Home to about 150,000 residents, Tours is the region's largest city and its commercial center. Vacationers concerned only with the quaint may be put off by the modern sprawl of factories, high-rise blocks, and overhead expressway junctions cluttering up the outskirts; however, Tours does have a lot to offer. Being a transportation hub, it’s a practical base—trains run along the river in both directions, and the city is the starting point for many organized bus excursions. Moreover, Tours has a distinct energy, thanks to the university students who make up a fourth of its population and help to fill the many cafés, bars, and eateries in the pedestrian-only Vieille Ville. There’s history here as well. Although much of the city was bombed in World War II, the attractive half-timber medieval quarter around Place Plumereau has been smartly restored, and Tours’s grand cathedral ranks among France’s finest.
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