The enchanting city of Angers can be found nestled in the heart of the Pays de la Loire region of northwestern France, along the banks of the picturesque River Maine. The region is brimming with romantic castles, 22 to be precise, the oldest of which is found in Angers, whose medieval charm and history draws in history fanatics and those seeking a taste of the French good life. Enjoy the waft of fresh pastries from the local boulangeries as you roam the quaint streets and uncover the city’s fascinating history. The capital of the former province of Anjou, Angers is bursting at the seams with hidden treasures, from the ancient Apocolypse Tapestry to spectacular gardens and parks and spellbinding architecture. As you wander through the wonky cobbled streets of the medieval quarter it quickly becomes clear that this alluring city effortlessly weaves together ancient culture with a modern outlook, having managed to preserve its historic Gallic and Roman roots whilst transforming into a modern university city with a youthful spirit.
Angers proudly calls itself the “city of arts and culture”, a well-deserved nickname considering its vibrant cultural scene and plethora of fine art museums and galleries sprinkled across the city. It was also ranked as the best city to live in France in 2023 thanks to its great quality of life, owing itself to its many green spaces, cleanliness and high level of safety. Angers is a captivating cultural hub which makes for a perfect mini break for those who want to experience the timeless beauty of one of France’s most underrated cities. So, crack open a bottle of wine and get ready to drink up all of the French charm Angers has to offer.
Know Before You Go
Angers is a well connected city and whilst it does not have its own airport, the nearest international airports are in Nantes and Paris, which have good public transport links to the city. The Angers Saint-Laud train station is conveniently located near the town centre and has bus as well as tram routes which stop here.
The currency used in France is the Euro and whilst most places will accept cash payment, the majority of shops and restaurants prefer payment by card.
Angers experiences a suboceanic climate with quite mild, rainy winters and warm summers. During the summer the average temperature is around 20℃ whilst during the winter months temperatures drop to between 5℃ and 10℃. Even if you’re visiting in the spring and summer months it is a good idea to bring a rain jacket just in case.
Day 1: Castle & Medieval Quarter
Uncover Anger’s authentic side as you explore its castle and enchanting medieval quarter on your first day. Grab some lunch in the city centre before heading across the river to the Musée Jean-Lurçat, where your journey through Angers’ history continues.
Perhaps the city’s most well-known landmark, the Château d’Angers stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Maine River. Having existed since the 13th century, the castle has played a huge part in the history of France and its royal family, proudly protecting the border of the kingdom of France in the 13th century. The fortress’ impressive 17 defensive schist and sandstone towers comprise its intimidating dark outer shell which gives way to a beautiful, inviting interior including a rose garden, a hydrangea garden and white tufa stone buildings. You can climb up the towers for beautiful views over the city’s skyline, and as you look out over the city’s black medieval roofs you will see why Angers is nicknamed “La Ville Noire”, meaning “The Black City”.
Fairytale architecture and sweeping vistas isn’t all that the Château d’Angers has to offer, though. The castle is home to a hidden treaure - the mesmerising Apocalypse Tapestry, also the largest Medieval tapestry in the world measuring at a mighty 103 metres long and 4.5 metres high. Commissioned by Louis I of Anjou in around 1375, the breathtaking tapestry is inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register and features 71 detailed scenes that represent the Apocalypse from Saint John’s Book of Revelation. Having almost reached a state of total disrepair in the 18th and 19th centuries, the ancient tapestry has been restored to its former glory and must now be stored at 19 degrees celsius and in a dark surrounding, making for a particularly hypnotic experience. Once you have explored every corner of this enchanting fortress, swing by the Monument Café for a refreshment or to enjoy their lunchtime menu as you recharge in their cute outdoor seating area. Get your entrance ticket to the castle here.
As you leave the château, walk straight over the drawbridge and into the streets beyond to find yourself in the winding cobblestone streets of Anger’s charming medieval quarter. Bursting with history, a stroll through the magnificently wonky half-timbered houses will transport you back in time whilst the rustic beams and pretty plasterwork are a reminder of the city's rich history. Firstly head down Rue Saint-Aignan, a street which is home to some particularly beautiful buildings, and if you’re peckish we would recommend stopping off at the Crêperie du Château for a delicious galette or crêpe right in the heart of the historic quarter. As you continue down this road you will find many of the city’s near 40 timber framed houses that remain, the majority of which were built in the 15th century but the oldest of which was built in 1399 and lies behind the tiny door of number 17, just past the crêperie.
