Visit Blois in the Loire Valley

Photo of Blois

Blois tourism, attractions and sights of interest

Blois attractions

Blois attracts most visitors because of the popular Chateau de Blois that is situated in the town, but Blois is also a very populous city, with a strong economy based on industry and tourism (in part due to the presence of its prestigious castle, of course). While in Blois, also take a look at the rest of the historical town which has some other less famous highlights to discover.

Next to the Castle, in the Old Town, you can also admire some important buildings of note, like the Cathedral of Saint Louis, dating from the tenth century, and in Gothic style.

opposite the cathedral, the ‘Maison des Acrobates’, dates from the fifteenth century. See also the Blois churches of Saint-Laumer (1210), Saint-Sernin (XVI century) and, finally, of Saint-Louis, of the seventeenth century.

The ancient town core also includes many late Gothic and Renaissance palaces such as the palace of the Archbishop, surrounded by terraced gardens close to the Loire.

The city is also full of traditional bistro, where you can sample the local cuisine, with dishes of snails, steak with duck sausage and the famous tripe, the ‘veritable andouillette’ and then, again, the rabbit, duck with lentils and pike with red cabbage, to be enjoyed with classic Loire wines, whites and reds, which until the Middle Ages were appreciated throughout Europe.

History of Blois

Blois castle in the town centreAccording to the most ancient traditions, abundantly confirmed by archaeological excavations, Blois was born in Roman times and by Giulio Cesare (100-44 BC), who made this place a winter camp for his legions. The Romans, when they settled in Blois, made it a fortified ‘castrum’ to counter the numerous incursions of the barbarians, and inside the ‘castrum’ stood a ‘castellum’ i.e. the fortress itself.

But it is very likely the area of Blois was previously inhabited by the Gauls known as the ‘Carnutes’, and the name of the town, Blois, is of Gallic origin. The name comes from the words ‘Bleiz’ and ‘Blaiz,’ which, in many Gallic dialects means ‘wolf’ - moreover, the ancient symbol of the city was also a wolf. Hence ‘Blois’ means, quite simply, ‘the country of wolves.’  The name of Blois came to us from the discovery of numerous coins of the Merovingian age on which  you can read the old name, ‘Bleso Castro’, or ‘Fortress of Blois’.

The first known Lord of Blois was Guillome (who died in 584), and after that the feud belonged to Eudes, son of Guillom, and his successor, Robert II. In the tenth century a village arose around the fortressbringing together several primitive villages, the oldest of which was called ‘Bourg de Fois’, i.e. the ‘Village of the Treasury’. The second village, where a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist once stood, was called ‘Borgo de Arena’, because it was placed next to the banks  of the River Loire, and the third was called ‘Burgus medius (‘ Middle Village ‘), because it was  between the other two villages.

After Charlemagne, Blois belonged to his successors, Charles the Bald (823-877), Louis-Le-Begue (846-879) and Eudes (died 898). Then the territory was passed (but we do not know how) to Thibault-Le-Tricheur the Elder (910 ca.-975), who became Count of Blois (924), founding a dynasty that ruled the city until the thirteenth century. This was then replaced by that of Chatillon, who ruled until the fourteenth century, when Blois passed to the Dukes of Orleans (1403). Under Charles d'Orleans (1394-1465), a writer and poet, the city and castle became an important cultural centre. Under the reign of Louis XII (1462-1515) and Francis I (1494-1547), the city also became an important administrative centre, and started the reconstruction of the medieval fortress, which became a remarkable castle, the symbol of French Renaissance.

On the death of Gaston d'Orleans in 1660, the city had rather a moment of crisis which was later overcome when it became the seat of the bishopric (1697). The construction activity continued with great effect (a new bridge, new buildings and roads). In the eighteenth century, the city strengthened its position as the local administrative centre (the Prefecture and courthouse), but the urban transformation became more massive with industrial development, especially through the creation of a thriving shoe industry until 1960.

Map of Blois & places nearby

Castle Town village

Selected places to visit in or near Blois, Loire Valley