Pays de la Loire is a region in the Great West of France bringing together the departments of Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. The regional prefecture is Nantes.

Bordered to the west by the Bay of Biscay (Atlantic Ocean), it is bound to the north by the Brittany and Normandy regions, to the east by the Centre-Val de Loire (with which it shares the natural region of the Loire Valley) and to the south by Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

The Loire Valley, which is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site since 2000, is located both in the administrative regions of Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire.

Geography

The Pays de la Loire region covers 32,082 km². It takes its name from the Loire river, which crosses two of the five departments that comprise it, before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The last tributaries of the river irrigate the region: the Loir, the Sarthe and the Mayenne, which come together to form the Maine at Angers, the Erdre to the north, the Thouet and the Sèvre Nantaise to the south. In total, there are 18,000 kilometers of waterways in the region.

The relief of the region is made up of the hills of Vendée to the south, to the north of Sarthe and Mayenne by the Coëvrons, the Mancelles Alps, the Perseigne forest and the Perche hills. The highest point is the Mont des Avaloirs (416 meters). The Sillon de Bretagne, which is the continuation of the Lanvaux moors of Morbihan, ends at the promontory of the Butte Sainte-Anne in Nantes. Most of the region is located on the Armorican Massif. Only the eastern part is on a sedimentary basin: the eastern half of the department of Maine-et-Loire and the department of Sarthe to the east of the heights of Coëvrons; i.e. three quarters of this department. This part of the region is topographically very close to the central region.

The region is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean over a length of 368 kilometers and has two important islands: the island of Noirmoutier and the island of Yeu. The coasts are alternately rocky and sandy; Côte Sauvage north of the mouth of the Loire, Côte de Jade between the Loire and the island of Noirmoutier Côte de Lumière in Vendée.

Reclaimed from the sea over the centuries, several marshes punctuate the coastline: the Brière near Saint-Nazaire, the Breton Marais to the north of Vendée and the Poitevin Marais to the south.

In terms of surface area, the region is the 7th largest in metropolitan France.

Economy

In 2024, the region ranked 8th in France for population and gross domestic product.

Its main strength is the agri-food industry; in 2024, this sector employed about 47,500 employees (2nd French region) for a turnover of 13 billion euros (3rd French region). It also ranks 3rd for meat production (51%), milk (19%) and grain processing (20%); 67% of the territory is occupied by agriculture. The Pays de la Loire is the leading French region for the production of beef, poultry (red label), rabbit, and duck and 2nd for milk, poultry (simple), pork and potatoes.

In 2001, the Pays de la Loire was the leading region in France in terms of horticultural surface area and number of jobs in the sector, thus dominating in the production of flowering plants,  foliage potted plants, bedding plants, perennial plants, aromatic and aquatic plants and ornamental or fruit nurseries. Six hundred companies work in this economic sector, employing nearly 6,000 people and generating more than six hundred million euros in turnover.

Heritage

The heritage of Pays de la Loire is based on the ancient provinces of Anjou, the Duchy of Brittany, Maine and Poitou.

“The Loire Valley is an exceptional cultural landscape, comprising historic towns and villages, great architectural monuments, castles and cultivated lands, shaped by centuries of interaction between populations and their physical environment, including the Loire,” according to the UNESCO website.

Part of the region is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to criteria (I) (remarkable architecture), (II) (cultural landscape, harmonious development of interactions among humans and their environment over two thousand years of history), (IV) (numerous cultural monuments, illustrating – to an exceptional degree – the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment), under the name Val de Loire. The classified area extends over the department of Maine-et-Loire, from Montsoreau to Chalonnes-sur-Loire. This classification allows the protection of the cultural heritage of the Loire Valley (parks, Loire castles and towns), shared between the Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de la Loire regions.

The region includes major Loire castles: the castle of Montsoreau (the only castle in the Loire built in the bed of the Loire), the castle of Montreuil-Bellay, the castle of Saumur, the castle of Brissac, the castle Le Lude, the Château de Baugé, the Château de Serrant, the Château d’Angers and the Château du Plessis-Bourré.

