Straddling a spit of land between the rivers Loire and Cher, the ancient cathedral city of Tours is the chief town of the Loire valley. It has the usual feel of a mid-sized provincial city, with some discordant shifts between the strikingly grand and stripped-down modern. It has its charms, however, with some good bars and restaurants. It also has some unusual museums – of wine, crafts, stained glass and an above-average Beaux-Arts museum – and a great many fine buildings, not least St-Gatien cathedral.
The city’s two distinct old quarters lie on either side of rue Nationale, a busy shopping street which forms the town’s main axis. The quieter centre part is around the cathedral, while the main tourist area lies around picturesque place Plumereau, some 600m to the west. Tours is also the main transport link to the great châteaux of Villandry, Langeais, Azay-le-Rideau and Amboise.