2019 marks something of a landmark year in the Loire Valley, a region known for its iconic châteaux and timeless riverscapes. In 1519, the Loire became the cradle of the Renaissance creativity, thinking, architecture and art de vivre in France. 500 years later, the Loire celebrates the Renaissance with a long list of cultural, artistic and fun events commemorating this glorious period in French history.  Events based around the Renaissance take place all year and make for the perfect excuse to visit France in 2019. Naturally, event activity peaks in the summer with an especially good choice of son et lumière festivities. Read on for our round-up of the best events and where to see them. 2019 marks something of a landmark year in the Loire Valley, a region known for its iconic châteaux and timeless riverscapes. In 1519, the Loire became the cradle of the Renaissance creativity, thinking, architecture and art de vivre in France. 500 years later, the Loire celebrates the Renaissance with a long list of cultural, artistic and fun events commemorating this glorious period in French history.

Events based around the Renaissance take place all year and make for the perfect excuse to visit France in 2019. Naturally, event activity peaks in the summer with an especially good choice of son et lumière festivities. Read on for our round-up of the best events and where to see them.

Why 1519?

The Renaissance arrived from Italy via Charles VIII and Francis I, both big fans of Italian style. Francis I invited Leonardo da Vinci, the maître of the Renaissance, to the Loire in 1516. The genius arrived with his life’s work of manuscripts, notes and sketches along with several of his most famous works including the Mona Lisa.

Designated the king’s “master artist, engineer and architect”, Da Vinci set up at château de Clos Lucé in Amboise where he created, philosophised, held court and hosted parties. He is largely regarded to be the face behind the Renaissance in France, which is why he’s the logo for the 2019 commemorations known as Viva da Vinci!

He lived and created in Amboise for three years before he died on 2 May 1519. Another famous Loire historical figure, Catherine de Medici, was born just less than a month earlier. And in September of the same year, the first stone was laid for the château de Chambord. 500 years later, the Loire celebrates the Renaissance.

Main events

The Loire has really gone to town in celebrating the fifth centenary of the Renaissance. Visitors can expect art, music, philosophy, science, architecture, gastronomy, garden design and of course, art de vivre. All commemorate the period’s unique creativity and take place in venues across the entire region. Fittingly since most of them are monuments in themselves to the Renaissance, the Loire châteaux take centre stage.

See the full programme of events here.

Artistic events

Many of the Loire Renaissance celebrations focus on Da Vinci in his multiple creative guises. Architecture takes the limelight at Chambord where the main exhibition, 1519-2019 L’Utopie à L’Oeuvre, looks at Leonardo Da Vinci as an architect.  See it from 25 May to 1 September.

Chambord also hosts The Last Supper tapestry based on Da Vinci’s famous fresco. It’s on loan from the Vatican Museum. In fact, 2019 is the first time the work has left Italy since the 16th century. Marvel at it from 30 April to 30 September.

Contemporary artists offer their take on Da Vinci at an exhibition in Lémeré. The modern homage to the Italian genius includes works by several well-known contemporary creators such as the painter Pierre Ardouvin and the ceramicist Catherine Bret-Brownstone. Admire them from 1 April to 3 November.

Chambord events

The largest Renaissance château in the world, Chambord holds a very special place in the history of the artistic movement. The château hosts numerous events this year commemorating its fifth centenary. They include the 9th edition of the Chambord Festival whose central musical theme this year is the Renaissance. Enjoy it from 28 June to 13 July.

Son et lumière events

Da Vinci’s parties during his time in the Loire were famous for their son et lumière effects. As homage to these, several special light and sound events take place this year. They include:

  • château Blois – façade lit up with key Renaissance figures and events from 6 April to 22 September.
  • Orleans Cathedral – Renaissance-themed light display from 20 April to 14 September.
  • Tours – Renaissance themes from 29 June to 31 August.
  • château d’Azay-le-Rideau – night time visit to the château gardens, lit up for the occasion from 1 July to 31 August.
  • Chaumont-sur-Loire – displays in the International Garden Festival (see below) light up from 10pm to midnight from 1 July to 31 August.
  • château de Villandry – 2,000 candles light up the gardens from dusk during the Nuit des Mille Feux from 5 July to 2 August.

Garden events

Formal gardens come part and parcel of all Renaissance palaces and châteaux so it’s fitting that the Loire celebrates the Renaissance through gardens this year. Particular horticultural highlights are:

  • The 28th International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire where designs take a Renaissance theme. See it from 25 April to 3 November
  • New gardens at château de Blois on the terrace overlooking the town and the Loire River. Open from 25 May.

Renaissance life events

As well as art, gardens and music, many events take a look at life during the Renaissance:

Perfumes and Cosmetics – a recreation of the lotions and potions used during the Renaissance including the famous Eau de Nostradamus. Sniff them at Candes-Saint-Martin from 1 April to 30 September.

Catherine de Medici’s bedroom – she owned the château de Chaumont-sur-Loire between 1550 and 1560 and to commemorate the 500th anniversary of her birth year, her bedroom opens this year. Restored to its former glory, the room showcases some exquisite original tapestries. Feast your eyes any time this year.

Family fun events  

Kids also have plenty of entertainment during the Loire Renaissance celebrations. Would be engineers and architects will love the Renaissance Lego exhibition at château de Cheverny from 1 July to 31 December. And those with a feel for all things techy shouldn’t miss Leonardo and Robots with interactive exhibits ranging from Da Vinci’s aerial screw to the InMoov robot. See it in Orleans from 2 March to 7 April.

Join in as the Loire celebrates the Renaissance

The height of artistic talent is best seen from the river Loire, flanked by some of the finest châteaux in the world and mostly built during the Renaissance.

Admire them as you glide past on a Loire river cruise – the excursions are bound to incorporate celebratory events.

For an alternative Loire Valley boating holiday hire a self-drive boat from one of three bases in and around Anjou, and explore from there.

And of course, cruising the Upper Loire from Chatillon sur Loire to Montargis, there’s hotel barge Renaissance.

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2019 marks something of a landmark year in the Loire Valley, a region known for its iconic châteaux and timeless riverscapes. In 1519, the Loire became the cradle of the Renaissance creativity, thinking, architecture and art de vivre in France. 500 years later, the Loire celebrates the Renaissance with a long list of cultural, artistic and fun events commemorating this glorious period in French history.  Events based around the Renaissance take place all year and make for the perfect excuse to visit France in 2019. Naturally, event activity peaks in the summer with an especially good choice of son et lumière festivities. Read on for our round-up of the best events and where to see them.