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    Car hire in Tours - Gateway to the Loire Valley

    An established gateway to the enchanting Loire Valley, the charming city of Tours is the perfect base from which to visit the many Renaissance châteaux dotted across the region. Described by locals as a mini version of the capital Paris, the River Loire provides Tours with its lovely scenic setting and nowhere in France is more suited to road trips in terms of beauty, history and grandeur. Discover the freedom of the open road and enjoy a leisurely drive through one of Europe’s most scenic river valleys.

    Head for the city centre and you’ll find a beguiling maze of cobbled streets lined with 500-year-old half-timbered houses. Most of the old downtown thoroughfares lead through to the peacefully-pedestrianized Place Plumereau, an absolute jewel of medieval architecture and an area enlivened by many bars, cafés and regional-style restaurants.

    Tours is actually two distinct settlements that have gradually grown together over the centuries - the Old Town and the Cathedral quarter. And with its imposing Belle Epoque City Hall and opulent Grand Théâtre de Tours, the city has much for visitors to admire historically and architecturally.

    Idyllically situated on the banks of the River Loire, this former Gallic-Roman settlement is today a thriving university town of some 150,000 people who enjoy a happy and relaxed lifestyle in the heart of the French hinterland. The river itself is the longest in France (over 630 miles in total) and one that passes through a variety of landscapes in a region that has been enchanting travellers for centuries.

    Stretching from the centre of France in the east to the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Loire Valley forms a wide arc some 70 miles south of Paris. In recent years it has become one of France’s most popular touring regions, largely because of its wine which has been made in the area for well over 2,000 years. Besides offering an abundance of welcoming vineyards, Tours is the centrepiece of an area brimming with tourist attractions and holy sites dating back to the dawn of Christianity, while a large proportion of the local region is now classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Many of the existing vines in and around Tours were first planted by the Romans in this land commonly referred to (particularly by the French) as the Garden of France.

    The story of the region’s châteaux is one of opulence and outright ostentatiousness. The preference of the French royal family for residing on or close to the banks of the River Loire stimulated other members of the court to build their own castles and palaces, resulting in over 50 such buildings now recognised as protected sites, most notably Chambord, a former 16th-century hunting lodge and the largest of all the châteaux with no less than 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces. Chenonceau, likewise, with its ornamental gardens and unsurpassed Renaissance stonemasonry spanning the River Cher is no less appealing.

    The region’s religious heritage is equally extensive because Tours Sanctuary was one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage centres prior to Saint-Jacques de Compostela gaining prominence. And road-trippers picking exploring Tours will be fascinated to learn that one of the world’s largest concentrations of cave dwellings (known as troglodytes) exists within a short drive of the city, a particular favourite being Rochemenier with many underground rooms and a fascinating museum to explore.

    Established in 1954, Auto Europe has been offering the best car hire deals and the widest choice of vehicles for more than 65 years. With over 24,000 pick-up and drop-off points available in over 180 different destinations, the company is one of the market-leaders in the international car rental industry due to its strong relationships with all the world's top global and local car hire suppliers. Our award-winning reservations team is available 7 days a week on +44 123 3225 114 to cater for all your needs, whether it’s a fun-filled holiday for all the family or a romantic getaway for two. Book your car hire in Tours in a few easy steps on the Auto Europe website today to guarantee the cheapest prices.

    For general advice on getting around the country by car, please consult our France driving guide for information on road rules, speed limits, etc.

    How's the traffic in Tours?

    Tours is a smallish city with a very well organised road network, so serious traffic congestion is a rare event and mostly happens on account of accidents and other emergency situations. The city itself is situated at the centre of a motorway crossroads, one of which is the main A10 Paris to Bordeaux highway where it connects to the A63 from Spain and another being the A85 connecting Nantes with Bourges. Tours is also served by the A28 motorway that links Le Mans with Normandy, including the English Channel ports of Cherbourg, Dieppe and Le Havre. The A10 passes between Tours and the twin city of Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, with Boulevard Heurteloup linking junction 21 to the city centre. The city is compact enough that generally you won't need your car rental in Tours to get around town. A car is, however, very useful for exploring the towns, châteaux and country villages in the Loire Valley, although many sites of interest in Tours itself can be reached by public transport or bicycle.

    Where can I park my car hire in Tours?

    There are numerous underground car parks in Tours, including the main one at Place du Général Leclerc (underneath the large square in front of the railway station), Place des Halles (underneath the Halles market hall, which makes it ideal for visiting the old part of town) and Place Anatole France (offering easy access to the shops on Rue Nationale).

