Capital of Touraine, city located on the banks of the Loire and the Cher, Tours is an ideal destination to escape for a weekend or more! An ancient Gallo-Roman city, it reveals superb vestiges of past eras. It is very pleasant to walk or cycle through it, and to go from one district to another to soak up their identity. A student city, it is always very lively, with squares lined with bars and streets full of restaurants. Gastronomy is an art in Tours, and there are many local products to discover. Museums, parks, Tours has everything you need for a trip that you will want to repeat. Especially since the birthplace of Honoré de Balzac is the starting point for world-renowned treasures: the unmissable Loire castles.
Discovering Tours and its superb heritage
A stroll through Tours is an opportunity to discover its long history. After taking the time to admire the train station, the work of Victor Laloux and built in the 19th century, as well as the congress centre opposite it, the work of Jean Nouvel and the landscape designer Yves Brunier, the best thing to do is to put down your suitcases in a nearby hotel. You can, for example, go to the Grand Hôtel and its charming contemporary Art Deco-inspired decoration. You can then head for the Saint-Gatien cathedral district, starting with the superb flamboyant Gothic architecture and the stained glass windows of the building. A stroll through the district leads to the garden of the Fine Arts Museum, dominated by a majestic cedar of Lebanon. A few steps away is the Gallo-Roman enclosure, where a park allows you to take a little contemplative break. From the streets where the tufa stone dominates, one then reaches rue Colbert, and there the timber-framed facades begin to appear, which will be seen in greater numbers later on. This artery, still very lively with its small shops, bars and restaurants, is one of the oldest in Tours. Don't hesitate to take the perpendicular streets to reach the rue de la Scellerie, full of antique shops and concept stores.
Once in the Vieux-Tours, you can get lost in the streets and alleys to contemplate the half-timbered houses and other beautiful Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and classical residences. A visit to the Place de Châteauneuf, which is reminiscent of Italy, is a must if you want to see three of the city's treasures: the neo-Byzantine-style Basilica of Saint Martin, then the Charlemagne Tower and the Clock Tower, the remains of an ancient basilica dedicated to Martin the Merciful. Then it's time to sit down on one of the terraces of the Place Plumereau, whose brick and timber-framed houses contribute to making it one of the most beautiful squares in France.
Culture, gastronomy, shopping, green spaces, shopping: Tours, a city of all pleasures!
In the evening, Tours comes alive with bars offering happy aperitifs and other cultural events. You can also go to the Grand Théâtre to see an opera, the Centre Dramatique National de Tours to attend a play and the Centre Chorégraphique National to marvel at contemporary dance. As far as museums are concerned, there is a fine collection of ancient works in the Fine Arts Museum, including two paintings from the predella of San Zeno in Verona by Andrea Mantegna, a masterpiece of Italian painting from the early Renaissance. Later on, we get closer to nature at the Natural History Museum, before diving into the history and traditions of the Companions of the Tour de France at the Companionship Museum. Opposite the latter is the CCCOD, Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré. Its architecture, the work of Portuguese architects, and the quality of its exhibitions make it a prestigious place of culture.
Tours is also a city where you can eat well. From a visit to Les Halles, a temple of gastronomy with quality products, you can go to restaurants that offer a varied cuisine and do not hesitate to highlight culinary specialities: fouées, fouaces rillettes de Tours, rillons, Loire fish, not forgetting the great wines of the department such as Chinon, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Vouvray and Montlouis.
After a shopping session in the rue des Halles and in the rue Nationale and rue de Bordeaux, you can enjoy a moment of relaxation by strolling along the banks of the Loire. The longest river in France is beautiful in Tours, wild, with islands and an incredible amount of fauna (and flora). Tours attaches great importance to its green spaces and relaxation. The beauty of the Prébendes English garden in the eponymous district and the botanical garden, which also houses some animals, are proof of this.
On the way to the châteaux of the Loire
Comfortably installed in Tours, you have an ideal location to discover some of the most beautiful castles of the Loire. After renting a car, or on an organised excursion with the tourist office, a visit to Tours is a great opportunity to go and see the castles of Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry and its gardens, not forgetting the impressive royal fortress of Chinon. You can go back in time and plunge into the heart of a fascinating part of French history.