Tourist city or village

A tourist city or village is a type of destination (see Tourist destinations). The urban tourism category does not correspond to the city. On the one hand, the distinction between a city and a village, in addition to the dimension that we discuss below, misses the essential point, which is: by adopting the same approach to cities and villages, the objective is to highlight the key dimension of tourism penetrating a real, formerly occupied world, integrated into the society. This contrasts with the marginal spaces that tourism will conquer through specific types of destinations (resorts and comptoirs (exclusive resorts)) and will therefore integrate into the society over the long term. On the other hand, authors who have dealt with the question of urban tourism have not differentiated among the different types of urban tourism based on the size of the destinations, their touristicity or the weight of tourism.


Like the site, the tourist city or village is a historically created place that is occupied by tourism at some point in its history. However, the city or village differs from the site, both by the density and diversity of individuals and human activities established on its territory, and by the presence of a society, formed by its inhabitants, throughout the year. It is also different from special tourist cities. Thus, unlike the touristified city, it remains multifunctional. For example, in Paris, jobs in the so-called tourism sector (according to the institutional definition that combines different mobilities) represent 15% of the total according to the Tourist Office.

Tourism affirmation is relative to the ancient functions. In particular, the authorities, especially at a state level, had justified the construction of monumental buildings that have become tourism establishments, often breaking with the past and sometimes serving a different function. The Louvre, for example, once a royal palace, began to be converted into a museum at the end of the 18th century. Another example is Buckingham Palace, which opens to the public on a seasonal basis. Similarly, unlike the stopover town, all the components of the sector are present: from accommodation to entertainment, including places of visits, festivals, etc.

Furthermore, given that the metropolisation process continues, the interplay between heritage and modernity contributes actively to boosting attendance and to its sustainability. Thus, a city like Shanghai is known as much for its old neighbourhoods – from the Yuyuan Garden and the old city, undergoing constant reconstruction, up to the Bund alignment, consisting of buildings built under European domination in the 1930s – as for the buildings planted around the people’s Square (Shanghai museum, Opera) and the Pudong towers, a new district developed on the other bank of the Huangpu River, tributary of the Yangtze.

The city was touristified by tourists, in the wake of the Grand Tour, an early form of tourism by its long duration spanning several years and by the intentions of the aristocrats and gentry in search of the antique ruins that they have learnt about during their studies and by the diversity of political regimes that Italy offers for them to make sense of. It is thus difficult to precisely date the touristicity of cities. But as Claire Hancock showed in her thesis (1996), Paris was frequented very early on, especially by the English who saw it as the city of pleasure, the antithesis of London (MIT, 2005). The number tourists in the capital were such that it was, according to some, as Claire Hancock (2003) points out, threatened with destruction and loss of authenticity, which goes to show that anti-tourism rhetoric is as old as tourism itself (see the quote in Mass Tourism). Jean des Esseints, the hero of the novel À rebours, written by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1884), having left La Hay-les-Roses, decides not to go to England as planned, considering that he had met enough English people in Paris that the trip was no longer useful.


It is possible to distinguish among different categories of subtypes. The first relates to size: from the city to the village. Indeed, urban hierarchy can be accompanied by a tourist grading, and the two may or may not be consistent. The main destinations in the world are metropolises. Their touristicity, in particular as depicted in tour-operator catalogues, justifies spending several nights, or even a week, to discover the city, which is a special spatial feature within the practice of discovery. Conversely, the village is small in size, but this measure varies depending on countries. In Western societies, the threshold is a number of inhabitants, which itself is variable (2,000 in France, in a main town, 10,000 in Italy, etc.). In China, the city is rather an administrative concept and corresponds to a main town of a department in France. Therefore, the number of inhabitants can be high and reach what is considered urban size in terms of population density and the variety of activities.

The second category refers to how tourism works. Thus, in metropolises, a great diversity of tourist spots are concentrated primarily in the centres. They constitute what Duhamel and Knafou (2007) have called the Central Tourist District (CTD), referring to the CBD, Central Business District, without the two central districts overlapping exactly. This does not exclude areas on the margins or on the outskirts, such as the Novodevichy monastery located southwest of the centre of Moscow, listed in UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. Conversely, smaller cities are practically polarised by a single large establishment, like Fontainebleau, or by two or three establishments like Amboise, centred around its castle and Clos Lucé.

A third approach could distinguish cities or villages, attached to a specific tourist practice, from others which, on the contrary, have a very diverse profile. For example, Aurillac’s reputation goes hand in hand with its street theatre festival, while London, like all metropolises, combines shopping, tangible and intangible heritage, museums, festivals, events, etc.

Another approach distinguishes a specific category, that of cities built by tourism. Nice, which was a poor city, benefited from the establishment of a tourist district thanks to the wintering practice invented particularly by the British from the mid-18th century. These promising beginnings got a boost when the County of Nice was attached to France in 1860, which brought in investments. Over time, it became the capital of the French Riviera. In more recent years, the city has become a metropolis where tourism, though still strategic since Nice comes just after Paris in tour operator catalogues across the world, is only one function among others (Violier et al., 2020).

Philippe VIOLIER


  • Duhamel Philippe et Knafou Rémy, 2007, «Le fonctionnement de la centralité touristique de Paris», dans Saint-Julien Thérèse et Legoix Renaud (dir.), La métropole parisienne. Centralités, inégalités, proximités. Paris, Belin, coll. «Mappemonde», p. 39-64.
  • Équipe MIT, 2005, Tourismes 2, moments de lieux. Paris, Belin, coll. «Mappemonde».
  • Hancock Claire, 1996, Les représentations de la ville en France et en Angleterre: les exemples de Paris et Londres dans les guides et récits de voyage du XIXe siècle (vers 1780-vers 1870). Thèse Paris IV.
  • Hancock Claire, 2003 (seconde édition), «Capitale du plaisir: The remaking of imperial Paris, Chapitre 4», dans Driver Félix et Gilbert David (dir.), Imperial Cities. Landscape, Display and Identity. Manchester et New-York, Manchester University Press, p. 64-74.
  • Violier Philippe, Duhamel Philippe, Gay Jean-Christophe et Mondou Véronique, 2020, Le tourisme en France 2, approche régionale. Londres, Éditions ISTE.