Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

The Pays-de-Loire region begins in the east with the last of the extravagant castles at Saumur and follows the Loire Valley through gentle rolling countryside to the Atlantic. Although the city of Nantes is the region’s capital it was a major city in the historic province of Brittany. Breton influences in the western part of the region are strong. The departments in Pays-de-Loire: Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée.

Archaeology & History Sites in Pays de la Loire

Château d'Angers

A Neolithic tomb is the earliest evidence for human occupation of what is today the site of a spectacular medieval fortress. It is the 13th century 17 towers placed at intervals in the 500 metre-long ramparts that catch your attention. During the 14th and 15th centuries the Dukes of Anjou held court here, and built the elaborate castle, gardens and a chapel. A highlight is the 14th century Apocalypse Tapestry, originally 140 m, 100 m of which is on display. Just one in what is the world’s largest collection of medieval tapestries.

Château de Montsoreau

Chateau de Montsoreau is one of the earlier castles in the Loire Valley, marking the transition from a strategic military fort to an opulent residence. The existing castle, built in the 1450s, was built on the ruins of an earlier fort and has featured prominently in the arts, from a novel by Alexander Dumas to a watercolour by William Turner. Besides an exhibition on the castle’s history, the castle is a museum of contemporary art, with Philippe Méaille’s collection of conceptual art.

Dolmen de Bagneux

Located in a southern suburb of Saumur, the Dolmen de Bagneux is thought to the biggest of its kind in France, and perhaps even Europe. This dolmen, a typical Neolithic portal tomb – the chamber would have been used within which to place bodies of the dead, and is made up of 15 very large stones. The collective weight of these megaliths is estimated at approximately 500 tons. There are historical records of excavations in 1775, but no burial remains were recovered. Not surprising given the structure had been used as a barn.

Dolmen de la Madeleine

An isolated dolmen in a private field on the outskirts of the town of Gennes, on the banks of the Loire River not that far from Saumur. There are a number of these megalithic sites in the area – but this one is one of the larger ones – measuring 14 metres in length and with an interior height of 2.7 metres. Like many of the more substantial dolmens it has been used by local farmers for centuries. This particular dolmen was used to house a large bread oven; the remains of which are still present in the chamber

Fontevraud Abbey

Founded at the start of the 12th century, there were both men and women at the abbey, all governed by an abbess. Eleanor of Aquitaine made the abbey her residence. She and her husband, Henry II King of England, their son, Richard the Lionheart, and Isabella of Angoulême are buried in the abbey church. After the French Revolution the abbey became a prison. Today much of the abbey is open, the priory is a 4* hotel. A museum of Modern art will open soon, with over 500 works of 19th and 20th century European artists.

Gennes Roman Amphitheatre

This Gallo-Roman amphitheatre is thought to have been one of the largest in north-west France. The typically elliptical arena measures 44 by 39 metres, with a semi-circular cavea thought to have been able to seat around 5,000 spectators. The basic outline and shape of the amphitheatre, as well as a number of architectural features, is well preserved and easy to see, but they have been enhanced by extensive excavations. These include three rooms at the edge of the arena that would have been used for performers.

Roman Jublains – Noviodunum

The modern-day town of Jublains has its origins as the Gallic capital of the Diablintes tribe. By 65 AD, the town had taken on many Roman features. The public baths, theatre, temple, and the fort are strikingly well preserved and attest to the Roman town’s strategic position on an important route between the Loire Valley to the south and the channel to the north. An on site museum has an extensive and interesting set of displays of some of the finest artefacts from various locations around the Roman town.

Museums & Art Galleries in Pays de la Loire

No data was found