City Hall of Tours at night

The Loire Valley is one of the most impressive of France's many superb tourist destinations. With the city of Tours at its centre, many would call this region the heart of France.

Indeed, the city of Tours itself is where the French language originated. As well as its rich history though, Tours has a vibrant and contemporary feel to it as well, with great shopping and socialising facilities. Most visitors from abroad reach Tours by flying into Tours-Loire St Symphonien airport TUF, which is located about six kilometres from the city centre. The city is a great base from which to explore the wider region, while there is still plenty to do and see there if you prefer to remain in an urban environment.

Tours is a pleasing mixture of the old and the modern, combining both to create a stimulating city where contrasts are key. One of its major landmarks is the Cathedral Saint-Gatien, which is centrally placed and easy to find. Parts of the cathedral date back to the 12th century, though much of it was constructed in the 15th. The children of Charles VIII are buried here.

The heart of the city is the Place Plumereau, on where the Old Town of Tours is centred, is the place to begin tours of the city, or to simply relax at a cafe and watch the world go by. Many 12th to 15th century houses and other buildings can be seen on the edge of the square.

Situated next door to the Cathedral are the cloisters of la Psalette. These are listed as one of France's 85 National Monuments. Their elaborate stonework and mix of architectural styles make them a fascinating location to visit for anyone interested in history who has taken flights to Tours-Loire-Valley.

The Museum of Fine Art is another venue which is well worth a look. Located in the Bishop's Palace, visitors here can see over 1000 works of art and there is an interested ground floor exhibition dedicated to art from the local area in the 15th and 16th centuries. The cedar tree in the garden of the Bishop's Palace is said to have been planted by Napoleon.

If you fancy exploring some of the city's green spaces, then take a stroll around the Jardin des Prrbendes d'OO. This English style garden was created in 1872 and there are two bandstands, as well as plenty of cedars, sycamores, redwoods and giant linden trees.

However, much of the attraction which lies in visiting Tours comes from seeing the area roundabout. The Loire valley is famous for its castles and rural charm. There are fairytale landscapes to be seen and plenty to do at castles and chateaux such as Chateau d'Amboise. A boat trip on the river itself is a superb way of exploring everything that the wider region can offer. Tours-Loire-Valley flights really are just the beginning of a great cultural adventure.

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