The cultural city of Tours, France lies on the eastern wing of Loire Valley UNESCO World Heritage region, approximately 240 km (149 miles) southwest of Paris. It’s famous for its magnificent castles, rolling countryside and historical architecture.
Because of its location and excellent climate, Tours is the perfect place to try some France’s famous wines and cheeses, evident from its many open air markets. It also acts as an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding countryside and celebrated chateaux. The city of Tours was founded by the Romans in the first century, and today is a popular tourist destination, which maintains its old charm.
The Loire River flows through the centre adding to its appeal, and along its bank lie a hotchpotch of fascinating medieval buildings, modern structures and the outstanding Cathédrale Saint-Gatien. The old centre is filled with narrow medieval, crisscrossed timber buildings and atmospheric squares – great for exploring. The best of these squares is the emblematic Plumereau Place. Besides the architecture, food and history, there are plenty of other attractions for visitors, from art, wine and natural history museums to a botanic garden. The perfect mix of culture and outdoor activities is found in Tours.
Prepare your visit to Tours
When to visit Tours
April to September are good months to visit Tours with less rainfall and more sun. Temperatures in these months range between 20-25 C. August and September have notably less rain, but coincide with a busy summer period. April and May provide mild temperatures, before the height of the summer months.
How long is needed to visit Tours
Tours boasts a range of historical sites, from museums, churches and cathedrals to the botanical gardens. Just meandering around the old quarter can take up a large chunk of your day. The culturally rich city is best visited on a leisurely three-day trip. If you’d like to take trips out to the wineries, magnificent chateaux and for country walks in the rolling hills, add on a couple of extra days.
What should I wear to visit Tours
As Tours is situated in Loire Valley, you can always expect a surprise rainfall. A poncho or other waterproofs are recommended. Light clothing will suit during the daytime, whilst light jumpers are popular in the evenings. Sunglasses and cream are essential for summer. Hiking boots are suitable for countryside walks.
What is there to see in Tours
The towers of the impressive Cathédrale St-Gatien cathedral protrude over Tours, reflecting the church’s importance in the city. The main part of the cathedral is Gothic and was built in 13th century. Its two Renaissance style towers were added later, and the cathedral was finally completed in the 16th century. Step inside to find a magnificent Baroque organ. This striking architecture lights up through its colourful Gothic stained-glass windows.
The Musée du Compagnonnage is housed in a building belonging to the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Julien, where monks used to sleep. It displays works by the Compagnonnage guilds of French craftsmen, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages. Compagnonnage is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The museum shows how French knowledge and skills were passed down through generations of craftsmen with over one thousand artefacts.
A short jaunt from the centre of Tours, the Jardin Botanique is well worth a visit. The Botanical Gardens were created in 1843 and feature many themed gardens, including the Jardin des Vikings and the Jardin des Prébendes. Several mid-18th century greenhouses host exotic plants and giant herbs you can get lost in. You can also find a wide range of animals here including wallabies and emus, housed together.
How to get to Tours
Access Tours by train and bus
Tours main train station is the central Tours Gare SNCF which serves local and national trains. High speed TGV trains stop at St Pierre des Corps TGV station.
The Gare Routière de Tours is the main bus station and serves national cities. The city also has comprehensive local bus routes.
Access Tours by air
Tours-Val de Loire Airport is located approximately 7km north of the the centre of Tours. It can be reached by train or bus. It is served by budget airline Ryanair and there are direct flights here from Marseille, London, Porto and Marrakech.
Access Tours by car
The Loire Valley is a lovely area for exploring by car, so renting one is a good option. This will provide flexibility when you want to visit the nearby chateaux and wineries. It’s approximately a two and a half hours drive from Paris and three and half hours from Bordeaux.
What to eat in Tours
Charles Barrier restaurant
A gastronomic delight to the north of the city. Choose from delicate and creatively-presented dishes such as duck foie gras or Saint-Jacques scallops.
Couples and families
101, AVENUE DE LA TRANCHÉE, 37100 TOURS
If you’re looking for a change from French cuisine, this Italian restaurant is the perfect option. Choose from pizzas or risottos in a rustic setting.
Families and couples
19, rue de la Monnaie 37000 TOURS
While in France, why not try the crepes? This easy going eatery offers a choice of savoury starters and mains with sweet crepes to finish.
Couples and Family
L’Heure Tranquille Shopping Center, Avenue Marcel Merieux 37000 Tours
Where to stay in Tours
Mercure Tours Center Gare Hotel and Congress
A short stroll from characteristic Plumereau Square in the heart of Tours, this four star quality Accor Hotel combines colour with elegance. The well-equipped luxury rooms are subtly decorated with tan hues and the occassional flash of strong colour.
Free wifi in all rooms. Rooms are soundproofed and air-conditioned. Offers parking and an underground garage.
Families and Business Travellers
29 Rue Édouard Vaillant, 37000 Tours, France
Cloister SAINT MARTIN of Tours
Set in a cloister near to Basilica Saint Martin, this studio apartment sleeps two. It combines a historical exterior with a modern interior. Wooden beams line the ceiling, mod cons fill the rooms, and there is a kitchenette for convenience.
Wifi, linens and towels are provided. Parking is available.
Near to Basilica Saint Martin
Parisian style furniture and unassuming hues with a splash of colour give this hotel its appeal. The boutique-style hotel is housed in an 18th century building in the centre of Tours. Breakfast in the stone-walled dining area is delightful.
Free wifi, air-conditioning, soundproofing and a bar are available.
Not currently working
12 rue de la Rotisserie, 37000 Tours, France
Tours & activities in Tours
Visit the castles of Azay-le-Rideau, Langeais and Villandry with wine tasting
This nine-hour guided bus tour allows you to visit three magnificent castles in one day. As well as panoramic views of the Loire River, you will taste the local wines.
Couples, mid-range travellers.
A bird’s eye view of Loire Valley in a hot air balloon
Rise over Loire Valley, taking in the awe-inspiring chateaux and vineyards during this hot-air ballon ride. End with a local sparkling wine.
Tour begins at The Gourmandière winery
Discover Chinon on a Loire Valley wine tour
Learn from a local wine maker about the Vouvray wine region grapes. Take in the spectacular views from two vineyards and visit Chinon town.
Couples and families.
Tours Tourist Office