What to visit in Saumur?
View on Saumur Castle © detoursenfrance.fr
Between Angers and Tours, the city of Saumur is located in the Loire Valley region. Saumur attracts many French and international tourists. There are indeed many places to visit. From Paris it takes around 2 hours by train to reach the city. You can then easily go there on a day trip or during a week-end (2-3 days).
The city is known for its iconic castle overlooking the city and the river. It is also one of the main locations of horseback riding in France. You can indeed attend equestrian events throughout the year and meet at any time the famous horsemen of the « Cadre Noir », so called because the officers wear a complete black uniform. The old town of Saumur is easily accessible on foot or even by horse-drawn carriage, with its lively streets and tufa facades. The region of Saumur is also famous for its wine and its vineyard. It is full of many troglodyte cellars dug in tufa and chalk. One of the most original ways to discover them is to visit a winery. You will then meet the producers who make the famous Saumur sparkling white wines, but also still red and white wines.
Discover here a selection of the best things to see and places to visit in Saumur and its surroundings.
Château of Saumur
The Chateau of Saumur is undoubtedly the most emblematic building in the city. Former residence of the Dukes of Anjou, it is the last example of a princely palace built by the Valois Dynasty.
Originally a defence fortress in the 13th century with conical towers, it was then in the 14th century a leisure castle nicknamed « castle of love » with windows decorated with richly carved balustrades. Then home of Saumur governors under Louis XIV and Louis XV, the castle was transformed into prison under Napoleon 1st before becoming a weapons deposit place under the Restoration. Classified historical monument since 1862, it houses today the municipal museum labelled Museum of France. This museum is divided into two sections: the Decorative Arts and the Horse section.
Saumur Castle © chateau-saumur.fr
The Museum of Decorative Arts on the first floor offers a rich collection of works of art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: wood carvings and alabaster, tapestries, furniture, paintings, liturgical ornaments, ceramics…
The Horse Museum traces the history of the saddle horse and horse riding through the ages and the world. There are collections of saddles, stirrups, spurs and other rich harnesses from all over the world. Moreover, in July and August you can attend a 30-minutes equestrian show mixing dance and mimes, which takes place three times a day in the gardens of the castle.
Horse Museum, © jardinoscope.canalblog.com
Finally, you can visit the terraces of the castle from where you will have a magnificent panoramic view over the city and the Loire river. The castle is easily accessible on foot from St. Peter’s Square by the ascent of the Fort. During this climb, you will pass by beautiful houses with turrets and you will have a breathtaking view on the old Saumur.
View from the ascent of the fort © my-loire-valley.com
Saumur old town
Saumur is a city where you will enjoy walking around. Indeed, many pedestrian zones are set up in the historical city center and allow you to discover all the heritage of the city on foot. You can stroll in the old Saumur district, but also along the Loire. It is the longest and most famous French river, nicknamed the Royal River. For centuries, this river has been at the heart of the city’s activity and development.
During your walk through the old town, you will pass by winding lanes that have kept their medieval layout. Saint-Jean street and its shops lead to Saint Peter’s Square. This place has an important historical past. Indeed, it was the unmissable shopping square of Saumur in the Middle Ages. You can still see today its pretty traditional houses with half-timbered facades of the 15th and 16th centuries adjoining 18th century houses with wrought iron balconies. In this square you can visit St. Peter’s Church around which the city developed in the 12th century. You can admire its beautiful 17th century classical facade recently restored as well as the building mixing Romanesque and Gothic style. Inside, it houses a remarkable series of stalls from the 15th century.
St-Peter square © inter-face.fr
To continue, the City Hall is located on the Republic square. It is composed of two main parts: the fortified house of the 16th century, whose facade was part of the medieval city rampart and has retained its defensive appearance; and the central part, in neo-gothic inspiration, whose forms and proportions contrast with the elements of the Gothic period.
City Hall © ot-saumur.fr
Near the city hall, you can see the Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church with classical architecture of Italian inspiration. It was one of the most popular pilgrimage sanctuaries in France at the time (16th-17th centuries) with more than 10,000 pilgrims per year. The construction of the chapel began at the beginning of the 16th century. It distinguishes by an imposing rotunda of 27 meters high, crowned with a slate dome with lantern.
Another church to see is Notre-Dame de Nantilly Church, a 5-minutes’ walk from the city center. It is the oldest church in the city called the “Mother Church”, dating from the early 12th century. This Romanesque building houses the famous venerated statue of Our Lady of Nantilly in painted wood dating from the 12th century. In addition, beautiful tapestries (15th-18th centuries) are exhibited during the summer, including the life of the Virgin Mary. The church is distinguished by an elegant oratory of the late 15th century and a beautiful Romanesque nave of 12th century Gothic, covered with a barrel vault.
Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church © ot-saumur.fr
To finish your discovery of the city center, do not hesitate to take a tour on Offard Island, which is accessible by the Loire bridge and offers you one of the most beautiful views on Saumur. This is where the House of the Queen of Sicily is located, dating back to the 15th century and in which the Queen lived her last moments. You can admire its original architecture, including its finely carved facades. In addition, the island is the ideal place to go camping or just enjoy a little haven of peace and nature close to the city and bathed by the Loire river.
