- Population: 2,440,329
- Pop.density (people per km2): 62
Three principal communes
Orléans is the northernmost city on the Loire, sitting at the apex of a huge arc in the river as it switches direction and starts to flow south-west. It was heavily bombed during WWII, but fortunately its historic centre remained intact. Many Orléanais commute to work in Paris and also spend their evenings out there. It has then a subordinate status and is regarded as a suburb of the capital. Over recent years the city has seen lots of building work and has besides a modern university district 'La Source'.
Tours is a lively, cosmopolitan place with a slightly 'bourgeois' air, tucked between the Loire running along the town's long northern boundary and its tributary - the Cher - along the south. Its centre is efficiently laid out with 18th century avenues, formal public gardens, café-lined boulevards. In the old town there are half-timbered houses and stairway towers from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. It has a large student population. Twice in its history it has hosted the French government - in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war and again in 1940, with the onset on WWII. The vineyards surrounding Tours are famous for their crisp white wines Vouvray and Montlouis wines that are stored in the white tufaceous cliffs along this stretch of the river.
The centre of this small and pleasant town, with its impressive 12th century Gothic cathedral, is situated on a hill rising from the River Yévre. Bourges is a lively city with a surprising number of good festivals for its size: in spring performers of every type of music are brought together for Printemps de Bourges, in the first week of June the Festival Synthèse attracts electronic music afficionados and in the summer Eté à Bourges is a celebration of music and open-air street theatre.