Elegant and refined, Orleans is a lively university city in the Loire department. Small and cosy, Orleans has been able to enhance its historic centre and focus on its most famous historical figure, the heroine Joan of Arc, born here and celebrated everywhere in the city with museums, plaques, statues and events.
In recent years, the city has been finely restored and now shows visitors beautiful half-timbered houses in the colours of times gone by and its spectacular Gothic cathedral.
Orleans can be easily visited in a day and its proximity to Paris makes it a perfect first stop on the way to the Loire Valley.
The city comes alive especially on weekends, when strolling through the bustling streets of the old town and along the riverbank is a real pleasure.
It took almost six centuries to build this architectural jewel. Work began in 1287 and was officially completed in 1829. The long duration of its construction can be easily traced through the variety of architectural styles that have stratified over time. Today, the cathedral of Sainte-Croix is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in France, with its 140 metres long, 53 metres wide and its spire peaking at 106 metres.
The building is an admirable example of flamboyant Gothic: the façade is a masterpiece, finely sculpted, while inside you can admire the soaring columns and brightly coloured stained glass windows, which tell the story of the life of Joan of Arc.
This lively and wide square is the beating heart of Orleans, full of bars, restaurants and a meeting place for the city’s inhabitants.
In the centre of the square stands the imposing equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, flanked by a romantic horse carousel and a fountain with intermittent sprays. The main streets of commerce and shopping converge here: rue Bannier, rue de la Repubblique and rue Royale.
The young peasant girl Jeanne d’Arc, known to us as Joan of Arc, went down in history for rallying the troops of Charles VII: it was her passionate determination that halted the English army’s siege of the city, thus giving the Hundred Years’ War a major turning point.
The Maid of Orleans, the first war heroine, loved and glorified, then condemned to death and later beatified and proclaimed patron saint of France, lived in this very city. Her birthplace, rebuilt after the British bombings of World War II, can still be visited today.
This medieval half-timbered building houses a multimedia room that retraces the history of Joan of Arc: thanks to various media, including interactive terminals, maps and animated films, you can follow Joan of Arc’s footsteps through the centuries. On the upper floor, a documentation and research centre houses more than 37,000 documents dedicated to the Virgin of Orleans.
It is worth mentioning that between the end of April and the beginning of May, for a whole week, Orleans comes alive with the Fêtes de Jeanne d’Arc: a great festival with parades in medieval costumes, street performers and shows.
This private palace, dating back to the 16th century, is an architectural treasure. The magnificent brick façade conceals many treasures inside the building: coffered ceilings, painted canvas walls, Aubusson tapestries, panelling with valuable mouldings.
You can visit the main hall, the council chamber, the former mayor’s office, and finally, the marriage hall where Francis II died, who came to preside over the States General of 1560 with his mother, Catherine de Medici.
Leaving the Sainte-Croix cathedral, cross the square towards the historic centre of Orleans, following rue Parisie to reach Rue de la Charpenterie5: this is a superb street in the historic centre with medieval and Renaissance façades. You will be enchanted to admire the colours of the half-timbered houses.
Directly at the corner of rue de la Charpenterie, you will find Rue de la Poterne6, a charming cobbled alley: at the corner of the street you will find the Maison de la Poterne, the most photographed corner in Orleans.
If you love street art, then you should continue on to Rue Saint-Flou7, where many artists and amateurs have given free rein to their imagination. For more than 30 years, the brick walls of the old Dessaux vinegar works have been abandoned and have now been transformed into an open-air art gallery, composed of graffiti of different shapes, styles and colours.
Our itinerary in old Orleans ends at Rue de Bourgogne8: it is said to be the street with the most bars in France, more than a kilometre long. It is the ideal place to rest and breathe in the festive evening air.
The Quai du Châtelet is the long river in Orleans, an enchanting walk or bike ride to admire beautiful views of the Loire.
This stretch of river is part of La Loire à Vélo, a 900-kilometre-long cycle path linking the towns of Cuffy to Saint-Brévin les pins, passing through Orleans.
On the city section, you will find many places to stop and chat and busy barges, which in fine weather turn into small bars on the river to enjoy the warm summer evenings.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The lively city of Orleans comes alive especially at weekends. Although it can be visited comfortably in a day, you might consider staying the night and experiencing the sparkling evening scene, with cafés, bistros and restaurants.
For those who decide to stay in Orleans, there are indeed many accommodation options: you will find several hotels located in the city centre and along the banks of the Loire.
Many tourists combine a visit to Paris with a day trip to Orleans. If you travel by car, it takes about 1½ hours to reach Orleans from Paris by following the convenient A10 motorway.
There are many train connections from Paris: you can either use the regional trains that will take you to Orleans in 1½ hours, or choose the express trains, which run for about 30 minutes, all leaving from the Gare d’Austerlitz.
What's the weather at Orleans? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Orleans for the next few days.
Only 120 km from Paris, Orleans is crossed by France's longest river, the Loire.