Tours – Cultural and culinary highlights in the Ville d'Art et d’Histoire

The erstwhile capital city of France has managed to protect its cultural, historic and culinary heritage. The town still reflects the French way of life wonderfully and stands as an historic emblem of the Loire valley. Let the German travel and food blogger, Reisehappen, whisk you away to medieval Tours and discover the charming town and surroundings.

A stroll through Tours – the town’s cultural highlights

A voyage of discovery through Tours starts best with a tour through the town of contrasts. After a visit to the Saint Gatien cathedral, whose magnificent choir and stained glass windows are well worth seeing, the walk passes by the remains of a Roman amphitheatre on the way to the Palais des Archevêques. The former palace of the archbishop, it is now home to the Tours Museum of Fine Arts. After a short breather under the more than 200-years old huge Lebanese cedar in the courtyard, the route leads via Rue Colbert to the historic centre, where Tours looks completely different again. The historic quarter, ‘Vieux Tours’ enraptures with its small winding alleys, quaint half-timbered little houses with tiny turrets on the outside serving as stairways, and pretty renaissance-style townhouses. In the centre of the quarter is the Basilica of Saint Martin which houses the tomb of Saint Martin. The best way to end the day is with a glass of Vouvray in Place Plumerau, the prettiest square in the old town.

Dinner in the heart of the old town – Restaurant Chez Gaster

Once aperitifs have been drunk, it’s time for dinner and Restaurant Chez Gaster commends itself. In the charming restaurant, located in an old half-timbered house, simple, honest but fresh and creative cuisine is served. All the ingredients used come from the region and contact with producers from the surroundings is intensively maintained. So, organic meat, wild fish and seasonal, regional vegetables are served here, accompanied by perfectly matched wines from the restaurant’s wine cellar. The excellent service and the informal atmosphere in Chez Gaster’s finishes off the total package.

Chez Gaster - 27 Rue Colbert

Above the town’s roofs – Tour Charlemagne

The Charlemagne tower, or Charles the Great’s, once dominated the transept of the medieval Saint Martin church. Sadly the church was completely destroyed between 1789 and 1802 and only two towers survived. One of these is Tour Charlemagne, which can now be visited on a tour. Once you have climbed the tower’s 248 steps, there are breathtaking views over the town with all its various aspects and when the weather is good, you can see as far as the Loire valley. For this view alone, the exertion of the climb is worth it.

Modern art and architecture – the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré

Also worth a visit is the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré, CCCOD for short. Even on the outside, the centre for contemporary art and modern architecture is impressive. The building is the masterpiece of the Portuguese architects, Manuel and Francisco Aires. Inside, art lovers will find 41 masterpieces by the museum’s namesake, Olivier Debré, in the white gallery. In the nave and in the black gallery, there are temporary exhibitions by national and international artists. You can admire work by German artist, Alicja Kwade, in the exhibition, ‘The resting thought’ until September.

Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré (CCCOD) - Jardin François 1er

Typically French – Restaurant L’Embellie

Restaurant L’Embellie, not far from Place Plumereau in the old town, invites you to a laid-back lunch. The restaurant impresses with its quaint timbers and welcoming atmosphere. Typical French specialities are served here, such as foie gras and snails – the perch and lobster ravioli come highly recommended too. To complement the food, there is an outstanding selection of regional wines.

L'Embellie - 21 Rue de la Monnaie

French garden art – the Château de Villandry

The enchanting Château de Villandry is located only 15 kilometres outside of Tours in a village of the same name. The current house and garden were completed in 1536, making it one of the last stately homes to be built in the renaissance style on the Loire. After countless changes in ownership and renovations, the house was finally acquired in 1906 by the Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo and his American wife, Ann Coleman, who restored the gardens to three levels in the renaissance style according to old plans and opened them to the public. Especially worth seeing are the ‘love gardens’, which symbolise the tender, passionate, flighty and tragic love, and the vegetable garden, laid out as a decorative chessboard.

All eyes on the ceiling – Brasserie l’Univers

Nowhere can you drink such excellent champagne as in the fine champagne bar with a Charleston style, Brasserie l’Univers. In the brasserie, classic French specialities are served, such as duck foie gras, baked Camembert au lait cru de Normandie AOP with honey, or cassolette de la mer with cod, salmon, mussels, lobster, Julienne vegetables, green beans and butter from Nantes. But there are also mouth-watering burgers on the menu. The real star of the restaurant is actually the building itself. Look upwards to admire the glass canopy from 1869, because this is really one-of-a-kind beautiful.

Brasserie l’Univers - 8 Place Jean Jaurès

Spend the night in Tours – Hotel Mirabeau

The Hotel Mirabeau lies right in the town centre, only a few minutes from the railway station and scores with nice service and generous rooms. These are all individually furnished with a lovely mix of modern furniture and antiques. In good weather you can take breakfast out in the charming green courtyard, or otherwise in the comfortable breakfast room.

Hotel Mirabeau - 89 Bis Boulevard Heurteloup

Tours in the Loire Valley