Dotted with opulent chateaux and world-class wineries, the Loire Valley is one of France’s most scenic and most beloved regions. This unique, picturesque region has long been a popular destination for visitors looking to visit the French countryside, and the quaint town of Tours is the best home base for exploring the Loire Valley. Located just a couple of hours outside of Paris, Tours is easily accessible, but it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. This small, old town is lively and beautiful, but it offers a sense of peace and calm you can’t find in Paris.
During a recent trip to Paris, I felt the need to get out of the city and explore some of the surrounding countryside. The Loire Valley had been on my travel list for a long time, so I finally decided to make the short trip out to this scenic region so that I could wander through extravagant old chateaux and taste delicious French wines. To make my spur-of-the-moment trip to Tours possible, I relied on HotelTonight to book a last-minute hotel in Tours. Within a few minutes, I had a fantastic hotel room waiting for me in Tours, so I hopped on the TGV.
If you visit Tours during the warmer seasons, you’ll likely spend plenty of time enjoying the sunshine and people watching at one of the many pavement cafes in the old quarter. The historic city center of Tours features beautifully restored old buildings, narrow streets like the lovely rue Briconnet and idyllic remnants of a medieval city. The heart of Tours’ old quarter is the Place Plumereau, which is the focal point of the town’s social scene. This historic quarter is also home to the Basilisque de St-Martin, a location that was once on the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Just like the old quarter, the cathedral quarter is full of old buildings and rich history. The showstopper of this quarter is the Cathedrale St-Gatien, a Gothic-style church dating to the 12th century. This exquisite cathedral is the most recognizable landmark in Tours, and you won’t be able to leave the city without seeing it. Even if you’re just wandering aimlessly through town, you’ll likely stumble upon this towering structure. The cathedral quarter also features restaurants, shops, and other popular attractions, such as the Musee des Beaux-Arts.
The beautiful Loire River runs through the Loire Valley, creating fertile plains that produce terrific food and wine, which means that you’ll find plenty of delicious French fare during your time in the Loire region. Many towns in the Loire Valley are situated along the river, and Tours is no exception. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty of the Loire Valley, you can walk, run or bike along the Loire River. I fell so in love with the natural surroundings of Tours that I went for a bike ride along the river every morning during my stay, and it was the perfect way to start my day in this stunning region of France.
Tours is renowned for its abundance of markets, where you can find great selections of fresh cheeses, local wines, delicious meats and delicatessen products, and brightly colored produce. Loire Valley locals don’t shop at generic grocery stores–they shop at large, bustling markets for their fresh produce and foods. There are many covered markets in Tours, so you’ll definitely be able to find one near your hotel.
The Loire Valley is best known for two things–the wine and the chateaux. This region is speckled with beautiful chateaux, once home to France’s royals and elite. Simply looking at these chateaux will make you feel as if you’re in a fairy tale, so you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit at least one or two while you’re in Tours. Some of the Loire Valley’s best-known chateaux include Chenonceau, Chambord, Chaumont and Chateau d’Usse (the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle). And that list barely scrapes the surface of the area’s vast number of chateaux. The Loire Valley is nicknamed the “Valley of a Thousand Chateaux,” after all, so I’d recommend spending at least a day visiting the different chateaux in the region.
Tours is known as the “Gateway to the Loire Valley,” which means that it’s the best place to stay if you want to explore this historic and beautiful region of France. I have visited many beautiful regions in Europe, but the Loire Valley may be one of the prettiest areas I’ve ever been to, largely because of its exquisite chateaux and its picturesque vineyards. As I left Tours to return to Paris, I was already planning my next trip to the Loire Valley. And when I do decide to visit this spectacular region again, I’ll certainly rely on HotelTonight to book a great last-minute hotel in the charming town of Tours.