Orléans is situated in the heart of the Loire region. As a city, it is most famous for being the place where Joan of Arc led French troops to overcome the English in 1429, during the Hundred Years War. Yet because of its strategic position on the southern bend of the Loire, there has been a constant settlement here since Roman times, when it was an important administrative centre.

During the Merovingian period in the sixth century, the city became an important seat of political and ecclesiastical power, and six national councils were held here between 511 and 638. Orléans Cathedral became an important site for the coronations of numerous kings, such as Charles the Bald in 848, Robert II in 987, and Louis VI in 1108. Many important bishops held their offices in Orléans, and it was bishop Theodolfus of the eighth century who first developed the city’s reputation as a centre for learning. Emperor Charlemagne had his eldest son educated here during the eighth century, as did Hugh Capet in the tenth century. In 1230, when Pope Honorius III banned the teaching of law and Greek in Paris, Orléans became a refuge for many university scholars, and in 1306, a former law student, Pope Clement V, founded the city’s own university.

After the economic vulnerabilities of the late Middle Ages and the wars of religion during the sixteenth century, the city became a prosperous agricultural region specialising in corn, potatoes, vegetables and wine. Today it is a busy food-processing and business centre, with good transport links to other towns and cities.


Although much of Orléans was decimated by German and Allied bombs during the second world war, a great deal of history is evident in the physical makeup of the city. Stunning architecture abounds in the old part of town, around the Place du Martroi. The Hôtel Groslot, which until recently served as the town hall, is an impressive sixteenth-century building which has lodged many French kings and today serves as an idyllic backdrop for wedding ceremonies. Further explanation of the city’s rich history can be found in the excellent Historical and Archaeological Museum of Orléans.

Of historical interest too, is the Cathédrale Ste-Croix, which dominates the centre of Orléans. The original thirteenth-century cathedral was destroyed in the sixteenth century by the Huguenots, and rebuilt between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in its present Gothic style. Of particular interest are the rose window dedicated to Louis XIV, the chapel of Joan of Arc, the ornate woodwork depicting the life of Christ around the choir and transepts, and the crypt which contains a diverse range of ecclesiastical treasures, some dating as far back as the fourth century.

In a city so attached to the memory of Joan of Arc, a must-see is the house she resided in temporarily, in 1429. It is now a fascinating museum which describes the importance of the French heroine to the city’s civil, military and religious past. Visitors between 29 April and 8 May will be treated to a festival dedicated to Joan of Arc, when Orléans is taken back in time to the medieval period and hosts a fascinating range of cultural activities, including fairs, plays, parades and street parties.

Besides its historical attractions, Orléans hosts many other cultural delights. The Museum of Fine Art contains an array of modern works, notably St Thomas by Velazquez, and Rodin’s L’Ombre. For music lovers, the International Piano Competition in February and the Orléans jazz festival at the end of June are important features of the city’s artistic calendar.

There are plenty of leisure activities in Orléans, including ice skating and swimming, whilst at nearby Olivet, there are opportunities for watersports, fishing, canoeing and boating on the river Loiret, a tributary of the Loire. To the east of Orléans lies the extensive Forest of Orléans and the Parc Floral at Orléans-la-Source, which comprises 245 acres of green land.


There are many traditional markets in Orléans: the Halles-Châtelet is a daily covered market with many food stalls, whilst there are various Saturday markets which sell a wide range of products such as flowers, fruit, vegetables and antiques. Aside from the many souvenir shops selling memorabilia relating to the city’s famous heroine, a modern Place d’Arc retail centre and pedestrianised shopping zone on the rue de Bourgogne contain many chain stores; upmarket boutiques are situated along the Rue Royale. There are also a number of establishments dealing in local specialities, such as perfume, macaroons, pear liqueur and vinegar.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Many of the restaurants in the centre of Orléans provide good, traditional French cuisine. Around the Halles-Châtelet are many inexpensive eateries, whilst clustered around the rue de Bourgogne is a number of restaurants specialising in cuisine from around the world. Locals relax in one of the many bars during the evening, or head to the cinema. The Grand Theatre of Orléans is also a popular venue, hosting a range of theatre, dance, opera, pop concerts and exhibitions throughout the year.

Tourist Information

  • Office de Tourisme, 2 Place de l'Etape, 45000 Orléans
  • Telephone: +33 0238240505
  • www.tourisme-orleans.com


The nearest major airports are located in Paris, approximately 100km to the north of Orléans. There are excellent road links with the capital via the N20 and A10, and frequent rail services from the Gare d’Austerlitz. It is also possible to get domestic flights from Paris to the nearby airports at Tours and Bricy, from which there are good road and rail links to Orléans.

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