    Tours Airport

    Tours Val de Loire Airport is the local international airport and despite being quite small it handles regular year-round flights from a growing number of cities, including London (Stansted), Porto and Marrakesh, all of which are operated by Ryanair. Tours Val de Loire also receives a large volume of seasonal flights from a diversity of European airports like Marseille, Dublin (both Ryanair) and Corsica (Figari, operated by Corsicatours). Airport facilities include a free car park with 450 spaces and the Le Vol au Vent restaurant and snack bar. The airport is located just 3 miles to the north of Tours city centre and the good news for people planning to rent a car in Tours is the fact that most of the car hire services are located on-site and in very close proximity to the terminal building. The nearest tram station (Vaucanson) is a 20-minute walk from the Arrivals Hall and the airport is located just 10 minutes from two of the region's motorways, the A10 (Paris-Bordeaux) and A28 (Le Mans). It takes about 20 minutes to reach Tours city centre and St Pierre des Corps railway station and about an hour to get to Paris' Montparnasse station by TGV train. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is another option for people visiting Tours. TGV trains run direct from CDG to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps from where you can pick up a shuttle train into downtown Tours (the journey takes about two hours). If you're hiring a car from Paris CDG, the journey time via the A3, the Paris ring road (boulevard Périphérique), A6B and A10 is about three hours in good traffic.

    Tours Airport (TUF)
    Telephone: +33 2 47 49 37 00
    Address: 40 Rue de l'Aéroport, 37100 Tours, France
    Website: www.tours.aeroport.fr/home

    What to do in Tours

    The captivating cathedral city of Tours with its charming medieval Old Town offers enough attractions for several days' sightseeing. With many magnificent churches, a large number of interesting museums and a plenty of mouth-watering regional dishes to savour, we've listed some of the must-see sights you just won't want to miss during your stay;

    • Tours Cathedral: Leaping out of the city skyline with its striking and in some parts dramatic façade, the city's gorgeous Saint Gatien Cathedral reflects France's golden age of medieval architecture through its largely 13th- to 16th-century progression from Romanesque to flamboyant Gothic to early Renaissance. Look out for the white marble tomb of the two young princes of Anne de Bretagne and King Charles VIII whose death in their infancy marked the end of France’s royal Valois dynasty.

    • St Martin’s Basilica: This impressive basilica houses the remains of Martin of Tours who in the 4th century founded the Abbey of Marmoutier located just outside the city. Built by the French architect Victor Laloux to replace an earlier basilica demolished during the French Revolution, it is mostly notable for its neo-Byzantine style and the saint’s impressive marble tomb located in the crypt, to which countless pilgrims are still drawn some 1,500 years after his death.

    • Museum of Fine Arts: A short stroll from the cathedral brings you to the excellent Musée des Beaux-Arts housed in a sumptuous 17th and 18th-century building that once served as the city’s episcopal palace. The museum boasts a lavish collection of sculptures, furniture and priceless paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Mantegna, Monet, Degas and Delacroix, among many others. In the courtyard stands an enormous cedar tree brought in from Lebanon and planted in 1804 to become one of the largest in Europe.

    • Botanic Garden: Free of charge and open all year round daily from dawn until dusk, the Jardin Botanique de Tours is the city's oldest public garden having opened as far back as 1841. With several areas dedicated to different climate zones, the park's visitor highlights include a magnolia walk and a section tracing the natural history of plants, as well as a large medicinal herb garden and rockery. In the middle of the garden sits a beautiful 150 year old gingko tree, plus there are various tropical glasshouses, animal enclosures, a children's petting farm, play area and a lawn for picnicking.

    • Place Plumereau: A very pleasant and sometimes festive setting in the centre of town, Place Plumereau is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval squares in the whole of western Europe. Take a seat in one of the many outdoor bars and cafés and watch Tours life pass you by in the shadow of the city's 15th-century half-timbered houses.

    Best day trips with my car rental in Tours

    Renowned for its sumptuous châteaux, and running through the very heart of rural France, the lovely Loire Valley is a region rich in history, architecture and pure nature. Its fine wines and luxuriant landscapes attract tourists from all over the world, many of whom choose Tours as a convenient base from which to visit this charming area. Combining a mild climate and relaxed pace of life, the Loire Valley is the perfect place for a leisurely road trip with your car hire in Tours at any time of the year.

    Loire Valley

    The beautiful and world-famous Loire Valley region between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes is an outstanding cultural landscape of great natural beauty, containing many historic towns and villages, unique architectural monuments (including the many palatial castles and places generically known as The Châteaux) and cultivated lands formed by many centuries of interaction between the local population and the River Loire itself.

    Rochemenier Caves

    One of the most complete remaining examples of underground living (or cave dwelling) is the Troglodyte village of Rochemenier located about 60 miles to the west of Tours) in the Louresse-Rochemenier area of Doue-la-Fontaine, just off the D761. Part of this well-preserved troglodyte village has been retained as a museum that celebrates a way of life that remained in existence until the 1930s. Visitors to Rochemenier are presented with a plan which leads you through twenty or so rooms of a village that still comprises two ancient farms with outbuildings and houses plus a spectacular underground chapel carved out of the rocks.

    Town of Blois

    Blois, a beautiful town less than an hour's drive north-east of Tours, rose to glory under King Louis XII who established his court there in 1498. Remaining at the centre of French royal and political life for the next 100 years, Blois today is the quintessential Loire Valley destination crammed with romantic courtyards interspersed between old mansions and the magnificent Châteaux de Blois, once home to three kings - Louis XII, François I and Henri III.

