On the 19th August we took a Railbookers weekend city break to Angers, France, the historical capital of Anjou and gateway to the Châteaux-lined Loire Valley. It’s a loveable laid back city with a slight bohemian air and heaps of beautiful architecture to drool over. After a hassle-free train journey, we spent the weekend exploring and soaking up the joie de vivre and thriving cafe culture. Throughout history it was considered the intellectual centre of France and modern-day Angers is not a million miles away from its historical past – it’s a city known for its historic tapestries, exceptional art galleries and museums. Here is why we think you should add the city to your travel list sooner rather than later…
The city is a smorgasbord of architectural delights with a huge number buildings spanning several centuries. Maison d’Adam is a prime example of the typical timber-framed houses that were constructed during the middle ages while the Logis Pincé is a nod to the turn of the sixteenth century and the influence of the Renaissance across Europe. The Maison Bleue is a gorgeous art deco masterpiece but all of these exist side by side with cathedrals dating from the 12th century and demonstrates the stunning beauty of the classic gothic and Romanesque features archetypal of that period. This co-existence of many different styles of architecture in one city adds a certain je ne sais pas to the city and contributes to its unique atmosphere.
Castle and Chateaux
The panorama of Angers would be a nirvana for any Disney princess at heart with its impressive chateau and castles at every turn. Perhaps, the most well-known is the Chateau d’Angers which, dominates the city. It was ordered by Louis IX in the seventeenth century, the impressive structure has kilometre long walls which is punctuated by 17 lookout towers. The horizon is also marked by the Tour Saint-Aubin, the bell tower itself was completed during the 12th century but was closed during the French Revolution. For those history enthusiasts visit, La Doutre, on the west bank of the Maine river contains two medieval sites – the former Abbaye du Ronceray, and the Hôpital Saint-Jean (which was used as the city hospital until 1870) are both absolutely worth a visit.
The range of medieval and contemporary paintings and sculptures at the Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Angers is an absolute must-see, particularly for a chance to see the works of Greuze, Chardin and Watteau. For a special glimpse into history, check out the Apocalypse Tapestry which was commissioned by Louis I of Naples and is the biggest medieval tapestry in the world but for a more contemporary tapestry pay a visit to the Chant du Monde which is a modern version of the Apocalypse Tapestry influenced by the bombings of Hiroshima. The Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle d’Angers has been established since 1885 and exhibits a large collection of mounted animals and fossils and is well worth a visit along with the Logis Pincé which houses an impressive collection of antiquities from all over the world.
Angers boasts a flourishing performing arts and theatrical history. The Grand Theatre established initially in the 18th century and the more recent Theatre du Quai, both play host to the city’s numerous theatre companies while Le Chabada is a popular concert hall and is considered to be the centre of Angevin culture where many bands and artists are discovered. As well as this impressive performing arts culture there is also a successful festival vibe which includes a street performing festival- Accroche Coeurs and the Premier Plans which is dedicated to Europe’s first films. If you can, coordinate your visit during one of the festivals than you will not be disappointed, if not- try to see one of the many amazing shows that are on offer in any of the theatres and concert halls.
Food and Wine
It would be remiss of me to talk about a French city and not talk about food! Needless to say, Angers has amazing restaurants, bustling night life and a thriving café culture. There is something in Angers for every foodie’s desires- from Michelin starred restaurants to local bistros serving locally produced food. A visitor can truly spend their entire visit wandering from eatery to eatery tasting all the delicacies that the Loire valley has to offer, washing it down with the famous Anjou wine, all the while revelling in the true essence of French culture – the talent of thoroughly enjoying and appreciating the art of the meal. Try Cantina cafe (above) for a typical French bistro with exceptionally friendly service!
Angers is one of those unique French cities which has an amalgamation of a laid back attitude and a lot going on. The city prides itself on both its busy calendar of cultural events and alfresco cafe cafe which gets a little livelier as darkness falls. It would also be worth noting that according to Express magazine, Angers offers the highest quality of life to its residents compared to other big French cities – if you visit you’ll see why!
Railbookers specialise in tailor made train holidays to beautiful, historic and romantic destinations in Europe and beyond. Established since 2003, they have offices based in London, Sydney, Los Angeles and Auckland and create trips based on your individual travel plans.
Photos by Becky and Scott. We want to say a huge thank you to Railbookers for organising the trip.