9 must-do things to do in Tours

Le centre historique

Because France also has its own little urban gems, discover the must-sees in Tours, the white and blue city on the banks of the Loire!

The center of a catchment area of over half a million inhabitants, Tours is full of surprises and has a lot to offer. Situated on the banks of the Loire, the city of Tours shines through in many ways: cultural, architectural, historical or natural…

What’s more, it’s dynamic and lively, with some 30,000 students bringing a breath of fresh air to a city whose history has left a legacy of ancient witnesses. Discover these must-see things to do in Tours, which oscillates between modernity and tradition, all enhanced by the freshness carried by the Loire River that runs through it from east to west.

Good plan: the Tours City Pass

The Tours City Pass is a ticket that gives you free access to many of the city’s tourist and cultural sites. You’ll also benefit from discounts at partner merchants and activities.

As with other city passes, you can choose the duration: 24, 48 or 72 hours, at prices of €20, €30 and €40 respectively. It remains valid for one year from the date of purchase.

1. The Loire castles

Château de Villandry

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Richard Semik

The Loire River runs through the city of Tours. And when you think of the Loire, you think of the Loire castles. These French emblems delight thousands of visitors every year.

These castles, planted along the river, are illustrious monuments, well preserved and still as attractive as in their early days.

The châteaux (and noble gardens) of Villandry, Cinq-Mars, the Comté estate and the fortress of Montbazon are the ones we’re interested in today for your future visit to Tours. All less than 15 kilometers from the city of Tours, they are easily accessible by car.

Tours castle

Le château de Tours

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Eusèbe

Also located on the banks of the Loire, this château is one of the must-see attractions in Tours. Its construction dates back to the 11th century, when it was initially just a keep and a few outbuildings. Today, it has become a symbol of the city, with its long history.

But it’s also a cultural center, home to two museums, including the Musée d’Art Contemporain and the Atelier d’Histoire de Tours, as well as two libraries specializing in archaeology.

Last but not least, the Château de Tours is the venue for numerous exhibitions (10 to 12 a year) on a variety of themes, but always under the prism of art.

2. The historic center

Le centre historique

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jakub Elcner

The city center is obviously one of the must-sees in Tours! Charming and authentic, Vieux-Tours boasts some lively historic quarters!

Numerous half-timbered houses line the busy Place Plumereau. The square’s lively bars and restaurants add to the festive atmosphere.

But you should also take a look at the Place du Grand Marché, where a statue dedicated to Plumereau stands.

Another place of interest in the city is the Passage du Coeur Navré. Be sure to visit it on your tour of Tours. It’s a narrow covered alleyway linking Rue Colbert and Place Foire-le-Roi. It is not precisely dated, but may have been there since the 16th century. Its name is thought to have originated with the convicts who crossed it to reach the Place Foire-le-Roi… where executions were held.

Architecture buffs won’t want to miss any of the buildings’ facades. Whether on Place Plumereau, with its 15th-century houses, or along Rue du Commerce, with the Hôtel Goüin and its rare, purely Renaissance architecture.

3. Olivier Debré’s Centre de Création Contemporaine

Le centre de Création Contemporaine d’Olivier Debré

Photo credit: Flickr – Victortsu

Art lovers, stand up! The Centre de Création Contemporaine d’Olivier Debré – or CCCOD – is Touraine’s benchmark art gallery! Located in the center of town, this huge center promotes art at its best, through various events and exhibitions.

Throughout the year, discover the interior of the first center for contemporary art, created in 1994 and subsidized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

In 1997, the CCCOD developed a new mission, that of artist agency. Through this label, certain artists are accompanied and supported in the realization of their works.

4. Discover local gastronomy

la gastronomie locale

Photo credit: Shutterstock – photosimysia

What better way to discover a city than to sample its specialties? It’s one of the must-dos in Tours, the International City of Gastronomy. Enjoy rillettes and rillons on freshly baked bread from one of the city’s many bakeries.

Discover Cormery’s macaroons, which are far from being what you’d expect them to be. But they’re still a once-in-a-lifetime treat!

It’s also inside Les Halles de Tours that you’ll find the freshest, tastiest local produce, in a market-garden atmosphere that’s popular with the locals.

If you want to stop and treat yourself, we recommend a break at the Casse-Cailloux restaurant. It’s run by Chef Hervé Chardonneau and has a great reputation in the area.

5. Visit Tours by bike

vue aérienne de Tours

Photo credit: Shutterstock – saiko3p

A very common practice, visiting a city by bike gives you a completely different view of it. So, as you can imagine, if we advise you to visit Tours by bike, it’s definitely worth a look!

With tours that differ according to the service provider (but which, in the end, all show you the same thing, i.e. Tours’ must-sees), wander the narrow streets sealed in on your bike and let yourself go in contemplation.

The banks and bridges over the Loire are yours to explore. It’s also a great way to rediscover what you’ve already visited, such as Vieux-Tours and its medieval quarter.

