Tours is a bustling town in the heart of the Loire valley with two roles - regional economic centre and attractive tourist destination.
The centre of the town contains quite a good number of interesting buildings, squares and streets to explore and a visit is recommended when you are in the region.
Tours was the capital of the kingdom of France in Gallo-Roman times and has remained an important centre. It is not only ideally placed for visiting the Loire Valley chateaux, it is also an interesting and historic city in its own right.
Start your tour of Tours Old Town at Place Plumereau, in the centre of the town.The Place is attractively lined with medieval half-timbered houses, cafes and bars - so it's also a perfect plece to end your tour with lunch or a drink.
In the streets around Place Plumereau you will find lots of interesting buildings and lively squares. Condemned for demolition in the middle of the 20th centrue this "old city of Tours" was rescued and renovated and is now one of the favourite parts of the city.
As well as the tall narrow buildins and the lovely half-timber buildings this is the area where you will find Saint Martin's Basilica, Charlemagne's Tower and the Clock Tower.
Over on the east side of Tours the flamboyant-gothic style Saint-Gatien Cathedral dates from the 12-16th centuries and includes the tombs of the children of Charles VIII. Its stained glass windows and three rose windows are particularly beautiful and in the evening the outside of the cathedral is transformed by a light show covering the facade of the building.
Around the catherdral are many typical houses of the period and also a good selection of grander buildings - typically built later, during the French renaissance period.
After visiting the cathedral be sure to visit the Cloisters of la Psalette next door - the cloisters are very attractive and now listed as one of France's National Monuments
(Note National Monuments in France are not to be confused with Historic Monuments, of which there are many - there are only 85 national Monuments in the whole of France).
Admire the trees in the garden of the Archbishop's Palace that was planted by Napoleon then enter the palace to visit the Musee des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) in the Archbishops Palace.
Another Tours museum to visit is the Archaelogy Museum, housed in an impressive renaissance palace called the Hotel Gouin.
The Chateau de Tours exists but only two towers remain - making Tours one of the few places you can visit in the Loire and not feel compelled to enter a magnificent chateau...
A couple of other attractions in Tours include the wax-work museum in the Tour de Guise house, and also a Tropical Aquarium.
While walking is the easiest way to explore, note that it is not quite as compact as some towns and you will certainly stretch your legs as you travel between the old town, the cathedral section and the shopping area (place Jean Jaures) which includes the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) and Palace of justice buildings.
Places to visit nearby
The Chateau de Villandry is nearby and is a real treat for gardeners but its ornamental vegetable garden is so impressive even non-gardeners will enjoy a visit.
Photos of Tours
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