The perfect middle-ground between countryside charm and Parisian chic, Tours will enchant visitors upon arrival. Affectionately termed as ‘the garden of France’, Tours position within the Loire Valley allows some of the finest produce around to feature in the local cuisine. But don’t mistake Tours for a simple country bumpkin as there’s also an excellent selection of boutique stores, alongside the bustling local markets.
A great base for exploring the countryside and chateaux of the Loire Valley, Tours also has much to enjoy in its own right. Those staying in the city have a decent selection of hotels to choose from, including the 65-room Clarion Hotel Chateau Belmont Tours (57 rue Groison), located in a renovated castle, and the nearby Castel Fleuri (10 rue Groison), a well-priced option with good access to the main sights. For something with character, Hôtel Colbert (78 rue Colbert) has a homely ambiance and private garden, while the out-of-town Mercure Tours Nord (11 rue de l’Aviation) has an outdoor pool.
Tours is close enough to Paris to have inherited some of the capital’s sense of style, meaning plenty of fashion boutiques. Head to Rue Nationale and surrounding streets to uncover French labels like Gérard Darel (16 rue des Halles) and designer shoe shops such as Chaussures Bègue (3 rue des Halles), or shop for quality second-hand clothes at L’Essentiel (39 rue Colbert). Sweet-toothed visitors will find much to entice them at the family-run La Chocolatière (2-4 rue de la Scellerie), while elsewhere the city’s numerous street markets are good for browsing – try the Tuesday food market at the top of Boulevard Heurteloup.
The Loire Valley often gets dubbed ‘The Garden of France’, so Tours itself is well stocked with regional specialties and good restaurants. Among these, Cap Sud (88 rue Colbert) is a great choice for inventive dishes made with local ingredients, while L’Odéon (10 place du Général Leclerc) backs up a gastronomic food menu with an extensive choice of Loire Valley wines. Elsewhere, there’s Michelin-starred cuisine to be sampled at Restaurant Charles Barrier (101 avenue de la Tranchée) and La Roche Le Roy (55 route St Avertin) – the latter is set in a country house 4km from the centre.
The Loire Valley is renowned for its wines, and this annual get-together sees producers from across the region converge on Tours for a series of tastings, workshops, promotions and other wine-related revelry. It takes place over two days.
Les Années Joué
A weekend-long hullabaloo centred on theatre, circus, magic, street art, dancing and all manner of other eccentric goings-on, Les Années Joué draws audiences to the suburb of Joué-lès-Tours, located to the south of the city proper.
American Tours Festival
A celebration of all things transatlantic, from rodeos and speedway to rock’n’roll, country and western, this annual festival draws some 40,000 visitors to the Parc des Expositions de Tours over the course of three days.
Foire à l’Ail et au Basilic
A one-day event taking place each year on Saint Anne’s Day (26 July), the fair draws garlic and basil producers to the Old Town in a tradition thought to date back to the Middle Ages. It’s a photogenic occasion.
Paris-Tours Cycle Race
First held in 1896, the Paris-Tours cycle race sees riders pedal 250km over the course of a single day, culminating in a sprint finish in Tours. It’s considered one of cycling’s great one-day races.