10 reasons to visit the charming town of Bourges in the Loire Valley

Place Gordaine in Bourges, France

The lovely town of Bourges is located a mere two hours by train from Paris making it the ideal spot for a weekend getaway. Here are ten things to do once you get there:

1. Marvel at Saint-Etienne Cathedral, one of the great Gothic buildings of France and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't miss the "Last Judgement" above the central portal, the 13th century stained glass windows made by the same master artisans as those in Chartres and the impressive astronomical clock. Created in 1424 by Canon Jean Fusoris, the clock indicates the lunar cycles, the height of the sun and the signs of the zodiac.

2. Meander down the quaint cobblestoned streets lined by more than 440 half-timbered houses dating back to the 15th century. The most remarkable is the Three Flutes House (Maison des Trois-Flûtes) located at 13 rue Bourbonnoux.

3. Indulge in a luscious "chocolate to share" (chocolat à partager) shaped like a camembert cheese at Daniel Mercier on the Place Gordaine. A subtle fusion of flaky Breton pancakes, praline and chocolate, it's 200 grams of pure pleasure! Mercier also has a line of "Busy Women" (Femmes Pressés) chocolate bars inspired by the active women in his life.

Forestines, the world's first soft-centered sweet. Bourges, France.

4. Step back in time at Maison des Forestines, an art nouveau style candy shop with stucco flowers and a colorful Gien ceramic ceiling, at 3 Place Cujas. Invented in 1878 by confectioner Georges Forest, "Forestines" are the world's first soft-centered sweet. The pearly exterior enrobes a smooth almond and hazelnut praline.

5. Admire the Palace of Jacques Coeur, a wealthy and powerful French merchant who became one of the most influential men of his time. With his massive fortune, Coeur funded King Charles VII's reconquest of Normandy and made loans to many aristocrats. Falsely accused of poisoning the king's mistress and dishonest speculation, he was arrested in 1451 but escaped to Italy. He died while commanding a naval expedition against the Turks.

The façade of the palace, which was completed around 1450, is decorated with Jacques Coeur's royal emblem, along with a multitude of sculptures portraying religious themes, his travels and scenes of everyday life.

6. Taste some of the local specialities at Au Nez du Vin38 rue des Arenes. My lunch of Saint-Maure and Valençay goat cheese, potato cakes (galettes aux pommes de terre Berrichon), pâté and salad accompanied by a glass of crisp Sancerre wine was an exquisite representation of the flavors of the Berry region of France. Linger over a café gourmand on the terrace when the weather is pleasant or in the cozy dining room with wooden beams when it's cold outside.

7. Sip a cocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage at Monin syrup. Whether you prefer the flavor of pumpkin pie, cotton candy, green banana, cucumber, pina colada or even bubblegum, Monin has a syrup for you. The company was founded by the Monin brothers in 1912. Three generations later, Monin is the world's leading producer of the finest flavored syrups, gourmet sauces, smoothie mixes, fruit purees and fruit smoothie mixes.

8. Visit one of the town's five free-admission museums. Top on my list for the next time I travel to Bourges is the Museum of the Best Artisans of France located in the former Archbishop’s Palace.

Cake Thé, 74 bis rue Bourbonnoux, Bourges.

9. Relax over afternoon tea and a slice of homemade Jacques Coeur cake made from a recipe from the Middles Ages or tarte au citron at Cake Thé, 74 bis rue Bourbonnoux. This delightful tea room is remarkably located in a vaulted Roman tower. It was part of a Gallo-Roman rampart with 50 lookout towers that protected the town from invading tribes.

10. Breathe in the fresh air of the countryside while strolling through the marshlands of Bourges. You'll be surprised by this labyrinth of 1,000 gardens and meandering streams located an easy ten minute walk away from the Old Town.

How to get there: Bourges is two to three hours by train from Paris. Once you're there, you can easily rent a car from Avis, which is conveniently located near the train station, or use public transportation to explore other parts of the Loire Valley.

Where to stay: Best Western Hôtel d'AngleterreHôtel de Panette (a B&B with a lovely view of the cathedral) or Hôtel de Bourbon Mercure are all good options.

The Tourist Information Office of Bourges is an excellent source of information about special events, such as the "Illuminated Nights" and Le Printemps de Bourges. You'll find the office next to the cathedral.

Click here to view more photos taken during my trip to Bourges.

Palace of Jacques Coeur

Comments

  1. Where's the picture of that yummy sounding lunch? :)

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    1. Anne, Thanks for asking about the photo of our yummy lunch! I included it in the photos that I posted on FB. Here's the link: Photos of Bourges

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  2. Wow, you're a Loire Valley expert by now! Unfortunately I never made it to Bourges (yet), but you've definitely convinced me I'm missing out. And I love love love Saint Maure cheese!

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    1. Gwan, I've got a long way to go before I could ever be a Loire Valley expert -- there's so much to see and do there, not to mention all the wine and cheese that there is to taste! I wish that we would have explored the area together when you were still living in Tours. Still, I'll never forget your "Super Best Tour Ever of Tours"! And speaking of Saint Maure, I believe that I shall have to get some for Stéphane's and my picnic tonight.

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  3. It's 30 years since I was in Bourges with my college prof, but "Jacques Coeur" brought back some memories ... was the scallop shell his emblem? (I didn't say they were CLEAR memories ... :) )

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    1. You should give your memory more credit! You're absolutely correct about the scallop shell. Jacques Coeur had two emblems: scallop shells and hearts. His motto was "à coeur vaillant, rien d'impossible" -- to a valiant heart, nothing is impossible.

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  4. I've never been to Bourges but I am convinced - sounds lovely! There are so, so many places I want to go in France, not sure how the list can be so lengthy!

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    1. Sara, I can easily understand why some people vacation exclusively in France. There are so many interesting places to visit -- and, instead of getting shorter, the list of places we want to visit just keeps getting longer and longer. Good luck with all your travels!

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  5. I used to go there on holidays when I was a child and used their syrups when I was working for that coffee company. Lovely town and delicious products ! Talking about weekend getaways, have you been to Chartres ?

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    1. Laetitia, You were a lucky child! I keep wondering why Bourges isn't more well known. It seems to be somewhat off the radar, which is a shame because it's such a delightful town.

      Thanks for mentioning Chartres! It's also a place that I recommend for weekend getaways: Completely charmed by Chartres - A weekend getaway to the "City of Lights and Perfume"


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  6. Wonderful Bourges Cathedral.
    The realization of the Bourges Cathedral was intended to express the power of the king and the archbishop of the city, especially over the south of France and of the Aquitaine region, which had passed into the hands of the English. The result is amazing. Its exceptional size, the bold and innovative architectural pyramid construction, the speed of its completion, its ornate decorations, sculptures and stained-glass windows … everything that characterizes this cathedral makes it one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture. Its unparalleled beauty would mark history and influence other European cathedrals for many years to come.

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    1. Thank you for sharing additional information about the extremely impressive Bourges Cathedral! It definitely deserved more attention than the short paragraph in my post.

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  7. I'm lucky enough to be spending two months in Saint Aignan des Noyers and my husband and I are exploring the Loire Valley by train and bicycle. Bourges is on our itinerary for next week when some friends from North Carolina are coming to visit for a few days. Your post makes me very excited to see Bourges!!!

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    1. You're so fortunate to be able to spend two months exploring the Loire Valley! Bourges is a wonderful place to visit. I hope that your friends from North Carolina enjoy it!

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