Located just an hour away by train from Paris, Tours is often used as a base for visiting the chateaux of Loire Valley. It is one of the largest cities in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, well connected by public transport to the most famous castles in the area. Indeed, from here, you can easily reach the historic palaces of Chenonceau, Chambord, Blois and Amboise.
Once the capital of France, today Tours is a lively city boasting a beautiful historic centre with half-timbered houses and gourmet bistros. A perfect stop on your way through the Loire Valley!
What to do in Tours, France in one day
Thanks to its central location and excellent public transport connections to the nearby towns, Tours is a great base to discover the chateaux of Loire. This is one of the main cities I’d recommend you to base yourself in, especially if you’re travelling by train.
Besides being an excellent base for touring the historic chateaux, Tours itself is worth at least half a day of exploring. Take a walk along the narrow cobbled streets while admiring the half-timbered houses, the impressive Saint-Gatien Cathedral and the Renaissance Hotel Gouïn.
Follow my itinerary to discover the best things to do in Tours, France for one day. You’ll also find what are the most famous chateaux to visit near the city and some restaurant recommendations.
At the end of the blog post, you can find a map of this itinerary (with all attractions and restaurants’ websites).
What to do in Tours in one day
- Breakfast at L’Atelier du Talemelier
- Visit Basilique Saint-Martin de Tours
- Tour de l’Horloge and Tour de Charlemagne
- Have a cup of coffee at Place Plumereau
- Admire Hôtel Goüin
- Lunch at Les Gens Heureux
- Visit Saint-Gatien Cathedral
- Hôtel de Ville de Tours
- Admire the art at Musée des Beaux-Arts
- Take a walk in the Botanical Garden
- Visit the quirky Musée de Compagnonnage
For my trip to Loire Valley, I used this DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. I love their travel guides, as they have practical information, historical insights and walking tours with maps.
Breakfast at L’Atelier du Talemelier
09:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Start your one day in Tours with breakfast at L’Atelier du Talemelier or Kat’s Coffee. L’Atelier du Talemelier is a great bakery which offers quality pastries and sandwiches. However, if you prefer to enjoy some delicious cakes with your coffee, head to Kat’s Coffee.
Basilique Saint-Martin de Tours
10:00 AM – 10:25 AM
Basilique Saint-Martin de Tours (Basilica of St. Martin) is dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, the third bishop of Tours. It was built over the traditional burial site of the saint in the 5th century AD. During the centuries, the small basilica was replaced several times with larger structures.
The basilica in a Neo-byzantine style that you see today dates from the 19th century. However, you can still see some of the remains of the older Romanesque edifice – the western clock tower and Tour de Charlemagne (Charlemagne Tower). They are located just a few steps away from the current church.
Inside the crypt, you’ll find the tomb of Saint Martin.
Tour de l’Horloge and Tour de Charlemagne
10:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Tour de l’Horloge (Clock Tower) and Tour de Charlemagne are the only remnants of the impressive structure of the 11th-century Romanesque Basilica of Saint Martin.
Tour de Charlemagne was built on the site of the tomb of Luitgard, the last wife of Charlemagne. The king was so greatly affected by her death in 800, that he decided that Luitgard would be buried in the Basilica of Saint Martin. In the 19th century, the Charlemagne Tower was converted into a water tower.
Although, it’s not possible to visit the towers, take a few moments and admire their structure. Just imagine the grandeur of the 11th-century Romanesque basilica, of which these towers were part!
10:50 AM – 11:05 AM
Place Plumereau is the heart of the historic centre of Tours. It is a lively square with bars and restaurants, framed by charming 15th-century half-timbered houses. A popular place to sit and watch the world go by!
The square is named in honour of Charles Plumereau, a municipal councillor of Tours, who bequeathed 3000 francs to the city.
11:15 AM – 11:30 AM
This Renaissance palace served as a private mansion of a family of silk merchants in the 15th century. The façade with its beautiful arches is a real masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. So don’t miss to take a quick look and admire the exterior!
Hôtel Goüin is named after a family of Breton bankers who purchased the building in 1738. And don’t be fooled by the word hotel, this is not an actual hotel, but a museum for temporary art exhibitions.
Lunch at Les Gens Heureux
12:00 PM – 02:00 PM
For lunch head to Les Gens Heureux. This typical French restaurant offers a small selection of interesting dishes with a unique combination of flavours.
02:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Tours Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Gatien) is dedicated to the first bishop of Tours – Saint Gatianus. Built between 1170 and 1547, it reflects the development of the Gothic style of architecture. Some of the cathedral’s highlights include the spectacular 13th-14th century stained glass windows and an Italian-style organ.
The cathedral houses the tombs of the children of Anne de Bretagne and Charles VII. Also, you’ll find a chapel dedicated to Joan of Arc. She had met with Charles VII here in Tours, an important meeting which became a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War.
Hôtel de Ville de Tours
02:45 PM – 03:00 PM
The last stop of this Tours itinerary is the town hall, Hôtel de Ville de Tours. Take your time and enjoy its magnificent Renaissance Revival façade.
The town hall was built between 1896 and 1904 by the famous architect Victor Laloux. It is the same architect who designed the Orsay museum in Paris!
Dinner at La Maison des Halles
Finish your one day in Tours with dinner at La Maison des Halles. The wine list here is great and the menu is excellent (don’t miss the desserts – the best I’ve had during a week in France).
