- Chateau de Villandry
By far the most famous gardens in Touraine, those of the Château de Villandry , couldn't illustrate this mix any better. The castle boasts what must surely be the most sublime kitchen garden in the world. Villandry's grounds also include elaborate allegorical hedge gardens, trimmed into symbols of love. How very French!
- Chateau of Amboise
Amboise, major royal castle, is made of sterner stuff, being citadels as much as castle, dominating the town. Amboise, still in royal French hands, is where Leonardo da Vinci met with King François I.
- Chateau of Blois
Royal castle in city center.
This Royal Château combines four distinct wings around a single courtyard, each one corresponding to a district period and style, forming a unique panorama of French architecture. The 19th and 20th century restorations complete the architectural history of the château.
- Chateau of Chambord
This Royal château and its grounds cover almost three thousand acres, an area almost the size of Paris making it an ideal choice for rambling and discovery local nature. Built in 1519 by François Ier, it is also an architectural masterpiece combining the tradition of French master masons with the lightness of Italian Renaissance buildings. Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, its design is distinguished by its magnificent double-return stairs.
Bristling with numerous chimneys, turrets and dormer windows which seem to lift it up towards the sky, Chambord recalls the wondrous tales of chivalry. Its imposing dimensions defy the imagination : a facade 156 meters long and a height of 56 meters quite a building. The Château was completed by Louis XIV in 1685.
- Chateau of Chaumont
The château originally belonged to Catherine de Medici, but when her husband died, she pressured Diane de Poitiers into swapping Chaumont for the château at Chenonceau. Today, you can still see the drawbridge, which has remained intact and the 19th century Hermes saddlery in the courtyard.
- Chateau of Chenonceau
Chenonceau's castle includes perhaps the most beautiful and famous bridge in France, across the Cher river.
- Chateau of Cheverny
This magnificent 17th Century château is still lived by the same family and it has great rooms with a lot of furniture.
In fact, Tintins fans (French comics) will love Cheverny, because it was the inspiration for Captain Haddock's chateau at Moulinsart. So there is a permanent exhibition.
You can get around the park by boat on the lake or a buggy, a fun and original way to explore the leafy surroundings. And now, you can discover new two gardens.
- Chateau du Clos Luce / Leonardo Da Vinci park
The artist Leonardo da Vinci was donated the Château du Clos-Lucé when he came to work for King François I
- Loire Valley Aquarium
You will be able to see some of the giant species that live in the Loire, as well as rare tropical fishes, turtles, alligators, piranhas ... and even sharks, at the Loire Valley Aquarium, Europe's foremost freshwater aquarium.
- A 30-metre-long tunnel with more than 10,000 river fishes
- See the giant species that live in the Loire
- 53 tanks
- 2 million litres of water
- Touch tanks to get a real "feel" for the fishes
- More than 95% of the display is devoted to freshwater fish including rare species from tropical rivers !
- Cayman park
- Come and see turtles, alligators ... and piranhas !
- The fish are fed daily at 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. - an amazing show...
- And don't miss the shark tunnel, 15-metre-long !
- Mini Chateaux Park
This tour gives you a chance to explore (or re-explore) the Loire's most prestigious castles in miniature, in just half a day !
Thanks to the exceptional quality of the reproductions, laid out among trees along a route stretching for 1,5 kilometres, you enter another dimension, venturing right into the historical heart oh the Loire Valley.
- A route stretching for 1.5 kilometres, in a landscape park covering 2 hectares
- 6 miniature railways and boats
- 10,000 figurines
- Shows, interactive games…
- 44 models of outstanding quality !
- Over 2,000 bonsai trees and shrubs
- The most prestigious castles and manor houses in the Loire Valley !
- The most important heritage sites in the Loire Valley !
- Tours of old city and museums
Tours is a real experience, a city with a lively student atmosphere that complements its cultured heritage. Stopping off for a drink in the famous Place Plumereau, you are surrounded by history and part of this friendly, vibrant city at the same time. Exploring the squares and back streets of the renowned historical district of Plumereau to the square by Saint Gatian's Cathedral, you can spend the day drifting between today and yesteryear.
Place Plumereau and Old Tours
If there is one place in Tours that symbolises the city, then this is it. Place Plumereau is the historical heart of the city, the buzzing students' hang out; it's the place to be to get a feel for what Tours is really like. It's also the place to take a break on a café terrace, with half-timbered houses all around you.
The indoor and outdoor markets of Tours
Rest assured, there's nothing wrong with being a foodie! That's a good job, because in Tours there are temptations everywhere! Firstly there is the indoor market, where the enticing aromas are bound to get your mouth watering? Rillettes, roast gélines (a delicious local breed of chicken) fruit and vegetables, cheeses, pastries? Plenty to keep you going while you explore the city on foot! There are also a number of regular outdoor markets in Tours, in Place Velpeau on Sundays and Place des Halles on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And there's also the flower market, held every Wednesday and Saturday along Boulevard Béranger.
Saint Martin's Basilica, Saint Gatian's Cathedral and the Psalette Cloister
Most people know Saint Martin as the centurion who shared his cloak with a poor wretch, but for the people of Touraine he is above all their local religious figure. Saint Martin was taken from Poitiers to Tours, where he founded the bishopric. After his death he was buried in the crypt under the basilica that today bears his name. The basilica was partially destroyed, but was rebuilt in the 19 th century. Standing either side of the lively shopping street of Rue des Halles, it symbolises the importance of religion in the city's history.
On the other side of Rue Nationale, are Saint Gatian's Cathedral (the oldest parts of which date from the 12 th century), and the Psalette Cloister next door. The building looks superb when lit up in the evenings, from 7 p.m.
The Journeyman Museum
This is the only museum of its kind, a collection of the masterpieces, tools and archives of the skilled journeyman who travelled around France learning their trades. Every trade imaginable is featured: rope making, metalwork, roofing, baking, etc. The exhibition ends with some astonishingly creative items that must have involved hours of painstaking work, such as a reproduction of the Hospices de Beaune made out of pasta.
Museum of Fine Arts
The museum is in the former bishop's palace (17 th century) and contains a major collection of French and foreign works dating from the Middle Ages to the 20 th century. During the summer months the formal French gardens there are a lovely place for a stroll.
In your shopping bag : a selection of fine produce from Tours indoor market ( rillettes , rillons, a géline de Touraine ), some Tours nougat, and perhaps some flowers from the twice-weekly market (the second largest flower market in France after the one in Grasse).
- Wine Tasting
Wine enthusiasts might enjoy following the special Loire Valley wine route through Touraine, the Route des Vignobles Touraine-Val de Loire, a vineyards trail specially set up by the wine and tourism authorities for you to enjoy the best of the area's vinous attractions. The route passes through Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire, then south of Tours along the Indre valley, ending with a circuit round Bourgueil and the Chinonais. Look out too for fêtes des vins, foires aux vins and salons des vins, basically all names for wine festivals!
- Chateau de Langeais
Langeais' massive rounded towers may intimidate the little town cowering below, but inside, the chambers are made cheerful by the warmest collection of tapestries.