Tours is described by the Lonely Planet as ‘a smart, solidly bourgeois kind of place’. I wasn’t entirely sure what the guide book meant but upon our arrival, it became clear. Around 200km east of Nantes, the city of Tours is filled with wide boulevards, picturesque piazzas and up-market shops. As soon as we saw the grand Hotel de Ville, we knew Tours was indeed a bourgeois kind of place.

Hotel de Ville, Tours, France

For a city I’d never heard of previously, Tours provided a very pleasant stop-off on our travels from London to the Dordogne in southern France at the end of July. With the likes of Nantes, La Rochelle, Bordeaux and Biarritz within reach, it’s a practical place to stay halfway down France for those travelling south.

Where
Located between the rivers Loire and Cher, Tours is in the province of Touraine. Known for its good food and purely spoken French language there’s good reason to linger in the area.

We travelled there in one day from west London. Getting the Eurotunnel from Folkestone at around 10am, we arrived in Tours for 5pm. That left us around 250 miles to cover the next day to reach our destination near Bergerac in southern France.

Wide shopping street in Tours

Background
Originally a Gallic settlement, the Romans took over in the 1st century AD. An important figure in the city’s history was Saint Martin who was its bishop during the 4th century. Once a Roman solider, he chose to follow his religious path after seeing a vision of Christ. It followed an incident where he cut his cloak in half to share with a naked beggar. As a Roman soldier he would not have been encouraged to mingle with the locals. This act of Christian compassion has made him a popular figure.

His shrine put Tours on the route of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It became a thriving centre during the Middle Ages. The battle of Tours just outside the city in 732 is cited as a turning point in the Christian fight against the Moors. The French, under Charles Martel, were victorious and helped to preserve Christianity in Western Europe.

What did we do?
Arriving late afternoon with our two children, we headed straight out. We soon spied the magnificent Hôtel de Ville which is opposite the (just as impressive) Palais de Justice. The fountains outside each of the buildings gave them an extra grandiose flair.

Palais de Justice, Tours, France

Of course there was a carousel – a pink one at that. My daughter was delighted.

Pink carousel, Tours, France

There was also a big wheel there when we visited in July.

Big wheel, Tours

We fuelled up at a nearby brassiere and enjoyed the late evening sun.

Cheeky and Wander dad

The next morning we spent a couple of hours looking around Tours before embarking on the rest of our journey to southern France. Tours’ medieval centre and its half-timbered housing was the first area in our sights.

half-timbered housing in Tours, France

It was there we came across two contrasting sights. We encountered a ‘hole-in-the-wall pizza place (although resisted trying it out).

Pizza hole in the wall, Tours, France

A few streets away is the Basilica of St Martin. It houses the relics of the famous Tours resident. Built in 1862, it replaced the original building which suffered heavy damage during the Wars of Revolution and French Revolution. Inside, there’s a small museum with artefacts from the original church

Basilica of Saint Martin, ToursThe only remaining building from the original St Martin church is the north tower, the Tour Charlemagne. It stands across the road from the new basilica and gives some idea of how big the original building would have been. Consecrated in 818, my daughter’s eyes opened wide when I explained  that some of the building was over one thousand years old.

Charlemagne tower Tours, France
Tour Charlemagne, Tours

Tours’ centre piece is its cathedral. I could have stared at its show-stopping Gothic facade for a long time. Dedicated to Saint Gatian, the first bishop of Tours, it is a bit of a mishmash of styles. The lower sections of the towers are from the 12th century (so are Romanesque) the tops are Renaissance while the rest is from the 15th century (Gothic).

Tours Cathedral exteriorThe cathedral is no less spectacular inside, giving the ‘wow’ factor as I walked in. Adding to the ambience were two female singers practising a sweet duet which resonated around the religious building. The 13th century stained glass windows glistened and we marvelled at the towering ceiling.

Tours Cathedral interior

It is no wonder a number of French monarchs are entombed within the cathedral. A fitting, regal resting place. We were very glad we made the time to visit.

Tours Cathedral, France

With that, our short trip to Tours was over and we returned to our car and continued our journey to the Dordogne. A great stopover en route to southern France or northern Spain.

Other sights
Tours is known as the ‘Garden of France’ due to its numerous open spaces. Its 19th century botanical garden has tropical greenhouses and a petting zoo. The Musee des Beaux-Arts has a number of high profile artist’s works such as Monet, Rubens and Rembrandt. Of course Tours is surrounded by vineyards. Take a wine tour out of Tours and taste what the Loire valley has to offer. If you want some more history (or a more family-friendly activity), the area is dotted with magnificent castles to explore.