As you emerge from the other side of the medieval quarter you will encounter the remarkable Cathéral Saint-Maurice, the city’s gothic style cathedral whose two grand spires jut out into Angers’ skyline. For an imposing view of the cathedral, head down the Saint-Maurice steps, from which point you will be able to see the impressive building in all its grandeur, as well as its remarkable 16th century façade and its many carvings which overlook the river. Make your way inside to appreciate the tranquil space with its multitude of intricate 12th century stained glass windows along with the cathedral’s gorgeous collection of tapestries, gold religious works and carvings.
La Maison d’Adam
The most impressive half timbered building in Angers is hard to miss, being located right in the quaint Sainte-Croix square in the heart of the city, just behind the cathedral. Having been built towards the end of the 15th century, the building has witnessed centuries of the city’s development and its beauty is a draw for many visitors in the area. The Maison d’Adam is one of the most beautiful examples of medieval architecture and carpentry in France, with its complex structure and enigmatic sculpted decor which takes inspiration from natural iconography, such as the knots of trees, as well as human and animal figures. Look out for the Cenataur and the Bagpiper as well as the figures of Adam and Eve which frame the Tree of Life and give the building its name. If you want to find out more about medieval Angers, book a spot on this original tour of 15th century Angers, led by a professional guide dressed as an innkeeper who will guide you through the historic district, providing fascinating anecdotes and historical facts about the city.
Musée Jean-Lurçat et de la Tapisserie Contemporaine
Located just across the river from the city centre lies the Musée Jean-Lurçat, a museum whose collection entwines works of textile art from the 1950s and contemporary creations. Founded around 1180 under the demand of Henry II of England, the museum is housed in a former hospital and owes its name to Jean Lurçat, a French artist who was praised for his role in the revival of the contemporary tapestry. Since 1967, the main ward of the former Hôpital Saint-Jean has housed the famous 1960s "Chant du Monde" tapestry series by Jean Lurçat, a poetic series of ten brightly coloured tapestries which is seen as a contemporary echo of the Apocalypse Tapestry. In addition to the rich collection of textile art, you can also enjoy the museum’s tranquil garden, the former apothecary and the gorgeous remains of a 17th century cloister!
Where to Stay
Budget: Royal Hôtel Angers
Modern rooms in a hotel located 260 metres from Angers Saint-Laud train station.
Mid-Range: Suit’Home Jacobins
Self catering accommodation in the historic centre of Angers featuring a living room and kitchenette.
Luxury: Hotel Continental
3 star hotel in the heart of Angers with contemporary rooms.
Day 2: Musée des Beaux Arts
Spend the morning getting lost in the hundreds of masterpieces in the magical Musée des Beaux Arts before heading further into the city centre and chilling out in the Place du Ralliement.
Musée des Beaux Arts
Given that Angers calls itself the “city of history and art”, the Musée des Beaux Arts is one of the jewels in its crown. Established in 1801, the museum is housed in a collection of several gorgeous buildings dating back to the 15th century, which include a grand courtyard and back onto preened gardens. Keep a look out for the exuberant sculpture in the rear courtyard named “L’Arbre aux Serpents” (“The Serpent Tree”), as well as the magnificent “Mitoraj 99” sculpture in the main courtyard where the entrance to the museum is located! With two permanent exhibitions, ‘Fine Art from the 14th to the 21st Century” and “The History of Angers”, covering a huge 3000 square metres, as well as temporary exhibitions, the Musée des Beaux Arts provides a link between the past and the present. Why not buy a guided tour and experience the development of art through the ages as well as getting under the skin of the city’s unique history as it takes you through the over 300 masterpieces spread across several floors.
Le Grand Théâtre
At the heart of the city centre in the Place du Ralliement, the city’s central square, you will find Le Grand Théâtre, one of the city’s premier venues for performing arts and a cultural hub. Behind the stunning neoclassical 19th century façade lies a majestic foyer with columns and ornate decoration leading to the main theatre. Throughout the year the venue hosts a tantalising range of cultural events and performances including opera, ballet, contemporary dance, theatre productions and more, so while you are visiting it’s definitely worth checking what’s on. Take a seat at one of the several bars and restaurants in the square and enjoy a drink or some food en terrace as you admire the grandeur of the theatre and soak up the buzzing ambiance of this lively square.