The cities of Angers, Fontenay-le-Comte, Laval, Le Mans, Guérande, Nantes and Saumur are labeled cities of art and history.

The villages of Montsoreau, Sainte-Suzanne and Vouvant are part of the association of the most beautiful villages in France.

The region benefits from an exceptional cultural heritage with numerous museums and art galleries, such as the David d’Angers Gallery in Angers, the Tessé Museum in Le Mans, the Laval Science Museum and the Jules-Verne Museum of Nantes. The region’s museums bring together an exceptional heritage, such as the Tapestry of the Apocalypse, the Song of the World by Jean Lurçat and or the world’s largest collection of Art & Language works at the Château de Montsoreau-Musée of contemporary art, repatriated by Philippe Méaille in December 2017.

The major cultural element of the region is the Pays de la Loire National Orchestra, which has ten thousand subscribers and two hundred annual concerts, bringing together nearly 200,000 spectators per year. The Pays de la Loire National Orchestra has one of the largest audiences in Europe.

Natural heritage

The Loire Valley, classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, allows the protection of natural areas on the banks of the Loire. The Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park, located between the towns of Angers and Tours, is included in the Loire Valley classification.

The Normandy-Maine regional natural park allows the protection of fauna and flora in the south of Lower Normandy and in the north of Pays de la Loire. It includes the highest point of the region, the Mont des Avaloirs (416.3 meters). The “Avaloirs belvedere” located at the top of the mountain offers a panorama of the surrounding area.

The Brière regional natural park is located north of the Loire estuary and covers a vast area of ​​marshland. It extends over 490 km² and is home to numerous animal and plant species.

Several national nature reserves allow the protection of other sites in the region:

The lower Angevin valleys in the departments of Maine-et-Loire and Mayenne;

The Poitevin marsh (nicknamed the “Green Venice”) and the bay of Aiguillon; the area extends over the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Pays de la Loire regions and the departments of Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Charente-Maritime;

The Breton marsh between the departments of Loire-Atlantique and Vendée;

Lake Grand-Lieu in Loire-Atlantique.

Tourism and main attractions (by departments in alphabetical order)

Loire-Atlantique

Maine-et-Loire

Vendée

Atlantic resorts (from north to south)

Most beautiful villages of France list (by departments)

Maine-et-Loire (1 village)

  • Montsoreau

Mayenne (1 village)

  • Sainte-Suzanne

Vendée (1 village)

  • Vouvant

Shortest distances to Nantes from the main cities of France (capitals of regions)

  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Lyon): 6 hr 12 min (686 km) via A71 and A85
  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (Dijon): 5 hr 43 min (643 km) via A6
  • Bretagne (Rennes): 1 hr 26 min (113 km) via N137
  • Centre-Val de Loire (Orléans): 3 hr 17 min (336 km) via A10, A85 and A11
  • Grand Est (Strasbourg): 7 hr 55 min (866 km) via A4 and A11
  • Hauts-de-France (Lille): 5 hr 49 min (601 km) via A1 and A11
  • Île-de-France (Paris): 3 hr 40 min (385 km) via A11
  • Normandie (Rouen): 3 hr 36 min (386 km) via A28 and A11
  • Occitania (Toulouse): 5 hr 16 min (585 km) via A62, A10 and A83
  • Nouvelle-Aquitaine (Bordeaux): 3 hr 29 min (346 km) via A83 and A10
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Marseille): 9 hr 18 min (984 km) via A62

Main facts

GPS coordinates: 47°25′03″N 00°51′18″W

Area: 32 082 km²

Population: 3 853 999

Language: French

Currency: euro

Visa: Schengen

Time zone: UTC+01:00 (CET)

Departments

  • Loire-Atlantique
  • Maine-et-Loire
  • Mayenne
  • Sarthe
  • Vendée

Districts (arrondissements)

  • Cantons: 107
  • Communes (Municipalities): 1,232

INSEE code: 52

Code ISO 3166-2: FR-PDL

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