Accommodation
We stayed at the Mercury hotel close to the railway station which had an underground car park. It had a large room and it served us well for our one night stay.

 

Why visit the city of Tours in France? What to see and do there

Lou Messugo
Wander Mum

54 Comments on Why Visit The City Of Tours in France?

  1. Lolo
    September 12, 2017 at 7:19 am (2 months ago)

    I am DYING to visit Tours and the Loire Valley! It definitely seems like it’s a great location to hunker down to visit all of those amazing castles!!! Hope to go soon!! #CityTripping
    Lolo recently posted…Head Over Heels in Love With Plovdiv, BulgariaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm (2 months ago)

      Oh, you must go! Would love to return and check out the castles (and wine).

      Reply
  2. Wilbur
    September 12, 2017 at 7:53 am (2 months ago)

    Looks well worth a visit. So much to see in France! I just visited Chartres for the first time and was equally enamoured. The Cathedrals look very similar in many ways. Wilbur #citytripping
    Wilbur recently posted…Sunday Photo – Parisian ClockMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm (2 months ago)

      Oh, I must read your post. France is packed with beautiful historic towns and cities.

      Reply
  3. beatravelling
    September 12, 2017 at 8:01 am (2 months ago)

    Now I get it too 🙂 Didn’t know there was a place called Tours 🙂

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm (2 months ago)

      Neither did I. Glad to have made you aware.

      Reply
  4. beatravelling
    September 12, 2017 at 8:02 am (2 months ago)

    Now I get it too 🙂 Didn’t know there was a place called Tours 🙂

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 6:42 pm (2 months ago)

      Neither did I. I’m glad I found it!

      Reply
  5. Hilary
    September 12, 2017 at 8:09 am (2 months ago)

    What a wonderful place for a stop over! I would have loved a ride on that pink carousel, and I’m always up for a cathedral and a medieval town center! Looking forward to reading more about your summer adventures! #citytripping
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    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm (2 months ago)

      It was a great city to visit! Thanks…I need to get writing!

      Reply
  6. Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    September 12, 2017 at 8:20 am (2 months ago)

    Our local church is dedicated to St Martin of Tours, I can see that we should make the pilgrimage to Tours itself #CityTripping
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    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 6:43 pm (2 months ago)

      Is it? Then you’ll know all about him and Tours! A pilgrimage is most certainly overdue!

      Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm (2 months ago)

      It certainly is Tanja!

      Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm (2 months ago)

      Oh, do! You won’t be disappointed!

      Reply
  7. Sam | North East Family Fun Travel Blog
    September 12, 2017 at 10:25 am (2 months ago)

    Oh Tours looks beautiful – gorgeous architecture and such a mix of styles too! Pizza & Carousel = child friendly too which is always nice to see 🙂

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm (2 months ago)

      Absolutely, very family-friendly. It had lovely wide streets too.

      Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 2:00 pm (2 months ago)

      Yes, exactly… a pizza vending machine! Although may take a bit longer than a bar of chocolate to come.

      Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm (2 months ago)

      It was great!

      Reply
  8. Marta
    September 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm (2 months ago)

    We are hoping to go on a road trip around France next spring and those medieval houses really caught my attention! I’ll study a good itinerary to try include Tours, provisional plan already includes this area but no specific stops are decided yet! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm (2 months ago)

      Oooh – how exciting! Tours is worth a visit. Where else are you planning on going?

      Reply
  9. Milly Youngman
    September 12, 2017 at 3:54 pm (2 months ago)

    Tours looks brilliant – I’m always excited to hear about places that aren’t the usual well-trod cities! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 12, 2017 at 7:18 pm (2 months ago)

      Great! Me too. So glad to have brought it to your attention.

      Reply
  10. Annabel
    September 12, 2017 at 8:06 pm (2 months ago)

    That cathedral looks incredible! I think I might have visited Tours during my own childhood trip to the Dordogne but my memory is a little hazy so I’ll have to pay it another visit! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm (2 months ago)

      Yes, do. It’s worth another look – with adult eyes.

      Reply
  11. Sol Solntze
    September 12, 2017 at 9:52 pm (2 months ago)

    I do like a good provincial town (allthough I;d better not let Tours hear me call it that). Good location, love the medieval buildings.

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm (2 months ago)

      Thanks! It was a good one to explore!

      Reply
  12. Lisa
    September 13, 2017 at 12:40 am (2 months ago)

    Thanks for sharing your visit to Tours. The cathedral looks like it was worth the trip all by itself. I also thought that the Medieval timber townhouses were really interesting.

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm (2 months ago)

      Absolutely, the cathedral was incredible! I’d have liked to have spent more time exploring the medieval quarter, no doubt it would truly come alive in the evening.

