“Between the sky and the Loire” is the motto of Orléans, the capital of the French department of the Loiret in the central region of France. In confirmation of these words, on the tourist emblem of Orleans, two curved blue forks (one – the vault of heaven, the other – the surface of the river) hug the silhouette of the city’s historic buildings, buried in the green circles of the Orleans forests. The general public associates Orleans primarily with the Maid of Orleans. Actually, this is one of the two iconic cities in the fate of the famous heroine: Rouen became the place of her execution, but Orleans had a much more pleasant role – after a months-long siege, he was liberated by the troops of Joan of Arc in a matter of days during the Hundred Years War.
How to get to Orleans
According to A2zgov, Orleans is located 120 km southwest of Paris, the nearest international airport is Charles de Gaulle, where up to 10 joint Aeroflot and Air France flights from Sheremetyevo land daily. How to get from the airport to the city center, see the Paris page.
From Paris to Orleans can be reached by train of the state company SNCF. From Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris, trains leave for Orléans approximately twice an hour. You can arrive at the Orléans train station (Gare d’ Orléans or Orléans Centre) or drive to the nearest neighboring town of Fleury-les-Aubrais, located just 3 km from Orleans. In both cases, the travel time is about 1 hour. There is a regular bus service between Fleury-les-Aubrays and the center of Orléans.
If you rent a car, it is easy to get to Orleans from the capital on the A10 autobahn. Usually the trip takes no more than 1 hour, but it is recommended to avoid peak hours in any case. The N20 National Road is generally less congested, but travel time increases due to speed limits in many villages along the way.
Orleans is best explored on foot or by bike. The city has an extensive network of tram routes, but, firstly, it connects the city center with the suburbs and is not designed for movement between sights, and secondly, it is currently undergoing a global reconstruction.
Bicycles can be rented from the city’s Vélo + rentals. Orleans has 28 rental stations open 24/7 and over 300 bicycles for rent. For 1 EUR per day or 3 EUR per week (with a deposit of 150 EUR) you get the right to take a bike at any of the rental points and return the car to the nearest one at the end of the bike ride. The first half hour of the rental is free, for the second half hour a fee of 0.50 EUR is charged, the second hour – 1 EUR. Each next hour the cost is 2 EUR.
These expenses can be avoided by simply returning the bike to the rental station within the first half hour (you can immediately take the next car).
Shopping and shopping in Orleans
In addition to various souvenirs depicting Jeanne d’Arc and the sights of Orleans, it is worth buying iconic products of local gastronomy here: cotignac (cotignac) – quince jelly in a round spruce box, vinegars of all tastes and shades, Orleans mustard, known since the 16th century, sweets and pastries, pear vodka and cheese, saffron, and a special kind of unfiltered beer named after the ubiquitous Jeanne: La Johannique.
In the center of Orleans there are many stores of famous European brands, such as H&M, and a branch of the largest national retailer, Galeries Lafayette. Local stores are part of the city association “Showcases of Orleans” (Les Vitrines d’Orléans).
For a drink, head to rue de Bourgogne, which is full of bars, pubs and pubs.
Cuisine and restaurants of Orleans
Orleans has more than 150 restaurants of various gastronomic traditions: from authentic Orleans to French, Mediterranean, Italian, Greek, etc.
The pearls of Orleans gastronomy mentioned above set the tone for the creations of local chefs: cotignac is an indispensable dessert (or part of desserts) at the end of a meal, salads and appetizers are generously seasoned with vinegar, and pear vodka, along with the same French wine, will definitely accompany local dishes.
Pay special attention to chocolatier boutiques – Orleans is famous for this sweet cocoa product, and here you can not only buy a box of chocolates, but also taste different types of chocolate and even participate in the process of its creation.
Entertainment and attractions of Orleans
When exploring the sights of Orleans, sometimes you want to exclaim: “Is there something not named here..?!” The Maid of Orleans is the local navel of the Earth, to which a good half of the buildings, cathedrals and churches are dedicated, and do not be surprised when her name appears in front of you in any more or less noteworthy places.
Saint-Croix Cathedral – the architectural dominant of the city center, as in most historical cities of France, is made in the Gothic style. The building was founded in the 6th century, but these ancient fragments have not survived to this day. During the Middle Ages, the cathedral was repeatedly rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt, until it acquired its current appearance in the early 19th century and was dedicated to Joan of Arc.
As part of the annual St. John’s festivities from April 29 to May 8, the cathedral serves as a screen for a grandiose light and music show (held after dark, as a rule, on May 7).
The house of Joan of Arc is famous for its half-timbered walls: adobe sections are crossed by wooden diagonal load-bearing beams. The national heroine lived here during the liberation of Orleans. On the ground floor today, various art exhibitions replace each other, and the rooms on the second and third floors tell about the life of Jeanne.
You can immerse yourself in the biography of the warlike maiden in even more detail at the Center Joan of Arc, an extensive historical archive and scientific institute that studies her fate in the context of the turbulent events of the French Middle Ages. By leaving a preliminary application, you can get access to historical documents stored in the center.
In the central city square Martroi (Martroi), in addition to the equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, there are many benches that invite contemplative rest under the murmur of fountains.
Orleans is inextricably linked with the name of Joan of Arc. Every year in May, a spectacular festival in her honor takes place here.
Hotel Groslot is a fine example of late Gothic, a rare troubadour style. In addition to frivolous turrets, bay windows and slopes, be sure to check out the interior: it is so beautiful here that on Saturdays the Grosso Hotel serves as a local wedding palace (and therefore is closed to the public on this day).
The beautiful Renaissance Hotel Cabu houses the Historical and Archaeological Museum of Orleans, and not far from the Museum of Fine Arts. Entrance is by a single ticket, on the first Sunday of each month – free of charge.
If you are tired of walking around the historical center of Orleans, you can go out of town – 10 km away is the wonderful botanical park – Parc Floral de la Source. Fed by the waters of the natural spring of the Loiret, thousands of local and tropical plants bloom in the 30 hectares of the park. Exotic butterflies flutter in a separate covered pavilion.
The Orleans Tourist Office organizes interesting themed guided city tours lasting from half an hour to two hours. The average cost is 7-9 EUR.
And finally, fans of historical action are invited to attend the Festival in honor of Joan of Arc, held in Orleans every year in the first week of May. The program includes carnival processions, folklore, musical and theatrical performances, as well as a popular fair of farm products from the Loiret region.