Located in the heart of the Loire Valley, Tours is a cultural gateway city. Located just outside Vouvray and amid the castles of the Loire, tourists are drawn to Tours primarily to visit castles and go wine tasting. Tours itself, though, is often overlooked. It’s a vibrant city that offers activities for art enthusiasts, history buffs, foodies, and nature lovers alike.
Where to Eat
Hands down, my favorite restaurant is La Souris Gourmande on Rue Colbert, which specializes in cheese dishes (though they offer plenty for meat lovers, too). When I was living in Tours, my friends and I would go at least twice a month, so the owner and waiter got to know us pretty well (shoutout to Grégory and Jimmy!). I now live a different French city, but whenever I’m back in Tours, this is one of the first stops I make. My favorite meal is the Normandy-style fondue, which is melted Camembert cheese with baguette and apple slices for dipping, and it even includes a shot of Calvados!
Anywhere at Place Pluméreau (called “Place Plum'” by locals) is going to be great, no matter what time of day. In nice weather, you can sit outside in the square and enjoy your drink, which is especially lovely on a spring or summer evening. My favorite bars within Place Plum’ are Le Campus (which has a college/young-adult scene) and À l’épée royale.
In late spring and summer, it’s also worth going to La Guinguette. This festive outdoor bar is right on the banks of the Loire and has the most fun bar atmosphere that I’ve ever seen. All ages love La Guinguette, be it newly legal 18-year-olds or older couples. Sometimes, even the town goat makes an appearance!
Where to Shop
All of the best shopping is on Rue Nationale, but be warned that it’s mostly chain stores (and a tram runs in the middle of it). It has all of the typical French stores: Zara, Promod, Pimkie, Camaieu…you name it, it’s there! My favorite store is Petit Bâteau. While it is a French chain whose clothes you can order online from the U.S., the prices are much cheaper in euros and this isn’t a store you’ll find on every corner.
What to Do
The Musée des Beaux-Arts is next door to the Cathédral Saint-Gatien, and both are sights at which to marvel. The art museum is small, so you don’t need a long time, but it holds some important works. After visiting Renoir, Delacroix, and Debré (one of my favorites), take a stroll through the museum gardens and hop over to the cathedral.
If you want a break from the city, cross Pont Wilson and walk or run along the Loire. It’s the most beautiful path I’ve ever seen! There’s something about the water and wild flowers growing along the edges that transports you to another world.
And though this isn’t technically in Tours, the city bus line goes there so I think it still counts! If you enjoy wine and viniculture, spend a couple of hours visiting the Domaine Marc Brédif in Rochecorbon. For just 6€, take a tour of the wine caves and sample their Vouvray!
Where to Stay
While I’ve never stayed in a hotel here, it seems that many people like to stay at the Grand Hôtel de Tours. It is next to the train station, but keep in mind that the train station is in the center of town–just a five-minute walk to Rue Nationale and a 10-minute walk to Place Plum’. This is a three-star hotel and rooms start at 49€ if booked far enough in advance, so it’s an affordable and well-loved option!