Cities on the Loire River

A street view in Nantes.
A street view in Nantes.

The Loire River is the longest river in France and the world’s 171st longest river running for approximately 629 miles. It has a drainage area of approximately 45,195 square miles or more than 20% of France’s total area. The Loire River originates from the Massif Central and flows through several French cities before reaching the Bay of Biscay. Here are some of the cities on the Loire River: 

Major Cities on the Loire River


Nantes is the largest city on the Loire River, located some 31 miles from the Atlantic coast. It is also France’s 6th largest city with a population of approximately 303,382 people. In this city, the river is divided into several channels which create sand ridges and a dozen of islands. These ridges and islands facilitated the crossing of the river leading to the growth of Nantes. The city is also located at the confluence of two tributaries of the Loire: Erdre and Sevre Nantaise.


Tours is located in the Centre-Val de Loire of France and is the largest city in the region with a population of 136,565 people. It is situated between the city of Orleans and Atlantic Coast. In ancient times, particularly the Gallic period, Tours was mainly a crossing point of the Loire River. The city is popular for the many bridges crossing this river including Pont Wilson which collapsed in 1978 but was immediately rebuilt. Apart from the Loire River, Tours also lies along the Cher River.


Orleans is the capital and the second-largest city in Centre-Val de Loire. It is located at the point where the Loire River curves south towards the Massif Central. It belongs to the Loire Valley sector which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Five of the city’s bridges across the Loire River. In Orleans, the river is divided into Petite Loire in the south and Grande Loire in the north. The city of Orleans has a population of 114,644 people.


The city of Blois is located between Tours and Orleans on the bank of the lower Loire River. With a population of approximately 46,000, it is the 4th largest city on the Loire River. Blois was a former residence of the French king and currently features different architectural styles including Gothic, Classical, and Italian Renaissance. Chateau de Blois, which was once occupied by the king, is located at the center of the city.

Other Cities

Other cities on the Loire River include Roanne, Chartres, Saumur, Amboise, Chinon, and Loches. These cities are strategically located along the river bank and have a population of at least 6,000 inhabitants. Most of these cities can trace their origin from the activities along the river.

River Conservation

The Loire River may lose its status as the last wild river in France due to its length and the extensive navigation which have greatly limited its conservation. Several lobbying and protests, including the 1989 protest led by the WWF have led to the government’s perception of dam construction on the river. The conservation of the Loire estuary and its surrounding have also been improved by the local conservation groups and Birdlife International.

Cities on the Loire River


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