6. Tours museums

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours

Photo credit: Shutterstock – T-I

A city of culture, as we’ve already mentioned several times, Tours naturally boasts some very interesting museums. Like the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, which traditionally showcase a wide range of eras and natures (living and still) in their permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The former is housed in the city’s former episcopal palace, while the latter borders the Place Anatole France, near the Loire River. This is one of the buildings in Touraine that suffered the most damage during the Second World War, losing almost all its collections.

But a visit to Tours also means discovering unusual museums, such as the Musée du Compagnonnage, housed in Saint-Julien Abbey and showcasing the work of the Compagnons du Devoir (a community movement based on learning values and the love of a job well done, for young people aged 15 and over).

7. Taste local wines

vin rouge Touraine

Photo credit: Shutterstock – KanphotoSS

What would your stay in Tours be without a wine tasting? Missed! Indeed, tasting wines from such a wine-growing region is one of the must-do things to do in Tours.

Touraine’s vineyards are extensive and include many grape varieties that thrive in the region’s soils and climate.

For example, no fewer than 10 AOC grape varieties can be found within a short radius: Vouvray, Chinon, Bourgueil, Touraine, Montlouis-sur-Loire and other Touraine wines with compound names (Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine-Amboise, etc.).

If you like red wine, you’re in for a treat. In fact, there are wine tours departing from Tours, so you can discover as much as you can while enjoying the scenery.

8. Religious buildings

Cathédrale Saint-Gatien

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jakub Elcner

Like all cities with a long history, Tours boasts a number of religious buildings that bear witness to a more spiritual past.

There are many, but a few religious buildings stand out from the crowd, such as the Basilica Saint-Martin, with its distinctive white neo-Byzantine façade. This recent (19th century) building is located in Vieux-Tours, opposite the Charlemagne Tower, a vestige of the former basilica, also dedicated to Saint-Martin-de-Tours.

When visiting Tours, don’t miss Saint-Gatien Cathedral, whose construction began in the 12th century and was completed in the 16th. It’s a landmark of art and history, not least because of its impressive architectural style. Indeed, its two towers reach a height of almost 70 meters!

9. Stroll along the banks of the Loire and its two islands

les bords de la Loire

Photo credit: Flickr – Couscouschocolat

There’s nothing like taking advantage of a stay in Tours to stroll along the banks of the Loire. From the north to the south, the city reveals its most beautiful features.

Observe ancestral and traditional facades, imbued with modernity and life. With every step you take, you’ll appreciate this city of immeasurable charm a little more.

Take the opportunity to contemplate the two islands that cut into the Loire:Île Aucard andÎle Simon. Ile Aucard can be accessed via the Saint-Symphorien footbridge, reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Ile Simon is accessed via the Pont Napoléon bridge.

These two islands are both tree-lined relaxation areas, with a number of facilities, notably Simon Island, which houses the Honoré de Balzac park in honor of the Touraine-born writer. It is also sometimes referred to as Balzac Island.

Going further…

Hôtel de ville de Tours

Photo credit: Shutterstock – naipung

  • Tours Botanical Garden;
  • The Prébendes d’Oé garden;
  • Town Hall;
  • Attend an opera at the Grand Théâtre de Tours ;
  • Sailing on the Loire… or the Cher ;
  • Surrounding towns: Blois, Poitiers, Orléans, Le Mans, Angers

How do I get to Tours?

By car

Like many large cities, there are several ways to get to Tours. The easiest is by car, as the city is bordered by no less than 3 freeways: theA28 to the north, theA10 to the east and theA85 to the south.

The city is served by bus routes, which you may find interesting depending on your departure city.

By train

The train option is very attractive, given the speed of the journey from Paris Montparnasse station to Tours: just 1 hour! Tours station also offers connections to Massy (Orly), Marne-la-Vallée and Roissy, among other French destinations.

By plane

Finally, to get to Tours by plane, you’ll need to consider arriving via Nantes (220 kilometers) if you’re not flying from Marseille, as this is the only city with which Tours airport has a direct line. In that case, you can imagine making a stopover in Marseille. It’s up to you to decide what’s most convenient for you.

First of all, consult an online flight comparator like Skyscanner to find out more about current offers.

Where to stay in Tours?

As well as discovering all the must-see things to do in Tours, don’t forget to get some rest. As luck would have it, this is a city that has managed to maintain a balance between historical tradition and urban modernity. So, when it comes to accommodation, it’s a nice mix.

If you want to stay in Vieux-Tours, you’ll be welcomed in authentic buildings with modern comforts. What’s more, you’ll be within easy reach of the city’s major attractions. Hotels and Airbnb are available in abundance and to suit all budgets.

The Beaujardin and Grammont neighborhoods are not to be outdone. They’re quieter because they’re away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. These are more upscale and discreet areas, but they still have a significant housing supply.

To get an idea of your budget, visit a hotel comparator or theAirbnb website, where you can choose the accommodation best suited to your needs and desires.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Tours,fr