At the heart of the Valley of the Kings, Tours can rightly be considered the cradle of the French Renaissance, as the city features a rich heritage from this period.
It is also renowned for its way of life, its museums and its gardens. Because of its location, Tours has a special relationship with the Loire, one that has influenced the history, culture, heritage, and landscape of the city and its surroundings. Without even leaving the city, visitors can enjoy the islands and banks of the Loire while cycling or walking.
History of Tours
The establishment of a city was recorded for the first time in the 1st century, and some historical relics of Antiquity are still visible in the area around the cathedral. The city subsequently became a place of pilgrimage, ensuring it fame and prosperity. From the 14th century onward, the town was again booming, and kings (Charles VII, Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I) came regularly. Silkworm culture and the manufacture of cloth also contributed to the prosperity of the city.
Tours reached its peak during the first French Renaissance and then experienced an unprecedented artistic expansion bequeathing future generations with souvenirs from the period.
Tours Tourist Office
78-82 rue Bernard Palissy, 37000 Tours
Website - 02 47 70 37 37.
October to March, Monday to Saturday : 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 1:30 to 6 p.m. ; Sunday and holidays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
April through September : Monday to Saturday : 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. ; Sunday and holidays : 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
City tours by segway, carriage ride and trips on the Loire are offered by the Tourist Office.
Tours offered by Tours Tourist Office
General tour of the city. 2 hours.
Visit the ancient Abbey of Marmoutier. 1h30.
Old Tours. 1h30.
Tours and the Renaissance. 1h30.
Tips for Visitors: Greeters
The Greeters are residents who are passionate about their city, and volunteer to help tourists discover the area, sharing their favorite places and anecdotes during these friendly and free walking tours that are sure to be "off the beaten path." Information at the Tourist Office or online.
Cathédrale Saint Gatien
Rue Lavoisier, 37000 Tours
Tel : 02 47 70 21 00
Open daily : 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Dedicated to Saint Gatien, first bishop of Tours, this cathedral was built on the site of older buildings. The first, Saint Maurice Cathedral, dates back to the 4th century. A second cathedral in honor of Saint Martin was built after a fire destroyed the previous one. In the 12th century a third Romanesque cathedral was built before also facing destruction by fire in 1166. The present cathedral replaces this building from 1170. The choir was built over the next century. The work of the nave lasted several centuries, and was finally completed in the 15th century. The towers were added in the 16th century. This exceptional and unique heritage is a true masterpiece of a Flamboyant Gothic architectural style.
The western facade alone represents a synthesis of five centuries of architecture. Richly decorated, the stone lacework is a wonder for visitors.
The abundance of light that passes through the windows is striking upon entering the cathedral. In approaching the crossing of the transept, the architecture evolves from a Flamboyant Gothic (15th century) to a High Gothic (13th century) style. The rock that serves as the altar is a symbol of the "monumental stone" of the Church.
The choir was built in the 13th century and presents an architectural unity, elegance and harmony of exceptional proportions. As such, it is one of the masterpieces of the High Gothic period, like that of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Amiens.
The stained glass windows
Each more beautiful than the last, the stained glass windows, mostly dating from the 13th century, are the jewel of the cathedral. The two rosettas of the transept are from the 14th century, and those of the nave and the facade are from the 15th century. We owe the high artistic quality of these windows (the harmony of colors, high quality artistry, the historical accuracy of the story) to the expertise of the workshops in Tours. The windows of the cathedral were used as a model for other religious buildings and are a landmark in the history of stained glass. Their themes feaured are classic iconography : the history of the Church and the cathedral, the passion of Christ, the Old Testament, Genesis ...
Furniture and decorations
Inside, visitors will notice the tomb of the two children of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne (first chapel on the south side choir), who died in infancy. This tomb, in Carrara marble, represents a pure Renaissance style. The creation of the first French Renaissance exercised a decisive influence on the sculptors in Tours at the time. In the same chapel, behind the children, pay attention to the beautiful murals representing the Charity of Saint Martin (early 14th century) and Saint Maurice, the first patron of the cathedral of Tours (late 15th century).
Cloître de la Psalette
- tel : 02 47 47 05 19.
Full price / reduced price: €3.50 / €3.30. Free for EU citizens under 26 years old (free for non-EU citizens under 18 years old)
April and September: daily except Sunday morning :10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
May through August : daily except Sunday morning: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
October through March : Wednesday to Saturday and Sunday afternoons : 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The visit ends with the beautiful Cloister of Psalette, composed of three galleries mixing Gothic and Renaissance styles. It is classified as a national monument.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
18 place François Sicard, 37000 Tours
Website - 02 47 05 68 73.
Full price / reduced price: €6 / €3. Free for children under 12 years old . Free for all the first Sunday of the month.
Open daily except Tuesday : 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Guide map in 4 languages. Audio guide in English and French for the exhibitions. Guided tours possible in French.
Boutique and bookstore.
Located in the former palace of the archbishops, the Museum of Fine Arts of Tours has renowned collections that make it one of the richest in France. The museum houses a variety of unique collections. Of note in particular is the exceptional collection of early Italian or French paintings from the 18th century. The collection of 19th century paintings is also very impressive. During your visit, you will find works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Le Sueur, Delacroix, Monet, Degas ...
A playground for children is located at the end of the beautiful garden that features a bicentenntial Lebanese cedar tree, a perfect reason to take a break from your tour of the city.
Musée du compagnonnage
8 Rue Nationale, 37000 Tours
Website - tel : 02 47 21 62 20.
Full price / reduced price: €5.80 / €4. Free for children under 12 years old.
