City Breaks

5 reasons to visit Angers, France

With medieval tapestries and botanical theme parks, Angers is a gem of western France. Discover the best things to do in our city guide.

5 reasons to visit Angers, France  

Angers, on the edge of the Loire Valley, represents the best of historic and modern France. 

For all its history – the city has close ties with the Plantagenet royal house, which ruled England in the Middle Ages – Angers is not a museum. It is a bustling, modern city with a wealth of things to do on a short break or longer stay. 

A brief history of Angers

It says much for the way Anglo-French history is entwined that Angers holds almost as significant a place in the history of England as that of France. 

Angers was the seat of the Plantagenet (or Anjou) dynasty, and for over 300 years English monarchs had Angevin blood, from Henry II in 1154 to Richard III in 1485. The Angevin Kings of England had strong claims to the French throne, which eventually plunged the two nations into the Hundred Years War. 

The Duchy of Anjou was reclaimed by the French crown early in the 13th century. Angers became the capital of this wealthy region and a centre of French intellectual and cultural life during the 15th and 16th century. During the French Revolution Angers was one of the strongholds of the Republic.

A siege of the city in 1793 by overwhelming numbers of Royalist troops was repelled from behind the very castle walls you see today.  

A quirky six-storey half-timbered medieval building on the edge of a square, with less attractive buildings around it

Driving to Angers from Calais

It takes around five and a quarter hours (with tolls) to drive to Angers from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle Calais Terminal. You will pass through Rouen and Le Mans, ideal stops on this much travelled route down to western France. 

Five reasons you should visit Angers

We have picked out our five best things to do in Angers – but there is so much more to explore in the city and surrounding region of the Pays de la Loire.

Its position on the banks of the Maine, a tributary of the Loire, makes Angers a very cycle-friendly city. The cycle paths follow the Maine and Loire, so why not hire a bike and explore the vineyards?

The medieval treasures of the castle and châteaux

As you approach the city on the main dual carriageway, La Châteaux D’Angers looms over the road, as if still keeping watch. With 17 shale and limestone towers and nearly half a kilometre of ramparts, the castle is the city’s leading landmark, standing proud since 1230. 

Fortress, prison, courtly palace, barracks – the castle has played many roles in its time, which makes stepping inside a fascinating experience for any visitor. 

But the real highlight lies down in the dimly lit basement. 

For there hangs the ‘Apocalypse tapestry’, an awe-inspiring 100 metre long medieval tapestry in blue, red and gold depicting scenes from the Book of Revelation. It was commissioned by Louis I, Duke of Anjou, in 1375, and reflects the anxieties of those dark times, when war and pestilence were rife. To put its size into context (a further 40 metres is not on display), the far more famous Bayeux Tapestry is only 68 metres long. 

Marvel at the architecture of the old town

A cathedral with two spires and a bell tower stands at the top of a wide set of steps on a cobbled street uphill

Turning the corner from the attractive gardens below the castle ramparts, you find yourself at the bottom of the Mont Saint-Maurice. 

Ascend these wide cobbled steps uphill to the captivating Cathedral Saint Maurice,  a stunning Gothic cathedral dating from the 12th century. Inside the notable features are its 15th-century stained glass windows and vaulted ceiling with diagonal ribs. There are regular free guided tours (in French).

The old town of Angers huddles around the cathedral. The tight cobbled streets and half-timbered houses give a real sense of the medieval city. One of the finest buildings is La Maison d’Adam (House of Adam) on the corner of Sainte Croix Square. The exterior carvings are exquisite, featuring both sacred and bawdy figures which in their time would have been painted in rich and bold colours.

Across the river is the Hôpital Saint-Jean, a 12th-century hospital, a remarkable survival from the medieval period. It is now a museum and houses the modern wall hangings of the French artist Jean Lurcat – an interesting contrast to the apocalyptic medieval tapestry at the castle. 

Absorb the culture at the museums and galleries

Fine art and culture is never very far away in Angers. There is plenty to discover in the  old town, including Galerie David d’Angers in the abbey church of All Saints in Rue Toussaint. This is a permanent exhibition of the work of the 19th – century sculptor Pierre-Jean David, also known as David d’Angers, whose work includes busts of famous French writers.

Just around the corner is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, considered by some to be one of the finest museums outside Paris for the scale and richness of its collections. They include Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, paintings from the Middle Ages, Renaissance and early modern period from artists including Brueghel, Lippi and Ingres. 

Explore the theme park and gardens at Terra Botanica

A bridge over a narrow man made river or canal, with colourful flowers and shrubs on both banks.
Credit: “Terra Botanica”, by Jmalo, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Angers is known as one of France’s greenest cities, and it is celebrated in an original way in one of the city’s leading attractions. Terra Botanica is no ordinary botanical gardens – it is a theme park where the theme is nature and plants. You can pedal (in a nutshell!) through the canopy of a forest, sail through the park or take a balloon ride over the park and see just how green the Anjou region is. 

A 4D cinema lets you experience nature in all its glory, from the journey of a drop of water from the sky into the heart of a plant, to entering a dinosaur reserve behind the wheel of a jeep. 

Terra Botanica is open all year round and there are regular seasonal events, such as a spring festival featuring plant markets and gardening masterclasses, and a ‘Terra Nocta’ during July and August, where you can see the park by night. 

For a more gentle appreciation of nature, head back into Angers city and spend a leisurely few hours at the Jardin des Plantes. 

Established in 1791, the botanical gardens of Angers extends across 4-hectares and includes an English-style showpiece garden with cascading streams, waterfalls, statues and paths. ‘Reading boxes’ dotted around the gardens allow visitors to borrow and leave books. Jardin des Plantes features several rare and old trees, including a tulip tree of Virginia and a Siberian elm. 

The bustling nightlife and restaurants

A softly illuminated grand building with a palatial frontage on a large square at night, in front of it are tropical trees

When the day is done, you won’t have a shortage of things to do in Angers in the evening. There are plenty of bars and clubs where you can dance the night away, or concert halls like Les Mardis Musicaux or the Grand Théâtre d’Angers on the Place du Ralliement, for the best in opera and classical performances. 

If all you’re after is a pleasant stroll along the riverside or through the old town for a bite to eat, every taste and budget is catered for in the city’s restaurants. Look out for the local specialities such as Cremets d’Anjou, a blend of egg whites, white cheese and cream said to be akin to ‘eating a cloud’. Le Pâté aux Prunes is a traditional plum pie dessert made with greengages from the Loire Valley. 

Start your journey to Angers with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

A cobbled street with quaint half-timbered historic buildings leading downhill

History, culture, green space, fine food and wine: Angers has it all. It’s closer than you think too, with France just 35 minutes away from Folkestone via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Angers could be just one in here are other exciting cities to explore in the Pay de le Loire, such as Orleans and Nantes.

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Start your journey to Angers with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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