      Reply
  13. Kat
    September 13, 2017 at 2:54 pm (2 months ago)

    Wow, the cathedral looks massive, quite impressive! And speaking of impressive, I can’t believe that your youngest is growing up fast! Wasn’t it just recently that you brought her to HK as a baby? Time flies really quickly 🙂 #Citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:36 pm (2 months ago)

      It really does go so quickly! Feels like she’s really grown in the past few months!

      Reply
  14. Johlene Orton
    September 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm (2 months ago)

    France is such a beautiful and perfect place!!

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:35 pm (2 months ago)

      Isn’t it!

      Reply
  15. Daisy - Dais Like These
    September 13, 2017 at 5:21 pm (2 months ago)

    We love Tours too! Always feels like a good halfway point on our annual drive South. The kids absolutely love Lulu Parc, just across the river. And the attached restaurant, La Guinguette I think it’s called, is super family friendly.

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:35 pm (2 months ago)

      Oooh, great tips Daisy! Thank you!

      Reply
  16. Sarah Ebner
    September 14, 2017 at 9:55 am (2 months ago)

    I went to this area years ago with my parents and remember loving the feel of it then – the buildings, the history and the food! It doesn’t seem to have changed that much, and that can only be a good thing.
    #citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:34 pm (2 months ago)

      How lovely. That’s great to hear. Hope I brought back some memories!

      Reply
  17. Phoebe | Lou Messugo
    September 14, 2017 at 11:32 am (2 months ago)

    We have a couple of friends in Paris who are from Tours and hear about it form them but I’ve never actually been there. Looks like an ideal stopover place. I’m amazed by that pizza vending machine. I know about bread and oyster vending machines in France but that’s a first for pizza! Thanks for sharing with #AllaboutFrance Elizabeth. I’m glad you went to France this summer as I’m sure you’ll have plenty of posts to link up in the coming months! Ha ha! (And I’m sure you had a great time too!!!)
    Phoebe | Lou Messugo recently posted…All About France #31My Profile

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:34 pm (2 months ago)

      Hehe – #allaboutfrance was why we went! Plenty more mosts to come Phoebe! I’ve not seen an oyster vending machine. I can vouch for how good the pizzas were but it’s an interesting concept!

      Reply
  18. June de Silva
    September 15, 2017 at 1:43 pm (2 months ago)

    I was lucky enough to spend an academic year, as a student, in Tours; such happy memories! When we drive down to our home, in Castelnaudary, from Dieppe. We always have an overnight stop in Tours. I still love the city!

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:32 pm (2 months ago)

      Oh wow – how wonderful! Must have been a great experience being a student there. Glad I brought back memories!

      Reply
  19. Rosie (@greenrosielife)
    September 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm (2 months ago)

    I have only ever driven around Tours which I have to say was rather dreary – it looks like the city proper is a lot nicer! #AllAboutFrance
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    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:31 pm (2 months ago)

      Oh absolutely! Definitely worth a closer look.

      Reply
  20. Vanessa Couchman
    September 16, 2017 at 3:17 pm (2 months ago)

    It’s many years since I visited Tours, but I can remember happy days spent looking at the Loire châteaux. We are very fond of Sancerre (both the place and the wine!) in the eastern part of the Loire. Your post has given me the appetite to go back. #AllAboutFrance

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:30 pm (2 months ago)

      Oooh, and your comment has made me want to explore more of the chateaux and Sancerre (I’m a fan of the wine too).

      Reply
  21. Janet T
    September 17, 2017 at 9:45 am (2 months ago)

    This really gives a flavour of Tours. I like the half timbered houses especially #AllAboutFrance

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:30 pm (2 months ago)

      Thanks Janet. It was a great city to explore.

      Reply
  22. Jen from Jenography.net
    September 17, 2017 at 1:11 pm (2 months ago)

    Solidly bourgeois? Count me in! 😉 The city looks lovely and so fun to explore with kids! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      September 19, 2017 at 9:29 pm (2 months ago)

      Absolutely! I think I need to go back.

      Reply
  23. Kay Marie
    September 23, 2017 at 2:34 am (2 months ago)

    I didn’t even think of going to Tours before this post! My family of 5 will arrive in Paris this summer and it’s onwards from there. We may have to come back from Asia a little early just to stay in this town. That and Cornwall where Poldark is filmed! It’s no Tours, but if you’re ever in Raleigh, NC you should check out this post https://rebelhearttravel.com/15-things-to-do-raleigh/

    Reply
    • Wander Mum
      October 23, 2017 at 11:41 am (1 month ago)

      Tours is a great city to visit, hope you get there one day!

      Reply

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