Tours — A Tale of Two Cities. Perfectly located, Tours is the great capital of the Loire Valley, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, but it is much more than just a gateway to the Loire castles. In fact, Tours delights in being charming and doesn't think twice about playing a double game to do it. Place de Plumereau is located in the nerve center of one of Europe's largest conservation areas, with Renaissance mansions with sculpted reliefs or cantilevered wooden houses, which stand strong for hundreds of years.
You can try the old Tours (Vieux Tours) by visiting the popular Place Plumereau with its carefully restored half-timbered townhouses. I created a spreadsheet with several different minivan tour options and was waiting until early January to solidify the dates in Tours before booking in case I wanted to slide the itinerary one day in that area. It's an old building (probably from the 15th or 16th century) right in the middle of the most attractive part of the center of Tours, close to many restaurants and some nice bars. The city is one of the chocolate capitals of France, and every year the Salon du Chocolat de Tours is held at the Vinci Congress Centre.
Walls were built to protect the new settlement that emerged around the basilica to house pilgrims, so that until the 14th century Tours was actually two separate entities. If you don't have a car, it's the only place I would consider staying, but only then in the area broadly defined as between Place Plumereau (in Old Tours) and Tours Centre, the train station. It's not officially summer in Tours until this outdoor café by the river is full of locals and tourists on the bar terrace, participating in dance classes, enjoying concerts or watching movies in the outdoor cinema. There are also two portraits and a statue of Rodin by novelist Honoré de Balzac, who was born in Tours and spent much of his adult life writing, and hiding from Parisian creditors, in the region.
If you're not willing to rent a car and want to take tours of the castle or wine, Tours might be best. But Tours offers visitors much more than just a place to drink, dine and rest after a long day exploring Chenonceau or the extraordinary Villandry Gardens. Here, in “La guinguette de Tours”, from May to the end of September, the riverside offers a wide range of diverse and varied activities under the title of “Tours sur Loire”, including a bar, restaurant, concerts, sports, entertainment and games for children, outdoor cinema and dance floor. Tours Castle doesn't have the same appeal as many of its illustrious neighbors and is mainly used to host a variety of exhibitions.
The Rue Nationale, which runs perpendicular to the river that crosses the city center, is full of shops to the town hall and the elegant fountains and flower beds of Place Jean Jaurí, dividing the city into two distinct sections, with Vieux Tours to the west and the cathedral quarter to the east. Tours is a larger city and, as mentioned above, it is a transport hub, we liked Amboise because it is more picturesque, with a lot to see and it gets crowded. Tours tourist office (right) Tours train station (gare).