More ideas for your one day in Tours, France
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) is housed in the former bishop’s palace. The museum owns a remarkable collection of Italian Primitives from the 14th-15th centuries. Among them are two renaissance paintings by Andrea Mantegna, considered masterpieces. You’ll also find many artworks by Delacroix, Degas, Monet, Rembrandt, Rubens and Rodin.
Don’t miss the staggering cedar tree at the museum entrance, which is over 200 years old!
Castle of Tours
Close to the cathedral, you’ll find the Castle of Tours (Château de Tours). Built in the 11th century, this small chateau served as a residence of the Carolingian dynasty. Today, it houses contemporary exhibitions of paintings and photographs.
Church of Saint Julien
The Church of Saint Julien (Église Saint-Julien de Tours) is a part of a former Benedictine abbey founded in the 6th century. Most of the church is in Romanesque style and dates back to the 13th century.
Tours Botanical Garden
Founded in 1843, the Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanique de Tours) is the oldest city park. It’s a lovely area with lots of wildlife and thematic gardens – greenhouses, orchards, medical gardens, arboretums and many others. There is also a petting zoo with farm animals like donkeys, sheep, rabbits and poultry!
Musée de Compagnonnage
Musée de Compagnonnage occupies the dormitory at the former Abbey of Saint-Julien. This quirky museum is dedicated to the city’s trade guilds. The exhibition represents various objects related to metalwork, tailoring, culinary, shoemaking and woodcarving.
Where to stay in Tours, France
If you intend to use Tours as a base to explore the Loire castles, take a look at my recommendations below on where to stay. You’ll find most of the historic attractions and restaurants in the area between the Loire River and the Central Railway station. So, I’d advise you to look for accommodations in this area, because you’ll be within walking distance of everything.
Perfectly located in the heart of Tours, just a short walk from everything. Also, the hotel features a good bistro-style restaurant and a wellness centre with Spa, hammam and heated indoor pool.
Why book – a short walk from the Old Town and Tours train station, heated indoor pool, private parking
Les Trésorières is an excellent choice for an upscale stay in Tours. Central quiet location and bright spacious room. A great wellness area, featuring a hammam, sauna and an indoor pool.
Why book – at walking distance to the Old Town and Tours train station, indoor pool, parking nearby
Getting around in Tours, France
Find here a detailed map of this Tours walking itinerary.
The Old Town of Tours is very compact and you can easily explore it by walking in less than an hour.
How to get to Tours, France
Tours is well connected to other major cities in France by train. For example, it’s less than a 2 hours journey from Paris Gare Montparnasse. Tours station (Gare de Tours) is the city’s main railway station. It’s located just a short walk from the Old Town.
Check timetables and book train tickets online at SNCF official website.
Tours is divided into three different types of zones – red, orange and blue. The first two are limited to 3 hours of parking, while the blue one – to 5 hours. However, parking in the Old Town is free on Sundays and Monday – Saturday (between 12 PM – 2 PM and 6:30 PM – 9 AM).
If you’re arriving by car I’d recommend booking a hotel with parking or using any of the paid car parks in the city centre (see a list of all car parks here).
Day trips from Tours, France
Loire Valley Chateaux
The central location of Tours makes it a great base to explore the chateaux of Loire Valley. You’ll find a few of the most popular castles just a short train ride away. For more information, take a look at my guide on how to visit the Loire Valley.
Here are the most famous chateaux you can visit near Tours:
- Château de Chenonceau – known as Château des Dames, it’s the most beautiful Renaissance castle of Loire Valley
- Château de Chambord – this royal residence is one of the largest chateaux in France
- Château de Blois – home to 7 kings and 10 queens of France between the 13th and 17th centuries
- Château d’Amboise – the place where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his last years and where he is buried
- Château de Chaumont – a fairytale 10th-century castle, once home to Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers
- Château de Villandry – is known for its beautiful French Gardens, which consist of several terraces of renaissance gardens
Blois is one of the most charming towns in the Loire Valley. The city is known for its royal chateau and the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, a Gothic masterpiece. For more information, take a look at my travel guide on how to spend one day in Blois.
How to get to Blois
Take a train from Gare de Tours to Gare de Blois – Chambord (40min journey). From there, it’s a 10min walk to the Old Town and the chateau.
Located just a short train ride away, Angers is a great option for a day trip from Tours. The city is famous for its castle, the ancient seat of the Plantagenet dynasty and the Apocalypse tapestry, the largest medieval tapestry in the world. Find out more in my travel guide to the best things to do in Angers.
How to get to Angers
Take a train from Gare de Tours to Gare d’Angers Saint-Laud (50min journey). From the central train station, it’s about a 10min walk to the city centre.
How many days in Tours, France
Is one day in Tours enough?
The city of Tours can be easily visited in less than a day. In fact, most of the people come not for sightseeing but to use the city as a base to explore the nearby castles. Still, there is plenty to see, so dedicate at least half a day to this charming town.
Best time to visit Tours, France
If you intend to visit Tours as a part of your Loire Valley trip, do it in the months of May, June or September. Crowds are fewer and the weather is not hot, but nice and warm.
Faqs about visiting Tours, France
Tours is one of the largest cities in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France. It is worth visiting not only for the impressive Saint-Gatien Cathedral and the Renaissance Hotel Gouïn, but also for the picturesque half-timbered houses. Thanks to its central location, the city is an excellent base to explore the castles of the Loire Valley.