From mid-September to mid-June : 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
From mid-June to mid-September, daily : 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This museum, which celebrates the concept of the working apprenticeship, called Companionage, focuses on the exchange of knowledge, know-how and behavior that have been handed down over the centuries. These apprenticeships taught, and still teach, technical skills but also cultivated artistic talents. That is why this museum contains so many masterpieces. Visitors will discover the guild and its history through the archives, tools, works, and attributes of the apprentices and their masters ...
The Companionage movement is registered by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Kamishibaï Saturdays (3-6 years old)
Theater plays on paper from Japanese culture.
Childrens’ museum (6-10 years old): "Tourangeau malice" humorously recounts the history of the crafts guilds via 14 small doors, hidden around the museum.
Tracking the Companions (from 7 years)
A game for learning how to observe the details of masterpieces.
Booklet for children between 5 and 7 years old.
The area of the Old Town is organized around Place Plumereau. This historic center of Tours is also the most lively area in the daytime and evening. It is pleasant to walk through its streets lined with half-timber medieval houses and then stop on Place Plumereau for a drink.
Basilica Saint Martin
1 Rue Descartes, 37000 Tours
Website - tel : 02 47 05 63 87.
Open daily : 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (9 p.m. in the summer)
The current basilica was built in the late 19th century in a neo-Byzantine style on the site of the former collegiate church of Saint Martin of Tours from the 11th century, collapsed in 1797. In the Middle Ages the church was one of the most important stages on the Via Turonensis on the pilgrimage route of Saint Jacques de Compostela. From this period only two towers (the Charlemagne Tower behind the basilica and the clock tower) and a gallery of the cloister could be saved and preserved. The church was consecrated as a basilica July 4, 1925. It is dedicated to Saint Martin, whose tomb is housed in the crypt.
In the surrounding area
Abbaye de Marmoutier
17 Quai Marmoutier, 37000 Tours
Guided tours are possible. Reservation required at the Tourist Office of Tours.
At this location, Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours, founded a small hermitage in the 4th century, quickly followed by the establishment of a Benedictine abbey whose importance would continue to grow over the centuries. Maintained until the Revolution before becoming a military hospital and a stone quarry, the buildings were partially demolished in the 19th century. Now a school, visitors can still visit the ruins of the old abbey church, consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096.
Geeting to Tours
From the south : Highway A10, exit 21 Tours-centre
From the north (Paris): Highway A10, exit 21 Tours-centre
From the east (Orléans-Blois): Highway A85, then highway A10, exit 21 Tours-centre
From the west (Angers) : Highway A87 and Route D37, then Route D88
Nearby classified sites
Chartres : 140 km (87 mi), time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Bourges 164 km (102 mi), time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Saint Savin : 120 km (74.5 mi), time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Tours Val de Loire Airport
Website - tel : 02 47 49 37 00.
To get to the city :
Expect to pay €20 to €30.
67 Rue Fabienne Landy, 37700 Saint Pierre des Corps
Website - tel : 36 35.
Regular shuttles the SNCF train station of Tours.
Connections to Paris-Montparnasse TGV in 1h. Bordeaux in 2h30. Lyon in 3h30. Nantes in 1h30.
Place Général Leclerc, 37000 Tours
Website - tel : 36 35.
Place du Général Leclerc, 37000 Tours
Website - tel : 02 47 05 30 49.
Getting around Tours
Détours de Loire
35 rue Charles Gilles, 37000 Tours
Website - tel : 02 47 61 22 23.
Mini train in Tours
Website - Tel: 06 63 18 45 68.
Duration: 40 minutes, full price / reduced price : €7 / €5. Free for children under 2 years old
Tour with headphones in 11 languages.
The mini train is a delightful way to discover and explore the city of Tours. Departure in front of the Tourist Office. Tour commented in 11 languages.
Main events of the year in Tours
Loire Wine Fair, Boulevard Heurteloup
Tours on the Loire (May to September)
Outdoor taverns and various activities on the banks of the Loire.
Garden of Electronics Festival (late June)
The International Circus Festival (September)
Jazz festival in Touraine (September)
Markets in Tours
1st Friday of the month, Boulevard Béranger from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. This market features culinary specialties from Tours and the surrounding area.
Marché aux fleurs
Wednesday and Saturday, Boulevard Beranger from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The flower market in Tours has been reknown since 1874. It is one of the largest in France, with about 60 growers, florists, horitculturists !
Marché des Halles
Tuesday to Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sunday and holidays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Restaurants in Tours
The selection of restaurants proposed below consists of restaurants that offer a good price/quality value. “Formule” corresponds to a lunch special with a starter and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. The “menus” usually consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert, for lunch or dinner.
La Deuvalière – Inventive cuisine cooked with fresh products
18 Rue de la Monnaie, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 64 01 57.
"Lunch formule" during the week from €18.50. "Menu" from €35.
Barju – brasserie
15 Rue du Change, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 64 91 12.
"Lunch menu" €21.
Casse-Cailloux – Bistrot cuisine
26 Rue Jehan Fouquet, 37000 Tours
Tel: 02 47 61 60 64.
L'Atelier Gourmand – Creative cuisine
37 Rue Etienne Marcel, 37000 Tours
Site internet - Tél : 02 47 38 59 87.
"Lunch formule" during the week €21. "Menu" €28.
Maison Colbert – Refined cuisine
26 rue Colbert, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 05 99 81.
Au Martin Bleu – Local cuisine
34 Avenue de Grammont, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 66 79 33.
Le Bistrot de la Tranchée – Local cuisine
103 Avenue de la Tranchée, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 41 09 08.
"Lunch formule" €14. "Menu" from €29.50.
La Roche Le Roy – Gourmet cuisine
55 Route de Saint Avertin, 37000 Tours
Website - Tel: 02 47 27 22 00.
"Lunch menu" €35. "Dinner menu" from €60.