Offard Island © flowercampings.com
Saumur is undoubtedly the French equestrian capital. This is the birthplace of the famous “Cadre Noir”. Created in 1815, it is a group of teachers who teach classical riding to the officer cadet of the National School of Horse Riding. They are high level experts who represent the school at national and international competitions. They contribute to the influence of French riding on a worldwide scale.
Horsemen of the “Cadre Noir” © actu.fr
The “Cadre Noir” is located at the National School of Riding, a 10-minutes’ drive from the center of Saumur. You have the opportunity to discover the whole universe and the history of the “Cadre Noir” through several options of visits. During the “classic visit”, you will pass by the stables, the big carousel and saddlery. If you are lucky, you will even have the opportunity to observe in live the training of the great masters of riding.
The “Cadre Noir investigation” visit option is a playful visit suitable for children from 7 to 12 years old. In addition to the regular visit, you can attend a public presentation or a “Cadre Noir” Gala. Reservations are made at the National School of Horse Riding or at the Tourist Office.
“Cadre Noir” Gala © my-loire-valley.com
Aerial view of the National School of Horse Riding © grand-insep.fr
To complete your equestrian discovery, you can visit the Cavalry Museum. It is located in the very center of Saumur, in the old restored stables of the “Cadre Noir” built in 1827. This military museum traces the history of French cavalry from the 15th century under Charles VII to today’s tanks. It offers collections on more than 1400 m2: uniforms, harnesses, armours and old weapons, paintings, sculptures…
Cavalry Museum© canalblog.com
Saumur vineyard and troglodyte cellars
During your stay in Saumur you can enjoy discovering the region vineyard and its beautiful troglodyte cellars. The region is mostly known for its sparkling wines mainly made from the Chenin grape variety. The still white wine of Saumur is fresh and aromatic, also made from Chenin grape. The red wine is harvested by thirty villages. It is a generous wine that can be kept longer. Finally, Saumur Champigny is one of the most famous and appreciated appellations, obtained from Cabernet Franc. The vineyard of Saumur Champigny covers only 9 cities and gives birth to an exceptional red wine with red fruits flavours.
Discover here our selection of wineries that you can visit and where winemakers will be happy to welcome you to show you their wineries, cellars, and help you taste their wines.
Vineyards close to Saumur
You can start your discovery of Saumur vineyard and cellars by going to Bouvet Ladubay winery, founded in 1851 and located at 5 minutes by car from the city center. Its long underground cellars hide a sunken cathedral. You will also learn the steps of their winemaking process and taste sparkling wines called Bruts de Loire. Another option of visit, quite unusual, is to discover the house, riding a bike in the cellars equipped with a headlamp!
Wine tasting following the bike tour of the cellars, Bouvet Ladubay, Saint Hilaire Saint Florent
10 minutes’ drive from Saumur, you can visit the beautiful Chateau de Chaintres, created in 1675 by the Oratorian Fathers. At the heart of the famous wine appellation “Saumur Champigny”, the owners are particularly sensitive to the respect of environment. Their wines are certified organic since 2013. They are very welcoming and will be delighted to receive you and show you the principles of organic wine production.
Château de Chaintres, Dampierre-sur-Loire
Still in the Saumur Champigny wine appellation, you can go to Fabien Duveau winery, an historical family-owned winery. The yound and passionate owner will be glad to welcome you and to answer to all your questions. You will have the chance to visit the magnificent 14th century troglodyte cellars, carved in chalk. In addition, the tasting is customisable, and you can taste all the wines you want. You will spend a pleasant and friendly time there.
Fabien Duveau winery, Chacé
To continue your Saumur winery tour, you can go to the domaine de Rocheville winery. Located in Parnay, at less than 20 minutes by car from the city center, this recent family-owned winery, launched in the 2000’s is run by a dynamic couple that will be happy to receive you. You will discover an atypical and modern architecture, with a beautiful terrace overlooking the valley. The wine tasting can be done on this terrace if the weather allows it. The owners have a respectful environmental approach and have obtained the “Terra Vitis” label. During the visit, you will be impressed by the large modern winery with its giant vats.
Terrace overlooking the valley in Rocheville valley, Parnay
To complete your discovery, you can go to the Vieux Pressoir winery in Vauldenay, at 20 minutes’ drive from Saumur. You will be welcome by the friendly owners. The winery produces wines in the Puy Notre-Dame appellation, less prestigious than Saumur Champigny, but which allows to obtain wines of good quality and excellent value for money.
Armored vehicles museum
This museum, located less than 10 minutes’ drive from the city center, is a must for all fans of our contemporary history. It has a unique collection of vehicles from the Great War to the present day. More than 200 collector’s items from different countries are exhibited and will take you on a historical journey.
Armored vehicles museum © ot-saumur.fr
The Mushroom Museum is located at 10 minutes’ drive west of Saumur and allows both older and younger to discover the world of mushrooms, whether wild or cultivated. The museum is housed in mysterious troglodyte cellars. The playful and informative tour along the underground galleries will allow you to discover more than 500 wild varieties, making it the largest exhibition on this theme in Europe.
Mushroom museum © ot-saumur.fr
We wish you a pleasant discovery of Saumur and its region!