute train ride from Paris, the enchanting city of Angers, France, makes a perfect weekend getaway for those looking to discover more than France’s capital city. A Francophile’s dream complete with a medieval castle, colorful streets and a gorgeous riverfront, come see why Angers is a destination you won't soon forget.
Angers at a glance
The city of Angers is just 185 miles from Paris in the Maine-et-Loire department (similar to a province or state) in western France. Ranked 18th in terms of overall population, this bustling cultural center has been dubbed la Ville Verte (the Green City) for the many parks and horticultural tradition the city offers. Angers sits on the largest river confluence in the country (the Maine and Loire rivers) and is steeped in rich history, making it one of the many French cities worth a special trip!
When to visit
Angers' climate is a mild one. Average temperatures generally don't dip below freezing, even in the winter months. That said, to avoid the frequent rain, it’s best to visit during spring or summer when the weather is warm and the sun is shining.
How to get around
Take the TGV (high-speed train) to Angers-Saint-Laud from Paris. Once there, the best way to get around is to walk! If an attraction is too far away, Angers’ new rainbow-colored tram, which was just launched in 2011, makes getting around a breeze. A 24-hour tram and bus ticket will run you 3.70 euros, and you can sit back and relax while you quietly glide around the heart of the city. Tip: Ride the tram over the Maine River to take in some of the city’s best views!
Things to see and do
Maybe the most stunning tourist attraction in Angers, and certainly the most popular, is the Chateau d’Angers, built in the 13th century for the dukes of Anjou on what was left of a neolithic and later Gallo-Roman settlement. It overlooks the Maine River and has two distinct architectural components: St. Louis’ fortress and the dynastic court. Housing the renowned Apocalypse Tapestry, which was commissioned near the end of the 14th century by Louis I, Duke of Anjou, the Angers castle is a must-see!
Wine tour with Le Tasting Room
For wine lovers who want to get acquainted with some of the Loire Valley’s delicious offerings, book a tour with Le Tasting Room, a wine tour company run by British couple Nigel and Cathy that goes well beyond just a simple tasting. After picking you up at Angers-Saint-Laud train station, the tour starts off with a tutored tasting of a variety of the area’s wines in the couple’s gorgeous 16th-century home (which is also their business). Later, you’ll eat a home-cooked lunch to give you sustenance for the afternoon, when you head out to see the wineries in person to learn even more. You’ll feel like family from the moment you meet Nigel and Cathy, and leave feeling content and expertly educated after this not-to-be-missed day of wine education at its finest.
The half-timbered Maison d’Adam, built around 1500, might just be the oldest house you’ve ever seen and is the oldest house in the city of Angers. Expertly preserved, the exterior is beautifully adorned and inside you’ll find some of Angers’ artisan treasures for sale — perfect for a souvenir or gift.
Plant lovers will be in their glory at Terra Botanica, a botanical theme park dedicated entirely to plants. While it may seem a little out of the ordinary, the park's 60,000 square meters of gardens will dazzle your senses and take your idea of a plant life to a whole new level, as you learn about species you didn’t even know existed — and more! Open April through November.
For museum lovers, head over to Musee Jean-Lurcat et de la Tapisserie Contemporaine to see some of the most beautiful tapestries in the world. The incredible collections are housed in two sites, L’Hopital Saint-Jean, dating back to the 12 century, and in a former orphanage, from the 17th century. L’Hopital Saint-Jean has been home to Le Chant du Monde (The Song of the World) tapestry by Jean Lurcat since 1967. The former orphanage's collections are primarily donations by Lurcat, Joseph Grau-Garriga and Thomas Gleb.
Where to eat
Enjoy a dinner with a river view at Le Favre d’Anne, a Michelin-starred restaurant that will teach you what inventive French cuisine is all about. Worth the splurge, Le Favre d’Anne is a gastronomic delight any way you look at it.
For casual fare you can take with you on the go, check out L’Oriflamme, a traditional rotisserie that serves up mouth-watering sandwiches and more. Just a short walk from the train station, this different kind of takeout restaurant offers rotisserie chicken sandwiches that will make a lasting impression.