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Queen of the Loire

Hovering somewhere between the style of Paris and the conservative sturdiness of central France, Tours is one of the principal cities of the Loire Valley. It's a smart, solidly bourgeois kind of place, filled with wide 18th-century boulevards, parks and imposing public buildings, as well as a busy university of some 25,000 students.

  • There are over 30 markets in the city that are well worth a visit if you are a foodie!
  • Head out to the Loire Valley to sample some local wine
  • 'Tours sur Loire' - Mid May to September the banks of the river come alive with cafes, bars and entertainment.

1. Musee Des Beaux Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts displays a rich collection of artwork in the former Archbishop’s 18th century palace. Highlights of the galley include paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Degas and Monet and Delacroix. In the palace you may see a random stuffed elephant standing proudly. His name is Fritz, a circus elephant that was put down due to aggressiveness whilst being on a European tour. Around the palace there are beautiful gardens that you can enjoy for free, including Napoleon’s tree in the courtyard and Gallo Roman ruins.

2. Tours Cathedral

The Cathedral in Tours has an excellent example of 13th century stain glass windows in a building that is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance style architecture.

3. Towers of Basilique Saint Martin

St Martin was a bishop of Tours that was known for his kindness and generosity. It is said that St Martin gave half of his coat to a naked beggar and later saw in his dreams the image of Christ. The Basilica of St Martin in Tours was built in honor of St Martin, their patron saint, around in the 4th century. Next to the Basilica there are two towers, the Tour Charlemagne and the Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower) as well as a Renaissance cloister surviving from the earlier basilica.

4. Museum of Touraine Wines

As the title suggests, the museum showcases wines from the Touraine region. There is an in-depth history of wine in the region as well as collections of silverware, costumes and tools used in the vineyards. There is also a lot of information on wineries you can visit in the area if you wish to go and sample the product.

5. Loire Valley and Chateaux

In the middle of the 16th century, Tours became the capital of France and with that King Francois I built his palace out in the gorgeous Loire Valley. Just like with any celebrity, people wanted to be near the Royal Family and decided to build chateaux of their own in the Loire Valley. Nowadays the capital of France has moved back to Paris and we are left with some stunning chateaux to visit, concentrated over an area of around 100km. Some of the most famous ones include the Chateau De Villandry and its incredible Renaissance gardens, Chateau D’Azay le-rideau, Chateaux Chambord; the biggest castle in the Loire Valley and Chateaux Chenonceau - possibly the most beautiful of them all.

Eats

1. Restaurant L'Oparavant

Restaurant L'Oparavant is a brightly coloured new age restaurant. There is a different menu each day from steak to salmon or other fresh fish. The menu also changes seasonally.

2. Mamie Bigoude

Mamie Bigoude is a themed creperie where you can dine in a bed, kitchen or even a bathroom. Get dressed in bathrobe and dine in a bathtub with all different kinds of bath utensils. Good fun and at good prices too! You can order a J.F.K., D'Artagnan, Marco Polo or Harry Potter platter as a main course, which are different styles of crepes with filling and a small salad. Have a Nutella Crepe or other sweet crepe as a desert. Make sure to book ahead to get in!

3. L’Arôme

L’Arôme is one of Tours most popular new spots, and is always filled with locals who come for the creative and elegant dishes. Very well priced for a Michelin star restaurant. Some of the specialties include marbled porcini with potato gratin, smoked pig with greens and cauliflower chips, and chocolate meringue shell with flower cao and chocolate ice-cream.

4. Le Zinc

Le Zinc is a Michelin star bistro that likes to impress with its market fresh ingredients, well-presented and authentic French cuisine. Expect high quality dishes of duck breast, beef fillet and river fish.

5. Tartines & Co

A snazzy little sandwich bar that has reinvented the traditional toasted sandwich. Choose from many different topping such as chicken, roasted veg, beef carpaccio, foie gras with artichokes on toasted artisanal bread.

Drinks

1. Le Pym´s

Located in the city centre, Le Pym’s is a nightclub with two rooms that offer different music and themes.

2. L'Epée Royale

L'Epée Royale is a bar located in the lively Plumereau square. It is well-equipped for watching live sports and a favourite among the locals. p>

3. La Guinguette

Located beside the river, this open-air beer garden and has a stage that is quite regularly visited by live musicians.

4. Le Gambrinus

Le Gambrinus has over 120 varieties of beer to choose from, so it is definitely a beer lover’s paradise.

5. Brunch Et Gout

If you don’t feel like drinking the hard stuff then this quaint little venue is for you. You will find all kinds of teas here from black to green and red. There is also coffee and a sweets menu for a slice of cake or pastry.


Click the coloured pins to find out how to get here

Recommendations

Our guide recommended Place Plumereau as the best place to enjoy an aperitif. She was right, there are loads of cafes, bars and restaurants in this area."

Jenna, NZ