The Sainte-Croix Cathedral, emblem of the city
If these walls could speak, the stories they would tell! Originally built in the 6th century, this great lady, currently marking the city's landscape with her silhouette, collapsed in the 12th century. In 1287, its reconstruction began, which ended on May 8, 1829, more than 600 years later! This emblematic monument is also marked by personalities such as Joan of Arc, Henri IV and Louis XIV, who shaped its history over the centuries. You cannot help but admire its stained glass windows, telling the story of the city’s protector, Joan of Arc. Another must-see is its crypts and catacombs, a subterranean city under the main city. The tourist office also offers a visit called "Orléans from top to bottom," allowing you to go from the tallest towers of the cathedral to its underground passages.
Dive into the heart of the Renaissance
Strolling through the town center, we dive into the heart of the Renaissance, a prosperous period for the city, energized by a university run by the greatest thinkers, from Calvin to Erasmus, Budé and Rabelais. Many buildings bear witness to this opulence, starting with the Hotel Groslot, which now houses the town hall. This hôtel particulier, built for the bailiff of Orléans, can indeed be proud to have welcomed François II, Charles IX, Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici under its roof.
Admire the facade mixing Renaissance decor and Gothic reminiscences of the Hôtel des Créneaux, not to mention those of the many timber-framed houses in the city, such as that located at number 14 Rue Sainte-Catherine.
In the footsteps of Joan of Arc
Each year, from April 29 to May 8, Orléans honors its heroine, Joan of Arc, with ten days of celebration. Commemorative rides, religious ceremonies, light and sound shows, concerts, aerial parades — for 10 days, the city lives to the rhythm of the Maid who liberated it from the English invaders in May, 1429. But Joan of Arc is also present in the city throughout the year, starting with her equestrian statue, which stands at the Place du Martroi.
You can also visit a reconstruction of the house of the general treasurer of the Duke of Orléans in which she stayed during the siege of the city in 1429. Nowadays, part of the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts is dedicated to it. Finally, for a more festive tribute, head to the bars and restaurants of the town center, which offer a local beer called La Pucelle d'Orléans (The Maiden of Orleans).
Back to the future at the Frac Centre-Val de Loire
It is worth a visit just for the architecture alone! The Regional Contemporary Art Fund of the Centre-Val de Loire is giving new life to military subsistence buildings, to which the Jakob + MacFarlane agency has added three glass-and-steel growths called Les Turbulences. Inside, the cultural and exhibition program explores the relationship between art, architecture and design. The Frac Centre-Val de Loire is also behind the Biennale d'Architecture d'Orléans launched in 2017.
Hunting street art
Orléans is also a little paradise for street art lovers with several popular sites for artists. This is particularly the case of the industrial wasteland of the old Dessaux vinegar factories, where you can see the works of Jef Aérosol, or the Mur d'Orléans, an open space dedicated to contemporary creations and located opposite the Carmes movie theater, on rue Henri Roy. Each month, a new artist is invited to come and coat this wall.
But art is also, and above all, on every street corner, even on the rooftops of the city. Have fun hunting for the yellow cats with broad smiles of Thoma Vuille, a.k.a. Mr. Cat, or the small colorful mosaics of Mifa Mosa that fill the streets. Each year, in spring, the city organizes the Loire Art Show, two major weekends dedicated to exploration and urban arts.
Do not miss the delicacies so sewn into the reputation of the city. Taste Orléans' fruit macaroons and their most original flavors: strawberries glazed with Orléans vinegar; candied rose petals, cinnamon and lime and creamy hazelnut. Even more unusual, Cotignac is a quince-based sweet that is reminiscent of hard candy, eaten with the help of a piece of the lid of its spruce box. Bon appétit!
One with nature
True green lung of the city, the Floral Park of the Source is a wonder for the eyes regardless of the time of the year. In the summer, you can take full view in the iris, the dahlia and even the rose gardens, while little by little the leaves and vegetation take on amber and glowing colors for autumn. In the winter, make way for frost and its white crystals before nature takes over and everything starts again. You must also visit the Source garden, the resurgence of the Loire that gives its name to the park, as well as the vegetable garden or the sculptures scattered around a grove.