The world’s most famous collection of palaces
is in the Loire Valley outside of Paris in France. It is a UNESCO World Heritage area
and it has dozens of beautiful mansions that you can explore. We will bring you to the
very best with some tips for your visit – barking – These famous palaces were home to the
French royalty and aristocracy and today open to the public.
We will also show you some of the beautiful old towns in the area and take you for a walk
in the pedestrian zones. You could see a few on a day trip from Paris
but much better to spend a few nights so you can enjoy them all, and the city of Tours
makes a great home base for your expeditions. Tours is the largest city in the Loire region
and one of the oldest towns in France, with many well-preserved historic buildings clustered
in the historic center, which is primarily a pedestrian zone, which makes it ideal for
relaxing, shopping and exploring. In the tangle of narrow streets branching
off from the Place Plumereau, one finds many examples of fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth
century houses, including a few with wooden fronts ornamented with roughly carved statuettes.
You’ll find the city of Tours is a very good home base for staying a few days, and
from here you can easily explore the Loire Valley, and visit the many illustrious Château
that are in the region. Most of the major attractions are within 30 to 40 minutes away
from Tours – it’s very convenient either by train or by private Tours company. A big
attraction of Tours are the large number of hotels available in a wide range of prices,
and lots of restaurants – and the train station is right in the center of town, so
it’s real convenient for getting around. Tours is easy to reach from Paris by train. You
can take the high-speed TGV from Montparnasse Station and it just takes an hour and 12 minutes
with no change of train necessary, so that’s very convenient. And the train station is
right in the middle of town when you arrive in Tour, so everything is just in front of
you. There’s also a very helpful Tourist Information
Office right in the center of town across from the train station, and here you can find
out about different van tours that will bring you out to the château on day trips. You
and go for a half a day or a full day, all arranged here at the TI office.
Just across the street from the information office you’ll find the most notable modern
building in town the Vinci Congress Centre by famous French architect, Jean Nouvel.
In the tangle of narrow streets branching off from the central Place Plumereau, one
finds many examples of 14th through 16th century houses, including some with the old wooden
fronts ornamented with some roughly carved statuettes.
The large number of half timbered buildings many centuries old are typical of what you
find in historic towns throughout the central and northern part of France.
In its early history, this became part of the Roman Empire, and by the fourth century
became a metropolis of the Roman province and dominated the Loire Valley and all the
way up to Brittany. During the Middle Ages Tours was on the route
of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which made it a major center.
The big Gothic Cathedral was built on the ruins of a still older church, at various
times between 1225 and 1547. The choir dates from the thirteenth, the transept from the
fourteenth, and the nave from the fifteenth centuries. Its magnificent stained – glass
windows are in a perfect state of preservation. The Tours Museum of Fine Art is in the former
Archbishops Palace one block away from the Cathedral. It has a nice collection including
some paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and a few other famous artists, and a lot of the
French local artist of the 17th and 18th centuries. And you also find a few paintings by Delacroix
and Monet and Dégas. Tours was for a brief while the capital of
France at the time of Louis XI in the mid-15th century. King Louis occasionally lived in
a castle just on the west side of the city, where he died in 1483 after playing an important
role in unifying France. Tours continued as one of the permanent residences
of the French kings and Royal Court until the 16th century. But then late 16th century
there was the beginning of a slow decline for Tours with the permanent return of the
Court to Paris and then Versailles under Louis XIV.
The city was greatly affected by both World Wars, suffering major damage from the bombing
A new tram opened in 2013 running right through the center of town on rue Nationale. Here
is video from 2007 of this same main street, compared with scenes today – it’s a very
nice improvement. Population of the city is 135,000 which includes
40,000 university students, and the population of the whole metropolitan area is about one
half million. Tours has more than a dozen fine hotels. We
picked the Grand Hotel which is a three-star place that’s located right across the street
from the train station, so that was very convenient for us because our plan, which we followed,
was to take the train out along the Loire Valley to explore the different Château villages.
It is a nice hotel, it has a nice breakfast room with a very good spread of food there
– you’ve got your eggs and breads and the usual assortments and coffee so this was a
nice place to stay. Ironically Tours itself does not have châteaux
of any great interest. It’s got the historic buildings, the Cathedral and art museum and
lovely neighborhoods for shopping. Our series about the châteaux of the Loire
is also bringing you to Amboise, Chambord, Cheverny, Azay and Blois and a few other places,
with our home base in the city of Tours. Have a look at our YouTube channel and our
website for more movies about this beautiful region and many videos about the rest of France.