Open once again after a 15 year closure, the Musée Pincé is located in the centre of town in a fantastical renaissance building that looks like it belongs on the set of a Disney film. On the ground floor you will find an exhibition with an annually changing theme that highlights the wide variety of the collections housed across all of Angers’ museums, whilst the first floor holds an impressive collection of art and artefacts from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Egyptians, Pre-Columbian art and Chinese and Japanese art. Come in to get a flavour of Angers’ rich cultural scene, as well as delving into the incredible cultures of ancient civilisations.
Collégiale Saint Martin
The Collégiale Saint Martin is of great significance in Angers, being the oldest church in the city and dating back to the 13th century. Originally serving as a collegiate church, it was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a highly revered saint in France known for his charitable work and devoutness. This archaeological treasure is a stunning example of typical angevine gothic architecture and, having been destroyed and then rebuilt, the building has been magnificently restored and is now a welcoming setting for thousands of years of history. Make sure to take a look at the numerous intricate sculptures of the churches and chapels of Anjou around the nave as well as the fascinating antique ruins in the archaeological crypt. If you want to learn more about Angers’ historic importance, the Collégiale Saint Martin is the perfect place to visit!
Where to Stay
Budget: Hotel Iena
A 2 star, centrally located hotel offering en suite accommodation and a bar.
Mid-Range: Lois Hôtel Marguerite d’Anjou
Guest rooms in a hotel with a brasserie, located a 2 minute walk from the Château d’Angers.
Luxury: Les Suites Angevines
Stylish, contemporary apartments near the centre of Angers, some of which include a terrace.
Day 3: Balzac Park & Cointreau Distillery
Begin your final day in the breathtaking Galerie David d’Angers before crossing the river and unwinding in the serenity of Balzac Park. To finish your stay off with a bang, head over to the Cointreau Distillery in the afternoon for a fascinating guided tour and a delicious cocktail.
Galerie David d’Angers
The luminous Galerie David incorporates a beautiful mixture of 13th century architecture and modern design. Housed in the 13th century former Toussaint Abbey, the building’s tufa stone walls and glass vaulted ceilings come together to create a special space where the work of Pierre-Jean David, a famous sculptor who later adopted the name of the town where he had been born, is showcased. David d’Angers was renowned for his lifelike sculptures which adorn famous monuments across France, and in this gallery you will find some of his preparatory works, including those for the pediment of the Panthéon in Paris. In spite of its relatively small size, a visit to the Galerie David is an absolute must while you are in Angers. Prepare to be mesmerised as the heavenly sunbeams flood the space with light and illuminate the stone, marble and bronze statues and original plaster casts that depict people such as Gutenberg, Fénelon and Ambroise Paré. David d’Angers was renowned for his lifelike sculptures which adorn famous monuments such as the Panthéon in Paris.
Angers is a green city scattered with many parks and natural spaces but of all of them Balzac Park is our favourite. Named after the distinguished French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, this lush oasis has become a cherished part of the city and locals come here to unwind and enjoy the fresh air and tranquil ambiance. The park is a picturesque landscape which boasts a combination of formal gardens, open lawns and tree lined paths, making it perfect for walks, bike rides and games. Take a picnic and relax amongst the lush greenery and colourful blooms before taking a leisurely stroll along the river to see Angers and its castle from a new perspective.
For those who like a tipple, you’re sure to have heard of Cointreau, the premium orange-flavoured triple sec liqueur which is made in the brand’s only distillery just outside of Angers. The Carré Cointreau distillery was founded in 1849 by brothers Adolphe and Édouarde-Jean Cointreau, whose zesty creation quickly became a beloved spirit the world over. Whilst the exact recipe and production process are closely guarded secrets, the distillery offers insightful guided tours to visitors, allowing you to explore the production facilities and learn about the history and craftsmanship behind Cointreau. During the tour, you can witness the various steps involved in the liqueur making process, from the selection of oranges to the distillation and blending, and if you’re a Cointreau lover, you’re in luck! The distillery offers spectacular cocktail making and tasting workshops where you can test your bartending skills, discover different ways to enjoy Cointreau and savour the flavour of your own creation. The distillery is located just outside of the city but is easily accessible by car or bus from the centre, making this the perfect relaxed afternoon activity. Don’t forget to pick up some goodies in the lovely gift shop, too!