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 foody!
- 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.
Arranged around the courtyard of the former archbishop’s palace, the Musée des Beaux-Arts is a fine example of a French provincial arts museum – look out for works by Delacroix, Degas, Monet, Rembrandt and Rubens.
With its twin west towers and Gothic arches and gargoyles, the Cathédrale St- Gatien is a show-stopper. It’s particularly known for its stained glass; the interior dates from the 13th to 16th centuries, and the domed tops of the 70m-high towers date from the Renaissance.
France’s skilled labourers, including pastry chefs, coopers and locksmiths, are celebrated at the Musée du Compagnonnage.
Tours has several public parks, including the 19th-century botanic garden a five-hectare landscaped park with a tropical greenhouse, medicinal herb garden and petting zoo. The park is 1.6km west of place Jean Jaurès; bus 4 along bd Béranger stops nearby.
In the old city, place Plumereau, rue du Grand Marché and rue de la Rôtisserie are loaded with restaurants and cafes.
Tartines & Co
Snazzy little bistro that reinvents the traditional croque (toasted sandwich). Choose your topping – chicken, roasted veg, carpaccio beef – and it’s served on toasted artisan bread.
Comme Autre Fouée
For local flavour, you can’t top this place, which churns out the house speciality of fouées, a pitta-like disc of dough stuffed with pork rillettes, haricots blancs (white beans) or goat’s cheese.
For all your picnicking needs: Atac supermarket 5 place du Général Leclerc (h7.30am-8pm Mon-Sat); 19 place Jean Jaurès (h9am- 7.30pm Mon-Sat) The place Jean Jaurès branch is inside the shopping centre.
Popular Anglo-Saxon bar crammed with students and late-night boozers. Wi-fi’s €2.
Tours is an excellent base for exploring nearby chateaux.
The 16th-century Château de Chenonceau is one of the most architecturally attractive (and busiest) of the Loire chateaux, surrounded by a glassy moat and sweeping gardens, and topped by turrets and towers. The highlight is the stunning 60m-long Grande Gallerie spanning the Cher River.
Built in the 1500s on an island in the River Indre, Azay-le-Rideau is another moat-ringed wonder, decorated with geometric windows, ordered turrets and decorative stonework, as well as a famous loggia staircase.
For medieval atmosphere, head for Château de Langeais, complete with its own working drawbridge, crenellated battlements and ruined 10th-century donjon (keep), thought to be the oldest in France.
Our guide recommended the Place Plumereau as the best place to enjoy an aperitif. She was right, there are loads of cafes, bars and restaurants in this area."