Tours Tourist Attractions

Cathedral of St GatienCathedral of St Gatien

Tours, the busy capital of Touraine (the much lauded "Garden of France"), chief town of the département of Indre-et-Loire, the see of an archbishop and a university town, lies on both banks of the Loire. In addition to considerable industry the town has an extensive trade in agricultural produce.

Place Jaurès

Tours' principal streets intersect in Place Jean-Jaurès, in which are the imposing Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, 1905) and the Palais de Justice (Law Courts, 1840). From here Rue Nationale, laid out in 1763 on a uniform plan, runs north to the Loire.

Musée Beaux Arts

In Tours, halfway between Place Jean-Jaurès and the Loire Rue Emile-Zola runs east to the Archbishop's Palace (Archevêché), parts of which date from the 11th and 14th centuries; it was rebuilt in its present form in the 17th and 18th centuries and now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with a large collection of pictures, sculpture and furniture. Particularly notable are the paintings of the Dutch and Italian schools (Rembrandt, Mantegna).
Address: 18 place François Sicard, F-37000 Tours, France

Cathedral of St Gatien

In Tours, opposite the Archbishop's Palace, to the north, is the twin-towered Gothic Cathedral of St-Gatien, dedicated to the first bishop of Tours, which was begun in the 12th C but not completed until the 16th.
The west front, flanked by twin towers, with three doorways, is richly decorated in Flamboyant style, while the towers show the first signs of Renaissance influence. To the left is the Cloître de la Psalette (15th-16th C).
The walls of the nave consist almost entirely of windows. The choir and the chapels round the ambulatory have beautiful 13th C stained glass. The rose windows in the north and south transepts are 14th C. In the ambulatory, adjoining the south transept, is the beautiful marble Renaissance tomb of two of Charles VIII's children.

Château Royal

In Tours, to the north of the cathedral, in the Château Royal (13th-15th C.), once the residence of the Valois kings, are three museums: the Historial de Touraine or Musée Grévin (history of Touraine), the Aquarium (many tropical sea and freshwater fishes) and the Atelier Histoire de Tours (history of the town).
Address: 25 avenue André Malraux, F-37000 Tours, France

St Julien Church

In Tours, near Rue Nationale, is the former abbey church of St-Julien (10th and 13th C.; rebuilt after destruction in Second World War), with the remains of a Romanesque tower. In the abbey's cellar is the Musée des Vins de Touraine, while the dormitory houses the Musée du Compagnonnage (history of the craftsmen's guilds and their customs).

Hôtel Gouin

In Tours, a little way west of St Julien, is the Hôtel Gouin, an Italian-style mansion built about 1510 which now houses the collections of the Archeological Society of Touraine (prehistoric, Gallo-Roman and medieval antiquities, art from the Middle Ages to the 18th C.).
Address: 25 rue du Commerce, F-37000 Tours, France

Old Town

In Tours, to the west of the Hôtel Gouin is the old part of the town, centered on Place Plumereau, with numerous half-timbered houses. A walk through the streets between the Loire, Place Plumereau and the Place du Grand- Marché will give an impression of the character of the old town. The Tour Charlemagne in Place de Châteauneuf and the Tour de l'Horloge in Rue des Halles are all that remains of the great abbey church of St-Martin, built in the 11th- 13th centuries and destroyed in 1562 and 1802. The new basilica, with the tomb of St Martin, was built between 1887 and 1924 in neo-Romanesque/Byzantine style.

Cloître de la Psalette

This Gothic cloister is in the center of the town of Tours. It is near some 3rd C Roman walls. There are three galleries with Gothic and Renaissance elements.

Central Station

Four great columns bracket the classical entryways to this impressive train station.

Surroundings

Abbey of Marmoutier

4km/2.5mi east of Tours, on the right bank of the Loire, are the ruins of the old abbey of Marmoutier founded by St Martin. Here too are the priory of St-Côme, in which the poet Ronsard, who was titular prior, died in 1585; the house of La Béchellerie, the residence of Anatole France (1844-1924), which is open to the public as he left it; La Grenadière, which was occupied by Balzac (1799-1850); and La Gaudinière, which belonged to the philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941).

Savonnières Petrifying Caves

Grottes Pétrifiantes de Savonnières were formed in the secondary era. They outer cave was first documented in 1547, while the second cave was not discovered until 1947. In the past, the caves were used as quarries for calcereous tufa, a white stone used to build nearby castles.
The caves include an underground cave, petrifying waterfalls, draperies, stalactites and stalagmites a Gallo-Roman cemetery, petrified objects and low-reliefs produced from 19th C lithographic stones and copper matrixes, models of prehistoric animals and a museum of petrification.
Address: 61 route des Grot Pétrifiantes, F-37510 Savonnières, France

Azay-le-Ferron, France

Azay-le-Ferron is the site of spectacular chateau that has passed from family to family for hundreds of years and, more recently, into the hands of wealthy individuals and members of the state. One of its more recent owners, Michel Le Jeune, spent much of his wealth on furnishing the buildings with an exceptional set of Empire salon furniture. Now, with architecture and furniture in excellent condition, the chateau belongs to the city of Tours.
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