Tours is the natural gateway to the Loire Valley, and given the huge number of châteaux which are spread around this region, you will probably find it easier to get around in a hire car.
Having said that, it’s actually surprisingly easy to visit some of the Loire Valley châteaux using scheduled public transport, with several castles quite literally having their own railway stations. This may seem quaint, but it’s often a natural result of the castles being the focal point for towns being built around them, and those towns in turn being served by the coming of the railways.
- A hire car is generally advisable for heading anywhere else in the region around Tours, including castles which are often the regular beaten trail, and of course any of the scenic areas, such as the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional park. Although TGV service in and out of Tours itself is good, regional trains and buses tend to be much slower, and few and far between.
- Regional public transport beyond the city of Tours is relatively limited. Although it looks like a busy railway junction, the number of actual routes is quite limited – and most TGV services don’t actually serve the city of Tours, instead stopping at nearby St Pierre-des-Corps.
- Numerous guided tours are also available, and these will typically pick visitors up from the main railway station in Tours.
- Note that if you are heading out from Paris, or if you are arriving in Tours from destinations like Bordeaux in the south, the fast TGV train services often only call at St Pierre-des-Corps. Hire car facilities are available at both stations, and of course at the airport, but prices can vary considerably, especially between different operators at the station hire points.
- Note that many of these Loire Valley castles can get extremely busy during the peak summer season, but they have all had to develop large car parks to cater for tourists. It’s possible also to visit some of the châteaux by bicycle, and guided bicycle tours are another option.
- Start your ownward rail journey in the magnificent Tours station, a listed historic monument. Designed by Victor Laloux, this station features statues characterising four major French cities – Bordeaux, Toulouse, Limoges and Nantes.
Tours car hire summary – generally, we think getting a hire car here will give you a lot more flexibility to see the castles at your own pace.