    Château de Chenonceau

    Considered by many to be the most enchanting of all the Loire Valley châteaux, Chenonceau is unique for the fact that it stretches majestically across the River Cher in a setting straight out of a French romantic novel. Over the centuries, its history has been defined by an almost uninterrupted succession of gifted women (including Henri II's mistress, Diane de Poitiers) who built, embellished, protected, restored and saved it from ruin. Besides the Flower Garden, a unique feature of the surrounding 70-hectare park is the Italian maze designed by King Henri II's wife, Catherine de' Medici, which is planted with over 2,000 yew trees.

    Geographic Information & History

    Tours is an important city located in the Loire Valley of west-central France. The local area is blessed with an oceanic climate that is very mild for such a northerly latitude. Summers are influenced by its inland position, resulting in frequent days of 25 °C (77 °F) or warmer, whereas winters are kept mild by Atlantic air masses. With a city population of 150,000, Tours is the largest city in Centre-Val de Loire, though the status of regional capital is held by Orléans. Tours sits on both the River Loire and its large tributary the Cher, with the city centre located between the two. The city has a number of attractions, including two cathedrals, a number of interesting museums and great local cuisine. Furthermore, Tours is excellently placed to serve as a base from which to explore the countless châteaux of the Loire Valley.

    Tours takes its name from a Celtic tribe called the Turones who first inhabited a settlement on the northern side of the Loire about two thousand years ago. The Romans arrived in the 1st century, and with characteristic imperiousness relocated the settlement south to its current site and re-named it Caesarodunum, Caesar’s Hill. As industrious as they were imperious, the Romans built a large protective wall around the settlement, significant traces of which can still be seen in the garden of the Musée des Beaux-Arts and Rue des Ursulines. They also built an amphitheater large enough to seat 34,000 spectators, making it one of the five largest in the Roman Empire. The Loire power base shifted to Tours, which assumed great prosperity after Louis XI came to power in 1461 and saw powerful families constructing showpiece townhouses and châteaux. Throughout the late 15th and 16th centuries, Touraine was a favorite residence of French kings, and the dark and gloomy castles were converted to Renaissance châteaux; for this reason the region was titled 'The Garden of France'. These same châteaux have since became popular tourist attractions in modern times.

    How to get around Tours

    The local public transport company Fil Bleu operates all the buses, trams and shuttle trains in and around the centre of Tours. In all cases, you must validate your ticket or travel pass each time you board a bus or tram by pressing the ticket or pass against one of the blue touch-screens on-board the vehicle. Be warned that there are frequent inspections on the network, so if you are found to be travelling without a ticket or pass or one that hasn't been validated, you will be treated the same as a fare-evader and probably given an on-the-spot fine.

    Bus

    There is also a bus service, the main central stop being Jean Jaures, which is next to the Hôtel de Ville, and Rue Nationale, the main high street of Tours. Buses in Tours generally operate between 5am and 1am every day of the week, although services are often reduced in the very early mornings and late evenings during the week and on Sundays and bank holidays. A comprehensive network of buses operates throughout the Tours area, including several high-frequency routes and one rapid bus service (Tempo 2) that connects the north with the north-east of the city as well as the airport with the city centre, the south of Tours and the suburban town of Chambray-lès-Tours.

    Tram

    Tours has a very modern and efficient tram system which came into service at the end of August 2013, so it is still relatively new. All the city's trams are operated by the local public transport company Fil Bleu and passengers can use the same tickets for all the tram and bus services in Tours. A single tram line (Tram A) connects the north of Tours near the airport with the city centre, the L'Heure Tranquille shopping and entertainment complex and the suburban town of Joué-lès-Tours. A second tram line is scheduled to come into service in a few years' time.

    Train

    Tours is on one of the main high-speed TGV train lines, which means that it's possible to travel to Bordeaux on France's spectacular west coast in two and a half hours, to the idyllic Mediterranean coast via Avignon and from there to Spain and Barcelona, or to Lyon, Strasbourg and Lille. It takes about one hour by train from Tours to Paris by TGV and one and a half hours to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). Tours has two main railway stations: the central station (Gare de Tours) and Gare de Saint-Pierre-des-Corps just outside the city centre. This station is used by trains that do not terminate in Tours.

    Taxi

    Taxis are plentiful in Tours due to the close proximity of the airport, the entrance point from which a great many visitors arrive. Tours is quite small compared with many other French cities and taxis are a convenient means of transport because they take you directly to the doorstep of your hotel rather than leaving you at a bus stop or railway station. Taxis in Tours operate in a similar way to other cities in France with meters that record the number of kilometres travelled, after which the price of the journey is calculated accordingly.

    Bicycle

    Tours is compact and very historic in parts so cycling is by far one of the best ways of getting around. The city also lies at the heart of the Loire à Vélo project which has made the entire Loire Valley region accessible by bicycle, and thankfully for cyclists there are numerous bike rental stores in the centre of Tours where staff will be only too happy to serve you and set you on your way. Vélociti is the name of the municipal bike hire scheme provided by the local public transport company Fil Bleu and visitors can rent a bike for just a few euros at the Fil Bleu Travel Centre located at 9, Rue Michelet.

    Useful links

    Tours Tourist Info

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